Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn

Khalid Elhassan - November 8, 2020

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
Shindo Renmei members. BBC

5. The League of the Way of the Emperors’ Subjects Sprang From Innocent Roots

In 1942, violent clashes erupted between native Brazilians in rural Sao Paulo and the Japanese immigrants in the vicinity. So former Japanese Army Colonel Junji Kikawa left an innocent Catholic charity in which he had been active, to found Shindo Renmei, as a self-defense organization for Japanese immigrants.

Kikawa urged his followers to protest their mistreatment with steps such as ceasing the production of peppermint, which included ingredients used in making explosives, and to stop making silk, a vital wartime material for making parachutes. He also advocated more direct steps, such as sabotage. By 1945, Shindo Renmei had a headquarters in Sao Paulo, and 64 branches in Brazilian localities with Japanese immigrant communities.

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
Japan’s Foreign Minister signing his country’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2nd, 1945. Wikimedia

4. Innocent Japanese-Brazilians Were Led to Believe that Japan Was Winning the War

During WWII, Shindo Renmei took a turn towards ultra-nationalism. With most Japanese-Brazilians cut off from reliable news, Colonel Kikawa and his followers stepped in to exploit their innocent countrymen. They filled the information vacuum with “news” that amounted to little more than wishful thinking. As Japan reeled from defeat after defeat, Shindo Renmei told the Japanese immigrants that Japan was marching from triumph to triumph. The claims included a decisive Japanese victory in Okinawa, where America lost 400 warships. Victory was secured in no small part by a Japanese superweapon, the “High-Frequency Bomb”, which killed Americans by the hundreds of thousands and forced the Allies’ unconditional surrender.

Many believed that or if they did not, they knew better than to say so. If for no other reason than that Shindo Renmei also took it upon itself to punish “defeatists” in the Japanese immigrant community. Those who voiced doubts about how well the war was going for Japan were shunned, boycotted, and sometimes violently assailed.

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
Colonel Junki Kikawa. Pintrest

3. Shindo Renmei Convinced Brazil’s Japanese that America Lost WWII

Shindo Renmei dismissed Japan’s surrender as “fake news” and American propaganda, and redoubled its efforts to punish those who said otherwise. According to Colonel Kikawa and his followers, Japanese immigrants were divided into two camps: good guys, and bad guys.

There were the virtuous Kachigumi (“Victorious”), who knew that Japan had won the war. They were mostly the poor and poorly educated. Then there were the vile Makegumi (“Defeatists”), also pejoratively labeled “dirty hearts”, who bought the fake news about Japan’s defeat. The latter tended to be the better off and better-educated immigrants, who had better access to information and could differentiate between reliable and unreliable news. However, even those innocent of Shindo Renmei’s fanaticism were terrorized into toeing the group’s line, or at least into staying silent.

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
A Japanese immigrant family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Wikimedia

2. Purveyors of Fake News and Charlatans Exploited Innocent Japanese-Brazilians

By the time WWII ended, Shindo Renmei had about 50,000 followers. They went on a buying spree that emptied local shops of red and white cloth to make Japanese flags, intended to welcome Brazil’s new overlords. The situation was further complicated by the circulation of fake Japanese newspapers and magazines peddled by charlatans.

The fake media included articles about Japan’s “great victory”; the arrival of Japanese occupation troops in America; photographs of President Truman bowing to Emperor Hirohito; and coverage of the trial of General Douglas MacArthur for war crimes. The charlatans did not do it just for kicks and giggles: they made a bundle selling the duped innocent Japanese immigrants’ land in the “conquered territories”.

Historic Groups that Started Innocent then Took an Evil Turn
Japan’s Olympic swim team, whose 1950 visit to Brazil led to the discrediting and demise of Shindo Renmei. Museum of Japanese Immigration

1. Shindo Renmei Launched a Terror Campaign Against Innocent Civilians

Those who dared doubt Shindo Renmei’s assertions of Japan’s victory were beaten up or murdered. By the time it was over, dozens had been killed. In 1946, Japan’s new government prepared documents for distribution in Brazil, outlining reality and declaring that Japan had surrendered. Shindo Renmei dismissed that as fake news, and beat up or murdered Japanese immigrants caught reading or distributing the documents.

To reduce the violence, Brazil’s government prohibited newspapers from publishing news of Japan’s defeat, and ordered the term “unconditional surrender” removed from official communications. Things then gradually simmered down. A last gasp occurred in 1950, when Japan’s Olympic swimming team visited Brazil. When its members expressed shock at the idea that Japan had won the war, diehards claimed that the athletes were actually Koreans masquerading as Japanese. That was so ludicrous, that it eroded Shindo Renmei’s last remaining support, and the organization soon vanished into history’s dustbin.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

All that is Interesting – 7 Brands With Nazi Ties That We All Use

BBC – Siemens Retreats Over Nazi Name

Cracked – Bad Groups That Weren’t Evil Originally

Daftary Farhad – The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma’ilis (1994)

Hodgson, Marshall – The Order of Assassins: The Struggle of the Early Nizari Isma’ili Against the Islamic World (1955)

Holocaust Online – Siemens

Lesser, Jeffrey – Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (1999)

Lewis, Bernard – The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (1968)

National Motorcycle Museum – 1942 Harley Davidson WLA, The Liberator

New York Post, March 7th, 2016 – BMW Admits ‘Regret’ Over Using Nazi Slave Labor During WWII

Independent News, 08 November 2011 – BMW Dynasty Breaks Silence Over Nazi Past

Time Magazine, August 3rd, 2009 – A Brief History of the Hells Angels

Wasserman, James – The Templars and the Assassins (2001)

Wikipedia – Hasan-i Sabbah

Wikipedia – Shindo Renmei

History Collection – Deadliest and Strangest Terror Groups of the 1970s

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