Two years ago, the German scholar Clemens Jochem wrote a book based on extensive research into the German-born industrialist Willy Foerster—long thought to have been a Nazi war criminal—showing that he in fact used his factory to save Jews in the Far East from the grip of the Third Reich. Liane Grunberg writes:
Josef Meisinger, known as the “Butcher of Warsaw” for crimes he had earlier committed in Poland, was sent to Japan [in] 1941. Until 1945, Meisinger served in Tokyo as a liaison between the Gestapo and the Japanese secret police. He worked tirelessly in those years at influencing the Japanese officials to persecute, imprison, and kill off its minuscule Jewish population and the approximately 20,000 refugees of Nazi-occupied Europe who had fled to Japan-occupied Shanghai. Failing at this aim, Meisinger turned to the persecution of those he suspected of anti-Nazi activity in Japan, chief among them, Willy Foerster.
Foerster first arrived in Tokyo in the early 1930s to launch a turret-lathe factory. In 1936 he lost his citizenship in his home country after Germany passed a new law that punished evaders of military service. Being a stateless resident of Japan didn’t hinder Foerster’s rise to fortune. He became wildly successful, founding several companies and employing hundreds of workers—among them many Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation of Europe—a move that provoked Meisinger’s ire. . . .
In May 1943, Meisinger had Foerster arrested, on accusations of spying for the Soviets and spreading antiwar propaganda. While in captivity, Jochem reports, Foerster was tortured by Meisinger. Foerster . . . was released in June 1944 after he agreed, under duress, to sell his factory at a price drastically below its value. Together with his Japanese wife, Hideko, and infant daughter, Erica, he was then put under house arrest.
After the war, Meisinger was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death. But he nonetheless found a way to inflict more misery on Foerster:
On his way to the gallows, Meisinger . . . accused [Foerster] of complicity in his own long list of Nazi crimes. . . . Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the Allied Powers in the Pacific, issued an order to confiscate Foerster’s vast financial assets. On August 20, 1947, Foerster was tried as an alleged Nazi on board the USS General Black while being deported with his family back to Germany.