Thursday, March 10, 2005



Yesterday I finished up Iris Chang's "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII". It is a historical non-fiction tale of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China before and during WWII (WW2 looks weird). The death count in Nanking alone is estimated at 300,000 people dead, soldiers and private citizens. But what makes it extra special bad is how these people were killed, shot in the back, tied to trees and beaten, starved, sliced with swords or bayonets and rape. The Japanese dropped fliers and propaganda from the skies saying "The Japanese are your friend. We will feed you. Return to your homes." And had pictures of children being fed by a Japanese soldier. This was not even remotely the case.

But let's start at the beginning, and just a word of caution to Jamie, it seems like the Japanese are at a crossroads right now as to whether or not they will continue to ignore this atrocity or fess up and start making reparations, so it is most likely a touchy subject. But if you do get a chance to look in a Japanese history textbook, see what it says about the Japanese occupation of China.

Japan was en route to take over southeast Asia and saw China as the first big step. They invaded and took over Shanghai, the capital of China, and Nanking, a city of 1 million people, was just down the road and next in line. Half of the city evacuated and the other half either were too poor or sick to travel or didn't want to. The Chinese army set up in the city but they lacked communication and couldn't coordinate efforts within the city to mount a strong defense. And the city fell.

Before this, several foreigners, Germans and Americans mostly but also some Russian and Danish, set up Safety Zones for civilians to come and "be safe" from the marauding armies. There were many heroes that came out of this tragedy but Iris chose to focus on 3 individuals and I will only tell of 1. His name was John Rabe and he was German. He was also a Nazi but he went in for the socialist aspects of Nazism and not the genocidal aspects. He worked and lived in China and felt a deep connection to the city and country and to its people, so instead of fleeing he help set up and run a Safety Zone. He contacted higher ups in the Nazi party even trying to contact Hitler and tell him of the atrocities so they could put diplomatic pressure on Japan to make them stop.

I won't go into the atrocities but a few examples are: killing contests between Japanese soldiers, live burials, mutilations, pouring gas on prisoners and setting them on fire, and raping women and men from 8 to 60 or 70.

She ventures a guess as to why and how this happened. One factor was many in the Japanese military had such contempt for the Chinese people cultivated by decades of propaganda, education, and social indoctrination. One Japanese general is quoted, talking to a correspondent, "To be frank, your view of Chinese is totally different from mine. You regard the Chinese as human beings while I regard the Chinese as pigs."

And also religion. The Japanese were taught that the emperor was the ruler of the natural world and the Japanese were the chosen people so anyone else is inferior to them.

I'm writing this today just to educate. I bareley knew that Japan and China went to war let alone what happened in this war. Estimates put the total of Chinese deaths at 19 million. The entire world knows about what the Nazis did to the Jews but something just as bad, if not worse, happened to the Chinese and no one knows about it.

Another reason is that Japan still has not made amends to the Chinese people that their armies brutalized. Germany has paid close to $60 billion in reparations to the Jewish people. Japan has not paid one cent and some high level officials even claim that The Rape of Nanking didn't happen and is just Chinese propaganda. It is even edited out or glazed over in Japanese history textbooks.

As I stated earlier, Japan is at a crossroads: either stand up and make amends or doing nothing, worse still, hiding the fact that it even happened.

This post is dedicated to Iris Chang who took her own life on Nov. 9 2004.

Iris Chang Mar. 28, 1968 - Nov. 9, 2004


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