“We must not let our children, (or) grandchildren…, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.” Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, spoke those words to commemorate the passing of 70 years since the end of World War II. Before we can even discuss the value of Shinzo Abe’s statement, we must first understand why they were apologizing. Then there’s the question of how long a society must pay for their wrongdoings. Finally, we as global citizens must do our part to ensure the atrocities of the Asian Holocaust are never repeated. For that to happen, we must first acknowledge its existence.
In war, no one comes out clean. A particularly heinous chapter in our history began in December of 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China’s capital city, Nanking. After just 6 weeks, the Imperial Army massacred over 200,000 soldiers and civilians. To kill the POWs quickly, they bound the soldiers in groups of 10, stabbed them with bayonets, and a kicked the men into the Yangtze River. Japan’s “Loot All, Kill All, Burn All” policy resulted with children being doused with kerosene and lit on fire. Moreover, it is calculated that in just one month’s time, at least 20,000 women were raped, often murdered. Since rape was revered as a necessity to release the tensions of war, a soldier could often find one of these “Comfort Women” tied to a table or chair for easy access. After Nanking, the Japanese only heightened their brutality to include cannibalism, slavery, and human experiments using of chemical and biological weapons.
As inexcusable as these events are, maybe Shinzo Abe is right to say we can’t punish the children for the sins of the father. After all, should anyone in this room be held accountable for our forefathers possessing slaves? 70 years have now gone by, is it not time the world offers forgiveness? With that thought in mind, how many years must pass until we can publicly forgive and trust the sons of Afghanistan?
These tough questions become harder to answer when there is a perceived lack of Justice. The Japanese government didn’t recognize these acts as criminal and within 10 years, the few convicted of war crimes were exonerated, even allowed to continue ruling the country. Fallen War Criminals were viewed as martyrs and memorialized at the Yasukini Shrine. To make matters worse, Shinzo Abe recently quoted “there is no evidence of coercion” with regards to the 200,000 women forced to work in brothels. The length of time required for forgiveness is understandably lengthened when accountability is absent.
We all know Hitler’s regime killed 6 million Jews in WWII. Yet, how many of you knew that during this exact same time, 8 – 10 million Chinese were massacred? How could you? Even the history books seemed to have forgotten. Japanese students are never taught the details of WWII; only that all sides suffer in war. Japan refused to publish Iris Chang’s documentary, “The Rape of Nanking”, and publicly shunned soldiers who validated it.
Understandably a touchy subject for Japan, what excuse does the US have for leaving Nanking out of our textbooks? Perhaps this neglect is stemmed in part from guilt associated with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Similar to the use of Nuclear Weapons, the Rape of Nanking has a lot to teach humanity, in spite of its complicated and taboo subject matter. We cannot let the level of difficulty in any lesson negate the necessity to learn from it. Furthermore, our silence only perpetuates the victimization and prohibits any possibility of retribution. If you don’t know, it never happened. Yet somehow, that same secrecy allows it to happen again.
I know it’s not an easy conversation to have. It’s not an easy speech to give; bringing your audience down with details of mass murder, speaking of forgiveness when no remorse has been offered. Certainly, this is just far too heavy to share in a speech. But if not here, where? Right now, 6,000 miles away from us, Japan is currently mobilizing its first military since the end of World War II. As cabinet members praying to a shrine honoring their last set of war criminals, it’s a safe bet these talks will not continue there.
I would like to leave you with the concept of a semicolon. You see, an author uses a semicolon when he/she could have ended the sentence but chooses not to. Rather than stop here, let us continue this difficult discussion so that we may learn and grow from the 14 million lives lost in the Forgotten Holocaust.
Other Bloggers Talking about Nanking:
Going to Japan? dont stay at this hotel…
Additional Resources: There is so much out there, but these are some of my favorites
Rape of Nanking, Iris Change, highly recommended book!
John Rabe, 2009 film, featuring Steve Buscemi
Nanking, (2007 Film), features many notable actors including Woody Harrelson
Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking (2007), movie
Citation and Additional Resources:
1. NY Times, August 8, 2015 https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/world/asia/full-text-shinzo-abe-statement-japan-ww2-anniversary.html?_r=0
2. BBC News, March 2, 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6411471.stm
3. “Horrific Japanese Crimes in WWII That History Overlooked”, Mel Judson, ©2018, The Ranker, https://www.ranker.com/list/japanese-wwii-war-crimes/mel-judson
4. The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang, 1997
5. Encyclopedia Britannica, “Second-Sino Japanese War”, ©2018, https://www.britannica.com/event/Second-Sino-Japanese-War
6. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10008193
The header picture is borrowed from The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang. I believe that I sourced all facts and statistics presented in this speech from this book as well, but I may have seen some in other places.
The semicolon concept is a common metaphor that is currently being used in conjunction with mental illness and tattoos. The metaphor was used here to symbolize carrying on any important conversation.
Ex. of War Crimes committed by Japan during WWII and the Second-Sino Japanese War
Unit 731 – Human Medical Experiments, including chemical weapons
Unit 1855 – Human Experiments using Biological Weapons
Contest to Kill 100 People by Sword
Operation Sook Ching
Alexandria Hospital Massacre
Pig Basket Massacre
Bangka Island Massacre
Laha Airfield Massacre
Nauru Island Occupation
Andaman Island Massacre
Comfort Women of Korea
Port Blair Massacre
Sandakan Death March
Bataan Death March
Rape of Nanking
Rape of Manila
The List Goes On…….