Source: Genocides and Human Rights Abuses, http://www.gotrain.com/dan/rights.htm
Everyone knows about the Nazi Holocaust, but very few know about the genocide of 13 million civilians during the Japanese occupation of China. The climax of this horror was the Nanking Massacre, the focus of this article. On December 13, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army stormed the Chinese city of Nanking, and during the following six weeks, 300,000 people were killed and over 20,000 women were raped. Nanking's kill frequency exceeds that of the Nazi Holocaust, and most frighteningly, was not at all systematic in execution. It was pure barbaric hell rage. During the many decades to follow, Japan denied that the massacre ever occurred, and erased it from Japanese libraries and textbooks. It was not until the year 2000 that a Japanese official admitted the massacre's occurrence.
There were many events leading up to the invasion of Nanking. During the Japanese conquests of World War II, they invaded China in 1931. They wreaked havoc wherever they went, murdering millions of Chinese people. First, Japan invaded Manchuria. As Japanese soldiers advanced west through China, they used germ warfare, spreading typhoid fever and the bubonic plague. During their occupation of China, the Japanese killed at least fifteen million Chinese soldiers and civilians.
During the nineteen-twenties, Nanking only had a population of 250,000. However, during the nineteen-thirties, the city was highly populated with over one million residents. This increase was a result of the Japanese occupation and countless refugees fleeing to the city from Manchuria and other Chinese areas to the east of Nanking. They were safe in the city, until Japanese forces advanced towards Nanking from Shanghai on November 11, 1937.
Before the Japanese army attacked on foot, they made many bombings over Nanking. Most of these bombings were focused on the wealthier and more populated areas of the city. On September 25, 1937, the most devastating bombing occurred. There were over six hundred civilian casualties. Hospitals marked with a red cross on the roof were targeted, as well as refugee camps, power plants, water works, and radio stations. As a reaction to these bombings and advancing forces, political figures from The United States and The United Kingdom assembled an "International Committee." The committee set up "Safety Zones" inside the city, where refugees could stay.
On November 25, Japanese forces attacked Nanking from three different directions. The Chinese General Tang Sheng Zhi commanded an army of over a hundred thousand men. However, the Chinese city soon fell to the Japanese Imperial Army. As the Japanese entered the city, a massacre began that would continue for six weeks.
Images (warning, slightly gruesome):
During the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre, the Chinese were not simply murdered. They were tortured, humiliated, and raped. The Japanese used a wide variety of methods of murder. They chased the Chinese into the Yangtze River with machine guns, drowning them. They poured gasoline on people, and shot them, so the victims flickered up like candles. They cut the eyeballs out of men, and then burned the people while they were still living. They tied Chinese civilians up on posts, and threw grenades to watch their flesh fly. A Japanese general poured acid on a man until he died of corrosion. Some Chinese were attacked with awls. Others were castrated. Some Chinese even had their hearts cut out. Some women were beaten at the vagina with fists and other objects until they died. Even babies were victims; they were skewered and tossed into boiling water. Hakudo Nagatomi, a Japanese war veteran, described, "I remember smiling proudly as I took his [another general's] sword and began killing people...The head was cut clean off and tumbled away on the ground as the body slumped forward, blood spurting in two great gushing fountains from the neck."
Japanese soldiers laughingly made games out of these atrocities. The Japanese generals organized contests to see how many Chinese one soldier could murder in a given time. Whoever killed the most won. News reporters and visitors came to observe the competitions and raise praise for the victor back in Japan. Sometimes the number of bodies reached as high as five-hundred in a single contest. In one such contest, two officers were racing to one hundred. However, they lost count, so they continued to one hundred and fifty. A short while later, the Nichi-nichi, a Tokyo newspaper, printed the story with pride. Highly respected Japanese doctors and scientists went to China to do scientific research on unwilling Chinese victims. In many cases, the subjects were American and Russian prisoners. Tests were done without anesthesia or pain killers. The Japanese placed people in pressure chambers to see how long it would take until their eyes popped out of the sockets. Lethal bacteria and other biological weapons were tested on people tied to stakes. Fetuses were cut from pregnant women and preserved in jars. The Japanese government also sponsored bombings of bubonic plague on villages to test germ warfare for later use on the United States.
Because over twenty thousand women and girls were raped, the Nanking Massacre is also referred to as the Rape of Nanking. The Japanese officers encouraged their soldiers to rape wherever they went. One officer told his soldiers, "To avoid troubles,... kill them after that." So, soldiers raped in gangs of dozens and murdered the women afterward. The victims had their stomachs cut open or their breasts chopped off. "Comfort women" were kept as sex slaves in wood cabins to service the Japanese soldiers throughout the day. In one incident, a mother, two teenage daughters, and a one year old baby were raped in their own home. The family was raped and killed on their own tables and beds. When the International Committee entered the house to photograph the incident, they found blood everywhere.
The Japanese finally left China when the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the six weeks of horror, Nanking was left in ruins. The storehouses were empty, and the civilians had lost everything. Their jewelry, coins, food, clothes, heirlooms, pets, and even everyday objects like dental floss were stolen. Only bodies were in abundance. So many dead bodies clogged the streets it was hard to move around, even on foot. They floated in the river for a year afterwards, emitting a smell for miles around. The International Committee buried the bodies in mass graves and kept close count of the marked sites.
Years after the massacre, criminal trials were held. Japanese that were not class A criminals were tried near the homes of their victims. However, the class A war criminals were tried at the Tokyo Trials in Tokyo. These trials were held by the IMTFE (International Military Tribunal for the Far East) and lasted from May 1946 till November 1948. The prosecuting team consisted of justices from eleven countries, including China and the United States.
Twenty-eight men were prosecuted for, "...mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population..." Eye-witnesses gave testimonies of the atrocities. Of the twenty-eight men, twenty-five were found guilty. Of the other three, two died during the trials, and one had a mental breakdown. This man was later released free from the psychiatric hospital. Seven criminals were put to death by hanging, sixteen were sentenced to life imprisonment, and two had lesser sentences. However, all the criminals were let out on parole after eight years.
Although Japanese criminals were charged and convicted, many Japanese citizens slowly developed a denial of the Massacre. During the war, because of the heavy Japanese control over the media, few Japanese civilians knew about the horrible atrocities. They heard only about the heroic war figures. The facts released during the Tokyo War Trials shocked the Japanese public. Many books were written on the subject. These include a major work by Katsuichi Honda, The Journey to China, a collection of interviews with survivors. At that time, there was no public government denial of the massacre, but there was not any official public acceptance of responsibility either.
From the 1970's until 1990, Japan officially began to lie about the Nanking Massacre. Right wing politicians created three types of denial when they came to power in 1972: they distorted the facts, disputed the extent of the Massacre, and even denied the events completely. The Japan Ministry of Education headed the attempts to distort and rewrite the history books. Certain words were replaced, such as "aggression" with "advancing." The entire massacre was re-labeled a "minor incident," or the "Nanking Incident." The Japanese history books even claimed that the massacre occurred because Japanese soldiers were frustrated with the strength of the Chinese army.
During this period, some Japanese citizens came to believe the massacre had been a great exaggeration. The book, Nanking Incident, by Hata Ikuhiko claims that there were only 38,000 to 42,000 victims, whereas most sources state there were over 300,000 victims. This text is considered the text for history classes on the issue by the Japan Ministry of Education.
Perhaps the most outrageous claim was of an absolute denial of the atrocity. The Journey to China sparked the publication of two articles, "Reply to Katsuichi Honda," and "The Phantom of the Nanking Massacre," both declaring that the massacre never happened. They were printed in the March and April edition of Every Gentlemen. In addition, the book, "Fabrication of Nanking Massacre," by Massaki Tanaka, also denied the massacre and blamed the Chinese for the war.
In 1990, Japanese government officials formally denied the Nanking Massacre by stating that it was a lie. On November 10, 1990, the deputy Japanese Consul in Houston told Americans that according to Japanese sources, the massacre never occurred. Shintaro Ishihara, a Japanese writer and politician, was quoted by Playboy, "People say that the Japanese made a holocaust there, but that is not true. It is a story made up by the Chinese." This treatment of the Massacre continued for five more years.
On August fifteenth, 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the Massacre, the Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama gave the first clear and formal apology for the Japanese actions during the war. He apologized for the wrongful aggression and the great suffering in Asia. He offered his "heartfelt" apology to all survivors and to the relatives and friends of the victims. That day, the prime minister and the Japanese Emperor Akihito pronounced statements of mourning at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan. The emperor offered his condolences and hopes that the atrocities of such a war will never be repeated.
Chinese people are beginning to accept Japan's formal apologies and they believe the apologies are a step in the right direction. However, the Chinese are still afraid and suspicious of the Japanese, and await concrete compensations. In the past, they have not made much a fuss over the Massacre. They have been too humiliated and ashamed of the events, and, perhaps, were more interested in future economic prosperity than their gruesome past. Daniel Kwan, who put together a Los Angeles photography exhibit on the Massacre, claimed the Chinese are too involved with, "a desire to focus on making money to pay for their Rolexes and Mercedes, rather than something so unpleasant."
Other countries from around the world also have suspicions of the Japanese apologies. Some British and Australian veterans accuse Murayama of making the apologies too personal and telling only his feelings. They claim the apologies are meaningless and cloudy, and that they are not directly from the nation of Japan. They will only be satisfied after compensations are paid. Until now, America has been fairly quiet.
As a result of both the dying witnesses and the fiftieth anniversary of the Massacre, there have been many efforts to raise awareness of the Nanking Massacre around the world. However, it is extremely difficult for the older generation of Chinese who lived through the massacre to teach others about it. They are trying very hard to put their past behind them, and telling about the horrible events is painful to them. The also do not want to tell children about the atrocities, as the horrid facts may hurt the children or give them wrong ideas about the Japanese. However, there are other individuals from all over the world who are concerned about the awareness in future generations and are trying to bring out the truth.
This small minority is trying to teach those who received a warped education in the Japanese schools. A video has been released to teach Japanese youth. Three army officials were recorded, speaking about the brutalities. Even though the video was broadcasted on national television, this attempt met with little success.
A memorial hall has been erected in Nanking in remembrance of the victims and to raise awareness of the Nanking Massacre. Built in the 1980's, it is located near a site where thousands of bodies were buried, called a "pit of ten thousand corpses," or "wan ren keng."
Although there are some efforts in Japan and China to raise awareness of the massacre, more have been made by Americans. In Los Angeles, Daniel Kwan opened a photograph exhibit, "The Forgotten Holocaust," in 1995. Organizers had many pictures, some so gruesome, they had to be left out. It is ironic that these pictures were taken by Japanese soldiers as souvenirs.
Chinese-Americans, particularly those among the large Chinese community in Silicon Valley, are also attempting to educate the American public about the Nanking Massacre. Eugene Wei from San Jose, a member of an Alliance for the cause, said, "The cause is taking off like wildfire. The Chinese are really waking up." However, David Bolt, an American filmmaker, stresses the importance of non-Chinese people to inform the public about the event, so that the historical truths are not labeled as Chinese propaganda.
The six weeks of horror in Nanking are still inexplicable. Nobody can find a concrete reason for the occurrence of the atrocities. The massacre was not an organized debacle like the Nazi Holocaust. Some historians and Japanese veterans suggest that it was an outlet of frustration for the Japanese soldiers, or that it was an attempt by the soldiers to show their loyalty to the Emperor. Whatever the reasons are, the effects of the massacre have clearly been long lasting. Today, the few surviving victims feel guilty. They feel guilty that they survived the Holocaust of Nanking, and so many others perished.