The Rape of Nanking
The book is subtitled "The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II." The book opens by examining various mass murders in military history. It notes that the Romans killed some 150,000 people at Carthage; Timur Lenk, in Delhi, killed around 100,000 in 1938; Hitler is noted, of course, for his extermination of 6 million Jews and others, and Stalin tends to lead the pack with 40,000,000 deaths directed by him.
The book points out, though, that the deaths caused by Hitler and Stalin took place over a period of years; the Rape of Nanking took place in under one year, yet resulted in the deaths of some 200,000 to 350,000 noncombatants. In all of World War II Great Britain lost some 61,000 similar people, France 108,000; Belgium 101,000, and The Netherlands 242,000, the U.S. raids on Tokyo killed some 80,000 to 120,000; Hiroshima some 140,000, and Nagasaki some 70,000 noncombatant deaths, so Nanking had more people murdered than entire countries during WWII.
Some 20,000 to 80,000 Chinese women were raped by Japanese soldiers during this period of time. Some of the women were disemboweled after being raped; some were nailed alive to walls; fathers were forced to rape their daughters, sons their mothers.
In other activities some people were roasted alive; some hung by their tongues on iron hooks; some buried to their waists and attacked by German shepherds. There were also live burials used along with considerable mutilation.
Some prisoners were nailed to wooden boards and run over by tanks; some tried to trees and then long strips of flesh were cut off of them; some were used as bayonet practice; some put into pits, covered with gasoline and then set on fire.
There would also be "killing contests" in which Japanese soldiers competed to see who could behead the most Chinese prisoners. Leaflets were dropped by the Japanese telling the Chinese how well they would be treated if they would return to their homes; some did so and were killed as a result.
Even the valiant efforts of Westerners in the "safety zone" were not enough to prevent some of the people within the zone itself from being taken and killed by the Japanese.
The book notes that after the war few men were put on trial for the war crimes, and Japan has paid little or no compensation to the victims of the actions of its soldiers. There has also been, the book notes, the issue of "comfort women", women captured by the Japanese and forced into brothels for the benefit of the Japanese soldiers.
The book also notes about efforts to re-write or outright deny history by some Japanese.
The book explores the reasons for the soldiers' actions and attributes them in part to the brutal way students were treated in schools, being hit with fists and even wooden swords by teachers; this brutalization continued in the army, establishing a strong pressure to conform and obey authorities. Once the restraints on their behavior were lifted, though, the soldiers then turned all their pent-up anger against the innocent civilians of the city. This is called "the transfer of oppression."
The book also discusses the Samurai and other historical influences on Japanese behavior, and even examines the religious influences on the behavior of the soldiers.
The book also carefully details the types of evidence supporting the actual existence of the Rape of Nanking. This evidence includes:
- 1. Personal journals kept by Westerners in the "safety zone"
- 2. Official Japanese military communiques
- 3. Confessions by former Japanese soldiers who took part in the event
- 4. Reports from American journalists in the area before they were banned from being there
- 5. Actual movie footage taken by Americans under very, very dangerous circumstances
- 6. Memos and other papers from the Nazis
- 7. The war crime trials in which over 1000 people testified about the atrocity, with over 460 specific reports of cases of murder, rape, arson and looting.
- 8. Photographs taken by Japanese soldiers themselves
- 9. Newspaper clippings from Japanese publications
- 10. The physical evidence of the bodies left in burial pits.
I bring up the last part particularly since there is even now continuing efforts to state that the Rape of Nanking never occurred. The evidence that it did occur is overwhelming by any form of reasoning.
The book is very disturbing reading and only those with "strong stomachs" should even try to read the book and look at the pictures.
The overall thrust of the book seems to me to revolve around two issues:
- 1. The Rape of Nanking did, in fact, occur and the evidence supporting it is incredibly strong. Efforts by some to say that no such thing ever happened are in the same field as those who state that the Holocaust never occurred.
- 2. The Japanese government has never really openly admitted to the atrocity that its soldiers committed, or compensated the survivors, or even apologized for what happened.
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