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The Forgotten Holocaust of the Nanjing Massacre

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1



Since prehistoric times, wars have been a sad yet apparently unavoidable part of the human experience. From conquests to civil wars to political revolutions to the cold war and wars for and against terrorism, people have fought and killed and died. Wars are inevitable; among the causes of war are ideological, political, racial, economic, and religious conflicts. Wars have led to tremendous advancement in human science and technology. Inventions such as catapults, armor, flying machines, land mines, biological weapons-these are but some of the great inventions that have been produced because of war. However, despite all of these technological advances, war will eventually bring an end to civilization.

Of the many of horrors of the Second World War, the Nanjing or (Nanking) massacre, also known as the “The Forgotten Holocaust” highlighted the darkness and inhumanity of war. However, with rules and principles regulating an armed conflict between nations, these laws can protect unarmed civilians, minimize the destruction of life and property and prohibit cruel treatment of noncombatants and prisoners of war.

The battle of Nanjing took place in China on December 13, 1937. The Japanese took full possession of Nanjing after three months of hard and bitter fighting. The Japanese troops initiated executions of men of military age. These men were mostly civilians. The civilians were either executed by bayonet or machine gun in a killing competition as a way to boost morale (Baker online).

Those suffered most from the barbarity were women. Women were killed in indiscriminate acts of terror and execution, but the large majority died after extended and excruciating gang rape (Jones online). “Surviving Japanese veterans claim that the army had officially outlawed the rape of enemy women,” writes Iris Chang. But “the military policy forbidding rape only encouraged soldiers to kill their victims afterwards.” Chang cites one soldier's recollection that "It would be all right if we only raped them. I shouldn't say all right. But we always stabbed and killed them. Because dead bodies don't talk ... Perhaps when we were raping her, we looked at her as a woman, but when we killed her, we just thought of her as something like a pig" (Chang 49-50).

The Japanese murdered, raped and looted 300,000 of innocent lives, because there wasn’t any clear and strong regulation to protect the unarmed civilians during the warfare. For nearly two centuries, individuals have tried to design organizations and support principles to temper the effects of warfare on civilians, such as Jean Henri-Dunant, the visionary Genevan who was involved in creating the International Committee of Red Cross in 1863. However, the International Red Cross wasn’t strong enough to protect the civilians.

There is a sense that, during this century, civilians are now no different than professional combatants. The vast majority of casualties in contemporary armed conflicts have not been the soldiers of opposing armies but unarmed women, men and children. Civilians have been deliberately targeted as a military tactic and needlessly jeopardized by indiscriminate weapons and tactics (Amnesty online). In armed conflicts since 1945, ninety percent of casualties have been civilians compared to fifty percent in the Second World War and ten percent in the First (Tamilnation online).

The official expectation of protecting civilian lives has never been clearer. However, pressure must be put those governments and armed groups, which continued to ignore the human rights laws, claiming their actions are justified by political necessity. Even in the midst of war, civilians must be protected. There are no exceptions. Authorities must work to prevent violations against civilians and holding the perpetrators accountable.

There can be no denying that war is and will always be hell. All it brings is nothing but destruction of properties and lives. During the fall of Nanjing, the violence was, in the words of the Committee, ‘absolutely unchecked’ and as much as two thirds of the city was destroyed as a result of arson. Japanese troops torched newly built government buildings as well as the homes of many civilians. The only district spared wholesale destruction was the International Safety Zone (Baker online).
Using military force to bring mass destruction on nation’s enemies is considered to be extreme over-kill and dangerous to the civil liberties of the citizens of the nations. What it’ll bring is sever destruction of individual and culture’s property such as artwork, literature, and artifact. Many countries will remain mired in poverty because of economics downfall and the losses of individual’s properties from the mass destruction of war. As technology and awareness have improved, technological developments in the realm of war tend to threaten humanitarian concerns, and humanitarian concerns tend to want stem the progress of weapons and methods of destruction. With rule to minimize destructions of lives and properties, it can protect humanitarian, cultural and financial concerns.

Of all horrific outcomes of war, the inhumane treatment of defenseless victims is the most stomach churning.  Unit 731 was a secret military medical unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that researched biological warfare and other topics through human experimentation, including plague, anthrax, cholera and a dozen other pathogens.  It is estimated that over 3,000 Chinese, Korean, and Allied POWs were killed in the Unit 731 facilities. According to journalist and researcher, in Japanese germ warfare experiments during this time, more than 250,000 people were infected, and the vast majority died (Wikipedia online).

Many of the human experiments were intended to develop new vaccines or treatment for medical problems the Japanese army faced. Morioka, a cheerful old farmer explained what it was like to cut open a thirty year old man who was tied naked to abed and dissects him alive, without anesthetic.
The fellow knew that it was over for him and so he didn’t struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down. But when I picked up the scalpel, that’s when he began screaming. I cut him open from the chest to the stomach and he screamed terribly and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But the finally he stopped. This was all in a day’s work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time (Kristof online).

These are just some examples of ghoulish experiments carry by the Japanese military. What the old farmer has done was something that nobody should have done as a human being. Torture or inhumane treatment such as biological warfare that the Japanese army committed against humanity should definitely be banished from warfare. Biological warfare causes great pain for people or soldiers who are involved in the war, even if some of them survived from it, they will eventually suffer from lethal gases. Based on Human Rights, individual have the rights to be treated with dignity and equality during warfare. However, the Japanese military caused people to bear enormous torments are no different from animals.

After the end of Second World War, the Japanese government tried to cover up their war crimes. However, still today, they called the Nanjing Massacre “the biggest lie of the 20th century.” Shigeto Nagano, Japan’s new justice minister said what many Japanese officials thought to believe but few dare utter. The event that the world remembers as “the rape of Nanking” was, he said, “a fabrication” (EBSCO online). What Nagano said reflects how Japan’s lack of courage to face history.
All wars are tragic, but the Nanjing massacre has showed us how people could become so inhumane just to gain victory. The Japanese army destroyed properties, murdered, raped, looted, and tormented innocent people. The Japanese government even erased the history about the Nanjing massacre from their textbooks and never made any compensation to the Chinese civilians for the lost lives and properties in its act of crimes. Still today, the Nanjing massacre cast a shadow on people throughout the country of China and it has driven China-Japan relationship to their lowest point since World War II. This uneasy relationship between the two nations would never had happened if there were laws to protect unarmed civilians, minimize the destruction of life and property and prohibit cruel treatment of noncombatants and prisoners of war. However, we could still prevent history from repeating itself by creating genuine international laws of war.

 





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Comments

Jun 12, 2011 11:03pm
vicdillinger
Kudos!!! Thank you for taking the time to produce this well-researched, articulate, and interesting piece. Ethnocentrists that we are in the US, we forget that other countries' peoples suffered just as much in wars as we did. I always rejoice when I can find the rare gem of a rare subject -- you nailed it!
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