The 27th of January was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, memorializing the victims of WW2 Holocaust, especially the Jewish victims murdered by Nazi Germany. During WW2, six million European Jews lost their lives. In the same conflict, at least 18 million Chinese people (most of them civilians) were killed by ferocious Japanese Army forces who invaded China. Thousands of Jewish refugees fled to China from Europe, where they lived in Shanghai for many years. For this reason, the Chinese people share the bitterness of the Holocaust with Jewish people.
In August 1937, the Japanese army invaded Shanghai with strong firepower. China’s National Defense Army fought hard against the Japanese but unfortunately, by mid-November, the Japanese troops had captured Shanghai after heavy fighting. Tokyo then ordered its army to capture Nanjing, the former capital of the Republic of China. The Japanese army mobilized its formidable troops to capture Nanjing, and in a short period, they took control of the city on 13th December, 1937.
In what was to become known as the Rape of Nanjing, Japanese forces committed indiscriminate, mass killings against the defenseless people of Nanjing, during which some 300,000 innocent civilians were systematical and brutally killed by hellish Japanese soldiers. Chinese women were raped and then killed, pregnant women were forked by Japanese bayonets, and countless victims were beheaded and burnt alive.
According to documents from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, a U.S. diplomat sent a telegram from Berlin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Dec. 14, 1937, one day after the Japanese army occupied Nanjing, writing:
Today the news from the Far East is worse than ever and I have read yours and Secretary Hull’s statement as to Japanese brutality. The Japanese Ambassador here boasted a day or two ago of his country’s having killed 500,000 Chinese people.
Nanjing was not alone. The Japanese army waged large scale aggression war across China, and they carried out flagrant Three Alls Policy (Sanko Sakusen), namely “kill all, loot all, burn all”. And biological weapon was tested and used for industrial killing by notorious Unit 731 in Harbin and other regions of China.
At the postwar trial at the International Military Tribunal, 7 Japanese Class-A War Criminals were sentenced to death. They were enshrined within the Yasukini Shrine, the most controversial symbol of Japanese militarism. The shrine memorializes over one million Japanese soldiers and officers who died in WW2 including the remains of convicted Class-A War Criminals.
Aside from those who were held accountable for their actions, a number of heinous Japanese war criminals who were directly responsible for the carnage escaped punishment. Asaka Yasuhiko signed the order to “kill all captives” that resulted in Nanjing’s brutal massacre. He and other war culprits evaded the penalty because of their royal status.
In China, there is no institution such as the Mossad to track war culprits, leaving numerous war criminals living carefree lives, free to propagate their militarism in Japan. Despite this, a number have returned to China to repent for their actions. After establishing diplomatic relationships with China, the Japanese government initially provided financial aid to China, however there was no sincere repentance for their actions in China. Many Japanese officials deny the Nanjing Massacre ever occurred, with the government refusing to apologize officially to survivors.
Japanese prime ministers are still paying their respects to war criminals by visiting Yasukuni Shrine. Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe, paid a visit to the Shrine last month, drawing the ire of regional neighbors and their ally United States. The Japanese education ministry has produced history textbooks glorifying the efforts of Japanese forces, and featuring watered down versions of their invasions against other countries, claiming that Japan did not ‘invade’ others, but rather ‘expanded influence’ over the nations of Asia.
In Japan, it is common to deny the Nanjing Massacre, with denial even heralded as heroism by some rightists. Symbols of Japanese militarism remain popular and common. In contrast, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust in many countries.
Germany and Japan, the Axis Powers, were both found guilty of crimes against humanity in the aftermath of WW2. Postwar Germany won the forgiveness of its enemies through sincere repentance and positive actions. By contrast, the Japanese government remains unrepentant about its history and goes to great lengths to disguise and downplay its wartime misdeeds. No monuments or museums exist in Japan to tell the true war history of this nation.
Just imagine, if someone paid homage to Hitler or Himmler, or were to set up monuments for the Nazis, thus glorifying the atrocity of their slaughter. How would Jewish people react? In memorializing their fallen war criminals, the Japanese government turns a blind eye to the heinous crimes committed at Nanjing.
As a Chinese person, I don’t think we need their apologies or their financial restitution. I wish only for them to be honest about their history, especially the atrocities committed by their fathers and grandfathers.
Let us remember the Holocaust and massacre history, and let go of animosity. This is the only way we will be able to move on.