Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Rape of Nanking, the Denials of Genocide and the memory of a Bold-Spirit.......

'No massacre in Nanking,' Japanese lawmakers say

Reuters, The Associated Press
Published: June 19, 2007

TOKYO: About 100 Japanese governing party lawmakers denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication on Tuesday, contesting Chinese claims that Japanese soldiers killed hundreds of thousands of people after seizing the Chinese city in 1937.
The members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party said there was no evidence to prove mass killings by Japanese soldiers in the captured Nationalist capital, then known as Nanking. ...... China says that as many as 300,000 people were killed. Nanjing suffered a rampage of murder, rape and looting by Japanese troops that became known as "The Rape of Nanking."

As I was browsing through the newspapers online , I came across this piece carried by Reuters and I had to stop . Again, the right-wing lawmakers of the ruling party in Japan instead of freeing the current generation from its past shame, decided to bring more shame on themselves by denying historical facts .

As I read the news-clip , my memory raced to an evening in 2000, when I was managing The Durant in Berkeley , when I met this serenely pretty doe-eyed woman in her early thirties named Iris Chang prior to her speaking engagement in Berkeley - and distinctly remember her smiling and asking me , " Are you Indian ?" I politely replied , " My mother is from Bangladesh." She immediately lighted up and said , " You went through a brutal civil war , didn't you ?" I could see she had so much compassion in her eyes and voice - and it stayed with me for a long time because it sounded so genuine. This was Iris Chang - only the second chinese american writer to have a book in the New York Times best-seller list , and that book " The Rape of Nanking" - stayed on the list for 3 consecutive months and was reprinted 15 times !

By August of 1937 , the Japanese Imperial Army had just entered Shanghai and marched towards the Chinese capital Nanjing. On August 2, Emperor Hirohito personally ratified the law removing all constraints of International Rules on the Army regarding its treatment towards chinese prisoners. This acted as a catalyst to the events that followed. On December 2nd, Prince Asaka - an uncle of emperor Showa - was named the commander of the invasion - thus, this massacre has a clear and undeniable direct link to the royal family of Japan. On December 9 the Japanese Imperial Army were at the gates of Nanjing and issued an ultimatum to surrender. When there was no response , for 2 days a fierce artillery and aerial attack was unleashed and the Chinese soldiers retreated and later abandoned the fight in chaos.

What followed in the next six weeks can only be termed as a massacre of genocidal proportions. Thousands of soldiers who changed into civilian clothes to flee the city were rounded up by the Japanese and taken to the banks of the Yangtze river and machine gunned so their bodies would be carried down river to Shanghai , others were used for live bayonet practice , yet others hanged by their tongue or nailed to the tree or buried alive . Decapitation was also a popular method of choice . Look closely at the photographs below - this hapens to be a picture carried with a report on Ashai Shimbun from its correspondent telling everyone of a contest between 2 Japanese officers to see who can decapitate 100 people first !

Two Japanese officers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda competing to see who could kill (with a sword) one hundred people first. The bold headline reads, "'Incredible Record' (in the Contest to) Cut Down 100 People—Mukai 106 – 105 Noda—Both 2nd Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings"

But the rapes in those six weeks and the sheer brutality and methodical nature of it is what stands out of this massacre. Japanese soldiers would go house to house searches and round up the women and systematically rape and mutilate and then kill them .Even pregnant women were not spared. Eyewitness accounts reveal how pregnant women were raped and bayoneted , their fetus taken out and then thrown up in the air and caught by bayonets by the soldiers. Forced incest and monks forced to participate in acts for the amusement of soldiers was a past time for troops. This entire macabre went on and on. A telegram written by Manchester Guardian reporter H.J.Timperley to Japanese Foreign Minister Koki Hirota puts it very bluntly : "Since return (to) Shanghai (a) few days ago I investigated reported atrocities committed by Japanese Army in Nanking and elsewhere. Verbal accounts (of) reliable eye-witnesses and letters from individuals whose credibility (is) beyond question afford convincing proof (that) Japanese Army behaved and (is) continuing (to) behave in (a) fashion reminiscent (of) Attila (and) his Huns. (Not) less than three hundred thousand Chinese civilians slaughtered, many cases (in) cold blood."

The most surprising fact of all is for 60 years , no comprehensive book was published on this dark episode , and a concerted effort of the Japanese right wing kept a steady barrage of disinformation and denial it ever happened . In 1994 , while on a conference in Cupertino , California - the idea of writing a book on this massacre came to Iris Chang . Her grandfather was a newspaper editor of a chinese daily in Nanjing during the time of the Japanese brutality , and she grew up hearing stories of these dark days . Iris Chang took up the cause . She went to China , interviewed survivors personally, went to the archives in China and the U.S. and talked to scholars on both sides . It is during her searches in the Yale Library she stumbled upon the diaries of a German named John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin . She also located Rabe's surviving daughter Ursula Reinhardt .

These diaries and daily logs opened a wealth of day-to-day information on the goings-on in the besieged city during that time. John Rabe , a German and a devout member of the Nazi Party , is the paradoxical hero and often referred to as Nanjing's Oscar Schindler . Rabe and about 20 other europeans comprising of doctors, diplomats , missionaries and businessmen worked tirelessly to save the chinese civilians specially women from rape and created a "Safety Zone " . In a strange twist , Rabe was begging Hitler to intervene to stop the massacre ! These diaries became the basis of the book "Rape of Nanking" - written not as a hard account with stats only , but a free flowing lyrical style writing which makes it a more palatable book that touches your heart and imagination. Here is a part of a documentary on Nanjing

As soon as the book was published in 1997 , the Japanese right-wingers started a distortion campaign. The Japanese ambassador in the U.S. held a press conference denouncing the book and again stated that the Nanking massacre is just a myth ! Iris Chang also faced constant harassment from these people and had to change her phone number frequently due to threats. But , as a compassionate soul , the stories of brutality and massacre took an undeniable toll on her . She frequently broke down during interviews with the victims and their families but still carried on her work . She even condemned the treatment and profiling of muslims after 9/11 equating it to the "exclusion of the chinese" early part of the century.

On November 10, 2004 police found a car on the rural roads of Los Gatos with a 36 year chinese-american woman inside with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Iris Chang , while fighting for the cause and the truth , could not deal with the depression that engulfed her from inside and had taken her own life (according to police reports ). A movie, Iris Chang , is slated for release later this year on her life.

Iris Chang with her tireless efforts had brought a piece of forgotten history to the forefront of the world and demanded justice. To this day , the Japanese government has refused to apologise for the atrocities and distorted historical facts to reflect their own version in school text books. I salute the people within Japan who has raised their voice against the right-wing lobby and demanded that Japan own up to its past . Although General Iwane Matsui was judged guilty of war crimes and sentenced to die after WWII , none of the Japanese royal family were prosecuted according to the terms of surrender to the Allies , not even Prince Asaka who despite being the ranking officer in Nanjing during the height of the atrocities completely pleaded ignorance of any such wrongdoings by his troops because nobody brought any complaints to him.

Sometimes I have this distinct feeling that even on world stage , common sense is left aside and replaced with utter ignorance . The Japanese denial of the Nanjing Massacre, the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide to this day, the debate whether Darfur can be termed as genocide ultimately insults the memories of the victims . I am horrified when educated literate people , some within the muslim community which I belong flatly denies The Holocaust . I remember when I was seeing Sarah ( her grandfather was a Rabbi in San Diego ) that I came across pictures of her visit to Auschwitz and saw this picture of thousands of small shoes of children stacked tight to the ceiling of this big warehouse -shoes that were taken from them before they were walked to their deaths - and to this day , I cannot forget the agony I felt for those little souls whose only crime was to belong to a particular religion . Even though I was little , I remember the nine months of methodical extermination carried out by the Pakistani Army against Bengalees just on the pretext that Bengalees are not good muslims and want their own country .

Iris Chang will always be a guiding light. There will always be people who will deny the truth drunk in a false sense of national pride where your country can do no wrong - deny the solace and compassion to the thousands of voiceless people who were cut, maimed,raped and mutilated without dignity and led to thier deaths in silence - but for each one of them , there will come a Iris Chang , who will demand justice and make sure their suffering is neither forgotten nor erased.

Here is a poem-tribute to the deep thouhtful compassionate eyes that will be fresh in my memory forever , Sleep my sweet warrior , sleep in peace ;

An Ode To A Warrior ..........
You spoke for me.
Even when the scorches of the sun
Had dried my wounds,
And I could not show the world ,
How deep the cuts
Have ravaged my dreams ,
How the steel had left a mark
On the inner Sanctums of my bone ,
How the night winds -
had whirled up my pain.
But you still believed in me .
And stood up for me .
When my voice quivered you held my arm ,
When my steps faltered , you steadied my steps,
When the world looked away from my wound ,
You brought me to the brightness of the day.

Sleep, my sweet warrior ,
For I know how tired you must be,
How the days have plagued your conscience,
How my wounds have pained your heart.
As the sun sets in the distance
Let me be your voice now -
Each time the lies
Are revived from the dust,
I will firmly speak the truth,
For each inhumanity on man ,
I will stand firmly with strength.

Sleep, my sweet warrior ,
Sleep in peace .

more information on Iris Chang and Nanjing Massacare can be found at the following websites: