Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Revisionism has become a hot topic over the last few decades. This has come about with new archeological finds, records, and movements in national pride. The end results have been improved knowledge of historical events and even the denial of the existence of people, places, and events. The Nanking occupation by Japan in 1937 has become a revisionism volcano where many are even dismissing the actual accounts of atrocities. Revisionism has become a dangerous tool used in politics and academic circles.
In the late 1930s, Japan began the large operation of invading China. Upon arriving at the Chinese capital of Nanking, the native people were introduced to a version of hell that many find hard to believe. Traditionally, history has explained the event very much the same, except for Japan. As Japanese soldiers entered the city, mass murder as well as rape was performed. Japanese soldiers were said to have killed anyone including those from other countries. Women were forced to become sex slaves. Horror was inflicted on the city.
Japan has always been on the side that the event was exaggerated and that these “atrocities” were actually defensive. The official stance of Japan was that China was aggressive and Japan was only protecting herself. Very little was mentioned in Japanese history books. The invasion of China was always portrayed as a defensive action with any “atrocity” eliminated or downplayed. Aside from reports that leaked out of the area within the first few years right after the event, very little was made of the event. It was the actions of the Japanese revisionists that brought the event further onto the world stage.
It has been said that “the revisionist seeks to shatter illusions.” A movement in Japan began in the 1970s to increase national pride. Revisionists wanted to change how the Japanese had been viewed in history. They proposed that many of the World War II atrocities were created by the enemy in order to make Japan look bad after the war. It was all perceived as propaganda that they wanted corrected. They had a long road ahead of them as there were documentations, committees, and trials that they had to contend with.
The review of the Nanking occupation by the international world concluded that approximately 80,000 women were raped by Japanese soldiers and as many as 300,000 Chinese citizens were murdered. Add this to the other accounts of atrocities throughout World War II such as the murder of 22 Red Cross workers and many soldiers in the care of the nurses and Japan was left with more than one black eye. (magazine) The image of World War II Japan was not honorable.
- Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. “Historical Revisionism in Japan: Truth, Postmoderinism and Historical Revisionism in Japan.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. Volume 2:2, 2001.
- Sedgwick, James Burnham. “Memory on Trial: Constructing and Contesting the ‘Rape of Nanking; at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-1948.” Modern Asian Studies. 43:5, 2009.
- Williams, David. Defending Japan’s Pacific War. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2004.
- Yamamoto, Masahiro. Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. Westport: Greenwood, 2000.
- Yoshida, Takashi. The Making of the “Rape of Nanking”: History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States. New York: Oxford, 2006.
- Zapotoczny, Walter. “The Rape of Nanking Reasons and Recriminations.” MilitaryHistoryOnline.com. Published 2008. http://www.militaryhistoryonlin.com/
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