Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Over the years, the events of 1937 Nanking have been challenged by many including veterans, scholars, and others. The details are rarely agreed upon as many find it hard to accept that these events actually happened. As Nanking became more active in the world of economics and politics, so did its past. Revisionists came out of the woodwork to show how much Japan had been vilified during and after the war. It began the day the soldiers walked in and has only escalated.
Any anti-war publications or speeches were not permitted in Japan or any of the areas Japan conquered in the 1930s and 1940s. It was not uncommon for people to be locked up and/or lose their jobs because they were not completely supportive of the military actions of Japan or believed the nation to be invincible. This did not prevent secret reports escaping the locked in areas of Asia. Letters were smuggled out. Missionaries who were able to escape took stories back home. The occupation of Nanking could not be kept quiet. Even the personal accounts from soldiers helped support the massacre. These soldiers wrote in their diaries of the rapes and murders of various Chinese people. In fact, they were told to kill anyone suspicious. This gave the soldiers carte blanche with those that stood before them resulting in many deaths.
As the Japanese revisionists began trying to reshape their country’s image, a Pandora’s Box was opened. By the early 1990s, lawsuits were multiplying against Japan for their unethical actions. A committee was pulled together to refute all these allegations. In the end, they decided that the matter called for deeper investigation. More research had to be done with all the information that had come available since the occupation.
In the mid-1990s, a new revisionist group called the Association for the Advancement of a Liberalist View of History developed. Their message was that all accounts of the atrocities were pure propaganda by the United States and China. They wanted the acts eliminated from history.
Other revisionists claimed that many of the casualties were not at the hands of the Japanese but by the Chinese due to the confusion that took over the city when invaded. Most reports from Japanese documents and eyewitnesses agree that a large number of the Japanese soldiers were undisciplined leading to much looting, raping, and deaths. All of this information from new documents such as diaries and official reports have caused many revisionists to argue over various points and even split.
One issue of contention over the Nanking Massacre is the number of actual casualties. Those that agree that atrocities occurred begin to bicker on how bad these atrocities were. Some declare that the numbers were much smaller. Traditionalists hold that the number raped and murdered is not important and that any number of these actions is considered atrocious.
- 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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