book report: The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang

The depravity is so intense it was hard to read. A short history can be found at the History Place. In fact, the atrocities recounted and photographed in this book were so disturbing I had to take a break from this genre for awhile. I'm reading JND Kelley's Early Christian Doctrines for a breather.
In her assessment of the mentality of the Japanese army she touches on the reality of total depravity.
Looking back upon millenia of history, it appears clear that no race or culture has a monopoly on wartime cruelty. The veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin - one that can be easily stripped away, especially by the stresses of war.
How then do we explain the raw brutality carried out day after day after day in teh city of Nanking? Unlike their Nazi counterparts, who have mostly perished in prisons and before execution squads or, if alive, are spending their remaining days as fugitives from the law, many of the Japanese was criminals are still alive, living in peace and comfort, protected by the Japanese government. They are therefore some of the few people on this planet who, without concern for retaliation in a court of international law, can give authors and journalists a glimpse of their thoughts and feelings while committing World War II atrocities. p.55

As she elaborates at the end of her book, the U.S. needed Japan as a buffer against Red China so war crime trials were not as satisfactory. The organ for justice in the east was called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), staged in Tokyo for two and a half years.
During the trial thousands of horrific details of Japanese behavior across Asia came together in reams of news reports, surveys, statistics, and witness testimony. The IMTFE not only created an enduring oral history record of the Nanking massacre but proved that the massacre was just a tiny fraction of the totality of atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war. The prosecution learned, among other things, of Japanese medical experiments on their captives, of marches (such as the infamous Bataan Death March) in which gravely ill and starved prisoners dropped dead from exhaustion, of the savage conditions behind the construction of the Siam-Burma Death Railway, of the Japanese "water treatment" that pumped water or kerosene into the noses and mouths of victims until their bowels ruptured, of suspension of POWs by wrists, arms, or legs until their joints were literally ripped from their sockets, of victims being forced to kneel on sharp instruments, of excruciating extractions of nails from fingers, of electric shock torture, of naked women forced to sit on sharcoal stoves, of every imaginable form of beating and flogging (a favored method of torture by military police officers involved tying prisoners to trees, surrounding them, and kicking them to death in a method they euphemistically called "triple attack," or "converging from three directions"), even of vivisection ond cannibalism. It was later determined that Japanese treatment of their POWs surpassed in brutality even that of the Nazis. Only one in twenty-five American POWs died under Nazi captivity, in contrast to one in three under the Japanese. p.173

The Japanese behavior in Nanking was not a unique situation, it was par for the course. In the course of 6 weeks, the Japanese army killed approximately 300,000 people directly. The other half of the population that hadn't escaped before their arrival were protected in a self-proclaimed international safe zone by Western missionaries, doctors, and Nazi businessmen. The Nazi, John Rabe, worked for Siemens in Nanking and wrote many letters to Hitler complaining of their allies' behavior. Even those in the safe zone weren't completely safe. Repeatedly troops would enter to kidnap women. Many were gang raped to death or killed after the gang sated themselves. No ages were safe. The Japanese ran out of oil burning all the bodies they generated. Many trench graves were dug and many bodies were simply dumped inthe river to float away. Green troops were trained on bayonets with live prisoners. There were beheading competitions.

Chang concludes that "the Japanese killed more than 19 million Chinese people in its war against China." (p.217) It's amazing to me that Mao Tse Tung was able to find an equal amount to kill when he rose to power afterwards, but then Stalin was able to find an equal number to kill and match his country's war sacrifice.

One of the delusional double speak that is eerily familiar to that used in cults struck me deeply. Quoting the Japanese General Matsui:
The struggle between Japan and China was always a fight between brothers within the "Asian Family."...It had been my belief during all these days that we must regard this struggle as a method of making the Chinese undergo self reflection. We do not do this because we hate them, but on the contrary we love them too much. It is just the same as in a family when an elder brother has taken all that he can stand from his ill-behaved younger brother and has to chastise him in order to make him behave properly. p.219

Indeed the veneer of civilization is truly thin.

For more blog posts on mankind's atrocities against itself click here.


Ikaedih said…
But after all, no serious historians and scholars quote Iris Chang in their papers and books. That is how experts evaluate the book. Think about why that is the case.
jpu said…
thanks for your input ikaedih. i put in other links to point out the general opinion on this atrocity. i appreciated her use of period Japanese newspaper acocunts, internal memos, international correspondence and diaries and news reports, as well as perpetrator confessions. i think her discovery of Rabe's and Vautrin's diaries are extremely useful to historians. she was a journalist who uncovered much that many had forgotten. if we don't acknowledge our sinfulness how can we move into the freedom of forgiveness?
God is good
Anonymous said…
thanks for sharing the post from the One World Missions blog...


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