03 January, 2011


When the first word I read is "Rape" while opening a Christmas gift I was unsuree as to what kind of gift I was receiving, fortunately I received the gift of enlightenment. The Rape of Nanking is an extraordinary book on the Nanking Massacre. If you are like me you know very little -- or nothing at all -- about the Japanese war crimes leading up to and during WWII. In my small, ignorant world the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and were part of the axis powers during the Second World War and aside from that I knew very little. My ignorance lasted until last year when I heard a Korean speaker talk about the Japanese war crimes against his people and that opened my eyes to some of what I had, for so long, remained in the dark about. I did some minor research shortly after and found out that the Japanese war crimes are considered by some historians to be more horrendous than the Germans. My interest in the topic slowly waned and then my dad gave me this book for Christmas. Iris Chang passionately writes about the atrocities committed against the Chinese in the city and surrounding area of Nanking. The killing, plundering, raping, and terrorizing occurred over six weeks. An estimated 280-350,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed during this 6-week period. Thousands and thousands of women were gang raped and many impaled shortly after their attack. Tales of the atrocities committed made me sick to my stomach. What disturbed me even more was the lack of responsibility Japan has ever taken for the massacre. For political and economic reasons Japan was not held in the same league as Germany. Japan was never forced to apologize and the retributions to the surviving victims was paltry if even distributed (Germany was still paying millions in retribution well into 2007). History was rewritten in Japan -- the deaths of hundreds of thousands became tens of thousands and for a time they claimed the entire story was falsified and exaggerated. While the book is intense and disturbing there are stories of heroism. The stories of three westerners, a German and two Americans, are retold and shed light on the incredibly selfless acts of the few who stayed behind to help the Chinese. This tragedy should not be forgotten. As George Santayana is quoted the book, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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