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Analysis of The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by I. Chang

The Rape of Nanking Free Essay

Iris Chang aims to examine the horrifying events or a real massacre that happened in Nanking, and strangely remained relatively little-studied topic in the world history. In December 1994, she visited Cupertino conference, which was devoted to the Nanking Massacre. What she had seen and heard at the conference inspired her to write a book – The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. By providing the vivid examples of inhumane violence resulting from the conflict between China and Japan in Nanking, the author tries to raise awareness of consequences that hatred, indifference, and concealment of the truth may lead to.

Essentially, it is very likely that the book is written in order to show numerous aspects. First, probably, the desire to depict the extreme extent, to which people cruelty could develop, has guided the author. Second, the reason for writing this work was the will to highlight the forgotten events of the recent history, which were not mentioned anywhere. Third, there might be a political basis for writing the book. Concerning the relations of the US and Japan, maybe, it is possible to assume that it was an attempt to show the dark essence of the Japanese tradition.

 The author successfully determines the context of the book and the events, which took place. The essential sources, which have been used for the book and compose its content, are the documents, which are not numerous. In addition, the author found many proofs of the cruelty the Japanese showed in the archives of various countries. Due to the application of the retrospective historical analysis, it became possible to prove numerous acts of violence, which took place in Nanking. The sources that served beneficially for the book were in English, Chinese, and Japanese. They helped compare the points of view of various nationalities towards the tragedy of Nanking and create homogeneous understanding of the proposed events. The primary motive, which stood behind the book and led the author to writing it, is, essentially, the desire to depict the history of the great country from the angle that had been unknown until recently. This idea determines the author’s style: despite uncovering the mystery, the language of the book is straight and direct as well as does not contain unnecessary and complex phrases, which actually do not contribute to the better understanding.

Being based on the pure historical findings, the book contains numerous firm statements, which the examples illustrate. Evidently, the desire to show the truth of the violent events in Nanking guided the author. It is why not only the documentary examples but also the self-reflection of the author on the humankind tragedy were used. The very this approach helps to support and prove the essential arguments of the book and leads to the fulfillment of its purpose – the demonstration of the history of the unknown Japan in the small aspect.

In contrast to the atomic bombing of Japan or the genocide of the Jews in Europe, the horror of the Nanking Massacre remains virtually unknown outside of Asia. The reason for it is the policy. After the war, the relations between Tokyo and Beijing were built according to the formula of “cold politics and hot economy.” Neither China nor the Republic of China demanded the war reparations from Japan (Chang 52). Even in the face of the threat of communism from the Soviet Union and mainland China, the United States sought friendship and loyal attitude from its former enemy – Japan. In this regard, Japan was able to avoid a huge variety of interrogations and investigations, which the military allies were subjected. This argument of the author of the book is very strong due to the fact that it determines the scale of the tragedy, which The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II reveals.

Revolt of the Chinese and stubborn refusal of Tokyo to admit its war crimes were reflected in the fact that the Japanese have been systematically removing the mentions of the Nanking Massacre from the museums and media for decades. The author of the book states that in contrast to Germany where the teachers may not remove the information about the Holocaust from the curriculum, in the Japanese textbooks on history, the data about atrocities on the Chinese territory was ignored or justified. Despite the obvious evidence of the existence of Nanking Massacre, many prominent Japanese politicians, academics, and heads of industrial corporations still stubbornly refuse to recognize it. Even reputable professors of history in Japan joined the right wing and question the reports concerning Nanking Massacre. Determining the indifference of the authorities of the contemporary time, the author brings the topic of how many events of the history of each country were left behind the general human scope.

Thus, the author of the book states that the humankind faces two related but different atrocities. The numerous examples support this idea. One of the cases is the violence, which is referred to Nanking incident, alone, the story of how the Japanese killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the capital they had seized. Another atrocity, according to the author of the book, is the issue of concealing the crimes of the Japanese. Taking advantage from the silence of the Chinese, the Americans tried to erase the information on the Nanking Massacre from the public consciousness, thereby depriving the victims of their own place in history.

An important compound of the book is the fact that Iris Chang successfully integrated in it the topic of the impact of the USA on the tragedy of Nanking. The fact that the US was the first country that recalled and pointed on this event in the history of both Japan and China determines the importance of this aspect. Analyzing the aspect mentioned above, the author rightly states that influenced by Iris Chang and her books, the US Congress adopted special hearing in 1997, which called for the Japanese government to apologize for the war crimes, which its army committed, officially. While working on the book, Iris traveled. Ironically, a large number of descendants of the survivors of Nanking Massacre now live in the US; hence, for the journalist, it was not too difficult to find them. She was interviewing them, collecting scraps of information, and gradually reconstructing the events.

The author is not interested purely in history, though. Her purpose was not to retell the facts and describe the massacre itself. She wanted to perpetuate the fate of absolutely all people who have died or been able to survive in Nanking. The Rape of Nanking has a special structure: the book presents the events through the eyes of a Chinese victim, the executioner’s eyes, and from the point of view of the Japanese casual observer-foreigner. Iris Chang had to stay in the role of each victim. Certainly, the most lively, terrible, and pathetic chapter is the one that describes the suffering of a victim. As Iris claimed, her talent had nothing to do with that. At the press conference dedicated to the book, the author admitted that she identified herself with the victim. Keeping this idea in mind, the US Congress approved and passed a resolution stating that the Japanese government is required to bring formal apology for war crimes.

Another advantage of the piece of writing in question is the uncensored depiction of the events in full detail mode. The book precisely describes the murders, tortures, and rapes committed during the massacre. These instances are paramount due to the fact that they not only discover the historic context of the relations between China and Japan but also depict the depth of human cruelty. In the Japanese military culture, the notion that the winner has the right to women belonging to the vanquished side is ingrained. The author states that many farmers formerly hunted for girls in the belief that sexual intercourse with a virgin would give them strength in combat and even save them from the injuries. The officers did not differ from the soldiers (Chang 56). According to the book, the commander of the 6th Division, Hisao Tani, was accused of raping twenty women in Nanking. The only thing that interested the officers was leaving no traces. The author of the book asserts that the Japanese soldiers raped all the women, which they could catch. Young victims did not know how to escape from them. They hid at home hoping that they would not be found or escaped to a safe haven, which the aliens created. If they stayed at home, there would be the risk of being raped in front of their own families. If they tried to escape, they would become the victims of the rapists on the streets. The author analyzes the complexity of the events and shows the violent nature of people. The Japanese command was not going to punish the perpetrators considering the fact that the women on the occupied territories could delight the soldiers. Therefore, the idea to create a system of public houses for the personnel of the Imperial Army was born (Chang 96).

The writer tried to understand the mentality of the Japanese soldiers. It is extremely hard to combine the exquisite courtesy and kind manners of the Japanese and the barbaric behavior of the soldiers of the Imperial Army in Nanking. In this regard, the author of the book asks the following question: “Why had they acted as lead?” The conclusion drawn is that probably, the answer lies in the ancient samurai tradition. A samurai had the right to cut off a head of a commoner if he responded rudely. Another variant is that the war propaganda and school education could affect them. In any case, there is no exact answer.

Another question, which is raised in the book, is “How many people died in Nanking?” The Chinese experts believe that four hundred and thirty thousand people were killed there. At the international military tribunal held in Tokyo after the war, the figure of two hundred and sixty thousand was stated. The Japanese historians state the number, which is about thirty or forty thousand people. The foreigners who traditionally had special privileges rescued many townspeople. For example, in November 1937, a French priest of the Japanese authorities announced that Shanghai established a neutral zone, which had had its boundaries. The Japanese had recognized that area. Thus, it had taken four hundred and fifty thousand of the Chinese refugees.

Surprisingly, two dozen foreigners remained in Nanking. They had managed to save many people. Among them, there were missionaries, doctors, and merchants. When analyzing it, the author claims that they took advantage of the fact that Japanese troops maintained the reverence for foreigners. The absurdity of the situation was in the fact that ten years before, the problem of foreigners with Chinese troops in Nanking had risen. When the Nationalist Army took the city, it had mercilessly killed foreigners.

The world has learned about the slaughter in Nanking from the messages of three American reporters who were in the city. The last of them left Nanking on the 16th of December. He saw the bodies of the Chinese with their hands tied behind their back. One of them has stood on his knees and begged him for salvation. When American journalists left the city, the other foreign correspondents were not allowed to visit Nanking. In 1945, the Japanese remained there until the day of surrender, and then they quickly left the town. Consequently, they said that they saw the Japanese who stood on their knees and were beaten by local residents. However, these cases were rare. The Japanese were evacuated, which left the Chinese with no opportunity to avenge. According to the author, the Chinese could not believe that it had been all over, and that Japan was defeated. They feared that the Japanese might return.

Iris Chang believes that there were several fundamental prerequisites for mass murder, namely, the legalization of crime on August 5, 1937 by the Emperor Hirohito who signed the decree lifting the restrictions of international regulations on the treatment of prisoners by the Chinese. In fact, he legitimized the murders and tortures. After capturing poorly protected Nanking, a three-month break from the onset of the Japanese forces followed. Being extremely embittered and tired, the Japanese military took revenge of the uncomplicated and civil prisoners for their dead comrades. Numerous examples and scientific documents proofs support the author’s claims.

In conclusion, the book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by I. Chang is a perfect example of the profound analysis of the historic events through the prism of motives. The author has successfully depicted the essential stages of the conflict development and described the actions of violence in details. When the reading of the book is finished, it is possible to understand that the author’s essential conclusion is the fact that the violence can be born from nothing and lead to the most inevitable and unbearable consequences.


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