Monday, May 02, 2011

The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

This is a confused book. It alternates between semi-objective narrative and propaganda. It argues that Japan should be hung out to dry for very bad behavior during World War II, yet it criticizes the excessive castigation of "good" Nazis after the war. It is also finds a way to interject numerous sordid accounts of Japanese mistreatment of the Chinese.

It really want to make you think that the Japanese behavior in Nanking was bad, bad, bad. In that it succeeds. However, it also left me with the impression that it was just a few bad apples that were responsible for most of the bad things. The role of the "foreign safety zone" members was also somewhat confusing. If the Japanese were so bad, why did they continue to respect the foreigners?

At times the book attempts to provide a narrative of the fall of Nanking. However, this only occupies a brief portion of the book. Most of the "narrative" portion contains simple anecdotes and other accounts that accentuate the "badness", but don't really tell a story. Stories of "human experiments" are told briefly - but lack some of the data from the similar Nazi experiments.

The end of the book seeks vengeance. "Japan must pay!" is the rallying cry. The propensity of some Japanese to deny that the atrocities ever occurred is seen as a big problem. However, it is acknowledged that a lot of this is due to the political situation - Chinese leadership "absolved" the Japanese of responsibility. (Perhaps they have learned the benefits of forgiving and "moving on".) Perhaps the Japanese feel that, after being nuked, they had suffered a significant "retribution" for their activities. (After all, it was the respect for "Japan" over self that could be traced as the root of all these issues.)

The author sought to create awareness of the Nanking massacre. This she managed to do. The Germans did a great job of recording their exploits and later flogging themselves for their bad behavior. The Japanese managed to do neither. Thus, their misbehaviors are less well known. Their victims seem to accept this. C'est la vie.

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