A review of The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II, by Iris Chang.
This book, controversial when it came out in 1997, shines a clear, accusatory light on the war crimes of the Japanese in Nanjing in 1938. At the time of The Rape's publication, the massacre was largely unknown in America, outside of academia.
It cannot be denied that this is a subjective book, one with an agenda and a mission. However, given the nature of the mission, possibly the questionable remarks from Chang about Japanese intent (and "the Japanese psyche") can be condoned, if not excused. I'd studied the events in my Japan History class, but reading this book was still shocking. Chang discusses the brutal tortures in some detail, driving home the awful barbarism of it all. She also extols the virtues of the foreigners who helped save thousands of Chinese lives, including, perhaps ironically, the high-ranking Nazi official John Rabe.
Then there is what she calls the "second Rape," namely the efforts of right-wing Japanese, both official and private, to discount the massacre, deny the killings, and depict the rapes as merely the use of willing prostitutes. The lengths to which these revisionists go to defend the "honor" of their empire and portray themselves endlessly as victims of aggression are just as shocking as the massacre itself. Yes, it's true that all nations do this --- there are few white Americans who acknowledge how great our crimes against Indians, Africans and Mexicans are --- but it's shocking nonetheless. Chang recounts that those Japanese who do speak out for the Rape and its victims are subjected to ridicule and even death threats.
This is a truly important book, and Chang was both honored and reviled for it. Tragically, she submitted to severe depression and killed herself in 2004.
Sunday Warbooks casualty count:
Greco-Persian wars: 1
WWII: 3 <--- winning!
Iraq wars: 2