Imagine the furore if German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to visit a German war memorial that honored members of the SS and their role in the Second World War. It would immediately result in an avalanche of protest by the governments and citizens of those countries, which endured crimes of unspeakable barbarism at the hands of this fascist military organization – and understandably so.
The outrage expressed by China and South Korea over the recent visit to the Yasukini shrine in Tokyo honoring Japan’s 2.5 million Second World War dead – including mass murders and convicted war criminals – by Japan’s Prime Minister ShinzoAbe has to be viewed in the same context. It belongs in the same category as a German Chancellor paying homage to the SS.
Due to the attention given in the West to the European theater of the Second World War, the extent of the atrocities and war crimes committed by the Japanese armed forces during their occupation of South East Asia and China has never really been appreciated outside the region.
The most notorious of those atrocities took place in December 1937, when the Japanese Imperial Army marched into Nanking – the then capital of the Republic of China – and proceeded to slaughter 300,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents over a six-week period. The majority of the victims were civilians and before they were murdered most of the women and girls – some as young as 8 years of age and other as old as 70 – were gang raped. It is estimated that anything between 20-80,000 women suffered this fate. Pregnant women weren’t spared either, with some of them having their stomachs cut open and their fetuses ripped out. Many of the women who were spared this ordeal were press ganged into working as prostitutes – comfort women – for the pleasure of Japanese soldiers thereafter.
Is it any wonder that the Rape of Nanking continues to exert such strong emotions in China to this day?