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Xinhua Insight: Preserving Nanjing Massacre evidence

English.news.cn   2014-01-28 19:04:40

NANJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A roster of Japanese officers killed in China's war against Japanese invaders during World War II is among new historical documentation collected by the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

Guo Yongzhu donated the material. He is the son of a former commander with Kuomintang (KMT), or the Chinese Nationalist Party, who took part in combat to defend Nanjing against Japanese aggression.

The list of names was printed by the Commercial Printing House of the United Front Work Department of China's then provisional national government in Chongqing between 1937 and 1946.

On the list, there are names of 62 Japanese army officers, including 14 lieutenant generals and 47 major generals.

Guo also donated a cylinder, which was used by the Japanese Army for carrying ashes of burnt corpses.

Zhu Chengshan, curator of the memorial hall, received the donation on Sunday.

He said Chinese people paid a huge sacrifice and suffered heavy losses during WWII. "However, Japan has been unwilling to seriously reflect on the lessons of history. And there is still a risk that Japan would lead people into war once again."

Last month Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe angered people in Asian countries, including China and the Republic of Korea, by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, where WWII war criminals are honored and worshipped.

In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which closed last week, Abe played up Japanese military buildup in the East China Sea while accusing China of causing tension in the sea area.

Zhu said China's ties with Japan have long been harmed by Tokyo's failure to atone for the occupation and atrocities in China during WWII. Some conservative Japanese politicians, such as former Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro and Nagoya City Mayor Kawamura Takashi, and scholars still deny that Japanese atrocities including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre took place.

The curator said researchers with the memorial hall have never stopped trying to find information about that page in history.

Zhu announced an expansion of the memorial hall on Sunday, saying the extended exhibition area due to open in July 2015 will be dedicated to the theme of the world's anti-Fascist allies' victory of the war against Japanese aggression.

On Sept. 9, 1945, Japanese commanders in China and representatives of the KMT signed the Act of Surrender in Nanking, the predecessor of Nanjing and the then provisional national capital.

The surrender of Japan is also seen as China taking back its national sovereignty.

At a press conference on Sunday, Zhu called on the public to help search for more evidence to enrich the exhibition.

Among the donations received at the weekend, were a lunch box and an axe left by the Japanese Army. Japanese military items with Japanese characters inscribed on them were also donated. Memorial medals conferred by the Chinese government after New China was founded in 1949 to heroes killed and injured will also be on display.

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall was built in the southwestern corner of Nanjing, known as Jiangdongmen, which was used by Japanese invaders as an execution ground and for mass burials.

With the theme of "history" and "peace", the memorial exhibition provides a collection of pictures, objects, charts, journalists' reports and historical records.

It shows that on Dec. 13, 1937, Japanese invaders occupied Naning. In the following six weeks, the army committed arson and looting, killing more than 300,000 innocent civilians and unarmed soldiers.

The memorial first built in 1985, enlarged and renovated through the years, covers 25,000 square meters. Pits that have thousands of bone remains of those killed and historical materials, such as broken walls, displayed in their original forms give visitors actual "site experience".

The Nanjing Massacre was first publicized by western journalists. Westerners staying in Nanjing during the period were also present at the Far East International Tribunal as eyewitnesses of the massacre. Photographs and reports on the massacre were published in Western newspapers and magazines, said curator Zhu.

He said from 2012, the memorial has been committed to preserve the testimonies of the last survivors, in which researchers sought to establish full life histories of individuals before and after the massacre.

The documentation procedure has so far completed recording evidence of 12 survivors and witnesses of the massacre. The memorial's website shows photos of 15 historical witnesses to the massacre.

Zhu said previous to this, testimonies collected were mainly in a written form over the past twenty years, as well as a smaller number of audio-visual testimonies that were filmed in the 1990's.

The USC Shoah Foundation, the institute for visual history and education under the University of Southern California, has collaborated with the memorial in the archive collection.

"So many Holocaust survivors have told us that it's not enough to say 'never again' and ignore the suffering of others," said Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the foundation. "The effort to preserve memories of survivors of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre is not only a natural step for the USC Shoah Foundation, it's a responsibility that we all share together."

Cecilia Chan, president of the Siezen Foundation, which provides funding for the memorial, said when attending the Nanjing Massacre anniversary peace rally on Dec. 13 last year, "People need to learn from atrocities such as the Holocaust, the Nanjing Massacre, and other horrific acts of violence. By enabling students to know history through studies of survivors' testimonies, we can create sustainable behavioral changes in individuals as well as increase positive outcomes in the world."

Zhu said Chinese people are concerned about a resurrection of Japanese militarism.

Nanjing holds a peace rally every year on the anniversary of the 1937 massacre. Survivors and witnesses of the massacre, their offsprings, and people from around the world including those from Japan attend the rally.

At the rally in Nanjing last year, Daito Satoshi of the Kyoto-based Enkoji Temple donated six items, including a newspaper, the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun dated Dec. 12, 1937. It reported that Japanese troops had occupied Nanjing.

Daito said that though some right-wing Japanese deny the massacre, there are plenty of people like himself who are collecting evidence and will continue to do so.

Editor: Yang Yi
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