Nanking Genocide 1937 Thesis

Pages: 13 (4601 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Nanking Genocide 1937

Nanking's genocide and revisionist history

Nanking's genocide and revisionist history

There are numerous reports, studies and films that refer directly and explicitly to the events that occurred in the city of Nanking in 1937. As one report states,

The Chronicle of humankind's cruelty is a long and sorry tale. But if it is true that even in such horror tales there are degrees of ruthlessness, then few atrocities can compare in intensity and scale to the rape of Nanking during World War II.

Yet despite the plethora of reportage, eye-witness and first-hand accounts of the terrible occurrences that took place in the city when the Japanese invaded, there are many scholars, researchers and commentators who claim that the Rape of Nanking "…remains an obscure incident."

As one scholar notes, "Although the death toll exceeds the immediate number of deaths from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki… the horrors of the Nanking massacre remain virtually unknown to people outside Asia.

Some pundits are of the view that The Rape of Nanking has not had the same effect on the public consciousness as other occurrences of genocide, such as the Jewish Holocaust. Many critics claim that the reason for this silence about the events surrounding Nanking and Japanese aggression has been due to political aspects and motivations. Nevertheless, in the last decade there have been a wide array of articles and publications that have insisted on drawing attention to the atrocities that occurred in that city. The age of the Internet and the growth of the human rights movement internationally, as well as the publication of books such as Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997), have all contributed to the emergence of a growing awareness and need for an explanation of these events.

However, this has in turn led to an intense debate in Japanese society about the veracity and the authenticity of the reports of extreme atrocities and genocide in Nanking. The revisionist historians, journalists and politicians in Japan and elsewhere have questioned various accepted facts and some have even cast doubt on the fact that the massacre and rape occurred at all. This is also related to the critique that there is an avoidance mentality in sectors of the society that is also politically motivated.

This tendency towards revisionism includes the perception that those who would deny that acts of genocide have occurred are often motivated by ideologies and nationalist tendencies. This often results in the construction of false views in support of these aims and tendencies. It also refers to those who hide behind the construction of fallacious arguments as well as erroneous facts and historical distortions in order to argue and convince others that events that are reported are in fact untrue or grossly exaggerated.

The revisionist tendency is also often supported by what appears to be legitimate and credible scholarly research and writing. It is characteristic of revisionism to construct an alternative historical truth that counters the negative impact of the reportage and academic evaluation and condemnation of acts such as genocide. This paper will examine the revisionist interpretation and presentation of the massacre and rape of Nanking in relation to a variety of viewpoints or perspectives that contradict this revisionist stance.

2. Background and overview

2.1. Brief historical overview

The historical details of the events that led up to massacre of Nanking are clear and undisputable. After the Japanese had successfully invaded the city of Shanghai in 1937, they proceeded to initiate an attack on Nanking, which was the newly established capital of China.

After the attack the city was entered on December 13, 1937. From this point the Japanese soldiers proceeded to subdue the large Chinese population in a manner that can only be described as barbaric and without any concern for human dignity and rights. As one scholar states,

Japanese soldiers began an orgy of cruelty seldom if ever matched in world history. Tens of thousands of young men were rounded up and herded to the outer areas of the city, where they were mowed down by machine guns, used for bayonet practice, or soaked with gasoline and burned alive. By the end of the massacre an estimated 260,000 to 350,000 Chinese had been killed. Between 20,000 and 80,000 Chinese women were raped --and many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them alive to walls.

It is reported by one researcher that the behavior of the Japanese troops shocked even members of the Nazi party who were in the city and "… John Rabe, a German businessman who led the local Nazi party, joined other foreigners in working tirelessly to save the innocent from slaughter by creating a safety zone where some 250,000 civilians found shelter."

One could argue that the frustrations that the Japanese forces had experienced in their war with China was to some extent a 'cause' for the excessive reaction of the troops in Nanking. As one historian remarks, the battle of Shanghai prior to the Nanking invasion had created a deep enmity between the two sides.

The war in Shanghai was indeed a decisive battle that caused both sides exorbitant damages, left them with a deep-rooted loathing for each other, and begot vengeance. Many historians today say the Battle of Shanghai nurtured the psychological conditions for Japanese soldiers to go on a berserk rampage in Nanking

However this would not serve as an adequate reason or excuse for the massacre and rape in any sense. The events that took place in Nanking are described by many scholars simply and straightforwardly as genocide.

According to many studies and reports the numbers of those who were killed by the Japanese soldiers was staggering. In her research on the events Chang accepts that the number of those killed was at least 260,000 Chinese residents.

This figure is hotly contested by revisionists but her figures are based on sound

Her statistics are those cited by the Allied military tribunal in bringing the perpetrators (all 28 of them, we are told) to justice. Some estimates put the figure of those killed in the 350,000 range, while others go higher still.

The common or orthodox view of what took place in Nanking can be seen in a commemorative document that described this event and which was published on the sixtieth anniversary of the incident in 1997at Princeton University. "Most experts agree that at least 300,000 Chinese died, and 20,000 women were raped. Some estimate the numbers to be much higher -- 340,000 and 80,000, respectively."

However there is no definitive agreement about the numbers of those killed or wounded and there are divergent views that depend on whether the researcher takes the conservative or revisionist point-of-view.

This general condemnatory view is supported by numerous journalistic and scholarly report and assessments. For example, on December 17, 1937 Frank Tillman Durdin of the New York Times wrote that "Wholesale looting, the violation of women, the murder of civilians, the eviction of Chinese from their homes, mass executions of war prisoners and the impressing of able-bodied men turned Nanking into a city of terror…"

The siege and events that took place in Nanking are described by another journalist, Archibald Steele of the Chicago Daily News, as "Four Days of Hell."

Steel also reported that, "I saw Chinese troops looting shop windows, but later I saw the Japanese troops outdo them in a campaign of pillage which the Japanese carried out not only in the shops but in homes, hospitals and refugee camps."

Another report states that "Nanking killing continued for seven weeks in front of international witnesses, without any attempt at concealment, and with the sadism of recreational murder…"

These assessments and reports have to be taken into account and compared to the revisionist claims and histories that have been put forward to counter the negative impact of this event.

2.2. Overview of the revisionist reaction

The Nanjing or Nanking massacre has remained a centre of controversy and denial in Japanese society. While the more traditionalist view accepts that the atrocities occurred in Nanking there has been debate about the way that this event should be presented in school textbooks on the country's history. The extent of the debate and the divergent feelings about Nanking can be ascertained from the following comment by a participant in a recent conference on the issue, which included scholars from China, Japan and America. This participant, who was born in Hiroshima in 1942, "…described his feelings on visiting the site of the worst massacres as 'experiencing the original sin of being Japanese…"

The silence about the rape and massacre of Nanking has been broken in recent years, A number of well-received books and studies about the actual events have been published, as well as commentary and reports in various media, which have tended to encourage a resurgence of attention and criticism about the events that took place in the city under Japanese occupation.

This resurgence of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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