Napoleon Bonaparte once said “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
History is important, it helps us understand people, ideologies, culture and more importantly take meaningful decisions as a society from the lessons learnt from the past.
But what if history was rewritten to hide the scars and not acknowledge the past? What if history showcased only one side of the coin and neglected the other side?
Today we shall look at a nation that has managed to hides it’s scars very well. A nation that continues to share a timeline that’s been tweaked to make them look like the victims while displaying stories of nationalism, grit and bravery.
When we discuss World War Two, you would generally hear about the Nazis or the atomic bombs, the Pearl Harbor or even the critical role played by the Russians. But there is one nation that has managed to hide it’s doings very well to a point it’s very citizens feel there’s an attempt to malign it’s culture.
Today we look at the land of the rising sun : Japan and throw some light on the atrocities committed by them during the WW2. A county that killed 4M more than the Nazis but continues to not get called out as much as the German Nazis. How is that even possible? Read on!
So why did Japan attack Korea and China after centuries of peace and great trade relationship between themselves?
The answer : Western Imperialism.
In the 19th century, Britain, the United States and France, soon followed by Russia, Germany and other Western nations, forcefully "opened" a reluctant East Asia to Western trade and religious conversions.
Japan, a country with virtually no natural resources and limited space had become increasingly dependent economically on the good will of it’s neighbors. It felt threatened. This was one of the main reasons Japan would take to war.
In 1894-95 Japan defeated China in a war to determine control of Korea. By 1910 Japan had incorporated Korea into the growing Japanese empire, and in 1931 it invaded Manchuria, separating it from China and established a puppet government. Six years later it became embroiled in a war with China that would last for eight years, ending only with its unconditional surrender in 1945.
Chinese historians estimate a total of 20 million Chinese were killed by the Japanese. Let’s take a look at some of the atrocities that Japan committed and till date doesn’t acknowledge.
Military comfort women, was a euphemism for Korean women who provided sexual services to Japanese Imperial Army troops. It’s said hundreds of thousands of women were forced into sex slavery. Women were locked into windowless shacks where they were raped through the day for years together.
If the women got pregnant, they were beaten until they had a miscarriage or sterilised. Currently 1/3rd of the survivors still live in Korea. Meanwhile the Japanese government still maintains that they were willing prostitutes and nothing more.
In 1991 “Statue of Peace”, a monument dedicated to the comfort women of Korea was erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This was done to ensure that the Japanese government acknowledges and apologies for crimes committed on these comfort women.
The statue is of a young lady staring at the Japanese Embassy, brought in a lot of controversy. There was immense pressure put on by the Japanese government to have it removed. But the Koreans did not budge.
Eventually in 1992, the Japanese government was forced to acknowledge the involvement of it’s troops with the comfort women and agreed to pay a sum of 1Billion yen to the Korean government, but under the condition that Korea remove the monument.
Korea declined the offer and both countries never came to an agreement. The statue still remains in Seoul. Currently there are more than 50 statues across Korea and in other countries too.
In 1937, the Japanese Imperialistic army invaded China’s capital Nanking. Upon entering China, the army burnt and pillaged through villages leading to the capital.
The Chinese Army which was far inferior at that time were of no match and fled the province . The torture by imperialistic army upon the citizens of Nanking was so gruesome that the author of the book “Rape of Nanking” later committed suicide.
The Japanese had great disdain towards the Chinese. Girls as young as 8 were gang raped, and later had dynamites inserted into them only to have them blown apart later.
The army would have contests as how many people could be beheaded within a stipulated time. The torture techniques were endless.
Close to 300,000 people were killed by the Japanese. Unlike Germany who owned their mistakes, the Japanese government denies it’s involvement completely and went to the extent of saying these incidents were blown out of proportion.
The Nanking massacre has no mention, in any of the history books in Japan.
Unit 731 was the name of the Imperial Japanese Army’s covert biological and chemical warfare division that conducted many experiments on prisoners which was later classified as crimes against humanity. Over 3000 prisoners were experimented upon and later killed. There were no survivors.
Interestingly the US government were made aware of this unit towards the end of the war. But instead of charging them for war crimes, they negotiated and that none of the people involved with Unit 731 would be prosecuted if the Unit handed over all the scientific information collected with the US and no other allies.
Twelve members of Unit 731 were later arrested by the Soviet Red Army and were tried at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials, the US later condemned these prosecutions and blamed Russia for its communist propaganda.
The Japan Imperialistic army had invaded and occupied a number of countries in South East Asia. They were efficient and ruthless.
So why didn’t the Japanese not stand trial like the Nazis ? Well the ethnicities of who suffered from the hands of the Nazis (Jews) were more vocal and wielded more significant political power amongst the Western allied nations compared to the Chinese or any other countries annexed by Japan. In fact there were other ethnicities that were killed in numbers by the Nazis too,but it’s only the Jewish plights that’s highlighted the most.
There surely must be other factors too, but US found an ally in Japan post the WW. Hence today history books of both these countries rarely mention the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial army.
It’s estimated that Japanese army killed 4 Million more people than the Nazis. What’s startling is Japan still denys it’s involvement and continues to rewrite history on it’s own terms.
In the book “Rape of Nanking”, there Is a quote which sums up the situation.