THE FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST:
Chen, Deh Chien
The Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable
History In Photograph
of Major Sites of Nanking Massacres
III WHAT ARE THE ATROCITIES?
Killing As Entertainment
The Appalling “killing contest”
BRUTAL ATTACKS ON WOMEN
ARSON AND LOOTING
DECEIT AND TREACHERY
V WHAT THE WORLD KNEW
EMPEROR HIROHITO KNOW?
VI THEOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
OF GOOD AND EVIL
COULD SUCH EVIL BE PERPETUATED
CONSCIENCE / MORAL EVIL
The Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable
History In Photograph
of Major Sites of Nanking Massacres
have been wondering what I should write for my theological analysis paper.
I want something real and practical, something I can relate to. I remember
stories I heard as a child growing up in Singapore of the Japanese
atrocities committed in South East Asian countries during the Second World
War. I knew little of the history of China, where my parents came from. I
know there had been Chinese resistance and wars fought against the
Japanese. I know nothing beyond that until Iris Chang’s book, The
Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, became a
best-seller in the years following its publication in 1997. It changed all
that. So, I thought it best that I write on the Nanking massacre. In the
process, I will learn something of China’s history. My feeling is
similar, that of wanting to know China’s history with those handful of
Chinese authors who wrote the books on the Nanking massacre. There is one
big difference though. My study has been made easy by their work. Their
meticulous research covered many years and took them to China, Germany,
Japan, and the United States, from Government archives, original archives
concerning the International Committee for Nanking Safety Zone, Special
Collections of Yale Divinity School, survivors’ witness testimonies,
personal diaries, Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and others. What I learnt from
this research is how blessed one is to be able to live in peacetime and
not be a victim of the horrors of wars. No wartime enemy is the same. Some
are crueler than others. Japanese cruelty and atrocities is believed to be
the worst committed against humankind in the 20th century. In
this paper, I shall list some of the ghastly atrocities committed by the
Japanese soldiers against innocent Chinese civilians, and analyze why they
is not a Christian nation. Most of the population is engaged in ancestral
worship one form or the other. They pray to their ancestors, or other
idols, for blessings. Even now, not more than 5 % of the Chinese
population is Christian. They are not like the Jews who were caught in the
horrors of their Holocaust and question whether their God exists. The
painful question the Chinese asked is not whether God exist. Those who are
Christians may ask that. What they ask is how possibly one can be so cruel
and inhuman against another human being. How could there be so much evil
in this world? Did the world know what was happening in China? Why did the
world not stop it? How can the world stop it? My theological analysis has
to look also from a non-Christian perspective.
million European Jews died in Nazi extermination camps. There are
thousands of books, museum exhibits, documentary and feature films about
the holocaust, and the trial at Nuremburg, because the Jews were
determined not to let the world forget. Almost sixty years have passed
since the War, and relatively little has been published about the Japanese
occupation of China, in which it is estimated 30 millions Chinese were
Virtually nothing was in print about the Rape of Nanking, the massacre in
which the Japanese murdered more than 340,000 Chinese. The bloody history
of Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere has been systematically
denied or distorted by the Japanese government. Not much is known of it
until recently when the Chinese historians and authors began to write.
and China are close neighbors separated by a strait of water. Japan had
always eyed China with ambition for her economic resources. Japan’s
undeclared war on China started in 1931 where Japanese militarists were
ready to take a more active role on the Chinese mainland. They provoked an
"incident" that ended in the death of the Chinese warlord in
Manchuria and led to the establishment of a puppet state, Manchukuo, ruled
by the last emperor of China, Emperor Puyi.[ii]
Following the Manchuria conquest, Japanese army marched across China,
setting up regional puppet regimes as they went. Japan’s several staged
"incidents" resulted in numerous negotiations with China whereby
piecemeal surrender of Chinese sovereignty was made to Japan. A brief
attack on Beijing in July 1937 at the famous Marco Polo Bridge--a key
access to Beijing--set in motion the events that push the world to war.
Millions of people died in the aftermath of Marco Polo Bridge Incident.
This was the beginning of an all out invasion in Northern China. After
Beijing the Japanese moved to Shanghai, where the Chinese put up a strong
fight. The Japanese were stalled at the perimeter of Shanghai for over two
months. On November 12, Shanghai was captured. Japanese then marched
towards the capital city of Nanking. Tokyo was initially not prepared to
make that move, as it hoped that the Chinese leader, Chiang Kai Shek,
would come to negotiate settlement. Chiang showed no sign for negotiation.
The Japanese then moved to Nanking. On December 13, 1937, Nanking fell.
The reign of terror began. The conquering Japanese army went on a wild
rampage to loot, rape, torture, and burn at will that lasted more than
seven weeks. Thousands of disarmed Chinese soldiers were shot or
bayoneted. The estimate of soldiers and non-combatants killed ranged from
260,000 to 350,000—more than the combined death toll of both the atomic
bombs dropped on Japan (140,000 and 70,000). An estimated 20,000 to 80,000
Chinese women were raped, and many mutilated and killed.[iii]
Women suffered the most. It was estimated there were at least 1,000 rape
cases a night, according to an eyewitness account.[iv]
Japanese invasion of Nanking thus earned the title: The Rape of Nanking,
known by the foreigners. In the American
Missionary Eye Witness Account to the Nanking Massacre, 1937-1938 (Edited
by Martha Lund Smalley, Yale Divinity School Library, Occasional
Publication No. 9, 1997), Tien Wei Wu in the Preface states that “by
estimations, within three months (December 1937 to March 1938) the
Japanese army killed more than 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped up to
80,000 women in the city of Nanking. The manner in which these victims met
their death was extremely cruel and diverse (e.g. beheading, bayoneting,
burying alive, burning, gang-raping, etc), so ghastly in fact that it made
Auschwitz gas chamber appear humane”.
Marco Polo Bridge Incident was the prologue to the Sino-Japanese War. The
Rape of Nanking was the beginning, Act I, Scene I, of Japan’s major
assault against China from 1937 to December 1941 when it plunged into war
against the United States.[v]
The Chinese government finally outlasted Japan in a war that ended only in
1945. Japan could not force China to surrender in those eight years.
WHAT ARE THE ATROCITIES?
section III, the
extracts are quoted in full from The
Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable History In Photograph by James Yin and
Shi Young (Innovative Publishing Group, Chicago), 1996, p.130-232. It
describes in graphic details the atrocities:
METHODS OF KILLING
Kawano, former military photographer gave a more detailed account of the
beheading of Chinese victims:
seen all kinds of horrible scenes……headless corpses of children
lying on the ground. They even made the prisoners dig a hole and kneel
in front of it before being beheaded. Some soldiers were so skillful
that they took care of the business in a way that severed the head
completely but left it hanging by a thin layer of skin on the victim’s
chest, so that the weight pulled the body down to the ditch. I captured
that blink of a moment with my camera”.[vi]
Sone wrote in his A Japanese
boost the morale and courage of new recruits during the war, we
experimented with bayoneting the enemy. That means using POWs or local
civilians as live targets. New recruits without any battle experience
would learn from this practice. It was unlucky for the people selected
as targets, but it was also a painful experience for the new soldier
forced to participate in this experience. Facing the prisoners and
civilians, every recruit wore a tense and expressionless countenance,
staring with trembling lips and bloody eyes at their victims. They held
their bayonet-fixed rifles in such a way as if ready to cry for help and
flee. Hearing the order to charge, they nervously leaped forward and
often those charges lacked energy and determination and the yelling was
feeble. It was impossible to finish off a victim with this kind of
charge. The human targets wailed and howled in extreme pain. Their blood
spurted from the open wounds. At this point, the recruits would be
frightened by what they had done. The horrifying scene softened the
murderous look on their faces. But when the victims continued to scream
in pain, the blood gushing from their bodies, the soldiers would stab
aimlessly and repeated, hoping to end their lives quickly and escape the
ordeal, until their live targets became motionless.
kind of killing experience was every soldier's test and ordeal. After
this they would be fearless in real battle, and would glory in the act
of killing. War made people cruel, bestial, and insane. It was an abyss
of inhuman crimes".[vii]
iii. Burial Alive
his Three Months of Nanking's
Ordeal, author Jiang Gong-gu wrote:
December 13….[people] were bayoneted, split by swords, or burned.
Nothing was more ruthless, however than burial alive. Those miserable
howls, that desperate screaming scattered in the trembling air. We could
even hear them seven miles away".[viii]
to Nanking bathed in Blood and Tears, written by Nin Na, in most cases
after being caught by the Japanese, were ordered to dig pits for
themselves. The second group would bury the first group, and the third
group would bury the second group. This brutal and ruthless way of
murdering people was unprecedented in the world”.[ix]
eye-witnesses described that Chinese captives were also bound hand and
foot and planted neck deep in earth, leaving their protruding heads to
terrorize people. "The [live burial] victims were all dead long
before the onset of starvation and maggots---“ historian David Bergamini
wrote, "some jabbed with bayonets, some trampled by horses, some
doused with boiling water, some crushed under tank tracks”.[x]
was also an independent way of killing, as described by KOZO TADOKORO in First-hand
Experience of the Nanking Massacre: “At the time, the company I
belong to was stationed at Xiaguan. We used barbed wire to bind the
captured Chinese into bundles of ten and tied them onto tracks. Then we
poured gasoline on them and burned them alive…I felt like killing
v. Killing As Entertainment
Japanese soldiers carried heads severed from refugee victims on the ends
of their rifles and strolled down the streets, exhibiting their
achievement with great joy. Some soldiers poured gasoline on refugees
before shooting them with guns. The shots immediately set the gasoline on
fire. The victims, being shot and burned, struggled in agony as applauding
and laughing soldiers watched.[xii]
vi. The Appalling “Killing Contest”
The photo… was
published by the Nichi Nichi Shimbun on December 13, 1937. The
appalling story was headlined Contest to kill first 100 Chinese
with sword extended when both fighters exceed mark—Mukai score 106 and
the slope of Purple Mountain [Zijin Mountain], correspondents Asaumi and
Suzuki reported: two brave fighters of the KATAGIRI units,
Sub-lieutenant Toshiaki MUKAI and Sub-Lieutenant Takeshi NODA are in a
rare race to kill 100 Chinese under the purple Mountain outside Nanking.
So far, MUKAI has a score of 106 and his rival has dispatched 105
BRUTAL ATTACK ON WOMEN
most hideous of all the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers was
the savage rape of the Chinese women. Grandmothers, as old as eighty
years, and little girls, as young as nine, did not escape the fate of
An eyewitness, Reverend James M McCallum, wrote in his diary on
know not where to begin nor to end. Never have I heard of such
brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape!---We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night,
and many by day. ……People are hysterical… Women are being carried
off every morning, afternoon, and evening. The whole Japanese army seems
to be free to go and come as it pleases, and to do whatever it
ARSON AND LOOTING
on January 323, 19238, carried a report titled Huge Fires Last Thirty-Nine
Days: “…It has been thirty nine days since the city Nanking fell to
Japanese hands. But many sites in the city are still burning with huge
fires. The city is still in a terror period. All commercial areas have
eyewitness account of Dr. Lewis Smythe, professor of sociology at Nanking
University, in War Damage in the Nanking Area, December 1937 to March
1938, Urban and Rural Surveys (later published as the English text Portrait
of War Calamity of Nanking, December 1937 to March 1938 in Shanghai,
1938) reported that 73 percent of the houses inside the city were looted
by the Japanese soldiers, who also set fires in the city and the villages
nearby until February 1938. The fires were deliberately set to the
buildings to cover traces of their looting, as well as fun or to keep them
The verdict of the IMTFE estimated that, from December 13, 1937 to the end
of January next year, about one third of the buildings in Nanking were
burnt to ashes by the soldiers.
DECEIT AND TREACHERY
the mass execution, Japanese army planes indunated Nanking population with
many pamphlets dropped from the sky, saying: “All good Chinese who
return to their home will be fed and clothed. Japan wants to be a good
neighbor to those Chinese not fooled by monsters who are Chiang Kai-Shek’s
Japanese posted proclamations and persuaded the Chinese to come forward as
volunteers for the Japanese Army’s labor corps. “If you have
previously been a Chinese soldier or if you have ever worked as a carrier
or laborer in the Chinese army” the local Chinese were told, “that
will now be forgotten and forgiven if you will join this labor corps”.[xviii]
M Searle Bates at the Tokyo War Crime Tribunal testified that 200 men
accepted the Japanese offer and were marched away and executed that
WHAT THE WORLD KNEW
world was not kept in the dark. News of the massacre continuously reached
the global public as events unfolded. New York Times, Chicago Daily
News, and Associated Press each had correspondents in Nanking.
Reporters provided vivid daily coverage of the battles. It was after the
sinking of the American warship Panay that the killing of
Nanking’s citizens met international condemnation. President Roosevelt
demanded compensation from the Japanese Emperor. The response grew worst
as the survivors’ stories and their photograph appeared in all major
newspapers. There was
feverish effort made by the Japanese to remove and obscure evidence of
killings. The American government was aware of it.
the crisis itself, missionaries on the International Committee wrote
countless letters reporting atrocities to the Japanese embassy and the
Japanese High Command. Lewis S. C. Smythe, an American missionary, who
taught at the University of Nanking and served as secretary of the
International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, wrote sixty-nine
such letters to the Japanese embassy from December 14, 1937, to February
Did Emperor Hirohito Know?
following is extract from The Rape of Nanking: An Undenaible History in
Photographs (p. 284-286):
fact is verified by a revealing HIROHITO interview published in the
December 1990 issue of Bungei Shunju (literary Spring &
Autumn). In the interview HIROHITO further revealed his own role as the
actual Commander in Chief of Japan’s war against China…………..
HIROHITO paid close attention to developments in the Battle of Nanking.
He soon dispatched his uncle, Prince ASAKA, to replace General Iwane
MATSUI as Commander of the Japanese Army Shanghai Expeditionary Force
–a clear move to tighten his royal control over the army”.
the war members of IMTFE was puzzled why Emperor Hirohito was not tried as
a war criminal. It was soon discovered that a secret deal was struck by
the United States to grant immunity to the whole Imperial Household as
well as to ISHI, the doctor involved in producing biological warfare, and
three other generals in exchange for acquiring Unit 731’s tissue samples
from their experiments (p. 302). Unit 731 was the only army branch
established by “imperial seal”. It was believed that the emperor read
everything that he put his seal to thus making it highly unlikely that he
had no knowledge (p. 304). The secret deal was concluded four months
before the IMTFET was held.
constant exposure of Germany’s Nazi regime is now recognized as a major
obstacle to the revival of Nazism in Germany. The Germans are aware of the
unspeakable acts of their former leaders. This is not so in Japan. The
present generation has little knowledge of the crimes committed by their
forefathers. In 1977 Japan’s Education Ministry, in a basic history of
Japan, reduced several hundred pages in length to six pages, taken up by
photographs of Hiroshima’s ruins, U.S. bombing of Japan, tally of
Japan’s war dead, with no mention in the text of the casualties of the
The following year Class A war criminals were enshrined as “martyr” at
Yasukuni Shrine, Japan most revered Shinto temple, which is dedicated to
Japan’s war dead. The high priests justified their action because the
war criminals had “devoted their lives to the emperor and to Japan”.
Ultrapatriotic organizations called the enshrinement “proper” because
Japan had no alternative but to fight, and the war was a “sacred
In 1982 the textbook controversy became full blown. The Japanese Ministry
of Education called the invasion of China as an “advance”, and that
the Rape of Nanking was attributed to the resistance of the Chinese Army.
reaction of the Japanese officials to the protests of their fellow Asians
was an echo of the position taken by the Japanese defense at the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as
the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. The Japanese government agency explained
that it would be a distortion of fact to change “advance” into an
invasion. Children would lose respect for their forefathers because they
did a bad thing. Other critics argued that Japan’s allies, Germany‘s
Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini, during the World War II had not use the
word aggression when they advanced into other countries. Thus no
aggression ever took place.
world knows that China has been a victim of disastrous wars with Japan.
China has been lenient with Japan. China has not demanded Blood Money
Compensation from Japan as the Jews had from Germany. For many years some
Japanese have not drawn lessons from their defeat. They would not take the
defeat lying down. They have not given up their wishful thinking of
reviving their old dream of ruling Asia. It is this handful of Japanese
who still beautify the evil aspects of the militarists, and refuse by
every means to take responsibility for the aggression that we have to be
careful of. Harsh reality tell us that history cannot be ignored, nor
should they be distorted. We should not let history repeat itself. We
should take our stand to defend the truth and dignity of history.
victims have died and the world has remained indifferent. Elie Wiesel in
his theological reflection says that whether we want it or not the
Holocaust affected all subsequent events.
there is a lesson to be found …. It is for the world to learn, not for
us…The world should learn its lessons on its own level for its own
good, namely: when people do things of this nature to Jews, tomorrow
they will do them to themselves. This perhaps, may be our mission to the
world: we are to save it from self destruction”.[xxiii]
is understandable that a great nation does not want to be reminded of the
dark side in its history. Whitney R Harris, a member of the Allied
prosecution at Nuremburg said:
is as it should be, provided that in shunning the evil of yesterday we
do not forget the wrongs to which it led—and having forgotten them
believe them never to have happened”.[xxiv]
and development are the common wish shared by most peoples. The causes of
war still exist. Various wars are still raging in many parts of the world.
Human beings are still killing human beings. The nuclear war capability
and biological warfare made wars crueler. We should educate people through
history lessons and wake millions up to oppose wars of aggression and to
distinguish its source. This is our mission.
are those who know what the word humanity means. Ms Minnie Vautrin, an
American missionary, was one of the unsung heroes. In the dark days of the
rape of Nanking, she showed love and courage, risking her own life, to
protect Chinese women from being molested by the invading Japanese
soldiers. She turned Ginling Women College (known also as Ginling
University) into a shelter especially for women and children. The grateful
refugees and their families addressed her as the “Living Goddess” or
the “Goddess of Mercy”. Her life was written into a biography: “American
Goddess at the Rape of Nanking - The Courage of Minnie Vautrin” by
Hua-Ling Hu (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and
Edwardsville), 2000. Her life represented “the brightest example of
humanity, love, and goodness” (United Daily, April 8, 1997).[xxv]
Emma Lyon, her niece, told the author that: “Aunt Minnie deeply love the
Chinese people all her life. She regarded China as her home”. Her words
moved me to tears.
Paul Simon of Illinois wrote:
book gives us an insight into one’s life, one period of our history,
and into what takes place regularly during a war. Throughout the
centuries, men who have been trained to kill as a patriotic duty have
found no barriers of conscience to raping and plundering. The eyewitness
accounts—one witness the author quotes called it “hell on
earth”---are graphic reminders of the need for peace as well as for
growth in sensitivity to human rights.
to the “wisdom” of some, humanity can make progress.
…..People with ideals who are wiling to work hard for those ideals,
like Minnie Vautrin, can change the course of history’.[xxvi]
Most Reverend Desmond M Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, 1984 Nobel
Peace Prize Laureate, in the Forward of The
Rape Of Nanking: An Undeniable
History In Photograph, by James Yin and Shi Young, commented that:
sweep under the carpet the atrocities which occurred in Nanking in
1937-38 and turn a blind eye to the truth is at best a gross service to
future generations, and at worst to be criminally negligent and
irresponsible. A record such as this book is an essential part of our
history. However terrible, we must not be sheltered from the evils of
our past. If we attempt to forget and try to believe that human nature
is good all of the time we will bitterly regret our amnesia, for our
past will come to haunt us. We know that while created inherently good,
any one of us can fall to depths of evil we might never believe
possible. It is part of the way we are and why it is so necessary to
constantly be alert to our failings’.[xxvii]
The Nanking massacre was in 1937. The Jewish holocaust followed
later where 6 millions Jew were killed between 1942 and 1945. I often
wondered if the world had broken its silence against the atrocities in
Nanking, would it have averted the holocaust in Auschwitz. Maybe, I do not
know. Eli Wiesel is adamant against silence. He believes that the memory
of holocaust must be kept alive, not for the dead themselves but for the
living and future generations. One must face question and not be
indifferent. Indifference is the enemy. Indifference to evil is worse than
evil. This is true for both the individual and the community.
we must talk about it…….If we do not question the camps, then we
will not question extermination by H-bomb. If there is any value in man,
it is only when he faces up to these questions and answers them
Wiesel believes that everyone writes for different reasons, and aims. For
him the purpose of literature is to correct injustices. Survivors of the
Holocaust must write, write, write….. to bear witness. That must be
their duty. The Germans did not want their crimes to be remembered. He
sees that whoever forgets, and whoever tends to forget and moves others to
forget, is an accomplice of those murderers.
the sake of our children and yours, we invoke the past in order to
prevent its reoccurrences. Ours is a two fold commitment: to life and
ours be an offering of hope and song. We must always remember from where
we have come. But, more important, we must know where they are going”[xxx].
prevent another holocaust, one must do something to improve human
condition. One must speak of the atrocities committed. But it is
difficult. There is the dilemma faced by those who most personally
involved in the massacre: how to speak the unspeakable? But if a single
life can be saved, one must speak. If by retelling the story can alert
others of the possibilities, then the retelling must take place. Turning
away from one of the greatest human tragedies is neither wise nor moral.
The danger that threatens our society is ills from the past. They remained
uncured. It is in man's best interest to bare these ills, so that they are
rendered less menacing. Knowledge and morality must go hand in hand.
"Knowledge without morality is sterile. Knowledge without an
ethical imperative becomes inhuman ", Elie Wiesel said. There are
killers who are well educated. A theology of the holocaust is an attempt
to interpret this evil responsibility for the present.
Where is God?
is omnipresent. He is present everywhere. He is there when one is happy.
He is there when one is suffering. To the several hundreds of thousands of
Chinese victims, who died in the massacre, there was no agonizing
question: Where was God? They did not know of God. They were unlike the
Jews in the Holocaust. The greatest problem posed by the Holocaust, to
Elie Wiesel was the love of God. There were questions: Where was God?
Why did God not speak or act? Why did God seemingly remain
indifferent? No such problem was here in Nanking. God’s love was
manifested everywhere in the agape love of the American missionaries. They
risked their lives by remaining in China, so that they could help the
Chinese. Their eyewitness accounts, as well as the survivors’
testimonies, on the atrocities enabled justice to be brought later at the
IMTFE, or the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. One of the eyewitnesses, Ernest
Foster’s letter home, wrote:
all these experiences in China, reports from all quarters are unanimous
that the opportunities for Christian witness and service have never been
greater than today. By hundreds and thousands people are asking for the
strength and courage which they have seen the Church profess. Chinese
have exhibited wonderful courage, faith, and forgiveness under very
classes and services are held daily at Ginling University where Ernest
has spoken to large groups of women and girls, and at Nanking
University. On March 14, there was a workers’ meeting to decide about
lending further help to Ginling University, which now has over one
thousand women and girls enrolled in twenty two classes studying the
life of Christ as recorded by St. Mark. They are very short of teachers,
so they have appealed to Ernest and John Magee to help, in addition to
their taking the preaching every afternoon. This will give you some idea
of the opportunities before us for the spread of the Gospel’.[xxxi]
foreign missionaries and businessmen stayed in the defenseless city when
the Japanese entered. One such person was John Rabe, the dedicated
Chairman of the International Committee of the Nanking Safety Zone. He was
a German businessman and a Nazi official, and therefore someone to whom
the Japanese would have to extend some courtesy. He had lived in China for
thirty years. Through Babe’s diary we see the Christian love he had for
the Chinese. His letters of protest, on behalf of the International
Committee, to the Japanese commander of Nanking were used later in the
Tokyo War Crimes Trial. Rabe’s letter marked the beginning of the
documentary record of the Rape of Nanking.
is one problem that all of us share in a massacre or holocaust –Jews and
Christians alike--even though we approach it in different ways. This is
the crisis of belief that is forced on us. Can one still believe in a God
where such monstrous evil, pain and suffering take place? It precludes
easy faith in God or in humanity. In all of Wiesel’s work, there is a
despair concerning the human condition, and the possibilities for
redemption. For Wiesel, despair is the prerequisite for the Jews’
adoption of a revolutionary relationship with both man and God. It is
suspected that despair towards men and other nations have led the Israeli
to a necessary selfreliance as the only possibility for survival.
the article On Losing Trust In The World by John Roth (Echoes From the Holocaust, Rosenberg, Myers Edition, Temple
University Press, Philadelphia, 1988, p.163-167) Roth said: “If hope is
allowed to seem an unrealistic response to the world, if we do not work
towards developing confidence in our spiritual resources, we will be
responsible for producing in due time a world devoid of
humanity---literally”. One’s trust in the world depends on one’s
determination to resist the world’s horror with lucidity. Elie
Wiesel’s works testify that he does not despair. “Hatred,
indifference, even history itself may do their worst, but that outcome
does not deserve to be the final word”.
I had been directly involved where my family members were killed, I would
be in agony and despair. If I could cry easily when my father passed away,
I would be traumatized if my family members were massacred. I would be at
such pain not knowing where to begin or where to end. I would, most
probably, lose my faith but not quite. Like Elie Wiesel, the healing
process would be long. But ultimately, I would come back to God. I do not
know how to live in a world where there is no God. My hope is always in
God, not in human being.
Presence Of Good And Evil
can we explain the evil in this world? How does it come about? Why does
God, the God of love allow good and evil to co- exist?
to Augustine’s theodicy, God did not create evil. God created the world
and everything in it good. The whole creation, including the material
world is good. Evil is a “privation of good”--the voluntary turning
away of the being from goodness. Evil is the privation from good--misused
freedom. Evil is real. Augustine does not deny its presence and its potent
power. Evil does not exist in its own right as one of the original
constituents in creation. Evil can consist only in the corrupting of a
good substance. Man is created mutable, and is subject to corruption, and
evil is the corruption of the mutable good. Evil enters this world only
when God’s creature renounces its proper role in the divine scheme and
ceases to be what it is meant to be--good. The decrease in goodness is
evil. When we see the evil nature in man it is the perversion or
disintegration of something good. God, by giving man freewill, allows man
to do what he wills--to do good or evil. Freewill is thus the cause of
evil. Augustine believes that a man’s action is determined by his inner
nature. We do what we do because of our nature. A man has to be held
responsible personally for his acts because of what he willed. The origin
of evil therefore lies hidden within the mystery of freedom.[xxxii]
evil things happen, man’s faith in God is shaken. However faith must be
tested. But it must not remain “severed or sundered”. Elie Wiesel
believes that one must press on. One cannot simply accept faith as such.
One needs to pass through a period of anguish, because without faith our
world would be empty, and we could not survive.[xxxiii]
What we see today, adds Wiesel, is “a failure of humanity, perhaps a
failure of rationalism, but certainly a failure of politics and
commitment, a failure of all systems…”.
How Could Such Evil Be Perpetuated?
answer is godlessness. Both the Germans and the Japanese worship the
figure of one human being. The Japanese see their Emperor as their god.
The Germans threw away their constitution and worshipped Adolf Hitler as
their god. Where the man is the Devil, evil reigns.
is a land full of temples, where the population worships the Shinto form
of Buddhism. The Japanese military did not seem to practice peace, as
advocated in Buddhism, but aggression. Japan, like China, is not a
Christian nation. The Japanese army was not restrained by the moral
consciousness of a Christian nation. One cannot measure Japan by Christian
standards but by humanity’s standard. The Japanese atrocities reminded
me of the Jewish Holocaust. I am drawn by the parallelism. Both Japan and
Germany worship the figure of one human being. The Japanese emperor was
their God and the Japanese army swore allegiance to him. The Japanese
emperor took responsibility of the actions of his Imperial Army as he was
the Commander in Chief. Germany is supposedly a Christian country. However
the Nazis were religious rebels. Hitler showed contempt for Christianity
and had no Christian values. Once the Nazi established themselves in
power, all German officials were compelled to take an oath of allegiance
to the person of Adolf Hitler, just like the Japanese army to the person
of their emperor. Hitler acquired a God-like ability to determine right or
wrong. His will became the “collective conscience” of the Germans very
much the same way as the will of the Lord is the standard of right and
wrong for the Jews and Christians. Hitler accepted the moral
responsibility for the actions of those loyal to him. Hitler completed the
transformation of the moral system. Right or wrong were no longer
determined by obedience or rebellion to God. If God does not exist all
moral constraints under Judaism and Christianity do not apply. Where there
is no God or God is absent, everything is permissible. Evils reign. Like
the Japanese, they regarded their captives as inanimate objects, less than
was no reason for the Japanese to murder the innocent civilians or the
armless soldiers. The utility of the victims did not deter the Japanese or
the Nazi to carry out the systematic slaughter. The Japanese and the Nazi
permitted themselves the freedom of killings that they did not have in
peacetime. Like the German
participants in Nazi crimes, the Japanese soldiers’ response had been
that they acted under their superior’s orders. The truth is that both
nations were Godless. They went on a rampage of murders without fear of
God and without a moral conscience. The Japanese soldiers were brain
washed that they could do anything to the enemy, and that they were
patriotic. Had Japan been a Christian nation, maybe history might come out
differently. There would not have such gross atrocities committed. For the
Nazi in a world devoid of God, the death camp was the place where the
morally impossible became the commonplace.
“A world without God would be a world with no impediment to the
gratification of desire, no matter how perverse or socially harmful”.[xxxiv]
is our response to evil? Dorothy Rabinowitz in The
Holocaust As Living Memory said:
can respond to monstrous evil by chronicling it, reporting it, and
reminding all listeners that whatever else they forget they may not
forget that evil, lest they
make its repetition possible”.[xxxv]
Conscience / Moral Evil
history of the 20th century consists of a rollcall of
expendable people. The Armenians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Serbians,
Vietnamese, Cambodians, American Blacks, Bosnians, Palestinians, Chinese
and so forth, all have been on the slaughtering block of history. Looking
at the evidence one may come to the conclusion that human life is
insignificant, human nature is hateful, and that human beings have the
tendency to turn on one another for advantage, power and comfort. Who
count as persons? John F Kavanaugh, S J in Who Count As Person- Human
Identity and the Ethics of Killing (Georgetown University Press,
Washington, DC, 2001, p. 71-137) makes a radical (but Christian) and very
persuasive argument as to the evils of killing another human being. He
argues that the history of ruthless violence is evidence of the undeniable
fact of moral evil in the world—the cost of human freedom where men and
women choose to negate the fundamental moral limit of our lives by willing
the extermination of the “other”. There is a spectrum of justification
for killing, and exceptions for choosing to extinguish human life.
Every perpetrator of outrage has good reasons for every death: to defend
ones’ life, his name, his property, his family, his heritage, his race,
his nation, his religion and so on. There is always a moral “absolute”
invoked, but never the absolute value of a human life.
find his argument very persuasive. In the Bible God prohibits us to kill
another human being. Ever human being is made in the image of God. God is
the giver of life, and he is the one to take away life. In every human
being, there is that ethic rooted in the very existence of every person,
the inherent goodness imbued in him. This is what makes ethics possible and ultimately the ground
for human rights. To will to kill a human being is to be able to kill the
foundation of ethics, the moral goodness itself. There are greater and
lesser evil acts of killing, but one quality that make all acts share in
common is the willed extermination of personal life.[xxxvi]
A deliberate killing is a conscious act. It turns a person into a thing.
This is exactly what happened when the Japanese massacred the Chinese.
Testimonies of the soldiers said that after some time, they did not feel
any guilt. They were killing pigs, an inferior form of being. The
deliberate intent to kill is crucial. Killing can also be unintentional.
Killings may further evil motives and purposes, which qualify as murder.
The intent to kill is a radical compromise to moral life.
being is born with a conscience. Our life journey starts with a
conscience, and ends when life ceases. The question what makes us
human, and who counts as human is therefore important. An English
journalist, observing the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, reason:
Life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no
account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one,
and in some the other”
ANNIE DILLARD, For the Time Being
God suffer? Anselm, Luther, Kitamori, and Moltmann are strong advocates of
the concept that God can suffer. In The Wounded Heart of God the
author, Andrew Sung Park, argues that the suffering of God is
manifested on the cross of Jesus Christ, as well as in Jesus’ whole
life. Every victim’s suffering involves God’s presence, as advocated
by Luther. Jesus’s death was an example of an innocent victim’s
suffering where God was fully present. The meaning of the cross
must not be construed exclusively as “God’s suffering for humanity,
but also as God’s protest against the oppressor”.[xxxvii]
Anselm’s notion of sin is that sin injures someone else. Sin creates
anguish and injury in God as God is compassionate.
The injury Anselm describes is the deep anguish (or despair),
called han by Park, of God. After Anselm, Luther was the first
major theologian to talk of the pain of God. As God loves righteousness
every sin insults and wounds God. Killing is a sin. Every
massacre must be agonizing for God. God is a God of love and a God of
grace. To be born, to suffer, to die, are characteristics of the human
nature, which the divine nature also shares. Luther states that God meets
us in suffering and death, i.e. anguish or han is the meeting point
between God and humanity. Is God present at the massacre? The answer would
have to be YES! God was there with the victims and the oppressors. The
victims, who did not know Christ, did not know the presence of God.
Kitamori, a Lutheran theologian, spoke of the suffering of God in his Theology
of the Pain of God, which he wrote in response, after the painful
defeat of Japan in World War II. Kitamori uses Luther’s concept of wrath
and the love of God. He asserts that the essence of God means the heart of
God, which is pain. The pain of God is the “heart of the gospel”.
Luther and Moltmann hold that we first understand the event of Christ’s
crucifixion by participating in Christ’s death. We can participate
indirectly by taking part in the suffering of the oppressed, the
downtrodden, the naked, and the imprisoned if we are to meet God
crucified. Without knowing the suffering of the people in the world we
cannot understand the cross of Jesus Christ or the reality of God. The
cross is God’s unshakable love for his creation. Park states that
creation is “God’s covenant with human and indicates the divine
commitment to the well-being of humanity. Until humanity is made whole,
God will be restless”.[xxxviii]
Park says that the traditional knowledge of God’s attributes such as
“omnipotent”, “omnipresence”, and “”omniscience” are
meaningless unless they speak to our lives. They need to be revaluated in
light of the “han-ful” life of Christ. Park summed up that: “God’s
heart is wounded when God suffers for the pain of humanity (Anselm).
God’s heart is wounded when God embraces those who cannot be embraced (Kitamori).
We can meet the wounded God at the cross through participating in
Christ’s death (Luther, Moltmann)”.
Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt in her study on The Human Condition
shared her discovery that the only power that can stop the painful memory
is the “faculty of forgiveness”. Forgiveness is God’s invention for
coming to terms with a world where people hurt one another. He first began
by forgiving us, and invites us to forgive one another. Forgiveness comes
in four stages. The first stage is hurt. The second stage is hate. The
third stage is healing. The fourth stage is the coming together. Lewis B
Smedes in Forgive and Forget writes that if we can travel through
all four, we achieve the climax of reconciliation. We can only forgive
people and not things. People are accountable for what they do.
Harold Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People
asked the question: Where is God and what is he doing when decent people
are hurt, deeply and unfairly? He does not believe that it is God’s
fault, but he nevertheless challenges us to forgive God anyway. We all
hate God sometimes. We are angry with God, but we dare not curse him like
Job. We forgive God. We hate life instead. Jesus cried out at the cross:
“My God, My God, why have thou forsaken me?” Did God abandon Jesus?
No, He was suffering with Jesus at the cross, suffering the pains of the
vulnerability of love. What we do for healing is like forgiving God.
When we forgive, we release ourselves from the pain. Healing takes
time. This is particularly so if the person is a monstrous evildoer. What
does God do when a person kill. God forgives the sinner, but he is
punished. He gets the justice he deserves. Tani Hisao, the lieutenant
general of the 6th Division of the Japanese army in Nanking, a
division that perpetuated many of the atrocities in the city, was
sentenced to death at the Nanking war crimes trials in 1947 after the
verdict found him guilty of violating the Hague Convention concerning
“The Customs of War on Land and the Wartime Treatment of Prisoners of
War”. He helped slaughter an estimated three hundred thousand lives in
December 1988, Motoshima Hitoshi, the mayor of Nagasaki, was courageous
enough to say that he believed that Emperor Hirohito was guilty of wartime
crimes. He believed in seeing the truth as it was, a small step in
reconciliation. He was shot but miraculously survived the assassination
attempt. The Chinese have forgiven the atrocities of their Japanese
neighbors. But they have not forgotten the event. Like the Jewish
Holocaust, libraries and memorials were built in the city of Nanking to
commemorate the dead, and to let the world never to forget. Forgiveness
does not mean one has to forget. If the memory forgets what is there to
was no Japanese “final solution” for the Chinese people. The Imperial
government endorsed the deadliest “Three-All” policies: loot all, kill
all, burn all in Northern China. Whatever
the outcome of postwar history, the Rape of Nanking is a shame on the
honor of humankind. Up to today the Japanese government has not officially
issued an apology or acknowledged the crimes they committed in Nanking to
the Chinese government. Sixty years later, Japan as a nation still
attempts to bury the victims of Nanking into historical oblivion. Japan
has not paid any blood money as compensation to the Chinese. Germany on
the other hand has forced itself to admit that they were guilty of war
crimes. Germany has paid DM 88 billion in compensation and repatriation to
the Jews, and another DM 20 billion to be paid by the end of 2005.[xl]
The Swiss Banks have also come forward to pledge billions of dollars to
create a fund to replace what was stolen from the Jewish bank accounts.
The story of the Nanking Massacre is barely known. Only a handful of
people have written document and narrate it to the public. Unlike the
Armenian Genocide, there is no Chinese or non-Chinese theologian who wrote
on the massacre. The world is still a passive spectator to the many deaths
and genocides around it. Only recently a small movement started in Japan
as a vocal minority who believes in confronting Japan’s past, as it has
become an embarrassment to her citizens.
In 1997, the Japanese Fellowship of Reconciliation apologized for
Japan’s past mistakes and asked for forgiveness. I do not think that war
will be eliminated but I hope we can all learn from history’s past
mistake, where war can be avoided. The
Rape of Nanking is to be seen as a fact and a story where human beings can
easily be molded into a killing machine. Let us all remember not to do
unto thy neighbors what we do not want others to do unto us.
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