These include claims for Japanese revisionists that "… critics have stretched tales of Japanese brutality as means of putting political pressure on Japan and winning compensation."
There has in fact been a revisionist interpretation of the events at Nanking since the 1900s, with the intention of either ignoring or invalidating the resurgence of interest in the horrific facts of rape, torture and wanton slaughter attributed to the Japanese forces. For example, a report in 1995 states that the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that the "... government illegally deleted references in schoolbooks to atrocities the Japanese army committed during the war."
This revisionist attitude can be contrasted with the publication of the acclaimed bestseller by Iris Chang, entitled The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997), which has gone a long way to revitalizing the debate about the events and reigniting the condemnation of the massacre of thousands of civilians, including women and children. This work has also raised the ire and of the revisionists and resulted in a growing number of alternative histories of the incident.
Chang's book provides a detailed account of the events that occurred in Nanking in the winter of 1937 and the spring of 1938. While many previous histories only refer to the occurrence of rape in a cursory fashion, Chang provides a much more insightful and comprehensive view of what actually took place. Her book also presents the political and military background to the events of the time; and also includes the personal accounts of those who experienced the massacre. Furthermore, she "… attempts to demonstrate the considerable influence the Code of Bushido had on Japanese behavior, and to lay bare the political forces at work after the war which served to encourage amnesia on the subject."
she also suggest that there was considerable complicity in the silence about the massacre on the part of Japanese royal house.
There are also some scholars who can be seen as apologists rather than revisionists for the Nanking massacre. Some suggest that there were underlying reasons for the way that the Japanese troops acted. Referring to the history of Japan prior to Nanking there are those who suggest a war mentality was socialized into the people, which led to the social acceptance and socialization of extreme forms of aggression.
The molding of young men to serve in the Japanese military began early: In the 1930s, toy shops became virtual shrines to war, selling arsenals of toy soldiers, tanks, rifles, antiaircraft guns, bugles, and howitzers. Japanese schools operated like miniature military units. Indeed, some of the teachers were military officers, who lectured students on their duty to help Japan fulfill its divine destiny & #8230;Teachers also instilled in boys hatred and contempt for the Chinese people, preparing them psychologically for a future invasion of the Chinese mainland.
Some claim that Japan had,
"…recently…emerged from its medieval age: a scant 140 years ago, less than 100 at the time of the Rape. What European armies did during the Thirty Years War & #8230;.the soldiers of Hirohito did at Nanking. The rules of war the Japanese were abiding by were those of the twelfth century, not the twentieth."
this is a view that is strongly condemned by many modern Japanese scholars as being extremely reductionist and simplistic.
However, there are many scholars and journalists who are strictly revisionist and who deny the claims of rape and atrocity put forward in books The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997). In political circles there has also been a revisionist denial of the scale of rape and deaths as well as a denial of the extent of the suffering of the Chinese people. Many senior Japanese politicians have referred to the rape as a lie or a fabrication or merely as a "part of war."
Textbooks in Japan were rewritten by the Ministry of Education to tone down the events that occurred in Nanking.
Furthermore, the newspapers in the country at the time of the Nanking massacre tended to paint a very different picture of the Nanking "incident," referring to peace instead of any reports about rape or massacre. For example, the Asahi Shimbun carried a photograph titled "Nanjing, Where Peace Has Been Restored," with the further caption "Soldiers of the Imperial Army Distributing Candy to Refugees."
Since 1970 there have been a growing number of contradictory scholarly and journalistic interpretations of the events that occurred at Nanking. The more orthodox or traditional view of Nanking are represented by individuals like Honda Katsuichi, a newspaper correspondent, and Hora Tomio, an academic.
Their views are in line with the view posited by most Western scholars and refer to the full scale of the atrocities and genocide. They have argued that Japan should bear responsibility for these events.
However, the more revisionist side of the argument is represented by many scholars, politicians and journalists who refute the claims of atrocity and genocide. "…they have questioned the traditionalist interpretations, especially the number of victims -- 300,000 people killed in six weeks."
An example of the denial of the horror that occurred at Nanking is evident in the utterances of senior Japanese politicians. For example,
Takami Eto, a 78-year-old three-time Cabinet minister who leads the third-largest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, dismissed as "a big lie" estimates that the Japanese army killed as many as 300,000 civilians during the 1937-38 occupation of the Chinese city of Nanjing, then called Nanking.
The extent of the revisionist re-interpretation of the events of Nanking can be sen in the fact that some Japanese nationalist scholars and conservative lawmakers are of the opinion that the above figures are severely inflated and "… some even call the entire massacre a hoax"; and that "A museum at a shrine to Japan's war dead says the people of Nanjing were "once again able to live their lives in peace" after the Japanese army took over the city."
There are also scholars who interrogate the first-hand accounts of the massacre and search for inconsistencies which suggest that certain facts are exaggerated or overblown. For instance, one Western scholar notes that the German Johnn Rabe, who witnessed and write about the massacre and rape in his dairy, leaves out certain details of the atrocities that are later described by the Chinese - such as "…live burials, mass disembowelments, deaths by freezing or death by being eaten alive by dogs."
The rather spurious reasoning is that these horrific crimes were later embellishments by the Chinese commentators, as Rabie did not mention them specifically in his diary; and this leads to the conclusion that "…perhaps they did not occur at all."
However, views and attempts to discredit the first-hand accounts of what happened at Nanking only succeed in temporarily obscuring the facts. These facts are overwhelmingly supported by studies, reports and eyewitness testimony about the extent and veracity of the massacre and rapes that occurred at Nanking.
As one scholar states,
I interviewed people who had actually clawed their way out of mass graves in Nanking (now known as Nanjing) in 1937. I also met survivors in the city who had watched Japanese soldiers disembowel their neighbors and tear fetuses from the wombs of pregnant women.
Many scholars point out that narratives of the atrocities and genocide committed by the Japanese soldiers do not have only Chinese sources but also come from the numerous diaries and letters that were written by European missionaries and other eyewitnesses. There is also visual evidence of these atrocities." For example, a photograph of five Chinese prisoners being buried alive by Japanese soldiers was smuggled out of Nanking and published in Look magazine."
Even more damning evidence of the truth of the allegations of war crimes and genocide comes from the Japanese soldiers themselves. One report states that in 1992, Hakudo Nagatomi, a veteran, said the following about his role as a soldier in Nanking.
'I beheaded people, starved them to death, burned them and buried them alive, over 200 in all,' he said. 'It is terrible that I could turn into an animal and do these things. There are really no words to explain what I was doing. I was truly a devil.'
Despite the wealth of evidence able that proves the truth of many of the atrocities, there are still efforts on the part of many revisionists to deny or blur the facts. The best-selling book The Rape of Nanking has been called misleading and "poorly researched and exaggerated" by a number of Japanese scholars.
These scholars assert that the number of Chinese killed has been grossly exaggerated and that evidence has been drawn from unreliable sources.
An example of the way that academics has attempted to reduce the…