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Special> Undeniable Japanese Atrocity Archives> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: March 10, 2014 NO. 11 MARCH 13, 2014
Respecting History
China's Nanjing City has revealed confidential files detailing Japan's war crimes
By Yu Yan

GRIEVING: Survivors and family members of the victims of the Nanjing Massacre commemorate the 300,000 victims at an international peace rally on December 13, 2013 (XINHUA)

The next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As a consequence, a wave of applications for World War II relics to be registered as items of World Cultural Heritage has been sweeping Asia recently.

Among the applications, Nanjing City in east China's Jiangsu Province has submitted important files related to the Nanjing Massacre for inclusion in UNESCO's Memory of the World Program. This is the third time that the city has submitted an application.

Established in 1992, UNESCO's Memory of the World Program is an international initiative to preserve valuable documentary heritage worldwide.

The files were revealed to the public by Nanjing Municipal Archives (NMA) on February 11. The files, dating from 1937-1947, consist of a total of 183 volumes of historic documents on the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in Nanjing, where they embarked upon a six-week campaign of rape, slaughter and destruction in both the urban and rural areas of the city starting on December 13, 1937, the day when the city was captured. It is estimated that the number of deaths resulting from the massacre may be as high as 300,000. Files on women forced into sex slavery by Japanese troops were also included.

"These files have been revealed as a counterblast against Japan's right-wing factions and their attempt to deny history," said Wang Han, deputy head and spokesman of NMA.

On February 27, Chinese lawmakers voted to make December 13 a national memorial day to commemorate those killed by the Japanese aggressors during the Nanjing Massacre and marking September 3 the Victory Day of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Letting the facts speak

"Some Japanese politicians, such as the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the new chief of the Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Katsuto Momii, boldly ignore historical facts and deny the Nanjing Massacre. This is unacceptable for the citizens of Nanjing, where the massacre occurred," said Wang Han. "Facts speak louder than words. The archives are records of history. They are the most persuasive evidence against their denial."

At his inauguration press conference on January 27, Katsuto Momii said that the practice of forcing women to act as prostitutes for troops, which were called "comfort women" in Japan, was common in all countries at war. Although he apologized for the remarks soon after, they still aroused fierce protests in China and South Korea.

It is against this backdrop that Nanjing revealed the files to the public and submitted them to UNESCO's Memory of the World Program.

"The files are original records from different groups, so they are reliable first-hand materials," said Wang. "What's more, most of the original records are the only existing copy."

"These files have not been released before. They are of great value in fighting back Japan's right-wing force's attempt to deny history, exposing Japan's war crimes and educating the Chinese youth," said Xia Bei, a director of NMA and also a researcher.

The files cover a large number of fields and involve people of various backgrounds, including politicians, experts, ordinary citizens, non-Chinese, and Japanese military officers as well as soldiers who took part in the Nanjing Massacre.

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