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Special> Video> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: December 12, 2007 NO.51 DEC.20, 2007
Honoring History for Peace


The newly-renovated Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum was reopened to the public on December 13, 2007, just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. On December 13, 1937, the Japanese army occupied Nanjing and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians in the following six weeks.

Located in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, the new museum covers an area of about 6.7 hectares, which is almost four times the size of the old museum. In addition to the Peace Bell and Peace Plaza, the new museum also houses a Peace Memorial and 3.3-hectare Peace Park. The museum reminds visitors of a horrible chapter in history, and more importantly, it tells everyone to cherish peace. Many items exhibited there feature the theme of peace, documenting peace rallies held in the museum in recent years, prayers for peace, annual peace declarations, activities hosted by international peace-lovers in Nanjing and researches on peace.

With a larger displaying area, more items on display and better displaying techniques than the old museum, the new museum will present a more vivid picture of the brutal history to its visitors. "Chinese scholars base their points on historical facts and expressed their opinions calmly. During my visit to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, I saw many historical records on display, including reports from the Japanese media. These records are very convincing," said Shimizu, a visitor from Japan. "The deep, solemn toll of the Peace Bell reverberated in my ears, ringing in history, and ringing for peace. From our parents' generation, we have inherited the heavy debt of war, and to our children and grandchildren, we must bequeath peace."

The museum has more items to display than there is room for, said Zhu Chengshan, curator. Zhang Sheng, a professor instructing Ph.D. students in the Department of History at Nanjing University, who also serves as the deputy director of the Nanjing Massacre Research Institute, said: "More and more evidence has been found in the United States, Europe and other areas outside of China and Japan. Although written from different perspectives and in different levels of detail, all records prove that the Nanjing Massacre is a historical fact."

"The Nanjing Massacre is an important part of the history of our nation, and it should not be reduced to a few concepts and a few names," expressed Bu Ping at the publishing ceremony of the latest volumes of the Collection of History Materials concerning the Nanjing Massacre on December 3. Bu is a research fellow and director of the Institute of Recent History, in the China Academy of Social Sciences. Bu was confident that the new edition of the collection would provide "a deeper and more vivid memory of the Nanjing massacre." Professor Zhang Xianwen, the editor-in-chief of the book remarked, "The Nanjing Massacre is a historical event, and should not be debated endlessly. Making the Nanjing Massacre a hot issue for endless academic debates and a focus of Sino-Japanese relations would be the real tragedy between China and Japan."

The Nanjing Massacre is not only documented in books and honored in museums. For survivors such as Mu Xifu, an 84-year-old man, the holocaust was part of their lives. "On the night of December 13, 1937, gunshots, screams and cries filled Nanjing. The next morning it was very quiet. I went out, and was shocked to see bodies all over the roads and in the river," said Mu in a full account of the horrible scenes he witnessed. Mu later took shelter at John Rabe's home. Rabe is a German who lived in Nanjing during the massacre.

Mu's home on Guangzhoulu Road happened to be close to Rabe's home in the international safety zone. Mu and his family fled to Rabe's home. "Mr Rabe had the entire roof covered with a huge German flag which was many times the size of a regular national flag so that when the Japanese soldiers saw it from the sky they would not bomb the house. The place was safe and was crowded with more than 600 refugees. Mr Rabe was so busy taking care of us that he did not have time to shave," Mu said. "All the 53 members of my family were always very grateful to Mr. Rabe. Without him, we could not all have survived."

Kiyoshi Sakakura, now 87, could not erase the atrocity of Japanese soldiers from his mind either. Sakakura served in the 59th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, and was sent to Shandong Province of China in December 1940, where he was trained to kill people with guns and swords. He had been fighting in China for five years. After Japan was defeated, Sakakura was sent to a prisoner of war detention center in Fushun of Liaoning Province. He was later released and returned to Japan. He then joined the China Returned Veterans Association and has been actively promoting friendly relations with China ever since.

Addressing an audience in Nanjing University on the afternoon of December 5, 2007, Sakakura said he regretted his crimes. "I am deeply indebted to the Chinese people for the crimes I have committed including murder, arson, looting," he said. "Denying the existence of the Nanjing Massacre is unforgivable. As long as I live, I will continue to promote friendship between China and Japan to atone for my sins."

Xia Shuqin, a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre, testified of the horror she experienced back then. After hearing Xia's testimony, Ogawa, a fresh college graduate from Japan said, "I can feel deeply the pains that the Nanjing Massacre has inflicted on the Chinese people. I plan to practice law and to seek justice for comfort women." Ogawa was also very impressed with the turnout at Sakakura's lecture. "Hundreds of university students packed the conference room. Such a spectacular turnout is unprecedented in Japan. Young people in Japan have not paid enough attention to China and still do not understand China well. After I return to Japan, I will actively introduce Chinese culture and history to Japan's youth and promote friendly exchanges between the youth of China and Japan."


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