Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The rape of Nanking - Iris Chang

Nowadays what happened in Nanking (current name: Nanjing) on the eve of WWII, when the Japanese army invaded the city, looted it, killed and raped hundreds of thousands - children and elderly alike - is a very well established, known and discussed fact. But up until the mid ’90s it had been swept under the carpet of history, quite unbelievably, given the prominence of the sides involved and the magnitude/typology of the tragedy.
Iris Chang’s book is one of the main sources of the limelight that was suddenly and belatedly shed on the event. The first part of the book deals with the historical background, the narration of those dramatic days, the point of view of all the parties involved, and the group of foreign heroes (mostly Germans and Americans) who - a bit like Oskar Schindler during the European holocaust - decided not to abandon the city, set up a safety zone and tried to save as many people as possible from murder, torture and sexual assaults.
The second part explains how and why the massacre was pretty much forgotten after the war ended, how Japan failed to take responsibility for the havoc wreaked by its military and how the author managed to unearth all the information needed to revive the debate about it all.
The edition I read also contains an epilogue written by the author’s husband, an American academic, who tries to explain the sequence of events that lead his wife to be hospitalized in a mental institution and commit suicide shortly after being dismissed.

No comments: