The term genocide was not coined until 1943 when Raphael Lamkin used it to describe the Nazi reign in Europe (ROD notes). Genocide refers to the systematic destruction of a racial or cultural group. Two examples of this are the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking. The Holocaust deals with the Nazi’s takeover of Europe during World War II, and the Rape of Nanking is the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930’s. These events in history serve a painful reminder of the cruelest depths of human nature, but also of the possibilities that lie within every catastrophe.
Bystanders always play a key role in any event, whether they have a positive or negative effect on the outcome of the situation at hand. Most, if not all, of the bystanders during the Rape of Nanking were western missionaries that happened to be in China at that time. Among them were doctors, a filmmaker, and even a Nazi. The filmmaker was a man named John Magee whose films have helped historians unlock some of the mysteries about that gruesome time. Rabй was another bystander who happened to be a Nazi with connections to Adolf Hitler. He contacted Hitler and told him of the current atrocities in Nanking and asked for assistance in fighting the Japanese; assistance that was later denied. All of the Westerners decided to take action in this situation by setting up the International Safety Zone, which harbored 300,000 Chinese refugees, in the center of Nanking. This assistance helped the people of Nanking to a phenomenal degree. On the contrary, the bystanders during the Holocaust did very little to help the victims. The bystanders during the Holocaust were mainly the Germans who lived in the surrounding areas of the concentration camps. Most of these Germans had an idea of what was going on, yet they did nothing. They had an ignorant mindset; they did not want to know and they did not care. Due to this ignorance many war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in both cases (Horvath).
During the Rape of Nanking there were many war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred. The Japanese soldiers gathered thousands of Chinese women and forced them to live in barracks while being raped on a daily basis. They raped women of all ages, from little girls whom they cut due to their pre-pubescent age to old women into their 80’s (A&E). This extensive raping is considered a crime against humanity. There were many war crimes committed by the Japanese soldiers during the Rape of Nanking. They used the prisoner’s of war for bayonet practice, and also held killing contests in which the Japanese officers vied to see who could kill the most people and get the highest body count. An interesting fact about the Japanese is that they were contemptuous of those who surrendered. They considered surrendering to be dishonorable and therefore felt as though it downgraded the surrendering Chinese soldiers to the level of animals. These Chinese soldiers were then shot on sight (A&E). Many more crimes were committed during these eight tragic weeks. The crimes that were committed during the Holocaust partially resemble the atrocities at Nanking. In the Holocaust people were also gathered and forced to live in barracks, but unlike Nanking they were killed for a reason. People were selected on the basis of race and religion; this is discrimination which is a crime against humanity. The largest group of those unfortunately selected, was the Jews. They were killed in masses and tortured through experimentation. Those who were barricaded in the death camps were deprived of food and proper hygiene which caused the spread of many diseases and eventually more deaths. The carnage that took place at both Nanking and during the Holocaust was due to the horrible crimes that were committed. One would hope that the offenders of these crimes would receive an equally harsh punishment (Horvath).
At the conclusion of each event there was a war crime trial held. After Nanking the Tokyo War Crime Trial took place, but did not serve justice. Only eight men were killed during this process. There were seven “A class” criminals that were hung, and General Matsui was also killed. Some others spent a few years in jail and then were left to continue with their lives. In fact, the man actually responsible for the crimes committed at Nanking, Prince Yusuhiko Asaka, was never even prosecuted for his role. The Nuremburg trials were held at the summation of the Holocaust (A&E). Although justice can never be served to those who were killed and tortured in the Nazi camps and their families, the Nuremburg trials had a better outcome than that of the Tokyo trials. Many Nazi soldiers were sought out and sentenced to death for war crimes committed during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, many Nazi’s fled the country when the Americans invaded Germany and found harbor in African countries (Horvath). Both trials hardly reversed the injustices that were brought upon the victims of each incident.
There are many long-term effects that have been brought upon by the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking. One positive effect taken from these events is the heightened world-wide prevention of genocide. Many countries around the world have tried to intervene in such places as Bosnia, Cambodia, and Kosovo in order to deter those who are attempting to kill masses of innocent people (Horvath). In the minds of nearly all Japanese, the Rape of Nanking never occurred. Its story is neither told nor taught in schools, and those who have accused the Japanese government of concealing the truth have been threatened or killed. If you were to visit Japan and inquire upon many average citizens about this event, they would have no knowledge of the carnage or even the occurrence of Nanking. Although, there are those Japanese fanatics who worship the Japanese soldiers during Nanking as Gods and have set up shrines in honor of them (A&E). The atmosphere in Germany is a bit different, but has similar qualities as well. The overall German population today is very ashamed of the war criminals that represented their country. However, many current Nazi enthusiasts deny that the Holocaust ever happened. This declaration comes as a heart breaking hit to the survivors and their families (Horvath). These survivors must live the rest of their lives with the haunting and painful memories that remain vivid in their minds. At the chance that those memories subside, they are still left with the physical scars that remind them daily.
The Rape of Nanking and the Holocaust are two events that have had a significant impact upon the world. There will always remain the memories of the wide-spread raping and murdering at Nanking. The mass executions and torture during the Holocaust will also linger forever in the minds of numerous survivors and their relations. Hopefully, both occasions will serve as a reminder to all people of the possibilities that can occur when you release your civil liberties. These agonizing events can never be expunged from history and no trial can ease the pangs of the victims of these crimes. Remember these victims, but more importantly learn through their experiences.
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