Seventy years ago, on December 13, Japanese troops occupied Nanjing, the capital city of the then Chinese Nationalist Government. What followed was six weeks of pillage and slaughter. The date of the invasion has since been remembered by Chinese around the world as the memorial day for victims of the holocaust widely known in China as the Nanjing Massacre.
Leading up to the 70th anniversary of the holocaust, the Nanjing Massacre 1937 Memorial Foundation NYC on December 9 organized a memorial rally in Union Square in the downtown of New York City.
The foundation was established just a few months earlier in September by a group of Chinese--mainly overseas students and new graduates of American universities--who pledged their efforts to support world peace and progress. Currently, there are about 50 members from various vocations in the organization.
According to Ren Jun, president and founder of the group, the memorial activities were aimed at educating people around the world, especially in the West, about the truth of Nanjing Massacre and to pressure the Japanese Government to confess and apologize for the brutal crimes its military did during World War II.
Presenting an exhibition of enlarged historical pictures and texts of background information, the volunteers sang a chorus of English and Chinese songs calling for world peace and asked passersby to sign a mass petition supporting their efforts.
One passerby, who gave his given name as "Jerome" but declined to give his family name, told Beijing Review that he knew quite a lot about the Nanjing tragedy and about the history of that period. Regarding the Japanese Government's current attitude toward this event, the young American man said, "I don't know all the facts. But certainly there are examples of denial and cover-up throughout times."
"It's a story that needs to be heard by the entire world," he added.
Rally participant Patricia Zhang, age 14, said she came with her parents to join the demonstration. Her father, a Chinese-American, decided to bring his American-born daughter after he heard about the planned activity to learn about the history of Nanjing Massacre and of the war.
"I saw something about [the Nanjing Massacre] online. I asked my mom and she told me a lot about it. It's like an Asian version of the Jewish holocaust," Zhang said.
Zhang added that while many Americans are familiar with the atrocities that happened to the Jewish people in Germany during the war, "nobody but the Chinese" know about the massacre in Nanjing. Zhang said she believes it's necessary for all people to learn about what happened 70 years ago "to open people's minds. When people hear about it, they're able to offer their kindness and generosity."
Participants in the memorial rally also included Daniel Barenblatt, American author of the book A Plague upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program.
Earlier this month, other overseas Chinese organizations in New York area held a series of activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of Nanjing Massacre, including exhibitions of historical photos and screening of documentaries.
Non-Chinese groups have also organized activities honoring the anniversary. A stage play December Hell--Nanjing in Sorrow, written and directed by two descendents of Japanese troops that invaded China during World War II--Yoshiji Watanabe and Kazuko Yokoi--was presented in New York City on December 8.
The narrative of confession and repentance is a non-fiction tale told through recitations and acting. "We dedicate this piece to all the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, with our heartfelt repentance," said the playwrights.
According to reports, December Hell has been performed 27 times in China, Japan and the United States. Three more showings will be presented in Japan by the end of this year. The organizers said they are planning to have 30 performances of the play to honor the 300,000 Chinese victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
Also starting December 12, the Oscar-nominated documentary Nanking produced by former AOL Vice Chairman Theodore J. Leonsis was scheduled for screenings in New York City. The documentary dramatizes the Japanese occupation and pillage of Nanjing and was shown in China last July. The tickets of Nanking's premier in New York have reportedly already been sold out.
(Beijing Review, Wang Yanjuan and Chen Wen reporting from New York)