Never to be Forgotten

A Visit to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial

The Ford School visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial, one of the must see sites in the “Southern Capital” of China, the city of Nanjing. The Memorial site was simply massive; it included large monuments, multiple buildings, and plenty of park space scattered with smaller monuments.

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Image: One of several small monuments showing different elements of individual suffering at the hands of Japanese Soldiers.

Overall, I would characterize the visit as unlike any other memorial I’ve seen. From the very start, monuments showed Chinese citizens suffering from different aspects of war with text subscribing blame on “the devils”. This sort of rhetoric was quite consistent throughout entirety of the memorial. Of course, the human rights violations committed by Japanese troops in Nanjing and elsewhere in China should be remembered and recognized, but I felt that the tone of the memorial was one that too closely placed blame for atrocities on the Japanese people as a whole.

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Image: 300,000 victims in Nanjing (300,000 is the highest scholarly estimate and the one adopted officially by the Chinese government).

Recognizing how China has determined its attitude and adjusted its historical memory regarding Japan differently over time to suit its own individual goals, I felt that the Nanjing memorial has been structured to be used as a sort of political tool. Among atrocities that Japan committed against the Philippines during World War II includes the Manila massacre, an event comparable to the suffering faced by the people of Nanjing. Yet, I find that the foreign relations as well as the public attitudes between these two countries take on a much more positive character at present. It just seems interesting to me as that the Philippines is willing and able to preserve memorials honoring Japanese Soldiers in their own country, and have mended the wounds so thoroughly. I believe the answer lies in China’s unique historical humiliation by outsiders and the development of its political climate.

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Image: Each binder contains a list of individual victim names. The picture only captures a small portion of the massive shelves that illustrate the extent of crimes committed against the people of Nanjing.

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Image: Another Nanjing Massacre exhibit at the National Museum of China in Beijing.

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial is not meant to be remembered just in Nanjing, but throughout the entire country. Upon visiting the National Museum in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, I found another smaller exhibit in the main hall being touted as an expansion of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. Ultimately, I’m glad that these atrocities have been brought to light and are being remembered, but maybe we can all work to make some amends, right?

  • Nate Samuelson
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