Highland Park Middle School, Highland Park, NJ
2009 China Study Tour Participant
I was fortunate enough to receive a grant through the New Jersey Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of World War II in Asia to spend several weeks in China during the summer of 2009. My professor at KeanUniversity told me about her experience the previous summer and about the genocide that took place in China during 1931-1945. I was shocked to learn about what happened to the Chinese people: the rape, torture, and murder of so many Chinese by the Japanese who invaded China during this period. What saddened me was that until my professor told me about the Japanese invasion, I was completely unaware of the horrific acts imposed on the Chinese, never having heard, read or studied about this genocide. In fact, I had traveled to Japan just a few years before and spent a considerable amount of time at the PeaceMemorialMuseum in Hiroshima where I do not recall any acknowledgement about such acts against the Chinese.
In Shanghai, our group met with a Korean woman who was taken as a sex slave to the Japanese soldiers and she tearfully told her story. In YunnanProvince in Western China, we met with survivors of biological and chemical warfare, and in Nanking, we heard stories from those who lived through the Nanking Massacre. Being able to meet with and hear their stories, I realize how precious this experience is, as once again just as with survivors of the Holocaust, these brave souls are mostly in their eighties and will not be here much longer. After a few more years, their stories will not be able to be told first hand. That is sad, and it is also striking that after so much time has past, these people have been able mostly to “move on.” One realizes that, in fact, they truly could not and can not ever get back their lives as “normal” human beings. Their experiences have affected them emotionally and physically. They may look on the outside like they are fine and living a “good life,” but that could never really be so. The damage to a survivor of genocide then is passed on to their children and their grandchildren.
There have been many genocides that have occurred over time, more recently the genocides of Darfur and Rwanda. Our students need to learn about the horrors of genocide and how something so evil keeps repeating itself in history throughout our world. How could such a civilized society such as Germany or Japan become so monstrous and commit such inhuman acts upon humanity? Why does Japan refuse to take responsibility for this genocide? Why have nations around the world not stood up to Japan regarding this genocide? And why are students not learning about this as well as other lesser known genocides???