The NJ Commission on Holocaust Education has just published “A Curriculum Guide for Secondary Teachers” on “The Nanking Massacre and Other Japanese Atrocities Committed during the Asia-Pacific War: 1931-1945,” and is distributing copies of this Curriculum Guide to all high schools in NJ. During the 14 years of WWII in Asia, over 25 million Chinese, and many more millions in other Asian countries, were killed. One particular atrocity that stood out was the Nanking Massacre that started on December 13, 1937. During a six-week period in just the city of Nanking, the then capital of China, about 300,000 Chinese, mostly civilians (including numerous women and children), were slaughtered by the Japanese military, over 20,000 Chinese females (including many young girls and grandmothers, or even great grandmothers) were raped, and one-third of the city was burned to the ground.
The Nanking Massacre is undeniable, because it was witnessed and well documented at that time by many people, including western journalists, businessmen, diplomats, missionaries, and other international observers. Unlike Germany which later admitted its holocaust atrocities during WWII and paid compensations to the victims or their families, the Japanese government has never officially (i.e., with a resolution passed by their Parliament) admitted to the Nanking Massacre. As a matter of fact, many Japanese leaders and the Japanese mass media have said on many occasions that there was no Nanking Massacre, or any of the other WWII atrocities committed by the Japanese, such as sex slaves (estimated by historians to be as many as 200,000, and euphemistically referred to as Comfort Women). An example of such statement was the one made in March 2007 by the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who denied that the Japanese military had forced foreign women into sexual slavery during WWII.
The reason that this part of history should not be forgotten, not just by Asians, but by all peace-loving people of the world, is best illustrated by the following quotes:
- “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Great American/Spanish philosopher George Santayana
- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “. . . to forget a holocaust is to kill twice.” – Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel
- “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein
- “All that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – 18th century Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke
It is to avoid our children and grandchildren from experiencing such horrifying events in the future that we are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre.
According to Douglas Cervi and Robert F. Holden, the coauthors of this Curriculum Guide, the amount of coverage of Asian WWII history for NJ high school students is about 15 minutes per year. Furthermore, even if teachers want to spend more time teaching this topic, very few have the background knowledge or can easily find reference material to learn more about this subject so they can teach their students.
The Curriculum Guide is a 165-page document, and contains the following chapters:
- Unit I: Views of Prejudice and Genocide
- Unit II: Atrocity, Massacre, Genocide, Holocaust
- Unit III: Japanese Imperialism in the Asian Theater of WWII – A Background
- Unit IV: The Nanking Massacre: The Rape of Nanking
- Unit V: The Comfort Women – The Military System of Sexual Slavery
- Unit VI: Biological and Chemical Weapons and Medical Experiments
- Unit VIII: Rescuers and Righteous Individuals
- Unit IX: The Tokyo War Crimes Trials
- Unit X: Japanese Denials
It provides a comprehensive teaching guide and excellent reference material that allow teachers to be able to quickly learn about this subject matter and prepare teaching material to teach their students. This is why the publication and distribution of this Curriculum Guide is a watershed event for teaching WWII Asian history in NJ schools.
For a reflection of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Nanking Massacre, see the article “Reflections on Atrocities in Asia during WWII” in the “Archived-Other Topics” page.