Holocaust Essays: The Forgotten Holocaust

Holocaust Essays: The Forgotten Holocaust

The following are essays created by a class studying the Holocaust. If you’d like to send your comments, please contact the instructor,

Jan Haswell

The Forgotten Holocaust

by Laura Rivera

This paper addresses one of the holocausts during World War II–the forgotten holocaust. As you will read, this paper briefly describes the atrocities that occurred in Nanjing, China. Not many know or understand what really happened in this city. Hopefully, this paper can give those who do not know about “The Forgotten Holocaust” some knowledge of this sad and historical true story.

When someone mentions the word holocaust, most often people will relate that word with the Germans and Jews during World War II. When Japan is mentioned, the first things that come to mind are the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nanjing Massacre is known as the forgotten holocaust and very oddly, it truly has been forgotten. In this forgotten holocaust, three hundred thousand people were brutally murdered and 20,000 women were raped in the city of Nanjing, during the years of 1937-1938 (Yao).

The Chinese Nationalist Government moved the capital of China from Peking to Nanjing in 1928. Nanking’s population in the mid 1930s was well over one million, mainly because many refugees were fleeing from the Japanese army that had invaded China in 1931. Japan had entered China and other parts of Asia before World War II began, and didn’t stop until the U. S. dropped the atomic bombs on Japanese soil in early 1945. It is said that the Japanese military machine was motivated by the aggression and uncontrollable desire for expansion and imperialism. On December 9, 1937, Chinese troops surrendered in the city of Nanjing, followed by a massive Japanese attack on the city (Yao).

For the next six weeks, this capital was filled with brutal, unhuman, and terribly violent acts now known as the Nanjing Massacre. The Japanese committed venomous acts against innocent civilians, Chinese soldiers, refugees, and many others. The crimes ranged from mass execution to burning, raping, and looting. On December 13, many of the refugees tried to flee for their lives by crossing the Yangtze River. When they arrived at the river there was no type of transportation for them to cross. The Japanese arrived and when many of them tried to swim the river, the Japanese started to fire at the people in the river and along the banks of the shore. When it was all over, one Japanese solider reported that the river was covered with women, men, and children of all ages, totaling more than 50,000 bodies. Within two days, the streets of Nanjing were called the “streets of blood,” as dead human corpses began to cover the streets. Because the streets were piled with dead bodies, the Japanese had people dig huge ditches in the earth and dump hundreds, sometimes even thousands of bodies into these grave pits (Yao).

The Japanese would arrest and murder anybody thought to be a Chinese soldier. The safety zones that were set up to protect some of the citizens and refugees were raided and men were dragged out to be killed or were, more often that not, shot on the spot. Large numbers of young men were dragged out of the city to be massacred. Sometimes, they would take anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands at one time. These mass executions were mostly done by machine guns and, in most cases, those who were still breathing were bayoneted one by one. There were even some instances where the Japanese would pour gasoline on these people and burn them alive. It was once reported that they poured gasoline on a group of people tied together and shot at them, watching the bullets strike their bodies, then catch fire (Gray).

Many atrocities were committed in and around the city, most of them against civilians. The Japanese soldiers thought that killing these innocent people were fun and games. They invented new ways to brutally murder these people. Some of these violent acts included stabbing, shooting, burning, gutting, excavating the heart, decapitation, drowning, punching the body and eyes with an awl, castration, and even punching or stabbing objects into the females vaginas (Yao).

Another name for this forgotten holocaust is “The Rape of Nanjing.” Such a title is appropriate for all the raping that occurred in six weeks, when approximately 20,000 women were raped. The Japanese soldiers were such brutes, that if they didn’t rape the women in their homes they would take the women out in the streets and rape them, very often heartlessly killing them afterwards. They would often kill them by stabbing them with bayonets in the vagina or slicing open their stomachs. Many of these women that were raped were left on the streets with their genitals hanging out and some sort of object sticking out of their vagina. They would rape pregnant women and cut open their bellies, take out the fetus and play with it as if it was a football. They made fathers rape daughters, and sons rape mothers, and if they objected to this, they were instantly killed. Women of all kinds and ages were raped. They raped seventy year-old women, nine year-old girls, nuns, and high class wives. Many of the young and pretty girls were taken from their families and homes for days. They would even storm into the safety zones and take women by hundreds at a time. The Japanese would gang rape women up to twenty times a day. When these women returned, they would often fall into a state of depression or they would commit suicide from shame (Gray).

The Japanese did not only commit inhumane acts in Nanjing, but their brutal actions spread all over Asia. The Japanese government knew what was happening in Nanjing from the protests that were made by the Japanese Embassy. Yet they did nothing to stop the cruel behavior. Now, the Japanese government denies that such massacres were actually committed in Nanjing. They say it is a story made up by the Chinese, the “Nanjing Massacre never occurred” (Yao). If this story is a lie, then why and how did so many people die? Why are there pictures taken of these brutal acts by the Japanese soldiers? What about the Japanese confessions and their diaries to prove all the things they did? What about the hundreds of thousands of people who witnessed these crimes? What about the trials where many of the high ranking soldiers were found guilty and punished for their injustices? There is too much evidence against the Japanese soldiers to deny such cruelties (Gray).

During World War II, so many horrible acts were committed against the innocent. When it was all over, the bodies were countless as well as the tears shed around the world. The Japanese stole the lives of many, and at the same time killed millions of innocent people. The horrible memory of the Nanjing Massacre still lives with many of those who survived through it. With all that happened in such a short amount of time, it’s a shame that the Nanjing Massacre is labeled the forgotten holocaust–not only forgotten, but denied by the Japanese executioners.


Gray, Robert P. “Japanese Imperialism and the Massacre in Nanjing.” February 1996.
https://www.cnd.org:8019/NJMassacre/njm tran/njm-intr.htm

Yao, Ming-Hui. “Basic Facts on the Nanjing Massacre and the Tokyo War Crimes Trial.” September 1993.

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