For this week’s blog post I was tasked with exploring denialism of war crimes. After some general searching, I found that one of the most prevalent examples is denialism of Japanese war crimes during World War II. Despite the Japanese public becoming more informed over the decades, there remains a sizable group among the population that continue to downplay or outright deny the fact that Imperial Japan committed numerous atrocities during the war.
One of the most controversial figures is Masaaki Tanaka, the author of the book “What Really Happened in Nanking: The Refutation of a Common Myth“. A Japanese WWII veteran himself, Tanaka released the work in 1987, and it has since inspired a growing culture of denialism among Japan’s more conservative groups, including some members of the government.
In the book, Tanaka outlines various reasons why he believed the Japanese have been wrongly accused of the atrocities at Nanking. Most historians believe that some 300,000 Chinese civilians were massacred here in a whirlwind of murder, rape, and destruction . However, Tanaka strongly disputes this history. He claims that many of the people killed were actually “unlawful combatants”, not civilians, and that the Chinese themselves actually murdered many of their own people. Tanaka also claims that many records were altered, such as burial records, in order to inflate the number of dead. According to Tanaka, the Japanese behaved in a legal and respectable manner, and were actually quite effective in restoring order and safety in Nanking. His list of claims are long, including the denial of eyewitness testimony and photographs depicting Japanese troops, in which he says there are discrepancies such as uniform items that indicate those pictured were not Japanese troops.
Tanaka’s main argument is that the Nanking Massacre was a fabrication of history constructed by the Chinese communists and the West, most notably the United States. He believes that this was done in order to villainize traditional Japanese history and culture, induce a sense of guilt on the nation in order to weaken it, and to exact revenge. Despite the overwhelming amounts of strongly verified evidence and scholarly research that speaks to the contrary, views similar to those of Masaaki Tanaka continue to endure.
Word Count: 340
Copy of Tanaka’s book – http://assets.cambridge.org/97811070/60388/excerpt/9781107060388_excerpt.pdf