Four members of the "Chu-Kin-Ren," a group of Japanese war criminals, used the Internet on Sunday to broadcast their solemn, and often times emotional, testimonies about their roles in some of the most gruesome events in human history.
These four elderly members gave live, sorrowful first-person accounts of the atrocities they had participated in during Japan's occupation of China in the Second World War. As a result, those who tuned in from Japan, the United States, China, and Europe, took a step back in time to a period where chaos and confusion ruled over human sensibility.
The event was also historic because it used the Internet to broadcast the confessions, thereby circumventing television stations and government censors. Organizers decided to use the Web for its ease of playback, and the ability for individuals to listen to the men without relying on television or radio stations to rebroadcast the event.
The first testimony came from Shiro Azuma, who participated in what many call the "Rape of Nanking," where Japanese soldiers murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians and prisoners of war over a six-week period. Azuma confessed that he had killed 37 women, children, and elders after being ordered by his commanding officer to comply.
"We're told that the purpose of the fighting was to win, and in order to win a victory, everything was allowed," Azuma said through a translator. "'The might is right'--that was the belief we had.
"The reason why we killed these Chinese was that we called--and despised--the Chinese 'chinks,' and we ignored their rights," Azuma continued. "We didn't respect their rights. The Japanese army in general did not respect the human rights at all."
Another member named Yoshio Shinozuka was a member of the 731 medical unit stationed in occupied Manchuria. Shinozuka confessed to aiding germ warfare efforts by helping to raise infected fleas on rats. He also helped cultivate other pathogenic germs such as typhus, typhoid, anthrax, plague, and cholera that would be used against Soviet forces.
"Do not see, do not speak, do not tell," Shinozuka said, also through a translator. "That was the rule. If you leave the unit you will be sentenced to death."
As previously reported, the event was hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, where the members of the Chu-Kin-Ren participated in a trans-Pacific video conference with an American panel of experts and academics. The audio archive of the approximately three-hour event can be found on a special page on Broadcast.com.
The Wiesenthal center is planning to beef up the site with essays and articles published by prominent academics. The organizers are working to have IBM host a video archive of the event.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who organized the event, thought the video conference was a tremendous success mainly due to the candid, sincere testimonies of the criminals. Cooper was also pleased that members of some of Japan's most established media outlets were on hand to cover the event. Many Japanese media organizations with Los Angeles bureaus were present, including the Yomuri Shimbum and the Bungei Shunju.
"Last night was an event that had to do with historic truth," Cooper said. "We hope that it serves as the education for young people who don't have to worry about whether NHK will cover it and can just go to the Web site and listen to it for themselves."
Dr. Kevin Chiang, who served as a panelist in Los Angeles and is cochairman of the Alliance in Memory of Victims of the Nanjing Massacre, based in New York, agreed that the event gave an opportunity to present a historical truth. Chiang said the main purpose was to show the conservative factions that certain facts should not be erased from history and to express concern over how Japanese schoolchildren are being educated.
However, Chiang also thought the event was a unique way for Chinese Americans like himself to rally behind a cause worth fighting for by leveraging their clout.
"In our 5,000 years of history, we enjoy the most freedom of speech and the most wealth," Chiang said, referring to the advancements that Chinese Americans have made over the years. "We are obligated to do this because no other Chinese people in other countries can do it. That's one of our obligations."