Sunday, October 29, 2006

Contest Serves as Memorial of World War II Atrocities in China

New America Media, News Report, George Koo, Posted: Oct 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Winners of the 2006 Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest were announced in Washington DC on Sunday at the Biennial Conference of the Global Alliance for the Preserving the History of World War II in Asia.

First prize went to Hann-Shuin Yew of California for his essay, “The Rape of Nanking; A Quest for Peace.” Graeme A. Stacey of British Columbia earned second prize with Adeline Oka of Massachusetts placing third.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Heidi M. Bauer, Lani Cupchoy, Kristal Leonard, Niina Pollar, James L. Young, Natalie Beisner, Ed Dubois, Alissa Magorian, Alesia Sidliarevich, Loraine Yow, Juliane O. Bitek, Michael Dyer, Jillian McLaughlin, Jialan Wang, Andrew L. Chen, Teague B. Harvey, Matthew R. Mock, Becky Wood, Timothy Cooper, Sabrina Howell, Natasha Naik, and Lily Yan.

The organizers of the conference strive to remind the world that the atrocities in Asia must not be forgotten anymore than the Jewish Holocaust. To that end, the Alliance has, under the auspices of the Iris Chang Memorial Fund, sponsored the essay contest.

iris_changThe topic of this year’s essay contest is “How has Iris Chang’s book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II affected my life and thinking?” The Fund and the contest were established in memory of Iris Chang (1968-2004 who wrote The Rape of Nanking, about the slaughter, gang rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers in the former capital of China.

Close to 300 entries from around the world responded to the essay contest. Entries came from almost every state in the union and from 11 foreign countries and represented all age groups.

Many contestants are high school students. Nearly all of them are inspired by Chang. Because of her book, they now want to major in international relations or journalism and launch a career in finding truth and seeking justice anywhere in the world.

Some of the contestants described how the book resonated with traumatic experiences of their own.

Many of the young people’s essays drew the analogy between the forgotten Holocaust and atrocities of today. They pointed out that the world has also ignored Rwanda, Darfur and Iraq. Iraq is where American soldiers have been accused of rape and slaughter of civilians. The young commentators railed at humankind’s inability to learn from the past and impotence to alter the present.

Almost all the writers voiced that they hadn’t learned about the Asian role in World War II from their school’s history curriculum. Some of the writers felt they were betrayed by the American educational system. All essays were compelling personal stories showing the influence of Iris Chang’s book on their lives.

A young mother from Uganda, now studying in Canada, couldn’t fathom why atrocities and strife in Northern Uganda that she witnessed had been ignored by the world. From the book, she learned hers was not the only one the world ignored.

A Belarus journalism student drew a parallel with Iris Chang’s heroic effort to bring truth and justice to the victims of the Nanking Massacre and the author from her homeland who called the senseless war in Afghanistan to the attention of the people of Belarus.

A young American Jewish woman who grew up with an intimate knowledge of the Jewish Holocaust was appalled that nothing was ever taught about the Nanking Massacre. As if to make a personal atonement, she is now studying Chinese and living in China. She has made it her mission to preserve the memory of the Forgotten Holocaust along with the Jewish one.

An American student who loves Japan went there as an exchange student. She contrasted the portrayal of the Japanese as victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with, as her home Dad demonstrated, the absolute refusal to examine their country’s role as the World War II aggressor. She was shaken by Japan’s lack of remorse and total ignorance among her fellow students about the war crimes of their grandfathers.

Reading the Rape of Nanking helped a young Hawaiian American of mixed Chinese ancestry put into context her grandparents’ stories of the Japanese slaughter of 12,000 civilians on an island in southern China a few months after the Nanking massacre of 300,000. She decided to emulate Chang and write a book, Slaughter at San Zao.

The book also reminded a young man of Filipino ancestry of the horror of Japanese brutalities that accompanied the occupation of Philippines. Tales of unspeakable atrocities were witnessed by his grandparents. “Forgetting will only conceal the truth,” he avowed.

An African-American military officer emphasized that we must not become desensitized in the face of heinous acts against humanity. Only if we were willing to take a stand and speak out against brutality, could we hope to reverse the injustices

The first prize winner will be awarded a cash of $1,000, the second prize, $500 and the third prize, $250. A cash of $50 will be awarded to each of the honorable mentions.

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