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Historians and Terrible Events


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The historian, Iris Chang, committed suicide a few days ago. It is claimed that she has suffered from depression ever since she began researching her book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. The book describes the rape, torture and killing of an estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians by 50,000 Japanese soldiers. It raises the question about the possible psychological problems caused by writing about such terrible events.

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  • 2 months later...

John, I believe you are on the head of the tack on this one. A true researcher will, without a doubt, place themselves totally into the subject matter of the research. When investigating horrific events such as the Rape of Nanking, one has to feel the horror and pain of the people, coupled with the brutality of the Japanese soldiers that committed such unspeakable genocide against these people.

We often don't look at why people kill themselves, we just feel that they must be crazy.

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  • 2 years later...
John, I believe you are on the head of the tack on this one. A true researcher will, without a doubt, place themselves totally into the subject matter of the research. When investigating horrific events such as the Rape of Nanking, one has to feel the horror and pain of the people, coupled with the brutality of the Japanese soldiers that committed such unspeakable genocide against these people.

We often don't look at why people kill themselves, we just feel that they must be crazy.

Iris Chang was depressed not only by the impact on her of her research on the Rape of Nanking, but also by the consequences (and lack thereof) from its publication. Because we were both involved in researching Japan's conduct in China, we were in frequent contact during this period, and Iris was greatly disappointed that victims of the Japanese (both in Asia and in America where Iris lived) were denied any form of justice or compensation for their suffering. The National Archives had been laundered of war crimes evidence, the Department of State returned great masses of documents to Tokyo without bothering to make copies and the originals vanished iimmediately; other masses of Japanese documents were strangely turned over to former president Herbert Hoover and never seen again; people involved in lawsuits with the legal privilege of gathering documentation were told by the US Government that there was no documentation, nor did anything turn up in searches of computer data bases. Victims who were able to sue in California state courts because the the period during which they could sue was extended, had their cases mysteriously moved to Federal courts where compliant judges denied the suits on the basis that the 1951 Peace Treaty with Japan made it somehow illegal for private citizens and POWs to sue megacorporations like Mitsubishi for slave labor. Then the Japanese publisher that had purchased the translation rights to Iris's book was found to be altering the text to completely reverse its message, so Iris had to take action to take the book out of the publisher's hands. Finally, she became fully occupied in researching the related subject of Japan's atrocities in the Philippines, whereafter the cumulative effect of all these disappointments became more than she could endure. Despite having recently given birth to her first child, and being married to a very successful executive in Silicon Valley, Iris could no longer bear the recognition that if there is any redemption, it comes purely by chance.

Sterling Seagrave

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