[FOUNTAIN]How to Handle the Horrors of War

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[FOUNTAIN]How to Handle the Horrors of War

Dachau, about 20 kilometers northwest of Munich, Germany, is only a small city of 36,000 people, but its name is infamous in modern German history. The first Nazi concentration camp, the laboratory of the Holocaust, was set up there.

Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, the elite Nazi corps, established the Dachau concentration camp in March 1933. Initially it had capacity for just 5,000 prisoners. Its first inmates were political prisoners such as Communists and labor union leaders. But the camp soon swelled to include other groups, such as Jews, homosexuals and gypsies. After the outbreak of Would War II, prisoners of war from Poland and the Soviet Union were brought to the camp, and the tally of inmates grew to 200,000.

About 30,000 people had been formally executed by Nazis by the time the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945. But thousands who were not registered died in Dachau from starvation, disease, torture or in cruel medical experiments.

The Dachau concentration camp was notorious for its experiments on humans. Malaria experiments, low-pressure experiments and cooling and freezing experiments were all conducted to examine the limits of human endurance in extreme conditions. The concentration camp is now a memorial site. A famous quote from George Santayana, a U.S. philosopher - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - is engraved at the exit of the site and serves as a sobering warning.

In Manchuria, China, the Japanese imperialists conducted more wicked medical experiments on humans than the Nazis did. Unit 731 of the Japanese Kwantung Army, which is well known to Koreans through the novel by Jeong Hyeon-ung, "Maruta," committed acts of brutality, including human vivisection without anesthesia and biochemical warfare experiments. There were of course Koreans among the 3,000 victims of the horrifying experiments, who were called "maruta," Japanese for "logs." A hall exhibiting the crimes of Unit 731 in Harbin, Manchuria, illustrates the cruelty of the Japanese imperialists.

Reports suggest that a museum dedicated to the maruta will be built in Asan, South Chungchong pro-vince, through a donation by a businessman. It is a meaningful event in honor of Aug. 15, Liberation Day.

If the Japanese government has sense, it will create a museum such as that in Dachau. If the Japanese prime minister had visited such a museum to repent, instead of worshiping at Yasukuni Shrine, he would have earned the world's respect instead of outrage. The world will only sneer at the "Peace Park" in Hiroshima and Japanese insistance that it was just another victim of World War II.

The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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