Abe tempts God’s vengeanceGod often borrows the hand of a human to punish the evil deeds of men. The cruelest form of punishment would be a full-scale air strike against crimes against humanity. We all remember some of the most devastating raids in history. In February 1945, as World War II was nearing its end, Dresden was destroyed by fire. In the months that followed, Tokyo was carpet bombed and atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These bombings were divine punishment and human retaliation at the same time. The bombing of Dresden was a retaliation for the Jews massacred by Nazi Germany. Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were revenge for the Asians steamrolled by Japan’s militaristic nationalism, especially the “Maruta,” the human beings used in experiment by a covert biological warfare research team in China called Unit 731. The revenges resulted in very different outcomes. Germany completely changed its national spirit and was reborn as a free and progressive state. Japan, on the other hand, did not turn its back on its past misdeeds.
In 2006, I visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. More than one million Jews were killed in its gas chambers or of starvation or disease. Among the many horrific traces of the Holocaust, I have two very shocking memories. One is the mark of nail scratches on the walls of gas chamber. When the lethal gas was injected into the chamber, the Jewish victims died in excruciating pain, leaving their marks on the concrete wall.
The other is the “standing cells” in which four men were locked up as punishment for infractions in a 16-square-foot space. The prisoners were left to die, standing and facing each other. They scratched the walls with their nails and engraved their last words. “God” is the word that can be found the most.
When Hitler’s evil acts were at their peak, Great Britain and the United States decided to strike Dresden. The city was not just the home of war supplies plants but also a cultural landmark. The so-called Florence of the Elbe was rich with Baroque architecture. Over three days, 5,000 bombers dropped more than 600,000 explosives. The entire city was in flames. The attack claimed the lives of 35,000 people.
Unit 731 was in Harbin, Manchuria. The Unit 731 War Crimes Museum reproduces the experimentation on the human subjects the Imperial Japanese Army called Maruta or “logs.” The Maruta were killed in vacuum chambers, injected with germs and used as targets of bombs. At least 3,000 victims were used in the tests, including Chinese, Russians, Mongols and Koreans.
Perhaps the cries of the Maruta reached heaven and the bombs were dropped on Tokyo and atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Just like the Jewish victims in the gas chambers, the Maruta and the victims of the Nanjing massacre, Japanese civilians died in pain. More than 200,000 were killed by the atomic bombings and the subsequent radiation.
Flames in a sky can transform a nation and change its history. 25 years after the bombing of Dresden, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down at the monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on a rainy day. Whenever given a chance, German presidents and chancellors have been making apologies and asking for forgiveness again and again. And investigations into that hideous past continue even today. Recently, German authorities arrested a 93-year-old man who allegedly worked as a guard at Auschwitz.
But Japan is different. Some leaders deny the history of aggression and hurt their Asian neighbors with such denials. An emerging next-generation political leader said the sex slaves for Japanese soldiers were “necessary” during the war. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe posed smiling inside a military jet emblazoned with the number 731. Does he not understand the blood and tears associated with the number? Abe’s conduct turned all of humanity into Maruta all over again.
Abe seems to be hallucinating. The low-yen boom and extreme-rightists’ support have blinded him to push Japan onto an arrogant and selfish path. He is mistaken when he thinks he can challenge the memory and decency of humanity just to be popular among his own ignorant people.
Abe is free to do as he wishes. But God, too, is at liberty. The vindictive spirit of the Maruta has been resurrected thanks to Abe. God may feel that retaliation against Japan hasn’t been complete.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin