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Unit 731 and atrocities in China during World War II


As I wrote in the previous post, the most impressive presentation in IAB was that of Takashi Tsuchiya. In his lecture he talked about what Japanese physicians did in Unit 731 and other facilities during World War II. He began his talk, saying, "I don't talk for the sake of a nation. I will talk for the sake of victims." I don't want to repeat the content of his talk because it was too heavy and bloody to write down here. He concluded his speech saying:"The Japanese medical community has not reflected on what their colleagues did in China, They have a responsibility to make public the atrocities, and apologize to the victims of human experimentation." I was shocked to hear that all Chinese victims in Unit 731 were killed by the Japanese army when the war was over. There were no survivors. More than thousands of victims were captured and experimented on and killed.

Tsuchiya's speech was greeted with long applause, which showed that the audience was deeply impressed with his talk and his sincerity. Many people raised their hands. A Chinese young woman asked Tsuchiya what he had done to provide ordinary Japanese people with information about the atrocites committed by Unit 731. He replied that he had published some academic papers, but admitted that those papers had not reached ordinary people. A Japanese participant asked the chairman, Daniel Wikler, how he thought about this "unfair" and "politicized" symposium in which only Japanese war crimes were blamed before an international audience. Wikler replied that Unit 731 was well-known in China and Japan, but not in the rest of the world, hence it was nessesary to hold such a symposium in this conference.

Another important topic was secret deals behind closed doors just after the end of the war, made by the US and Japan, about scientific data acquired by Unit 731's human experimentation. The US decided not to prosecute Japanese physicians who had performed human experimentation for war crimes, in exchange for gaining precious data on biological weapons, diseases, etc. Most of the doctors returned to Japan and became professors, researchers, and executives of pharmaceutical companies. They have kept silent since then. The US gained the human experimentation data, created biological weapons, and used them in Korean War 1950-53 (See Wiki). The US was also an important player in the history of Unit 731.

Till Baernighausen said in his speech that a number of scientific papers to date have cited papers published by Unit 731's researchers. This means that even today data acquired by human experimentation (including vivisection) are utilized in the scientific community. Most authors are probably just ignorant of the historical facts. The problem here is whether it should be morally acceptable to use those data in order to promote medical science. Baernighausen proposed that major medical journals examine the citations appeared in their jounals, and investigate whether some of them might have cited Unit 731's papers in their reference lists.

A female participant (probably came from South Asia) raised her hand and said that in the case of Japanese Army's comfort women, Japanese women have supported a movement to bring the issue into the open, and asked whether there is a similar movement in Japan concerning Unit 731. Tsuchiya replied that there are individuals and groups who try to shed light on this issue, but there has been no such movement comparable to the problem of comfort women.

She also asked what the panelists thought about Japanese victims killed by the atomic bombs dropped by the US army. There were no responses. Another participant pointed out that the bargaining by the US was similar to the current US attitude towards war against terrorism.

Anyway, it was a very interesting and impressive symposium. I would like to say thank you to the chairman and IAB for their courageous attempt.


Related post: "Unit 731 and medical ethics in Japan"

Photo: Albany, NY, USA.

    -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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