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The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking (2011)

By Randy Hopkins, Portland, Oregon November 17, 2017

Eighty years ago this year (2017), Japan’s Imperial Army seized the Chinese capital city of Nanjing. Following months of brutal fighting from Shanghai westward, Nanjing’s capture was perhaps the greatest military victory in the Imperial Army’s long history. Echoing Acton’s observation that power tends to corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, however, the victory would also be the most ruinous, with allegations of weeks of mass executions, rapes, looting and arson quickly surfacing. This controversy, which poisons relations between China and Japan to this day, was largely forgotten in the English-speaking West until the 1997 publication of Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking. Based on extensive research, vivid prose and unambiguously expressed passion, The Rape of Nanking assured that the events at Nanjing (then called Nanking) would be forgotten no more. Along with lavish praise, Chang’s book was itself engulfed in controversy, reaping bitter invective and criticism. Playing a leading, but utterly undissclosed role in the denunciation was Japan’s Foreign Ministry, which financed and promoted a ‘public relations’ campaign aimed at discrediting and vilifying Chang and her book. This campaign ran ten years, beginning shortly after publication of The Rape of Nanking and continuing four years after Chang’s death in 2004. This campaign was built around the writings of several internationally renown academic historians. These writings were falsely advertised by the Foreign Ministry’s public relations apparatus as a ‘modern, objective and scientific’ approach to events in Nanjing, but the reality is far different. Instead, through persistent error, exaggeration and misquoting, these writings fashion a fictionalized and stereotyped version of Iris Chang and The Rape of Nanking and thereby distort our understanding of history itself. The Foreign Ministry’s undisclosed role and the resulting distortions are discussed in detail in the attached article - Nanjing Echo: Illusion, Subterfuge and Public Relations in the ‘Rape of Nanking’ Debate.  -Randy Hopkins

Note: The paper written by Randy Hopkins is solely the opinion of the author.  For questions, contact Randy Hopkins at

The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking (2011)

The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking (2011)

By Ying-Ying Chang (張盈盈), with Introduction by Richard Rhodes (Pegasus) Hardcover
» book reviews and media reports

Iris Chang's best-selling book, The Rape of Nanking, forever changed the way we view the Second World War in Asia. It all began with a photo of a river choked with the bodies of hundreds of Chinese civilians that shook Iris to her core. Who were these people? Why had this happened and how could their story have been lost to history? She could not shake that image from her head. She could not forget what she had seen. A few short years later, Chang revealed this "second Holocaust" to the world. The Japanese atrocities against the people of Nanking were so extreme that a Nazi party leader based in China actually petitioned Hitler to ask the Japanese government to stop the massacre. But who was this woman that single-handedly swept away years of silence, secrecy and shame? Her mother, Ying-Ying, provides an enlightened and nuanced look at her daughter, from Iris' home-made childhood newspaper, to her early years as a journalist and later, as a promising young historian, her struggles with her son's autism and her tragic suicide. The Woman Who Could Not Forget cements Iris' legacy as one of the most extraordinary minds of her generation and reveals the depth and beauty of the bond between a mother and daughter.

The Denial and Its Cost: Reflections on the Nanking Massacre 70 Years Ago and Beyond (2007)

The year of 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking. The Nanking Massacre, as it is also known, was one of the most atrocious war crimes that Imperial Japan committed against China during its aggression in WWII. It was in 1997, on the 60th anniversary of the massacre, that Iris Chang published her book "The Rape of Nanking, the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII" which broke the silence and shocked the Western world with details of this horrific historical tragedy. Ten years after the book's publication, the Japanese government still did not make a formal apology to the victims of the Nanking Massacre. Japan continues to evade responsibility for its heinous war crimes committed in China and other Asian countries during WWII to this day. Worse yet, Japanese nationalist groups deny the Rape of Nanking ever occurred and claim it is a fabrication. In light of this and in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, an essay contest was held and the topic of the 2007 Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest as "The Denial and Its Cost, Reflections on the Nanking Massacre 70 years ago and beyond" to raise the conscience of Japanese people as well as the world. The best and winning essays were compiled in this volume and published in 2008.

Iris Chang and the Forgotten Holocaust (2006)

Iris Chang had an unfinished dream when her life was tragically cut short in November, 2004. That dream was to build an awareness of Asian history, particularly history of the World War II era, among the younger generation who had not experienced the war years in China and Asia, so that they may better understand the cruel lessons of history and hopefully will never have to see them repeated. She said to Robert Birnbaum in an interview in June 2003: ". . . it is important for me to write about issues that have universal significance. One of them that has resonated with me all my life has been the theme of injustice. Some people might dwell on love, other people on money or acquisition of great riches, but for some reason, I seem to be bothered whenever I see acts of injustice and assaults on other people's civil liberties." Iris was passionately dedicated to addressing the issues of social injustice and violation of human rights all over the globe. In memory of her, an essay contest was held in 2006 and the topic of the 2006 Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest: "How has Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII, affected my life and thinking?" The top winning essays, a total of 39, were compiled in this volume and published in 2007.