GA 2010 Biennial Conference report 15 October 2010

Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia

2010 Biennial Conference report 15 October 2010

1. Introduction and Summary

The 2010 GA Biennial Conference was held over the extended weekend of 8-10 October 2010, Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. The suburban campus of Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, New Jersey was our main venue. The Conference was billed as an international education conference for teachers, students, historians, researchers, and activists with the theme: “Acknowledgment, Apology, Reconciliation,” and aimed at ending tensions felt in all nations of the Pacific with Japan over unresolved issues of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces on mainland Asia and island nations of the Pacific during WWII. The Conference also discussed these issues in the larger context of human rights violations, global citizenship, and resolution of past historical injustices. A GA board meeting was conducted Sunday afternoon. Attendance ranged from roughly 40 on Friday to about 100 on Saturday.

The Conference featured presentations by distinguished guests from the US, China, Canada, and Japan, and screened four films. All sessions Friday and Saturday were held on the Oakcrest Campus; Sunday’s sessions were conducted on the nearby campus of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, a modern college campus very recently constructed in the 1960s. Dinner Friday and Saturday, lunch on Saturday, and coffee breaks were provided by the staff of the Oakcrest High School cafeteria, served buffet-style in a pleasant and comfortable dining hall. The Days Hotel of Egg Harbor Township became the Conference hotel. For those staying there, breakfast was included.

The major job of managing, organizing, and administering the Conference, and attending to innumerable details, was shared by the NJ-ALPHA GA Affiliate organization, Oakcrest faculty and staff, and faculty and staff of Richard Stockton College. The State of New Jersey Holocaust Education Commission performed a vital task of communication with teachers from the local area, and arranging for Sunday’s sessions at the Holocaust Resource Center of Stockton College.

Many Oakcrest High School students volunteered to help during the Conference. They assisted with parking information, greeting arriving guests, directing participants to Oakcrest facilities, and offering clerical help. A critical factor in the Conference success was arranging transportation and accommodations for attendees, invited guests, and speakers. This included international travel between Canada, China, Japan, and the US, as well as local travel between and within New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

2. Conference Program Notes

Friday, 8 October

We began Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. with registration. The NJ-ALPHA photo exhibit was displayed in the Oakcrest campus building entrance hall, depicting scenes from the Japanese Imperial Army invasion and occupation of China. The film, “Nanjing, Nanjing (City of Life and Death),” was screened. This film, directed by Lu Chuan, has been released world-wide. It was a 2009 winner at the 57th San Sebastian Film Festival.

Following a light dinner, the film, “Iris Chang – The Rape of Nanking,” was presented. This is a 2008 major motion picture production by a Canadian film company, Reel2Reel. Starring Olivia Cheng, produced by Anne Pick, and directed by Anne Pick and Bill Spahic, the film combines documentary footage, victims’ testimonies, and newly discovered documents. The film brings into focus Iris Chang’s passion, courage and single-minded devotion to truth and social justice. The film also provides background information on the WW II conflict in the Pacific with its devastating consequences on the victims—not only in China but the whole of East and Southeast Asia. This film was the result of a tireless effort by GA Affiliate Toronto ALPHA, which secured initial funding. Iris Chang’s parents, Drs. Ying-Ying Chang and Shau-Jin Chang, participated in a Q&A session, and also showed some personal slides of Iris.

Saturday, 9 October

Conference Chair, Dr. Peter Stanek, opened proceedings at 9 a.m.

Werner Gruhl, a retired NASA statistician and author of “Imperial Japan’s World War Two, 1931-1945,” delivered an analysis of the full dimensions of the human catastrophe visited upon the world by Japan in the war. He noted that most of this information is largely unknown, having been suppressed both in the West and in Japan. Currently the Japanese government seeks to portray Japan as the victim of WW II, whereas in fact Japan not only started the war but pursued its dream of empire with unparalleled savagery and cruelty.

Gruhl’s presentation was followed by Prof. Zhang Lianhong of Nanjing Normal University, who discussed the continuing effort to uncover information on the Rape of Nanjing. Prof. Zhang together with Hua-Ling Hu authored “The Undaunted Women of Nanking, The Wartime Diaries of Minnie Vautrin and Tsen Shui-Fang.” This history is a compilation of diary entries from identical dates during the massacre, and provides further historical evidence of the scale and savagery of the Japanese invasion and occupation and also of the heroic efforts of foreign and Chinese upstanders. A research project at Nanjing Normal University seeks to uncover further documents from the wartime period.

Following Prof. Zhang, Ms. Kang Jian, Esq., Chinese Lawyer and Delegation Leader, presented an overview of Chinese Forced Labor Litigation. She was introduced by Judge Julie Tang of the San Francisco Superior Court. Ms. Kang explained the complexities of pursuing legal remedies for victims of Japanese war crimes through the courts in Japan over the last ten years. The original plaintiffs, Chinese peasants who endured slavery under the Japanese government, had sued for payment, and for an acknowledgment and apology by the government of Japan. Although the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that the Chinese laborers were horribly treated, it also ruled that the rights of Chinese laborers to claim damages was waived based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. Because of this ruling, the Chinese plaintiffs were unsuccessful in their objectives, but highly successful in bringing Japanese crimes to world-wide attention.

Immediately after the ruling, many people, including many lawyers in Japan, recognized a serious flaw in the Japanese Supreme Court ruling, because the People’s Republic of China was not a participant nor signatory in the 1951 Treaty. In the meantime, the Japanese Nishimatsu Corporation offered an unacceptable solution, which was rejected by all of the original plaintiffs. The Chinese victims are still seeking justice. Although unsuccessful in their initial objectives, the Chinese plaintiffs were very successful in bringing Japanese crimes to world-wide attention.

Following lunch, the Conference was resumed with personal statements by direct victims of Japanese aggression in China. Mr. Chang Chu-Yeh described his experiences in Nanjing during and after the massacre. Prof. Jean B. Chan went on to describe the horrors she and her family experienced, living in a Chinese village during the Japanese occupation.

The Conference then screened a documentary film, “Lessons in the Blood (Unit 731 & Germ Warfare)”, followed by discussion with film director James T. Hong. This movie explores eleven “lessons” of the Pacific War, graphically depicting Japanese war crimes of murder, rape, chemical and biological warfare, and the consequences that are still felt throughout China.

Mr. Daniel Barenblatt, author of “A Plague Upon Humanity: The Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare Operation,” presented a discussion of current literature about the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces during the war. He highlighted a children’s book written on a bizarre theme of Korean aggression against Japan, which although historically inaccurate has achieved a certain following in the US.

The Conference resumed with a presentation by Ms. Wang Xuan and an overview of her research into sites in China where the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces conducted biological and chemical warfare. Ms. Wang was joined for panel discussion by four researchers from China and Japan: Mr. Shoji Kondo, Ms. Song Fangfang, Mr. Chen Zhuo, and Ms. Zhang Huifang. This group will later travel on to Washington, DC to study the National Archives for further data to be found in the files. Mr. Kondo made a special plea for help in uncovering information that may have been buried in official US documents for more than sixty years.

In the next presentation, Thekla Lit, President BC-ALPHA, shared the experience in working with different related organizations, including the Ministry of Education, school boards, Teachers’ Federation and Social Studies Teachers’ Association etc. in order to motivate the school system in the incorporation of the teaching of Asia Pacific history, 1931-1945. To provide concrete support to teachers, annual Peace and Reconciliation Study Tours for Educators have been organized since 2004. Student Symposia youth conferences have also been organized so that students can learn lessons of the Asian Holocaust from teacher presenters who have participated in the Study Tour. The Canadian system emphasizes teacher and student involvement in regional and national conferences to spread history information about the War.

Following this presentation, teachers Doug Cervi and Bob Holden described their motivation to bring Pacific War history to their classrooms in New Jersey. They participated in a 2006 summer China Study Tour of historically significant locations in China and interviews with Chinese victims and survivors of Japanese atrocities. This led them to spearhead, with local colleagues, the development and implementation of the NJ-ALPHA/NJ Holocaust Education Commission Curriculum and Teachers Guide, a comprehensive approach to bringing this history to the classroom. They wrote and published the First Edition of the Curriculum and Teachers Guide in 2007. Then Frances Flannery and Maryann McLoughlin, participants with the 2008 China Study Tour, announced the publication of the Second Edition of the Curriculum and Teachers Guide, that was written by them and Rosemary Wilkinson.

After dinner, again at Oakcrest, the program continued with a presentation by Flora Chong, Vice-President Toronto ALPHA, on developments in the international redress and reconciliation movement, including the recent establishment of an ALPHA chapter in Japan. Toronto ALPHA has published texts and brochures, and conducted seminars and school meetings to encourage students to pursue history studies actively in Canada. These projects have significantly raised awareness of redress and reconciliation issues for the Canadian public.

The evening concluded with a screening of “Torn Memories of Nanking,” the work of independent Japanese film-maker, Tamaki Matsuoka. This remarkable film records the horrors of the Nanjing Massacre in a series of interviews with former Japanese soldiers who participated in committing the atrocities, as well as with their Chinese victims. Ms. Matsuoka began her studies of this history in 1988 with a visit to Nanjing, wondering what actually was the “Nanjing Massacre”. She encountered two widely diverse opinions about the event, which ultimately led to this film. In the summer of 1997 Nanjing high school students had the opportunity to listen to the experiences of the Nanjing massacre victims. Ms. Matsuoka and friends organized a group of eighteen Japanese students to participate in this project. Since then she has visited Nanjing seventy times to film interviews and conduct research. These were joined with the filmed interviews of former Japanese soldiers in her movie.

Sunday, 10 October

The Conference moved to the campus of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. We were the guests of Prof. Maryann McLoughlin, who gave us a brief campus tour and an introduction to the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, located within the College Library. We continued at the Resource Center conference room.

Prof. McLoughlin introduced Gail Rosenthal, Director of the Holocaust Resource Center, who gave us an overview of the Center and presented a short film.

A paper by Prof. Irving Horowitz: “The Unitary Character of Good, Evil and History” was delivered by his colleague Paul Myatovich, Transaction Publishers (as Prof. Horowitz was traveling in Europe). Transaction publishes many volumes in Asian Studies, and works closely with Rutgers University.

The Board entertained reports from GA Affiliate organizations. Canadian ALPHAs reported on the recent Toronto Conference and on work in Canada.

Prof. Peter Li led a discussion of reflections and future directions for the summer study tours. He was joined by former participants of these tours and others, and will be developing plans for future GA-sponsored travel to China.

After lunch at the College cafeteria, the Conference resumed with formal GA business. The Chinese victims’ law suit, the Diaoyu Islands dispute, and methods to inform political leaders and public opinion were discussed.

3. GA Board business actions

The Board passed the following resolutions:

A. Whereas it is our belief that the following principles should not be compromised in any in-court or out-of-court settlements between Chinese victims of wartime forced labor abducted to Japan and any of the perpetrating parties, namely the Japanese government and the complicit Japanese corporations:

1. It is imperative that the concerned perpetrating parties need to demonstrate unequivocally that they are not evading their historical, moral and legal responsibilities.

2. It is not acceptable that any settlement would be based on the premise that the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communique extinguished the right to claim damages of Chinese individuals as this is only an unilateral interpretation of the Joint Communique by the courts of the perpetrator country. To insist on incorporating such a premise into a settlement document is the unequivocal sign of denying legal responsibility by the perpetrating party.

3. An empty expression of regret by a perpetrating party without corresponding provisions in the settlement document on the grave crimes against humanity committed against the victims is an unequivocal sign of insincerity and such “regret” and “apology” is meaningless and unacceptable.

4. Any settlement payment to the victims or their heirs must be just and honorable compensation for the sufferings inflicted on the victims and cannot be camouflaged as or tinted by hues of charitable relief. Any attempt by a perpetrating party to position itself as a benevolent relief giver is in defiance of the spirit to reach out for forgiveness from the victims.

Whereas, breaching of any of the above principles will not be able to reach a meaningful settlement nor to lay the foundation for reconciliation between the victims and the perpetrators.

Therefore, it is resolved that the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia supports settlements that satisfy the above four principles.

(Proposed by Thekla Lit; amended by Peter Li and Joseph Wong)

B. Whereas the Sara and Sam Shoffer Holocaust Resource Center Exedra Names Wall recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions not only to our intellectual life, but also to the advancement of human dignity and decency;

And whereas Iris Chang is also a recognized humanitarian who has made an enormous contribution to advancement of human dignity and decency through her work;

Therefore, it is resolved that the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia propose to the directors of the Holocaust Resource Center that the name of Iris Chang be added to the names on the Wall;

And it is further resolved that Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia will support reasonable costs to accomplish this resolution.

(Proposed by Thekla Lit)

C. Whereas Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Holocaust Resource Center has an excellent collection of Holocaust information.

Whereas Holocaust is one part of WW II history, and the Japanese Military Atrocities, 1931-1945, is another part of WW II history.

It is resolved that GA undertake an initiative to establish a section of Japanese Military Atrocities 1931-1945 at Richard Stockton College Library, adding to the College holdings on Genocide.

(Proposed by Victor Yung)

The Board conducted elections according to the bylaws of the organization. The outcome is this list of elected officers for the term 2011-2012:
President: Peter Stanek
Executive Vice President: Ignatius Ding
Treasurer: Charles Shao
Secretary: Allen Ho
Vice President and Spokesperson: Peter Li

4. Acknowledgment

Special thanks are due certain individuals, whose dedication, diligence, talent, thoughtfulness, and kindness were responsible for our success (alphabetically ordered):

Doug Cervi, Oakcrest High School
Prof. Maryann McLoughlin, Richard Stockton College
Don Tow, Ph.D., NJ-ALPHA
Paul Winkler, New Jersey Holocaust Education Commission
Rosa Yeh, NJ-ALPHA
Victor Yung, NJ-ALPHA

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