Trip opens eues to atrocities

Trip opens eues to atrocities

By LAURENA WENINGER Special to the Herald
OSOYOOS -- Students will learn a lot when they hear how Doug Short spent his summer vacation. The Osoyoos secondary school teacher went on a two-week study tour, learning about hidden atrocities in Asia during the Second World War -- and he plans to make sure his students learn about what he saw

Short joined 21 other Canadian teachers who toured China with a group called the Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia, and he witnessed first-hand what survivors have been living with since the war

When most North Americans think of the Second World War in Asia, they think of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. But the Japanese army was active in China for about 11 years before that. Short checked out eyewitness accounts and records, and met with survivors. 'These are serious, terrible atrocities,' said Short. 'We met with some survivors who have, for 60 years, been living with the effects of the biological warfare.' Short travelled to places referred to as 'rotten leg' villages. People living in these villages are testimony to biological warfare -- like anthrax bombing and the release of diseased rats. The survivors still suffer the open sores. Short said they studied three subjects other than the biological warfare: women who were captured and forced to be sex slaves; the Nanjing massacre of 1937, when about 300,000 people were killed by the Japanese army; and prisoners of war who were forced to work for corporations

'They made huge profits off of slaves -- and they still refuse to admit it,' Short said

The Japanese government refuses to admit the crimes took place. Their school textbooks minimize any such actions, and Japanese courts continue to dismiss the cases

It's been a closely guarded secret for a very long time

'Almost everyone in China knows about it, but very few people in North America know about it,' Short said. 'It's a huge historical injustice that has been committed, and I didn't even know about it. I have a university degree in history, and I never heard about it.' The issue is politically charged. Short said the Chinese government won't get involved because it wants to maintain good relations with Japan. He said even the United States was part of a coverup after the war

'The Japanese government refused to admit responsibility for this, refuses to acknowledge any of it even happened. They are saying the people of China are making this up.' That's probably the hardest thing for the survivors. After 60 years, they still haven't received acknowledgement, an apology or financial redress

That's why the group went on the tour

'It's more to try and get teachers more aware of the issues and try and take some political action,' Short said

He returned home with three chores on his to-do list: First, he's going to make sure theissue is hooked up on the Community Learning Network website for teachers. Second, he will start giving workshops to other teachers, helping them learn how to incorporate the information into the highschool curriculum. Then, he will be writing letters to start putting pressure on the government of Japan

'The German people paid back for what happened and formally apologized,' Short said, pointing to museums and historical recounting. 'But Japan has done none of that.'