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Japanese book provides new evidence on Unit 731 experiments

A book published by a Japanese writer last month provides new evidence of the experiments conducted by the notorious Unit 731 on foreign captives during World War II.

The book, "Behind Bayonets and Barbed Wire: the Secrets of Japanese Army Unit 731", was written by Fuyuko Nishisato, who published another book on Unit 731 in 2002.

During WWII, at least 200,000 soldiers from the allied forces were caught by the Japanese.

According to a document in the National Archives of the United States, in January 1945, 2,019 prisoners of war (POW) from the allied forces were kept in a concentration camp in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province. They were from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Holland and France.

Previously a journalist, Nishisato told Xinhua that she has visited China for more than 30 times since 1997 to collect evidence. She also interviewed former members of Unit 731, doctors who helped with the tests, scientists and foreign veterans who are suspected to be survivors of the biological experiments.

Unit 731 was a secret biological and chemical warfare research base established in Harbin in 1935 and the center of Japanese biological warfare in China and Southeast Asia during WWII.

According to Shimada Tsunetsugi, a former member of Unit 731, in order to test for dysentery, military doctors would take germs to the concentration camp in Shenyang, put them into water and have the POWs drink it. They would then dissect the bodies to record symptoms of the disease.

Nishisato managed to acquire a document used as evidence in post-war trials in Tokyo.

According to document No. 3113, Umezu Yoshijiro, a Japanese general, gave an order to a military doctor. Following the order, Unit 731 sent 30 soldiers to take equipment to the concentration camp in Shenyang and to undertake tests for dysentery.

Nishisato also managed to find some former POWs.

An American veteran Frank James told her that he and other POWs helped move the bodies of dead POWs to the autopsy table, where Japanese military doctors first opened the chest and then the skull. The doctors then took brain samples and removed the internal organs.

"The evidence shows that the Japanese army didn't follow the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War," Nishisato said.

Wang Tiejun, Chinese translator of the book and vice director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at Liaoning University, noted that the book gave an in-depth account of the situation, and many documents and photos were publicized for the first time.

An English version of the book will be published soon, he said.

Nishisato was previously involved in the production of a BBC documentary on Unit 731. "I was discovering the true history in an academic way," she said. "Most of the POWs have passed away, so the documents are really valuable."

"The history should be preserved, so that our descendants can know what happened in the past, and reflect on the cruelty of war," she said.

Last month, a documentary released by Japanese public broadcaster NHK triggered heated discussion within Japanese society and calls for reflection upon the war history. The subject of Unit 731 is seldom mentioned in Japan, with authorities eager to cover up and even deny that part of history.

"Japanese politicians are not fully aware of the view of international community towards Japan," Nishisato added. "I am worried about Japan's future, if they are the mainstream in governing bodies. If my book can do something to change the situation, I will be very honored."

[Source: Xinhua, Shenyang, 14Sep17]

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