A documentary recently released by Japan's public broadcaster NHK has triggered heated discussions and calls for reflection upon the war history in Japanese society.
The documentary, titled "The Truth of Harbin Unit 731," revealed the outrageous crimes committed by Unit 731, a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
Unit 731, notorious for cold-blooded lethal human experimentation among other crimes, is a subject seldom touched in Japan, with the authorities eager to cover up and even deny that part of history.
The documentary, released on Aug. 13 by NHK, however, through testimonies of Unit 731 participants and authentic records of the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trials in 1949, presents vividly the cruel yet irrefutable historical truth to the unwitting public.
Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city then in northeast China. The unit, set up around 1936, conducted experiments on live human beings to test germ-releasing bombs and chemical bombs among other atrocities.
The majority of the victims they experimented on were Chinese, while a small percentage were Soviet, Mongolian, Korean, and soldiers of the Allied Forces taken captive. Some of them were children.
"I have seen no one left the camp alive (after being experimented on)," testified Kiyoshi Kawashima, an officer of Unit 731, according to an audio record of the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trials in 1949.
Toshihide Nishi, a medical officer, testified at the trials that they had taken the captives outside where the temperature was below minus 20 degrees Celsius, and fanned the victims to cause frostbites.
Kurakazu, another officer, testified that he had seen fingers of three Chinese victims in such an frostbite experiment turn black and chip off in the freezing temperature.
Takeshi Misumi, only 14 years old when he joined the unit as a junior member, told NHK that he saw with his own eyes how the unit conducted lethal human experimentation.
He also testified that just before the war ended in 1945, in order to cover up their atrocities, the unit, under the order of Japanese military, killed all the people they were experimenting on and who were still alive.
Misumi was ordered to pour gasoline on the bodies and put them on fire. The horrible scenes have since haunted him for the rest of his life.
"The war is so cruel, so inhuman ... It is something that should never have happened," he said with tears in eyes in the documentary.