Memories of China’s “Auschwitz Camp”

Children of WWII survivors visited the site of a former concentration camp in north China’s Shanxi Province.

At least 100,000 Chinese people were once imprisoned and tortured in the “Taiyuan Concentration Camp”, built by the invading Japanese army.

Covering an area of about 20 hectares, the former “Taiyuan Concentration Camp” was one of the biggest of its kind in North China during WWII.

Since 1938, the Camp was used by the invading Japanese forces to exploit Chinese labor, carry out bacteriological tests and vivisections on inmates, and conduct bayonet drills for Japanese soldiers.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHANG TIESUO, Researcher in Shanxi Province
“During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, many prisoners in this concentration camp were forced to toil in northeast China or Japan. And over 300 prisoners were bayoneted alive by Japanese soldiers for drills.”

Zhao Ameng’s father was one of thousands of Chinese who had been imprisoned in the camp, and also one of the lucky few who managed to escape the hell-like facility.

Zhao first came here with his father in 1995. Now it’s his sixth visit.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHAO AMENG, Son of Taiyuan Concentration Camp survivor
“Those imprisoned people were poorly fed. They only ate twice a day, just porridge and vegetable rolls. The young prisoners were forced to do hard labor.”

Compared with 20 years ago, Zhang says, the former concentration camp has fallen into disrepair.

The site was littered with tires, wires, wood, plastic bags and other garbage.

These two rows of cells are the only structures that are relatively well-kept.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHAO AMENG, Son of Taiyuan Concentration Camp survivor
“The Taiyuan camp is one of four biggest concentration camps built by the Japanese during WWII. It stood witness to Japan’s heinous war crimes and I hope it will not fall into ruins in our hands.”

To protect the site, the local authority has drafted a special plan, pooled opinions from experts, and granted a real estate company the right to restore the structures.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHANG TIESUO, Researcher in Shanxi Province
“Like Auschwitz Camp, the Taiyuan Concentration Camp is a living textbook, reminding us that we should learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes. We need to protect and save it, and make it a important educational base for all Chinese people.”

Zhang says, restoring the facility is not aimed at fanning hatred, but to remind people of atrocities of war and the importance of peace.

Leave a Comment