Remembrance day marked with speeches, memorial

With nearly a full attendance and moving personal speeches, the Filipino American Association of Sonoma State University and the Rape of Nanking Redress Coalition of the Bay Area organized a Pacific War Remembrance day on Sunday at 2 p.m. at SSU’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove. 

According to an article on Sonoma State’s NewsCenter website, Pacific War remembrance is specifically related to crimes the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces committed against people in the Pacific during World War II. 

“Thousands were crowded into the holds of Japanese ships without water, food or sufficient insulation… massacres only occurred in schools, hospitals and convents,” said senior and biology major Paolo Ochoa. 

The memorial event continued with Ochoa giving a speech on the history of the war and asking for the Japanese government to acknowledge its past military actions. 

“My ancestors had suffered untold pain and loss. The government of Japan must formally acknowledge its war crimes and make fair compensations to pacific war victims and their families,” Ochoa said. 

Professor of mathematics and statistics Jeen Bee Chan, who’s also chair of the Rape of Nanking Redress Coalition gave the next speech. She began with thanking all the attendees and pointed to the memorial rock that she helped contribute to the memorial grove. 

“This memorial rock is significant. It is the first and only memorial in North America to honor the memory of all 35 million Pacific War victims. The enormity of 35 million is staggering,” said Chan. “If you add up the population of the 27 most populous U.S. cities, it is still under 35 million. Just imagine, all of those people were killed in Asia during the forgotten holocaust.” 

She continued by addressing how much the memorial rock represents in context to the atrocities that the people endured.  She termed these atrocities as the “forgotten Asian holocaust.”

“People in Manchuria were chased away from their homeland, they gave up their treasure and they left their old parents to die there because they couldn’t run away. That marked the beginning of the Japanese invasion of China. They lost their homes, they were murdered, burned, villages were looted and women were raped. All of the numerous unspeakable, physical and emotional torture,” Chan said. 

Chan also addressed the issue of living human beings being used as experiments during the war. She also used the example of Germany, acknowledging their war crimes and paying their dues and asked this to be done with the “forgotten holocaust”.

As for the students who were in the crowd, some expressed the fact that they learned more and connected certain aspects of the presentation to their own family history.

“I could actually relate to this whole situation as well because my parents are Albanian and they just recently got their independence five years ago. If people know about this, then people become more aware and if more people are aware they become more active and more involved into making sure this doesn’t happen again,” said junior and biochemistry major Liridona Leti.

For more information about SSU’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove, visit their website at sonoma.edu/holocaustmemorialgrove.