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Unit 731 Museum

Unit 731 War Crimes Museum,Harbin TripWhat happened here is little known in the Western world, which makes this museum a very worthwhile visit despite being located in Harbin's inconvenient suburbs (about 20 km from the downtown). Between 1939 and 1945, members of Japan's Unit 731 killed roughly 3,000 Chinese, Russian, Mongolian, and North Korean prisoners of war in a series of nauseating experiments designed to perfect their biological weapons program. Japanese soldiers blew up most of the 6-sq.-km facility at the end of the war, and the unit's existence was kept covered up for decades with the help of the United States government, rumored to have purchased the research with a promise of immunity for participating doctors. A documentary about 731 released in the 1990s prompted Harbin to renovate the facility and add English signs in 2001.

What's best about the museum is that it lets the images and details tell the story, rather than resorting to the heavy-handed propaganda that plagues other Chinese war memorials like the Unit 731 War Crimes Museum,China History Travel PhotosNanjing Massacre Site. An exhibition in the main office build ing contains a series of grim but nicely presented displays on the experiments, in which victims (called maruta, Japanese for "log") were frozen, burned, injected with hemorrhagic fever virus, exposed to plague and cholera, and sometimes dissected alive. Most chilling is the medical instruments display (room 9), with its test tubes, needles, saws, and coat rack vivisection hooks (used to "hang human viscera," aka organs). The smokestacks of a large incinerator, where dead maruta were burned, still stand on the edge of a weed-strewn field in back. 

The museum consists of a big crime exhibition hall and dozens of crime sites. Currently, the well-kept sites (about 20) mainly distribute in the bungalow area, which include the headquarters building of Unit 731, the guards' building, building of the power squad, sheds for breeding rats and etc.. The crime exhibition hall has 16 sections, which displays more than 160 pictures, over 70 exhibits and many testimonies of witnesses. These evidences have reinforced the nefarious activities of the Japanese militarists who had conducted germ war in China.

Once you visit the Unit 731 War Crimes Museum, a guide can take you to the museum's backyard to see where the original germ factory stood, the remnants of a power generating facility for the factory, and a series of sheds where the Japanese once bred disease-carrying rats for the experiments.

Questions & Comments

  • Paula Thompson on May 12, 2011, 2:26 am

    Does trhe Unit 731 Exhibit "travel"? That is, could we have the exhibit on tempotemporary loan here in the US (Jacksonville, FL)?

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