Pages full of despair and fear could be written about the era known as the White Terror in Taiwan. In those days, many perished mysteriously, and their stories have been buried under the decades that followed. To this day, relatives and friends of the victims of that political oppression continue to live in the shadow of grief and agony. In many cases, they still do not know why their loved ones were killed, or even where their remains might be.
"I have tried to keep the memory alive. I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty ... not to remember would turn us into accomplices of the killers, to remember would turn anyone into a friend of the victims," said Holocaust survivor and world-renowned author Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
In keeping with the same notion that "history ought not to be forgotten," an exhibition that is a testament to the suffering during that dark era has been put together by the Presidential Office's Human Rights Advisory Committee, the National Archives Bureau and the Council of Cultural Affairs, and is now on display in the hall area of the Taipei Railway Station.
Featuring what was once highly classified information, all documents and photos on display bear witness to the White Terror era with the story behind each photo and document collectively illustrating a tragic chapter in Taiwan's history.
"Although it is painful to recall the injustices of the past, doing so is our best defense against them being repeated," said Yang Hsien-hung (
The opening of the display was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the promulgation of Martial Law on May 19, 1949, and the location of the display was specifically chosen as well.
In the White Terror era, the bulletin board in front of the Taipei Railway Station was where lists of names were posted. Names with a red check next to it meant that those people had recently been executed on the grounds of "subversion."
"People should forgive but shall never forget such a tragic page in Taiwan's history," said the vice president at the opening of the exhibition yesterday.
The exhibition will run for 10 days at the Taipei Railway Station before it goes on a nationwide tour at other railway stations around Taiwan.
Some of the main features of the exhibition present 10 of the most unjust political episodes which the committee had chosen from the numerous cases of the Martial Law era.
Prior to the staging of the exhibition, the committee on Wednesday also released a list of "Human Rights Persecutors" who had played roles in these cases.
"We need to continue to look into these issues for history's sake," said committee member Chen I-shen (
The White Terror period began soon after the 228 Incident in 1947, during which a brutal military crackdown took place against dissidents protesting against the corrupt administration of Chen Yi (陳儀), a governor appointed by Chiang-Kai-shek (蔣介石) to help rebuild Taiwan after World War II.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) massacred tens of thousands of people, mainly the island's intellectual and social elite, for fear that they might be communist sympathizers or resist Nationalist rule.