another anniversary

December 13th, 2007

The 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking falls this week. Nanjing (formerly spelt Nanking) fell to the Japanese on December 13, 1937, 70 years ago today, and when they entered the city the Japanese soldiers started an orgy of rape and murder that lasted until early February, 1938, resulting in 300,000 of a population of 600,000 being killed. I don’t want to get in to all the grisly horrors of those six weeks. The articles linked above do that more than adequately. But be warned: they do not make for easy or pleasant reading.

A Nanjing Safety Zone, however, was established by the foreigners resident in Nanjing at the time, and was managed by the Nanjing Safety Zone International committee. The committee was led, odd as it may seem, by a German Nazi Party member by the name of John Rabe. Although the Japanese still entered and committed atrocities in the Safety Zone, many thousands of lives were still saved there.

What strikes me as being remarkable about the Safety Zone is that a mere ten years earlier foreigners resident in Nanjing were attacked by Kuomintang troops in the early stages of the Northern Expedition. But that is an entirely different issue.

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