26 December 2014

Rape of Nanking

The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, 1997, Excerpts

Few atrocities in world history compare in intensity and scale to the Rape of Nanking during World War II. Looking back upon millennia of history, no race or culture has a monopoly on wartime cruelty. The veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin – one that can be easily stripped away, especially by the stresses of war. When the city fell on December 13, 1937, Japanese soldiers began an orgy of cruelty seldom matched in world history.

Atrocities such as the Rape of Nanking can be seen as a predictable if not inevitable outgrowth of ceding to an authoritarian regime, dominated by a military and imperial elite, the unchallenged power to commit an entire people to realizing the sick goals of the few with the unbridled power to set them.

Japan’s behavior during World War II was less a product of dangerous people than of a dangerous government, in a vulnerable culture, in dangerous times, able to see dangerous rationalizations to those whose human instincts told them otherwise. The Rape of Nanking should be perceived as a cautionary tale – an illustration of how easily human beings can be encouraged to allow their teenagers to be molded into efficient killing machines able to suppress their better natures.

Governor of Japan broadcaster NHK denies Nanjing massacre
04 Feb 2014
A governor of Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, has denied that the Nanjing massacre took place. "In 1938, Chiang Kai-shek tried to publicize Japan's responsibility for the Nanking Massacre, but the nations of the world ignored him. Why? Because it never happened. Atrocities were committed by all sides in wars and that there was no need to teach such things to Japanese children.” Mr Hyakuta's comments come days after the broadcaster's new head, Katsuto Momii, said that the Japanese military's use of sex slaves during World War Two was a practice common in any country at war.  "Such women could be found in any nation that was at war, including France and Germany," he said, describing international anger as "puzzling".

Nanjing massacre: China's Xi Jinping leads first state commemoration
13 Dec 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over his country's first state commemoration of the Nanjing massacre. China says 300,000 civilians were massacred when the city was occupied by Japan's troops in 1937, although some Japanese nationalists dispute this. President Xi told survivors that to deny a crime was to repeat it but insisted the ceremony was to promote peace, not prolong hatred. Beijing says Tokyo has never properly apologized or atoned for its wartime past. China says tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in Nanjing, some Japanese politicians and nationalists deny a massacre even took place. Millions of Chinese people were killed when Japan occupied China in the 1930s and 1940s.

Tree of Heaven by Binstock
Tent of the Orange Mist by Paul West, 1997.

The Rape of Nanking: An undeniable History in Photographs, published in 1996.


City of Life and Death [2009]: Director Chuan Lu pulls off a rare feat by providing a clear-eyed drama about an event in Chinese-Japanese history -- the 1937 Rape of Nanking following that city's capture by Japan -- that still casts a shadow over relations between the countries. Shot in black and white, the film chronicles the six-week period through the eyes of multiple characters -- including a Japanese soldier, a refugee camp supervisor, a resistance fighter and others.
One of the best war movies I've ever seen, especially effective in bringing to the screen the horrors that befall a besieged city, both from the victims' and the victors' perspective. Surprised this movie hasn't gotten more widespread attention.

Nanking: Co-directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman helm this Sundance selection chronicling the story of "the Rape of Nanking," a World War II-era tragedy in which more than 200,000 Chinese citizens were murdered and tens of thousands were raped at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway and Stephen Dorff portray some of the Westerners who rose to the occasion with quiet acts of heroism.

John Rabe: Chairman of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, the good Nazi. Florian Gallenberger directs this gripping drama about John Rabe (Ulrich Tukur), a German businessman living in Nanking, China, who in 1937 used his Nazi party affiliation to save some 200,000 Chinese civilians from slaughter at the hands of the Japanese army. As Rabe labors to establish an official safety zone to shelter the innocent, he forms an unlikely friendship with an American doctor (Steve Buscemi). Anne Consigny and Daniel Brühl co-star.

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