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The Rape of Nanking

“Tokyo” by Mo Hayder.

The Good German of Nanking – the dairies of John Rabe, edited by Erwin Wickert

Two books concerned with the notorious “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese forces in 1937-38.

The first is a fictional thriller, in which the socially dysfunctional heroine, Grey, has been obsessed since childhood with the tale that a movie film record exists of some of the Nanking atrocities. She travels to Tokyo to interview an aged Chinese survivor of the massacre. She becomes convinced that this man has the film. While trying to persuade him to show her the film, she also gets involves with a nasty Yakuza gangster. The Nanking atrocities as depicted in the novel are also very nasty.

Over to the non-fictional diaries of John Rabe, who was a German businessman who worked in Nanking, running the Siemens office there. When the Japanese invaded, he felt obliged to stay on to protect his firm’s interests, and protect the Siemens Chinese staff and their dependants as best he could. He was also involved, with other foreigners, in setting up a “Safety Zone which they hoped would protect the Chinese civilians from the Japanese soldiers, not to mention the disorderly retreating Chinese troops. He also kept a diary.

One should recollect that at the time Germany and Japan were allies, so there is every reason to accept Rabe’s account as accurate. The Japanese troops killed all Chinese soldiers they could find, and also Chinese men whom they suspected of being soldiers, and broke into buildings looking for women to rape, killing any Chinese who resisted. They looted and destroyed throughout the city, and killed all livestock in the surrounding countryside, and embarked on a systematic looting and arson that eventually left much of the city in ashes. The Chinese were killed for resisting the ravages of the disorderly Japanese troops, or for no reason at all. In total, the number who died is thought to run to around a quarter of a million, though at the time nobody was counting the dead. Rabe’s efforts, though continually frustrated by Japanese indifference, are thought to have saved a similar number.

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