In December 1937, in the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocity- one of the worst in world history- continues to be denied by the Japanese government.
The Rape of Nanking tells the story from three perspectives: that of the Japanese soldiers who performed it; of the Chinese civilians who endured it; and finally of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved almost 300,000 Chinese. It was Iris Chang who discovered the diaries of the German leader of this rescue effort, John Rabe, whom she calls the "Oskar Schindler of China." A loyal supporter of Adolf Hitler, but far from the terror planned in his Nazi-controlled homeland, he worked tirelessly to save the innocent from slaughter.
Listen to Iris Chang talk about this book on C-SPAN's Booknotes (11/17/97).
Iris Chang's work is incredibly important, revealing in the most disturbing detail how Japanese troops ravaged China before war came to the rest of the world. The racial hatred, rationalized murder and large scale butchery is horrific. If you want to know what war is truly all about, this is it. But Chang also gives the perspectives of the Chinese victims of the Nanking massacre and the unsung German diplomat who did what he could to save trapped civilians. (John B.)
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