Did the Nanjing Massacre really take place?

Japanese orgy of violence in China

The "Nanking Massacre" began 75 years ago

From Barbara Geschwinde

Commemoration of the Nanking massacre in China (picture-alliance / dpa / Chinafotopress)

On December 13, 1937, the Japanese army reached the Chinese capital Nanking. In the subsequent massacre, the Japanese murdered, raped and looted. At the political level, the number of victims is still disputed today.

"The Japsen had killed so many people that all rivers, ponds and springs were contaminated and they could no longer find clean drinking water themselves. Even the rice they ate was all red because they boiled it in bloody water. Once we did the cook in a Japanese field kitchen gave a couple of bowls of this rice. My mouth tasted like blood hours later. "

A quote from the novel "Nanking Requiem" by Ha Jin. The writer used the diaries of Japanese soldiers as a model.

Since the early 1930s, the Japanese, hard hit by the Great Depression, pursued an aggressive, imperialist policy to expand their colonies. They had invaded Manchuria and were advancing from there towards Beijing. On July 7, 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War began with a firefight at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. By December, the Japanese army advanced rapidly and occupied large parts of northern China. The Japanese hoped that the fall of Nanking, the capital of Chiang Kai-shek, would quickly break China's will to resist.

When the Japanese troops approached Nanking, most of the foreigners left the city. Only a handful of Europeans and Americans stayed. Under the direction of the German Siemens employee John Rabe, they established a security zone that offered refuge for the civilian population. Around 250,000 Chinese found protection there. On December 13, 1937, Japanese troops occupied Nanking. For about six weeks, the Japanese indulged in an orgy of rape and mass executions. The number of victims can only be estimated; the Chinese speak of 300,000 dead and 80,000 raped.

Nanking is the symbol of Japanese war crimes in China. To this day, many Chinese have made it impossible to think about reconciliation with Japan. The massacre occupies a central place in the historical memory of the citizens of Nanking; the past is omnipresent here. The Chinese historian Xiangmin Yang:

"There are more than 17 memorial stones. They are scattered across the city. One was almost destroyed by construction work, which caused a scandal."

Between 1946 and 1948, the victorious Allied powers tried the Japanese war criminals in Tokyo. But historians discussed the events largely behind closed doors. In the 1970s, a Japanese journalist published a series of articles about the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II. The deniers of these crimes immediately made their voices heard in Japan. The Japanologist Steffi Richter:

"In the 1980s at the latest, serious historians in Japan established that Nanking took place, there are such and the documents, there are such and the sources. The writing of the history of the Nanking massacre is a process. One the revisionist, Higashi Nakano, he clumsily assumes that let's have a look at the mass media of 1938, the word Nanking massacre does not appear there, so the Nanking massacre never happened. Nonsense. "

The commemoration of the Nanking massacre took many twists and turns in the politics of history and remembrance culture of the People's Republic of China. When the communists took power in China in 1949, they tried to ignore the massacre so as not to strain relations with the economically powerful neighboring country Japan. After Mao's death, politics changed. Since then, China has been pushing for Japanese repentance. In 1985 a memorial opened in Nanking with numerous documents, photos and historical film recordings of the massacre. In one room of the museum, a drop of water falls from the ceiling every twelve seconds and a photo of a murdered person lights up. This symbolizes the fact that someone dies every twelve seconds: 300,000 victims in six weeks. Since the 1990s, the Nanking massacre has been more intense than ever: music, films, literature and scientific publications have appeared. A joint Sino-Japanese history book by historians from both countries is still pending. And to this day, China has been waiting in vain for an official political apology from Japan.

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