Day 7 of the Week of Death is here and not a moment to soon for some I’m sure. The Week of Death has covered events that have been heartbreaking and tragic but nothing so far compares to the evil depravity and sheer horror of today’s post. The perfect post on today’s topic has already been written by blogging great Skippy Stalin at Enjoy Every Sandwich and he has graciously allowed that post to be re-printed in part here today.
The Rape of Nanking, December 9, 1937
Japan’s unspeakable cruelty toward the Chinese people began with the 1931 invasion and occupation of Manchuria. Indeed, this was the first military exercise that began the long march toward the Second Wo rld War, still two years before Adolf Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany. The full-scale invasion of the world’s most populous nation waited until the fall of 1937. Within a month, the first genocide of the modern era – what has become known as “the rape of Nanking” began.
The use of the word “rape” is not an exercise in alliteration. Once the hapless Chinese military retreated from their imperial capital, the women of Nanking suffered unimaginable indignities. Women were killed in indiscriminate acts of terror and execution, but the large majority died after extended and excruciating gang-rape.
“Surviving Japanese veterans claim that the army had officially outlawed the rape of enemy women,” writes Iris Chang. But “the military policy forbidding rape only encouraged soldiers to kill their victims afterwards.” She cites one soldier’s recollection that “It would be all right if we only raped them. I shouldn’t say all right. But we always stabbed and killed them. Because dead bodies don’t talk … Perhaps when we were raping her, we looked at her as a woman, but when we killed her, we just thought of her as something like a pig.” (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, pp. 49-50). Kenzo Okamoto, another Japanese soldier, recalled: “From the time of the landing at Hangzhou Bay, we were hungry for women! Officers issued a rough rule: If you mess with a woman, kill her afterwards, but don’t use bayonets or rifle fire. The purpose of this rule was probably to disguise who did the killing. The military code with its punishment of execution was empty words. No one was ever punished. Some officers were even worse than the soldiers.” (Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking, p. 188)
One eyewitness, Li Ke-hen, reported: “There are so many bodies on the street, victims of group rape and murder. They were all stripped naked, their breasts cut off, leaving a terrible dark brown hole; some of them were bayoneted in the abdomen, with their intestines spilling out alongside them; some had a roll of paper or a piece of wood stuffed in their vaginas” (quoted in Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking, p. 195).
John Rabe, a German (and Nazi) businessman who set up a “Nanking Safety Zone” in the city’s international settlement and thereby saved thousands of Chinese lives, described in his diary the weeks of terror endured by the women of Nanjing. Though young and conventionally attractive women were most at risk, no woman was safe from vicious rape and exploitation (often filmed as souvenirs) and probable murder thereafter.
“Groups of 3 to 10 marauding soldiers would begin by traveling through the city and robbing whatever there was to steal. They would continue by raping the women and girls and killing anything and anyone that offered any resistance, attempted to run away from them or simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were girls under the age of 8 and women over the age of 70 who were raped and then, in the most brutal way possible, knocked down and beat up.” (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, p. 119.) In addition to those killed after the violation, historian David Bergamini notes that “Many immature girls were turned loose in such a manhandled condition that they died a day or two later. … Many young women were simply tied to beds as permanent fixtures accessible to any and all comers. When they became too weepy or too diseased to arouse desire, they were disposed of. In alleys and parks lay the corpses of women who had been dishonored even after death by mutilation and stuffing.” (Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking, p. 195.)
Not all of the victims of rape were female. “Chinese men were often sodomized or forced to perform a variety of repulsive sexual acts in front of laughing Japanese soldiers,” writes Chang. “At least one Chinese man was murdered because he refused to commit necrophilia with the corpse of a woman in the snow. The Japanese also delighted in trying to coerce men who had taken lifetime vows of celibacy to engage in sexual intercourse. … The Japanese drew sadistic pleasure in forcing Chinese men to commit incest — fathers to rape their own daughters, brothers their sisters, sons their mothers … those who refused were killed on the spot.” (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, p. 95.)
And this began five years before the Holocaust in Europe. For all of their industrialized barbarity, Hitler’s Nazi war machine never approached the depths of the stomach turning depravity that the Japanese military did nothing at all to hide. In fact, as Mrs. Chang wrote, Japanese officers and enlisted men alike filmed and photographed their conquests for the amusement of their families and friends at home.
The Germans did go to some lengths to obscure their existence of their mechanized extermination camps in Eastern Europe. They were mentioned not at all in the German media during the war. This is why the Allies forced ordinary Germans to examine those camps after their liberation, to see what the government they supported had done.
Not so the Japanese media, which glorified the atrocities being committed in Nanking. In her book, Chang cites a newspaper article about a contest between two officers about which could behead the most civilians. That article was published alongside a photo of the two grinning criminals with their swords drawn. Japanese civilians on the home islands would read these stories approvingly over breakfast. Unlike the Germans, the Japanese people knew exactly what was being done in their name.
Skippy’s original post can be read in full here . His follow up post which details Japan’s failure to accept responsibility and repent for the numerous crimes against humanity it committed from 1935 – 1945 can be found here . Skippy writes posts that could easily be feature length articles in newspapers or magazines. Please take the time to read them in full.
Most of what Skippy Stalin and I learned of this horrific crime against humanity orignially came from the book “The Rape Of Nanking” by Iris Chang . Haunted by what she learned while in the course of her research on The Rape of Nanking and The Battan Death March, Iris slipped into a deep depression. Tragically, she committed suicide in late 2004 leaving a husband and two young children behind. The story of her will and perseverance has been made into a movie called “IRIS CHANG: The Rape of Nanking” and it premiering this Thursday night, December 13, at 8:00 PM on History Television in both Canada and the United States.
If you want to learn more about The rape of Nanking itself, Princeton Universtiy has an excellent online study that can be found at this link .
Week of Death grand total: 336,339 (best estimate)
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 , Day 5, Day 6, Day 7
Thank you for reading!