|The Nanjing Massacre|
|Hepburn Rōmaji||Nankin Jiken,
The Nanjing Massacre, commonly known as "The Rape of Nanking," was an infamous war crime committed by the Japanese military in and around the then capital of China, Nanjing, after it fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on December 13, 1937 (at the time, Nanjing was known in English as Nanking). The duration of the massacre is not clearly defined, although the violence lasted well into the next six weeks until early February 1938.
During the occupation of Nanjing, the Japanese army committed numerous atrocities, such as rape, looting, arson, and the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. Although the executions began under the pretext of eliminating Chinese soldiers disguised as civilians, a large number of innocent men were intentionally identified as enemy combatants and executed—or simply killed outright—as the massacre gathered momentum. A large number of women and children were also killed, as rape and murder became more widespread.
The extent of the atrocities is debated between China and Japan, with numbers ranging from some Japanese claims of several hundred,  to the Chinese claim of a non-combatant death toll of 300,000. A number of Japanese researchers consider 100,000–200,000 to be an approximate value. Other nations usually believe the death toll to be between 150,000–300,000.  This number was first promulgated in January 1938 by Harold Timperly, a journalist in China during the Japanese invasion, based on reports from contemporary eyewitnesses. Other sources, including Iris Chang's commercially-successful book, The Rape of Nanking, also promote 300,000 as the death toll.
While the Japanese government has acknowledged the incident did occur, some Japanese nationalists have argued, partly using the Imperial Japanese Army's claims at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, that the death toll was military in nature and that no civilian atrocities ever occurred. This claim has been refuted by various figures, citing statements of non-Chinese at the Tribunal, other eyewitnesses and by photographic and archaeological evidence that civilian deaths did occur. Present Sino-Japanese relations—and Japanese relations with much of the rest of the East Asian region—are complicated by the historical embitterment of these nations with Japan's actions before and during World War II.
By August of 1937, in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Imperial Japanese Army encountered strong resistance and suffered high casualties in the Battle of Shanghai. The battle was bloody, as both sides were worn down by attrition in hand-to-hand combat.
On August 5, 1937, Hirohito personally ratified his army's proposition to remove the constraints of international law on the treatment of Chinese prisoners. This directive also advised staff officers to stop using the term "prisoner of war".
On the way from Shanghai to Nanjing, Japanese soldiers committed numerous atrocities, indicating that the Nanjing Massacre was not an isolated incident. The most famous event was the "contest to kill 100 people using a sword."
By mid-November, the Japanese had captured Shanghai with the help of naval and aerial bombardment. The General Staff Headquarters in Tokyo decided not to expand the war, due to the high casualties incurred and the low morale of the troops.
As the Japanese Army drew closer to Nanjing, Chinese civilians fled the city in droves, and the Chinese military put into effect a scorched earth campaign, aimed at destroying anything that might be of value to the invading Japanese army. Targets within and without the city walls—such as military barracks, private homes, the Chinese Ministry of Communication, forests and even entire villages—were burnt to cinders, at an estimated value of 20 to 30 million (1937) US dollars.
On December 2, Emperor Showa nominated one of his uncles, prince Asaka, as commander of the invasion. It is difficult to establish if, as a member of the imperial family, Asaka had a superior status to general Iwane Matsui, who was officially commander in chief, but it is clear that, as the top ranking officer, he had authority over divisions commanders, lieutenant-generals Kesago Nakajima and Heisuke Yanagawa.
Many Westerners were living in the city at the time, conducting trade or on missionary trips with various religious groups. As the Japanese Army began to launch bombing raids over Nanjing, most Westerners and all reporters fled to their respective countries except for 22 persons. Siemens businessman John Rabe (presumably because of his status as a Nazi and the German-Japanese bilateral Anti-Comintern Pact) stayed behind and formed a committee, called the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone. Rabe was elected as its leader. This committee established the Nanjing Safety Zone in the western quarter of the city. The Japanese government had agreed not to attack parts of the city that did not contain Chinese military, and the members of the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone managed to persuade the Chinese government to move all their troops out of the area.
The Japanese did respect the Zone to an extent; no shells entered that part of the city leading up to the Japanese occupation, except a few stray shots. During the chaos following the attack of the city, some people were killed in the Safety Zone, but the atrocities in the rest of the city were far greater by all accounts.
On December 7, the Japanese army issued a command to all troops, advising that because occupying a foreign capital was an unprecedented event for the Japanese military, those soldiers who "[commit] any illegal acts," "dishonor the Japanese Army," "loot," or "cause a fire to break out, even because of their carelessness" would be severely punished. The Japanese military continued to march forward, breaching the last lines of Chinese resistance, and arriving outside the walled city of Nanjing on December 9. At noon, the military dropped leaflets into the city, urging the surrender of Nanjing within 24 hours.
The Japanese awaited an answer. When no Chinese envoy had arrived by 1:00 p.m. the following day, General Matsui Iwane issued the command to take Nanjing by force. On December 12, after two days of Japanese attack, under heavy artillery fire and aerial bombardment, General Tang Sheng-chi ordered his men to retreat. What followed was nothing short of chaos. Some Chinese soldiers stripped civilians of their clothing in a desperate attempt to blend in, and many others were shot in the back by their own comrades as they tried to flee. Those who actually made it outside the city walls fled north to the Yangtze River, only to find that there were no vessels remaining to take them. Some then jumped into the wintry waters and drowned.
On December 13, the Japanese entered the walled city of Nanjing, facing hardly any military resistance.
Eyewitness accounts from the period state that over the course of six weeks following the fall of Nanjing, Japanese troops engaged in rape, murder, theft, and arson. The most reliable accounts came from foreigners who opted to stay behind in order to protect Chinese civilians from certain harm, including the diaries of John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin. Others include first-person testimonies of the Nanjing Massacre survivors. Still more were gathered from eyewitness reports of journalists, both Western and Japanese, as well as the field diaries of certain military personnel. An American missionary, John Magee, stayed behind to provide a 16mm film documentary and first-hand photographs of the Nanjing Massacre. This film is called the Magee Film. It is often quoted as an important evidence of the Nanjing Massacre. In addition, although few Japanese veterans have admitted to having participated in atrocities in Nanjing, some—most notably Shiro Azuma—have admitted to criminal behavior.
Immediately after the city's fall, a group of foreign expatriates headed by John Rabe formed the 15-man International Committee on November 22 and drew up the Nanjing Safety Zone in order to safeguard the lives of civilians in the city, where the population ran from 200,000 to 250,000. It is likely that the civilian death toll would have been higher had this safe haven not been created. Rabe and American missionary Lewis S. C. Smythe, the secretary of the International Committee, who was also a professor of sociology at the University of Nanjing, recorded atrocities of the Japanese troops and filed reports of complaints to the Japanese embassy.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East stated that 20,000 (and perhaps up to 80,000) women were raped—their ages ranging from infants to the elderly (as old as 80). Rapes were often performed in public during the day, sometimes in front of spouses or family members. A large number of them were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were then killed immediately after the rape, often by mutilation. According to some testimonies, other women were forced into military prostitution as comfort women. There are even stories of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest. Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape daughters. One pregnant woman who was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; the baby was perfectly healthy. Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were forced to rape women for the amusement of the Japanese. Chinese men were forced to have sex with corpses. Any resistance would be met with summary executions. While the rape peaked immediately following the fall of the city, it continued for the duration of the Japanese occupation.
Various foreign residents in Nanjing at the time recorded their experiences with what was going on in the city:
Robert Wilson in his letter to his family: The slaughter of civilians is appalling. I could go on for pages telling of cases of rape and brutality almost beyond belief. Two bayoneted corpses are the only survivors of seven street cleaners who were sitting in their headquarters when Japanese soldiers came in without warning or reason and killed five of their number and wounded the two that found their way to the hospital. 
John Magee in his letter to his wife: They not only killed every prisoner they could find but also a vast number of ordinary citizens of all ages…. Just the day before yesterday we saw a poor wretch killed very near the house where we are living.
Robert Wilson in another letter to his family: They [Japanese soldiers] bayoneted one little boy, killing him, and I spent an hour and a half this morning patching up another little boy of eight who had five bayonet wounds including one that penetrated his stomach, a portion of omentum was outside the abdomen. 
Immediately after the fall of the city, Japanese troops embarked on a determined search for former soldiers, in which thousands of young men were captured. Many were taken to the Yangtze River, where they were machine-gunned so their bodies would be carried down to Shanghai. Others were reportedly used for live bayonet practice. Decapitation was a popular method of killing, while more drastic practices included burning, nailing to trees, live burial, and hanging by the tongue. Some people were beaten to death. The Japanese also summarily executed many pedestrians on the streets, usually under the pretext that they might be soldiers disguised in civilian clothing.
Thousands were led away and mass-executed in an excavation known as the "Ten-Thousand-Corpse Ditch," a trench measuring about 300m long and 5m wide. Since records were not kept, estimates regarding the number of victims buried in the ditch range from 4,000 to 20,000. However, most scholars and historians consider the number to be around 12,000 victims.
Women and children were not spared from the horrors of the massacres. Oftentimes, Japanese soldiers cut off the breasts, disemboweled them, or in the case of pregnant women, cut open the uterus and removed the fetus. Witnesses recall Japanese soldiers throwing babies into the air and catching them with their bayonets. Pregnant women were often the target of murder, as they would often be bayoneted in the belly, sometimes after rape. Many women were first brutally raped then killed. The actual scene of this massacre is introduced in detail in the documentary film of the movie "The Battle of China."
The Konoe government was well aware of the atrocities. On January 17, Foreign minister Koki Hirota received a telegram written by Manchester Guardian correspondant H. J. Timperley intercepted by the occupation government in Shanghai. In this telegram, Timperley wrote:
"Since return (to) Shanghai (a) few days ago I investigated reported atrocities committed by Japanese Army in Nanjing and elsewhere. Verbal accounts (of) reliable eye-witnesses and letters from individuals whose credibility (is) beyond question afford convincing proof (that) Japanese Army behaved and (is) continuing (to) behave in (a) fashion reminiscent (of) Attila (and) his Huns. (Not) less than three hundred thousand Chinese civilians slaughtered, many cases (in) cold blood."
It is estimated that as much as two-thirds of the city was destroyed as a result of arson. According to reports, Japanese troops torched newly-built government buildings as well as the homes of many civilians. There was considerable destruction to areas outside the city walls. Soldiers pillaged from the poor and the wealthy alike. The lack of resistance from Chinese troops and civilians in Nanjing meant that the Japanese soldiers were free to "divvy up" the city's valuables as they saw fit. This resulted in the widespread looting and burglary. General Matsui Iwane was given an art collection worth $2,000,000 that was stolen from a Shanghai banker.
There is great debate as to the extent of the war atrocities in Nanjing, especially regarding estimates of the death toll. The issues involved in calculating the number of victims are largely based on the debatees' definitions of the geographical range and the duration of the event, as well as their definition of the "victims."
The most conservative viewpoint is that the geographical area of the incident should be limited to the few square kilometers of the city known as the Safety Zone, where the civilians gathered after the invasion. Many Japanese historians seized upon the fact that during the Japanese invasion there were only 200,000–250,000 citizens in Nanjing as reported by John Rabe, to argue that the PRC's estimate of 300,000 deaths is a vast exaggeration.
However, many historians include a much larger area around the city. Including the Xiaguan district (the suburbs north of Nanjing city, about 31 square km in size) and other areas on the outskirts of the city, the population of greater Nanjing was running between 535,000 and 635,000 just prior to the Japanese occupation. Some historians also include six counties around Nanjing, known as the Nanjing Special Municipality.
The duration of the incident is naturally defined by its geography: the earlier the Japanese entered the area, the longer the duration. The Battle of Nanjing ended on December 13, when the divisions of the Japanese Army entered the walled city of Nanjing. The Tokyo War Crime Tribunal defined the period of the massacre to the ensuing six weeks. More conservative estimates say the massacre started on December 14, when the troops entered the Safety Zone, and that it lasted for six weeks. Historians who define the Nanjing Massacre as having started from the time the Japanese Army entered Jiangsu province push the beginning of the massacre to around mid-November to early December (Suzhou fell on November 19), and stretch the end of the massacre to late March 1938. Naturally, the number of victims proposed by these historians is much greater than more conservative estimates.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated in two (seemingly conflicting) reports that "over 200,000" and "over 100,000" civilians and prisoners of war were murdered during the first six weeks of the occupation. That number was based on burial records submitted by charitable organizations—including the Red Swastika Society and the Chung Shan Tang (Tsung Shan Tong)—the research done by Smythe, and some estimates given by survivors.
In 1947, at the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, the verdict for Lieutenant General Hisao Tani—the commander of the Sixth Division—quoted a figure of more than 300,000 dead. This estimate was made from burial records and eyewitness accounts. It concluded that some 190,000 were illegally executed at various execution sites and 150,000 were killed one-by-one. The death toll of 300,000 is the official estimate engraved on the stone wall at the entrance of the "Memorial Hall for Compatriot Victims of the Japanese Military's Nanking Massacre" in Nanjing.
Some modern Japanese historians, such as Kasahara Tokushi of Tsuru University and Fujiwara Akira, a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, take into account the entire Nanjing Special Municipality, which consisted of the walled city and its neighboring six counties, and have come up with an estimate of approximately 200,000 dead. Other Japanese historians, depending on their definition of the geographical and time duration of the killings, place the death toll on a much wider scale from 40,000 to 300,000. In China today most estimates of the Nanjing Massacre range from 200,000 to 400,000, with no notable historian going below 100,000.
Among the evidence presented at the Tokyo trial was the "Magee film," documentary footage included in the American movie "The Battle of China," as well as the oral and written testimonies of people residing in the international zone.
Following evidence of mass atrocities, General Iwane Matsui was judged for "crimes against humanity" and, in 1948, sentenced to death by the Tokyo tribunal. Matsui went out of his way to protect Prince Asaka by shifting blame to lower ranking division commanders. Generals Hisao Tani and Rensuke Isogai were sentenced to death by the Nanking tribunal.
In accord with the policy of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Emperor Hirohoto himself and all the members of the imperial family were not prosecuted. Prince Asaka, who was the ranking officer in the city at the height of the atrocities, made only a deposition to the International Prosecution Section of the Tokyo tribunal on May 1, 1946. Asaka denied any massacre of Chinese and claimed never to have received complaints about the conduct of his troops.
At present, both China and Japan have acknowledged the occurrence of wartime atrocities. However, disputes over the historical portrayal of these events have been at the root of continuing political tensions between China and Japan.
The widespread atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanjing were first reported to the world by the Westerners residing in the Nanjing Safety Zone. For instance, on January 11, 1938, a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Harold Timperley, tried to cable his estimate of "not less than 300,000 Chinese civilians" killed in cold blood in "Nanjing and elsewhere." His message was relayed from Shanghai to Tokyo by Kōki Hirota, to be sent out to the Japanese embassies in Europe and the United States. Dramatic reports of Japanese brutality against Chinese civilians by American journalists, as well as the Panay incident, which occurred just before the occupation of Nanjing, helped turn American public opinion against Japan. These, in part, led to a series of events which culminated in the American declaration of war on Japan after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Interest in the Nanjing Massacre waned into near obscurity until 1972, the year China and Japan normalized diplomatic relationships. In China, to foster the newly found friendship with Japan, the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong ostensibly suppressed the mention of the Nanjing Massacre from public discourse and the media, which the Communist Party directly controlled. Therefore, the entire debate on the Nanjing Massacre during the 1970s took place in Japan. In commemoration of the normalization, one major Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, ran a series of articles entitled "Travels in China" (中国の旅 chūgoku no tabi), written by journalist Katsuichi Honda. The articles detailed the atrocities of the Japanese Army within China, including the Nanjing Massacre. In the series, Honda mentioned an episode in which two officers competed to slay 100 people with their swords. The truth of this incident is hotly disputed and critics seized on the opportunity to imply that the episode, as well as the Nanjing Massacre and all its accompanying articles, were largely falsified. This is regarded as the start of the Nanjing Massacre controversy in Japan.
The debate concerning the actual occurrence of killings and rapes took place mainly in the 1970s. The Chinese government's statements about the event came under attack during this time, because they were said to rely too heavily on personal testimonies and anecdotal evidence. Also coming under attack were the burial records and photographs presented in the Tokyo War Crime Court, which were said to be fabrications by the Chinese government, artificially manipulated or incorrectly attributed to the Nanjing Massacre.
On the other hand, recent excavation activities and efforts at historical re-evaluation have suggested that the original casualties may have been underestimated largely due to the fact that the large number of refugees fleeing from other provinces and killed in Nanjing was uncertain until recently.
The Japanese distributor of the film The Last Emperor (1987) edited out the stock footage of the Rape of Nanking from the film.
Controversy flared up again in 1982, when the Japanese Ministry of Education censored any mention of the Nanjing Massacre in a high school textbook. The reason given by the ministry was that the Nanjing Massacre was not a well-established historical event. The author of the textbook, Professor Saburō Ienaga, sued the Ministry of Education in an extended case, which was won by the plaintiff in 1997.
A number of Japanese cabinet ministers, as well as some high-ranking politicians, have also made comments denying the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army in World War II. Some subsequently resigned after protests from China and South Korea. In response to these and similar incidents, a number of Japanese journalists and historians formed the Nankin Jiken Chōsa Kenkyūkai (Nanjing Incident Research Group). The research group has collected large quantities of archival materials as well as testimonies from both Chinese and Japanese sources.
The more hardline members of the government cabinet feel that the extent of crimes committed has been exaggerated as a pretext to surging Chinese nationalism. Such conservative forces have been accused of gradually reducing the number of casualties by manipulating data.
The events of the Nanjing Massacre were recreated in a cinematic adaptation called Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995) by Chinese director T. F. Mou. This film includes original footage of the massacre by the American missionary, John Magee, known as the Magee Film.
The Nanjing Massacre is also the subject of the 2007 documentary film Nanking. The film makes use of letters and diaries from the era as well as archive footage and interviews with surviving victims and perpetrators of the massacre. It was directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman.
All links retrieved November 6, 2018.
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