Oskar Schindler’s Contemporaries: The Nazi John Rabe and the Rape of Nanking
John Rabe (November 23, 1882 – January 5, 1950) was a German businessman who is best known for his efforts to stop the atrocities of the Japanese army during the Nanking Occupation and, failing in those efforts, his work to protect and succour Chinese civilians during the event. The Nanking Safety Zone, which he helped to establish, sheltered approximately 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the massacre …
The Nanking Massacre killed hundreds of thousands of people, while Rabe and his zone administrators tried frantically to stop the atrocities. His attempts to appeal to the Japanese by using his Nazi membership credentials only delayed them; but that delay allowed hundreds of refugees to escape. The documentary Nanking credited him for saving the lives of 250,000 Chinese civilians. It is said Rabe rescued between 200,000 – 250,000 Chinese people.
In his diary Rabe documented Japanese atrocities committed during the assault upon and occupation of the city. On December 13, 1937, he wrote:
It is not until we tour the city that we learn the extent of destruction. We come across corpses every 100 to 200 yards. The bodies of civilians that I examined had bullet holes in their backs. These people had been presumably fleeing and were shot from behind. The Japanese march through the city in groups of ten to twenty soldiers and loot the shops … I watched with my own eyes as they looted the café of our German baker Herr Kiessling. Hempel’s hotel was broken into as well, as almost every shop on Chung Shang and Taiping Road.
December 17, 1937:
Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall. When I show them my party badge, they return the same way. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped, and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I managed to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hospital…. Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling Girls’ College alone. You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.
… On February 28, 1938, Rabe left Nanjing, travelling to Shanghai and then back to Germany. He took with him a large number of source materials documenting the atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanjing.
Rabe showed films and photographs of Japanese atrocities in lecture presentations in Berlin and wrote to Hitler to use his influence to persuade the Japanese to stop any more inhumane violence. As a result, Rabe was detained and interrogated by the Gestapo and his letter was never delivered to Hitler. Due to the intervention of Siemens AG, Rabe was released. He was allowed to keep evidence of the massacre, excluding the film, but was not allowed to lecture or write on the subject …
After the war, Rabe was denounced for his Nazi Party membership and arrested first by the Russians and then by the British. However, investigations exonerated him of any wrongdoing. He was formally declared “de-Nazified” by the Allies in June 1946 but thereafter lived in relative poverty. His family was also literally starving at one point in time when he (Rabe) was partly supported by the monthly food and money parcels sent by the Chinese government in memory of his actions during the Nanjing Massacre …
On January 5, 1950, Rabe died of a stroke. In 1997 his tombstone was moved from Berlin to Nanjing where it received a place of honour at the massacre memorial site.
Entry filed under: Inspiring.