Nanjing Massacre

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Nanjing Massacre
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War
(World War II)
Nanking bodies 1937.jpg
The bodies of massacred Chinese beside the Qinhuai River with a Japanese soldier nearby
DateDecember 1937 – January 1938
Location
Result 40,000–300,000 dead (say historians)[1][2][3]
300,000 dead (says the Chinese government)[4][5][6]
20,000 raped[7]p.1012

The Nanjing Massacre was a massacre (an unjust killing of many people) that happened in Nanjing, China, in December of 1937 and January of 1938. It was part of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which was the part of World War II between China and Japan. At the time, Japan was trying to take over China and Nanjing was the Chinese capital. The Japanese Army reached Nanjing on 13 December 1937 and began killing thousands upon thousands of men and boys and raping thousands upon thousands of women and girls.

Some Japanese claim the fighting in Nanjing was the same or not much worse than fighting in other places and in other wars. That is simply untrue. There is a lot of evidence from the Chinese, from outsiders who were there, from outsiders who have studied it, and from the Japanese themselves that things were much worse. There were many, many war crimes: soldiers without weapons were killed; people who weren't soldiers were killed; many were tortured (hurt very badly), mutilated (hurt ways that can never be fixed), or killed in very cruel ways; many were raped (forced to have sex) or forced to work and treated like things. We have the orders from the soldier's leaders telling them to do these kinds of things and not to follow rules against them. The Nanjing Massacre was so bad that some even think of it as a kind of genocide (trying to wipe out an entire group of people).

The memory of the Nanjing Massacre—and anger at attempts to deny that it happened or to honor the soldiers who led it at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo—still cause difficulty between the Chinese and Japanese governments and between Chinese and Japanese people.

Names[change | change source]

The Nanjing Massacre is also known as the Rape of Nanjing. It was known at the time as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking. The name of Nanjing has not changed: it was 南京 then and now, but people have changed the way they spell the sounds of Chinese names using the Latin alphabet. "Nanking" was the Postal Map spelling, which usually tried to spell words the way local people said them around the year 1900. "Nanjing" is the pinyin spelling, which spells words the way they should sound in Mandarin Chinese.

The Mandarin Chinese name for the Nanjing Massacre is the Nánjīng Dàtúshā,[a] which means the same thing. (Part-by-part, dàtúshā could mean "a big butchering and killing" but, taken all together, it is just the Chinese word for "massacre".) It is written 南京大屠殺 in traditional Chinese writing and 南京大屠杀 in the easier Chinese writing now used by mainland China and Singapore.

The Japanese can use similar names but often prefer to call it the Nankin Jiken, which just means "The Thing that Happened in Nanjing". It is written 南京事件 in Japanese writing.

The massacre[change | change source]

The Nanjing Massacre lasted over six weeks. During this time, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army:[8][9][10][11][12]

Mass murder of civilians[change | change source]

During the six weeks of the Nanjing massacre, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) massacred between 40,000 and 300,000 people.[3] It is difficult to know exactly how many people were killed in this mass murder, because the IJA burnt many bodies, buried others in mass graves, and dumped others in the Yangtze River. Because of this, scholars and historians do not agree on exactly how many civilians were killed.[7][13][14]p. 1015

However, historians agree that the Imperial Japanese Army began massacring Chinese civilians the day they entered Nanjing. On that day, John Rabe, a German businessman, wrote in his diary: "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 [running away] and were shot from behind."[15]p. 67

In another massacre, Japanese soldiers shot thousands of Chinese people with machine guns.[16] They left their bodies in a trench they named the "Ten-Thousand-Corpse Ditch." Most historians think that more than 12,000 people were killed in this massacre.[13][17] The IJA also massacred about 100 Hui people (a minority group in China who are mostly Muslim).[18]

Torture of civilians[change | change source]

Japanese soldiers bury Chinese civilians alive

For the entire six weeks of the Massacre, the Imperial Japanese Army kept killing Chinese civilians. They killed in cruel, brutal ways and often tortured their victims before killing them.

For example, in 1984, ex-IJA soldier Kozo Tadokoro admitted:

We used barbed wire to [tie] the captured Chinese into bundles of ten and tied them onto racks. Then we poured gasoline on them and burned them alive . . . I felt like [I was] killing pigs[13]

Another ex-soldier named Nagatoni admitted that Japanese soldiers tortured people to death by doing things like:[19]

  • Throwing them into pots of boiling water
  • Burying them while they were still alive so they would suffocate
  • Burying the with only their heads above ground so they would starve
  • Throwing infants into the air and catching them on bayonets

In 2010, a Japanese woman named Tamaki Matsuoka made a documentary film about the Nanjing Massacre. In the film, former IJA soldiers admit that they often raped Chinese women and massacred Chinese civilians.[11] However, out of the 250 former soldiers that Matsuoka interviewed, only three felt bad about what they had done.[11] One former solder, Sho Mitani, said:

We were living in an age where we were taught that Chinese were not human. The army used a trumpet sound that meant 'Kill all Chinese who run away.' We were taught from childhood in schools that Chinese were like insects.[20]

Rape[change | change source]

A 16-year-old girl who was raped by Japanese soldiers

During the Massacre, the Japanese soldiers raped about 20,000 women – including children and the elderly.[7]p. 1012 Soldiers would go from door to door, searching for girls. When they found one, they would take her and rape her as a group.[21] If anyone tried to stop the soldiers, the soldiers would shoot them.[15]p. 77

Right after they raped the women, the Japanese soldiers would often kill them, sometimes by mutilating their sex organs.[22][23]

One survivor of the massacre said that sons were forced to rape their mothers, and fathers were forced to rape their daughters.[24] One group of soldiers gang-raped a pregnant woman, who gave birth only a few hours later (the baby did not seem to be hurt).[19] Japanese soldiers also raped Buddhist nuns and forced monks to rape women.[25]

Witnesses' stories[change | change source]

On 19 December 1937, the Reverend James M. McCallum wrote in his diary:

I know not where to end. Never I have heard or read such brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape! We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night and many by day. In case of resistance or anything that seems like disapproval, there is a bayonet stab or a bullet ... People are hysterical ... Women are being carried off every morning, afternoon and evening. The whole Japanese army seems to be free to go and come as it pleases, and to do whatever it pleases.[26]

Another witness to the rapes in Nanjing was Robert O. Wilson. He was a surgeon at an American hospital in Nanjing. On December 15 and 18, 1937, he wrote to his family:

Last night the house of one of the Chinese staff members of the university was broken into and two of the women, his relatives, were raped. Two girls, about 16, were raped to death in one of the refugee camps. In the University Middle School where there are 8,000 people the Japs came in ten times last night, over the wall, stole food, clothing, and raped until they were satisfied.[27]

Killing of prisoners of war[change | change source]

15,000 Chinese soldiers captured near Nanjing. All were massacred

Starting in 1931, an international law called the Third Geneva Convention said it was illegal to treat prisoners of war in certain ways. It said these prisoners had rights – for example, the right to have a trial before being executed. However, in August 1937, Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan, had decided that neither he nor the army would not follow any international laws about how Chinese prisoners of war had to be treated.[28]

Right after the IJA took over Nanjing, they started searching for ex-Chinese soldiers. They took thousands of young men as prisoners. Some of these men were never soldiers; the IJA just assumed they were.[29] Without any trials, the IJA took many of these young men to the Yangtze River and killed them with machine guns.[30]

According to confessions made by former IJA soldiers, on December 13 and 14, 1937, a unit of IJA soldiers had taken 14,777 Chinese prisoners of war. In the next few days, they took another 2,000–3,000 prisoners.[30] In two days, the IJA massacred every one of these prisoners of war—over 15,000 people. In their confessions, the former IJA soldiers said their military leaders had ordered them to do this.[30]

Over the six weeks of the massacre, the IJA killed a total of about 30,000 Chinese prisoners of war.[7]p. 1015

Theft and arson[change | change source]

The Japanese Army left most of the buildings in Nanjing destroyed by looting and arson.[31] They destroyed newly built government buildings as well as many civilians' homes. Soldiers also stole whatever they wanted. Because the Imperial Japanese Army was so much stronger than the Chinese soldiers and civilians in Nanjing, the Chinese could not fight back. This meant the Japanese could take all of the city's valuable things for themselves.[8]

End of the massacre[change | change source]

In January 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army announced that Nanjing was in "order" again. In the first week of February, it created a government that would obey all of Japan's needs. After that, the IJA left. The massacre was over.[32]

Trial and punishment[change | change source]

On September 2, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers. This ended World War II.[33]

Soon after this, the Allied Powers began creating international military courts. To try Japan's leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity, they created the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE).[34]

International Military Tribunal for the Far East[change | change source]

The IMTFE was held at an ex-IJA headquarters in Tokyo

Three of the Japanese Imperial Army's leaders in Nanjing were put on trial at the IMTFE:[35][36]

  • General Matsui Iwane, who was in charge of all of the Japanese soldiers at Nanjing
  • General Akira Muto, who led soldiers during the worst part of the massacre
  • Kōki Hirota, who was the Foreign Minister during the massacre. He was accused of helping plan the massacre, and not doing anything to stop it

All three of these men were found guilty of "Class A" war crimes. This meant they had been found guilty of planning and being in charge of the war. All three were sentenced to death and were executed.[35][36]

The Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal[change | change source]

In 1946, the Chinese government created the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal. This court tried General Matsui's lieutenant, Tani Hisao, for his part in the Nanjing Massacre. It found him guilty and sentenced him to death.[37]

Denial[change | change source]

The Nanjing Massacre is still very controversial in Japan. Only a small number of Japanese writers say the Massacre never happened at all.[38] Most of the argument over the massacre has to do with how many Chinese people died. Some scholars say that many fewer Chinese people died than most historians say.[39][40] For example, Japanese writer Tanaka Masaaki says that only a few hundred civilians died in Nanjing.[41]

As of 2014, Japan still honored fourteen "Class A" war criminals—including the three who were in charge of the Nanjing Massacre—at a national shrine.[36]

Mass graves like this one prove people were massacred at Nanjing

Evidence[change | change source]

There is a lot of proof that the Nanjing Massacre happened the way most historians and survivors say it did. This proof includes:

Photo gallery[change | change source]

During the massacre[change | change source]

Trial and punishment[change | change source]

Memorials: The Nanjing Massacre Museum[change | change source]

Related pages[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. These marks show the tones of the Chinese words, which are important in saying them correctly.

References[change | change source]

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