In December 1937, in what was then the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking (Nanjing) and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured, and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocityone of the worst in world historycontinues to be denied by the Japanese government.Based on extensive interviews with survivors and newly discovered documents in four different languages (many never before published), Iris Chang, whose own grandparents barely escaped the massacre, has written what will surely be the definitive, English-language history of this horrifying episodeone that the Japanese have tried for years to erase from public consciousness.The Rape of Nanking tells the story from three perspectives: that of the Japanese soldiers who performed it; of the Chinese civilians who endured it; and finally of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved almost 300,000 Chinese. It was Chang who discovered the diaries of the German leader of this rescue effort, John Rabe, whom she calls the Oskar Schindler of China.” A loyal supporter of Adolf Hitler but far from the terror planned in his Nazi-controlled homeland, he worked tirelessly to save the innocent from slaughter.But this book does more than just narrate details of an orgy of violence; it attempts to analyze the degree to which the Japanese imperial government and its militaristic culture fostered in the Japanese soldier a total disregard for human life.Finally, it tells one more shocking story: Despite the fact that the death toll at Nanking exceeded the immediate deaths from the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (and even the total wartime casualty count of entire European countries), the Cold War led to a concerted effort on the part of the West and even the Chinese to court the loyalty of Japan and stifle open discussion of this atrocity. Indeed, Chang characterized this conspiracy of silence, which persists to this day, as a second rape.”
Published: Basic Books on Jun 5, 2012
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Fascinating and illuminating. For the first I understand WHY Japan invaded China. The content was difficult because of the subject matter. However it was presented in such a way that was not overwhelming. I was deeply impacted by their stories. Wonderful job by the author. more
“Almost all people have this potential for evil, which would be unleashed only under certain dangerous social circumstances.” Iris Chang was definately right about that. This book is about the atrocities the Japanese committed during World War II against Chinese citizens of Nanking, during 1937 to 1938. Although, I do know quite a bit about World War II, this particular incident was not known to me. The book definately contained a powerful description of the events in Nanking. However, some of her graphic descriptions just became repetitive after some time. I am not denying that the whole incident wasn't horrible and shocking, but throughout the book Iris Chang came across as exeptional egocentric and somewhat naive about most of the other events during World War II. Yes, I agree the Rape of Nanking isn't nearly as well known as some of the other events during that era, especially in comparison with the Holocaust and I agree that it is definately a piece of history which is worth knowing about more. Nevertheless, some of the comparisons she made were downright ridicilous and sort of IMO not realistic. To be very honest, very often I just got annoyed. Why? Well, I try to give some examples. Yes, the massacre of Nanking was absolutely awful, but what about the other approximately 19 millions of Chinese who died during WWII at the hands of Japanese soldiers? What I did learn during my history lessons in school was that the Japanese were known for their cruelties they applied, are the rest of China's victims of WWII are not eqally important? She mentions numerous times during the book that at least we Germans admitted to our crimes and that we didn't commit such atrocities. Hey, where has she been? I don't think she read enough about this time. Germany killed about 6 million Jewish people and approximately another 5 million people (soldiers and civilians) who didn't fit the German ideology at that time (gay, gipsies, disabled people etc.). I don't think that there ever was the question of denying what happened. She also put a lot of emphasis on the fact that John Rabe, one of the people who helped to form the protected zone, maybe could have got help from Germany and if Hitler would have known about the atrocities committed, he maybe would have thought differently about the Japanese. She also mentioned that John Rabe was a good person, considering that he was a Nazi German. I am very sorry, but when I read this I had to LOL. John Rabe lived already for 30 years in China and didn't know a thing about what was happening in Germany, aside from the regular propaganda he received. However, at the end of the day he was only one man with no influenze at all and obviously once he went back to Germany and tried to inform the people of the atrocities which happened at Nanking, he got into trouble himself. Well, I don't want to carry on rumbling, but IMO her emotional and very egocentric involvement with these events distracted a lot of what Iris Chang actually wanted to convey. An accurate account of what happened at Nanking.more
In the early 1930's the Chinese city of Nanking was occupied by Japanese soldiers. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed by Japanese soldiers to save money for supplies. Women were brutally raped and mutilated. But the stories of these victims and the foreigners who risked their lives to help them are not often told. Iris Chang wanted the world to know about these atrocities. Her brutal history was very difficult for me to read because the atrocities were described in such detail that I felt sick. I had to take frequent breaks. It was a very engaging narrative, though, so I always wanted to pick it back up again. Chang certainly knew how to write an interesting story! Several times while reading the book, though, I felt as though Chang was too emotionally involved to write a completely reliable narrative. I'm not denying the massacres at Nanking, mind, but I think Chang had a very anti-Japanese view which would have made her prefer the larger estimates for death numbers, to make the disgustingly especially-brutal rapes sound more common than they may have been, and made the Japanese sound purely evil as a whole group without exception. Nevertheless, this book taught me a lot about the relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese. As long as the readers keep in mind Chang's emotions, they can learn a lot from this engaging history.more
I finally worked my way through this book. And work it was. Some of the atrocities described were so horrible that I could only read short sections at a time. Over 300,000 men, women, and children were killed in creatively cruel ways during a six-week period of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China, in 1937. I quickly learned after a few nights of interrupted sleep that reading this in the evening was out. All year long I've been trying to read more slowly to get more out of my reading; however with this book, I read as quickly as possible to the point of almost skimming some of the more heartbreaking scenes. Now that I've convinced some of you that it's a book you should never read, I'll explain why it's an important book to read.In the author's words: "I became terrified that the history of three hundred thousand murdered Chinese might disappear just as they themselves had disappeared under Japanese occupation and that the world might actually one day believe the Japanese politicians who have insisted that the Rape of Nanking was a hoax and a fabrication--that the massacre never happened at all. By writing this book, I forced myself to delve into not only history but historiography--to examine the forces of history and the process by which history is made. What keeps certain events in history and assigns the rest to oblivion? Exactly how does an event like the Rape of Nanking vanish from Japan's (and even the world's) collective memory?" (Pg. 200) We can't change things by ignoring them. By learning about what happened, we can become advocates for justice and mercy so that history doesn't keep repeating itself. I don't want to have to read another book about mass rapes, torture, killing contests, blowing people up in icy ponds, and half burying people and letting vicious dogs tear them apart. I rated this book at 3.25 stars. The writing was excellent and the research was impeccable so perhaps it deserved a higher rating. According to my criteria, any book that is 4 stars or more is recommended by me, and I can't recommend this book to just anyone. If you have read the last sentence of the second paragraph and think this book is one you can handle, then I say "go for it." The rest of you should stick to Louise Penny. The Rape of Nanking is one of the most difficult -- and most powerful -- books that I have read in the past few years.more
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