A series of national commemoration ceremonies for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre began in China as early as mid-December 2022. Thousands of people attended the ceremony in east China’s Jiangsu Province. They pinned white flowers to their chests as a sign of mourning. The Chinese national flag flew at half-mast that day. Sirens wailed and the city came to a standstill. Pedestrians observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims. Young people read out a statement calling for peace. Representatives from all parts of the society struck the peace bell. White doves, symbolizing hope for peace, were released and flew over the square of the Memorial Hall for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese invaders.
The Nanjing Massacre began, when Japanese troops captured the city on December 13, 1937, and lasted for nearly six weeks. Within that time, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed in one of the most barbaric episodes of World War II. The war against China had already been launched on July 7, 1937, by the Empire of Japan, which had allied itself with fascist Germany in the Anti-Comintern Pact. Head of state at that time was Tennō Hirohito (1901 – 1989). Upon entering the war, Naikaku Sōri Daijin Konoe Fumimaro was head of government. Also responsible for the war of aggression was Tōjō Hideki, General of the Imperial Army, who to this day is notorious for his outright cruelty. Hirohito had issued a directive on August 5, 1937, which contained the explicit order not to adhere to the Hague Conventions with regard to Chinese prisoners of war. In practice, it meant not to take prisoners or to execute them. Comparable to the Nazi war of extermination against “Jewish Bolshevism”, these crimes were also based on racism. Japanese saw only “subhumans” in Chinese. The consequences were already evident in the advance on the city of Nanjing, when Japanese soldiers massacred numerous Chinese soldiers. It is remarkable that during this phase the German businessman John Rabe succeeded in establishing a protection zone for the Chinese civilian population, so that more than 100,000 people were able to save themselves. He is honored for this in China until today.
When Japanese troops captured Nanjing in mid-December 1937, this city became a hotspot of violence for about six weeks. According to all available sources and reports, the Japanese troops staged an orgy of murder and torture. Men were arrested and beheaded in the open streets; soldiers systematically searched houses for young women and raped them communally for many hours. Even fathers were forced to rape their own daughters. The bloodbath took on such proportions that all water sources were contaminated, even the rice from the fields was soaked blood-red, it is said. It is estimated that 300,000 Chinese met their deaths in the massacre and 80,000 of them were raped. It was not until the end of January 1938 that these massacres ended. Shockingly, most of the military commanders involved were not held accountable after the war ended. Only the commander-in-chief, General Matsui Iwane, who himself was not involved in the conquest of Nanjing due to illness, was sentenced to death as a war criminal and hanged on December 23, 1948.
While Japan has remained officially silent about this massacre to this day, there is a living commemoration in the People’s Republic of China. Numerous memorials commemorate the crimes of 1937/38, and in 2014, China declared December 13 as the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre to keep the darkest history in mind. A representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China also spoke at this year’s commemoration. He said the aim was to express the Chinese people’s desire to unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, and to demonstrate the Chinese people’s attitude that they would keep history firmly in mind, never forget the past, uphold peace and forge a future. FIR remembers this cruel episode of the Second World War to make visible that the fight against Nazism and fascist barbarism has not only a European perspective.