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The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II / Edition 1

The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II / Edition 1

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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 atrocity—one of the worst in world history—continues 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 episode—one 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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465068357
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/21/1997
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile: 1280L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Iris Chang lived and worked in California. She was a journalism graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana and worked briefly as a reporter in Chicago before winning a graduate fellowship to the writing seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm (the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, father of the People's Republic of China's missile program) received world-wide critical acclaim. She is the recipient of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation's Program on Peace and International Cooperation award, as well as major grants from the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and the Harry Truman Library. She passed away in 2004.

Table of Contents

Foreword by William C. Kirby

Part I
1. The Path to Nanking
2. Six Weeks of Terror
3. The Fall of Nanking
4. Six Weeks of Horror
5. The Nanking Safety Zone

Part II
6. What the World Knew
7. The Occupation of Nanking
8. Judgment Day
9. The Fate of the Survivors

Part III
10. The Forgotten Holocaust: A Second Rape

Epilogue for the 2011 Edition

What People are Saying About This

Richard Rhodes

A powerful, landmark book, riveting in its horror, exposing the mass killing perpetrated by the Japanese army on the people of Nanking in the early years of the Second World War.
— Author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Ross Terrill

Iris Chang takes the reader on an adventure into a shocking niche of contemporary history. The events in Nanking 60 years ago were a low point in a fratricidal war -- a macabre overture to a war that eventually killed 19 million Chinese. Anyone interested in the relation between war, self-righteousness, and the human spirit will find The Rape of Nanking of fundamental importance. It is also an exciting investigation and a work of passion.
— Author of Mao: China in Our Time

Nien Cheng

Iris Chang has produced a gripping account of a dark historical moment, one that holds the reader's attention from beginning to end. Her meticulously researched book is not only an important contribution to the study of Japan's war to subjugate China, but also a moving account that pays fitting tribute to the Americans and Europeans living in Nanking who risked their lives to rescue the Chinese people from rape and extermination.
— Author of Life and Death in Shanghai

George F. Will

The rape of Nanking by the Japanese army was perhaps the most appalling single episode of barbarism in a century replete with horrors. Yet it had been largely forgotten until Iris Chang made it her subject.... Because of Chang's book, the second rape of Nanking is ending.

Reading Group Guide

The Rape of Nanking

Once encircled by an ancient, immense stone wall built during the Ming dynasty, Nanking was a city of imperial palaces and lavish tombs. Temples perched on the surrounding mountains and lotus blossoms studded its lakes. In the summer of 1937, relics of the old Nanking mingled—and clashed—with the new Nanking. Automobiles sped past rickasha pullers and an occasional water buffalo or camel wandered into the street. People escaped their sweltering houses by spending their evenings in the open air chatting with neighbors. No one could know that these lazy summer nights would usher in six weeks of terror, and that the majestic Yangtzee River would soon run red with blood.

"If the dead from Nanking were to link hands, they would stretch from Nanking to the city of Hangchow, spanning a distance of some two hundred miles. Their blood would weigh twelve hundred tons, and their bodies would fill twenty-five hundred railroad cars. Stacked on top of each other, these bodies would reach the height of a seventy-four-story building."—from the Introduction of The Rape of Nanking

In December of 1937, the Japanese army swept into Nanking and left a trail of carnage surreal in its horror. The death toll was staggering, far exceeding that of the American raids on Tokyo (an estimated 80,000-120,0000) and even the combined death toll of the two atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the end of 1945 (estimated at 140,000 and 70,000 respectively). If not just for the numbers of dead, the Rape of Nanking should be remembered for the cruel manner in which most of its victims met their end. Japanese soldiers used Chinese men for bayonet practice and often engaged in killing competitions. Some victims were buried alive, others were buried up to their waists and then torn to pieces by German Shepherds. It is believed that between 20,000-80,000 Chinese women were raped; fathers were forced to rape their daughters, and sons were forced to rape their mothers. It seems that the hearts of the Japanese soldiers had decomposed completely—no act was too evil to commit.

While the Rape of Nanking represents one of the worst instances of mass extermination in the annals of world history it is also one of the most obscure. In the United States, only a scant few World War II textbooks mention the Nanking slaughter, and almost none of the "definitive" World War II histories include the episode. The Japanese, in addition to editing any reference to the massacre out of their school curriculum, have aggressively campaigned to prevent the Nanking atrocities from becoming common knowledge. In her courageous and important book, Iris Chang both chronicles the massacre of this once proud, imperial capital city, and exposes the historical amnesia that she astutely characterizes as a second rape.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."—George Santayana

While most of us are painfully aware of the frailty of human life, many of us display tremendous naiveté about the tissue thin nature of civilization. The Rape of Nanking is, indeed, a desperate attempt to salvage the memory of the countless souls lost in that bloodbath, but it is also a cautionary tale for anyone lulled into a false sense of national security. The question lurking between the lines of every page of this book is: can we prevent the reoccurrence of such unchecked cruelty? The first step, says Iris Chang, is exploring the darkest days and nights of world history. By doing this we will learn that no one nation is unique in its capacity for savageness—hence the atrocities of Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and the Holocaust. A mere tear in veneer of society—even our own—can give way to episodes of unparalleled barbarity.

Only by remembering can we glean lessons from these massacres—and the one that befell Nanking nearly sixty years ago. And if memory lies at the root of forgiveness, than the victims of the Rape of Nanking have only just begun their journey toward healing.


Iris Chang, a full time author living in California, heard stories about the Rape of Nanking from her parents, who survived years of war and revolution before finding a serene home as professors in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. A journalism graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana, she worked briefly as a reporter in Chicago before winning a graduate fellowship to the writing seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm (the story of Tsien-Hsue-shen, father of the People's Republic of China's missile program) received worldwide critical acclaim. She is the recipient of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation's Program on Peace and International Cooperation award, as well as major grants from the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and the Harry Truman Library. She is 30 years old.

An interview with Iris Chang

How did you become interested in the subject of the Rape of Nanking? What made you decide to write this book?

My grandparents lived in Nanking before the massacre, and they almost separated forever during the chaos and mass evacuations from the city in November 1937. That they were able to find each other again was a miracle.

The Rape of Nanking intrigued me at a very young age. My parents told me stories about the Nanking atrocities when I was a little girl—how the massacre was so bad that it left the surface of the Yangtze River literally covered with bodies and blood. This was something I found hard to believe at the time, and as a child I searched the local libraries for an English-language book on the Nanking massacre and found nothing. Eventually, what goaded me to write the book was a December 1994 conference on the Rape of Nanking, organized in Cupertino California, by the Global Alliance for Preserving the Truth of the Sino-Japanese war. I remember being in the conference hall, staring at photos of decapitated bodies and women who had been horribly mutilated after rape. I walked around for an entire day in a state of shock. Later, I resolved to do my part to give these victims their proper place in history.

While researching this book, did you find that you were able to separate yourself from the horrible stories that you uncovered or were you very personally affected by what you learned? How did you cope with the stress of living with this tragedy on a daily basis?

I found it almost impossible to separate myself from the tragedy. The stress of writing this book and living with this horror on a daily basis caused my weight to plummet and my hair to fall out.

I understand that you went to China in 1995 to talk to many of the survivors. What was the hardest thing about interviewing them?

Trying to decide which stories to put in my book and what to leave out. Each and every story was important to me, because each represented a unique and precious life extinguished forever by the Japanese. But to have included every atrocity I heard or read from the Nanking massacre would have lengthened my book to thousands of pages.

How did the Chinese survivors of the Rape of Nanking react to your interest in the topic? Were they at all suspicious of your motives?

Suspicious? Not at all. Every single survivor I met was desperately anxious to tell his or her story. I spent several hours with each one, getting the details of their experiences on videotape. Some became overwrought with emotion during the interviews and broke down into tears. But all of them wanted the opportunity to talk about the massacre before their deaths.

Why do so few people in the U.S. know about the Rape of Nanking today?

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. To me, this is nothing more than a second rape.

Few people realize that the United States were co-conspirators in a secret deal with the Japanese that sold out the Chinese victims and even American veterans of World War II. During the war, Japanese doctors performed live medical experiments and even vivisection on American and Chinese POWs, but after 1945 the United States government not only failed to punish these doctors but exonerated them in exchange for their medical data. The American government also exempted the Japanese royal family from war crimes trials, permitted Emperor Hirohito to stay on the throne and even encouraged many officials of the Japanese wartime government to return to power. And in a move that shocked and baffled scholars to this day, the U.S. in the 1950s also returned to Japan secret military documents seized in 1945 by American occupation forces—but without properly microfilming them first.

One of the greatest ironies of the Rape of Nanking is that not only have the Japanese squelched efforts to heal the victims of the massacre, but the Chinese government has also strongly discouraged any protest against the atrocities committed at Nanking. Has this changed at all since the publication of your book?

I think it has. For one thing, the Chinese government itself has jumped to my defense whenever I came under serious attack from Japanese revisionists. The PRC issued scathing a letter of protest to the international press when a group of conservative Japanese academics not only called my book "the most outrageous, world-class lie" but denied that the Rape of Nanking even happened. China also blasted the Japanese government when the Japanese ambassador to the United States denounced my book as "erroneous," "one-sided" and filled with historical inaccuracies — an allegation that the ambassador was not able to support with a single good example, even when grilled by reporters.

Do you think that we should be scrutinizing more closely the methods by which our own servicemen are inaugurated into a military culture constructed to protect our national interest at any cost? Is it necessary to dehumanize a soldier before sending him or her into the arena of war? Where do we draw the line?

We should be on our guard to avoid cultivating a military culture that would dehumanize both its own soldiers and the people of an enemy nation. One reason why Japanese soldiers found it so easy to commit atrocities is that they were brought up in a military environment that held in contempt ALL human life, even their own. But there are clear, established laws of war — laws set by the Hague Convention of 1907 and ostensibly recognized by most civilized nations — and every American serviceman should be thoroughly drilled in these laws before they are sent into the line of fire.

Are you surprised by the success of THE RAPE OF NANKING? Why or why not?

To say I was surprised is an understatement. I was flabbergasted! My greatest hope for The Rape of Nanking was to see it in libraries, so the Nanking massacre would not be forgotten by future generations. Instead, it became an international bestseller, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for five months. All at once I found myself lecturing in auditoriums packed with thousands of readers, or discussing the Nanking massacre on shows like Good Morning America, Nightline and Jim Lehrer. All at once I found myself profiled in the New York Times, and featured on the cover of Reader's Digest. The entire experience has been like a dream.

For a scholarly nonfiction book to receive this kind of attention and sales is phenomenal. Most serious history books don't have a wide audience. (For instance, I doubt my first book, Thread of the Silkworm, sold ten thousand copies.) But The Rape of Nanking isn't just about history, but justice. That's why it was successful — it struck the deep vein of moral outrage in this country.

Are you working on another book? What is it about?

My next book will be a narrative epic history of the Chinese in America.


"The first comprehensive examination of the destruction of this Chinese imperial city... Ms. Chang, whose grandparents narrowly escaped the carnage, has skillfully excavated from oblivion the terrible events that took place."

—The Wall Street Journal

"[An] unflinching reexamination of one of the most horrifying chapters of the second world war."


"A powerful new work of history and moral inquiry. Chang takes great care to establish an accurate accounting of the dimensions of the violence."

—Chicago Tribune

"A compelling account of a horrendous episode that, until recently, has been largely forgotten."

—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Iris Chang... recounts the grisly massacre with understandable outrage."

—The New York Times Book Review

"Stomach-turning, tear-wrenching, thoroughly riveting."

—The Baltimore Sun


  1. Throughout The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang emphasizes that by not remembering the past, we become victims of it. What do you think she means by this? Other than the Rape of Nanking, can you think of any profound injustices that have gone unnoticed in the world—and that as a result have become even more sinister and dangerous? How about in your own country—or even in your own city?

  2. If remembering is the first step to repairing the damage incurred by a holocaust, what do you think might be the second? The third? Is there ever a time for forgiving and at least attempting to forget wounds of war?

  3. It is true that one of the most distressing facets of the Rape of Nanking—and in our own day the Yugoslavian conflict and the Rwandan massacre—is the manner in which the people of the world became merely passive spectators. And as the death toll climb once again in Kosovo, one senses that history will, no doubt, repeat itself. What is America's responsibility to the civilians caught in the crossfire of these civil wars? Do you think the United Nations has the capacity to cope appropriately with these conflicts?

  4. How has the media portrayed these conflicts to the rest of the world, and how have you and your family reacted to having visuals of them brought into your home? Do you think that the extensive media coverage of war encourages interest in world events or contributes to the numbing of our conscious?

  5. Do you think that a holocaust could occur on American soil? Why or why not? What type of protection against such events does the United States government offer to its citizens? Are these checks and balances sufficient?

  6. The epilogue of the book discusses steps being taken by the U.S. government to heighten awareness of the Rape of Nanking, including plans by the San Francisco school district to include the Rape of Nanking in its curriculum. How might you discuss the Rape of Nanking with your children? What are some ways that you could foster in your children an interest in world events? At what age do you think that this type of education is appropriate?

  7. One of the most peculiar aspects of the Rape of Nanking was the presence of John Rabe, the Nazi official who risked his life to save the Chinese from the marauding Japanese soldiers. Were you able to reconcile his heroism with his adulation for Hitler? How?

  8. The Rape of Nanking illustrates the absolute depths of war—a place where humans become inhuman. Is it possible to prevent these episodes, or are they an unavoidable component of war—one that will exist as long as nations exist?

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The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
Zor-El More than 1 year ago
I have become more stingy in how I rate books. 3 Stars is a good book and 4 better than average. To get a 5 Star rating a book has to have exceeded all expectations. "The Rape Of Nanking" does that. I was aware of the Rape of Nanking but did not realize the scope of this incredibly horrible event in history. Iris Chang did a wonderful job in bringing it to light. Perhaps one of the strongest parts of this book were a few of the people who risked their lives to save others. Hollywood is missing a best picture winner if someone doesn't make a movie about John Rabe (a nazi no less!) or Minnie Vautrin among others. While I highly recommend this book I must also warn any potential readers that this book is highly disturbing. You will likely find yourself fluctuating between being incredibly saddened and very enraged. If you know little or nothing about this event please do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iris Changs book, The Rape of Nanking, was very informative and she displays her research accordingly. It can be easily unerstood, but it also goes into great detail. As stated before, this book I would definently not recommend for the younger adults, or anyone who does have a weak stomach. She goes into great detail about the different tactics used to abuse or molest the Chinese citizens of not only Nanking, but all of China. They showed no mercy. No matter what the age, the abusive tortures were all the same. As for the history, she displays it very well, being it is from three different perspectives; The Japanese soldiers, the Chinese, and Westerners. She doesn't display any biased opinion throughout her book, other than those of the three perspectives. As the book progresses, she tells the perspectives of each group, the Japanese being the first, the chinese being second, and westerners being last. Overall, it was a very moving and informative book. It gives you an idea on what was valued to each ethnic group, whether it be money, tradition, or connection with the outside world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My impression of this book was that it was very factual, however gory it was. It was a disturbingly detailed account of the Rape of Nanking. I had never heard about this event, as most people haven't, and it was shocking to learn about such a frightening genocide. I felt as if this event had been completely under-publicized. I liked this book, because it not only told you of the events, but it was written with a passionate purpose. The author was upset that there had not been any kind of retribution to the Japaneese for their acts or repentance from them. Since there aren't many accounts of information available to the public about this event, i believe Iris Chang wrote this for all it's victims. She wanted the public to know about this event, because she felt it had been kept under the radar. (Which is a very innapropriate place for so brutal an event.) I believed the author did a wonderful job completing her purpose. Becasue she wrote this book, the rape of Nanking has been brought to light to more than people than before. I would definitely recommend this book to someone that has not heard of the rape of Nanking becasue it is an event that deserves to be heard.
L.A.Carlson-writer More than 1 year ago
I began familiar with Iris Chang after reading about her through The Writer's Almanac. If you love history you will instantly become entranced in the story of how the Japanese invaded NanKing. But you will become horrified at how this group of soldiers took liberties with the men, women and children of NanKing, China. Chang is an excellent writer who tells the story from several perspectives and it's amazing the Japanese were able to get away with what they did. It is a story much like Nazi Germany and their torture of Jews except on a smaller scale. However, the Japanese were far more brutal in their methods. This is a shocking, explicit book and not for the faint of heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is must read. every war there is some degree of atrocity...if one like it or not ..., such is the war-even today, in the Gulf region or any other war torn region for that matter, the struggle still goes on..... To the Japanese reader and to the Kat S, who posted review here... your point is well taken but you misplaced youopinion as to review of this book. The point author was making as I understand it is not to expose atroicity but rather to urge reponsibility of the act comitted. As author has suggested, the shindler of China nanjing if you will, were German and Hittler admirer if you comitted a crime or atrocity in this case, one must accept his wrong doing and try to repent or at the least acknowlege the incident. (but)this is something the Japanese Government nor some of Japanese are still refuse to do. Why? is it the only crime war time Japanese committed against other culture and people of other national orgin? The answer is definately not, of course ther are other crimially insane acts comitted by other nation thru out history. the differences however between German and other nations versus that of Japan is German admitted its wrong doing and made in to law todo so as such is crime, where as Japanese is in denial and still refuses to do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would like to say that everyone should read this book. It is a part of history, a part of what will never be told. At the same time not everyone can handle what was done to the people of Nanking. I can't even say that the Holocaust was the horrible genocide of our century after reading this. So many don't know about what happened. Why? We as humans, as people should know what is going on in this world at all times and make it a point to never have anything like this happen again. This book in NO way is for children, pre-teens or anyone who cannot handle violent rape, torture or murder that is graphically told & imaged. God bless Iris Chang(author), who died of a self inflicted gun shot wound. Thank you for letting the world in on a horror that would otherwise have been silent to us all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can understand now how the japanese tortured the chinese in NanKing. And they got away just like they did in Shanghai. Now I know why my grandparents hate them so much. And they still havent apoligized to the chinese for their insane acts. My grandparents had to evacuate when the japanese stormed into Shanghai. THIS EVENT SHOULD BE REMEMBERED.
APWORLDisHARD More than 1 year ago
Iris Chang's documentation of the atrocities suffered by the Chinese people of Nanking at the hands of the Japanese helps to show just how deadly the world is. The book is rather graphic, but it needs to be in order to truly show just how beastly the events were that took place. While Chang does seem rather biased against the Japanese, it still is a rather thorough description of what happened in December 1938. With over 80,000 women raped and 300,000 people killed, it is impossible to illustrate this part of history without being graphic, so it is understandable that Chang would hold no punches. The book gives insight into what happened, the reaction to it (especially that of the Western world), and an explanation of what might have happened. Chang wrote bluntly in her book, and this helps to reinforce her point. The book is a very well-written, informative read on something that should be common knowledge to people. It is easy to recommend, so long as the reader has the stomach for it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The men and women in these pages are either demoniacally despicable, or among the bravest in the 20th century, if not ever. Although this book started a firestorm of controversy, it showed the defensiveness towards which the Japanese still hold all these years after the Nanking Massacre. It is remarkable to read since Ms. Chang's unfortunate death, by her own hand, as their is so much clarity and depth into the human psyche and as she put the 'an examination of the shadow self of mankind.' The Japanese, in these pages, do not come off as the cosmopolitan connoseuirs of commerce they have been attributed to in the last 30 years. In fact, their strategical alignments were at amateurish at best, and the repulsiveness of their Nanking 'campaign' enlisted a blood-lust of violence and viciousness which for its spasmodic orgy, might be unequaled. Thank you to Ms. Chang for clearing the dialogue.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read this book, I read each word with tears in my eyes and a scream in my throat. The sadness, anger, and shame I felt after reading this book made me want to hold every person who suffered during the occupation of Naking. I wanted to comfort them in a way the world has yet to do. Ms. Chang's book has finally given these forgotten holocaust members a voice, and frankly, I believe that this holocaust should now be the one in the spotlight.
Zachary Davis 6 days ago
A disclosed, vital, petrifying aspect of history revealed. Ashamed to say I had no prior knowledge of the barbaric, systematic massacre. I use the word systematic lightly, as this historical event seemed more of a sadistic frenzy than anything premeditated, although the propagandic influences might have led to this literal blood bath. Both very readable and scarring.
224perweek More than 1 year ago
Liked this book but it was a slow read.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The "Rape of Nanking" refers to the astounding atrocities committed by invading Japanese soldiers during the first several weeks of their occupation of Nanking, then China's capital, slaughtering perhaps half the city's population. From 250 to 350 thousand non-combatants killed and 20 to 80 thousand women raped in a matter of six to eight weeks after Nanking fell in December of 1937. The book tells that story through the Japanese soldiers who witnessed and took part, the Chinese survivors, and about two dozen European and American residents who stayed and created a "safety zone" within the city harboring 300,000 people and which Chang credits with saving the other half of the city's population. It is, in other words, like many stories of World War II, a story of nearly unbelievable evil and incredible goodness. Of atrocity and heroism--and until recently selective amnesia as the Japanese chose to forget and countries wishing to foster good relationships with them from Communist China to the United States aided and abetted them.The Foreword notes that what "is still stunning is that it was a public rampage, evidently designed to terrorize. It was carried out in full view of international observers and largely irrespective of their efforts to stop it. And it was not a temporary lapse of military discipline, for it lasted seven weeks." The story Chang recounted was nothing less than horrific and thoroughly documented and made for disturbing reading--and viewing given the photographs included. There were killing competitions by Japanese soldiers, murder by burying alive, fire, ice, acid, dogs. One irony of Japan's refusal to come to terms with what happened is that many who took part can speak out about what they themselves did with impunity and no fear of prosecution. One former soldier related that they killed, raped and tortured without remorse--and were prepared for it not simply by a regime that dehumanized the Chinese but had long instilled self-sacrifice--the idea they didn't individually matter. He explained, "if my life was not important, an enemy's life became inevitably much less important."There are heroes in this--the "International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone"--ironically headed by the local Nazi Party head. John Rabe was "the Oskar Schindler of China," a German businessman who can be credited with saving hundreds of thousands. And who carefully documented the atrocities--an indictment with all the more credibility because it came from a German--a man whose nation was allied with Japan. Finally Chang deals with how so much of this history has been denied and erased from the education of the Japanese. A phenomenon I saw firsthand. A few years after this book was published I was in my last semester of college and enrolled in a program that placed students in DC internships and provided courses for credit. I took a course on modern Asia given by an American career diplomat. Also in the class was a Japanese national. We once asked him what he thought of what he was hearing, and he said he thought it very biased. One day our teacher told us he had dropped the course in protest--he had simply refused to believe what he was hearing about Japanese conduct during World War II could be anything but propaganda. She told us the Japanese simply are not taught about the shameful parts of their history. Or weren't. As of 1997 when The Rape of Nanking was published, Chang tells us the whole incident was airbrushed out of the textbooks, and the government of Japan had refused to provide reparations or offer an apology--very much in contrast to Germany and how it has dealt with its Nazi legacy. I don't know how much that might have changed over the last 15 years. But Chang certainly did history a service in writing this thorough--and at times moving--account of terrible events during World War II.
JeffV on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most horrific atrocities in the 20th Century was called The Rape of Nanking. At the height of Japanese aggression during the Sino-Japanese War; General Chaing Kai-Shek was forced to abandon the old Chinese capitol of Nanking in order to preserve his army. Japanese troops, frustrated at being held at bay, ran amok in the town, killing hundreds of thousands, and ruining as many more lives as civilians were enslaved, raped, mutilated, or all of the above. Japanese actions during their occupation of Nanking and through out China, Burma, the Philippines, and other nations was utterly horrific by any measure of history. Yet even today, Japanese teach their children very little about this dark period of their history, both misrepresenting their actions or omitting any sort of picture altogether. Despite an initial outcry when it first happened, Nanking quickly fell into the realm of general antipathy that bad things that happen to far away people unfortunately occupy. Like the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia; Nanking suffered from brutal treatment by a foreign force who doesn't even regard them as human. Author Iris Chang wrote this book to make sure that Japanese efforts to suppress this incident and the ambivalence of the west doesn't lead to so many victims being forgotten by history. Her motives are clear throughout this book. She cites first-hand accounts by observers and surviving victims, as well as a corroborating account by, of all people, a German official who set up a safe zone for refugees and reported the Japanese action to Hitler (after which he was ordered to keep silent over it). Chang cites some of the worst offenders by name, especially those who fates are recorded as war-crime executions. Chang is also appropriately disgusted over those who were so high up they evaded prosecution -- and regarding the nation of Japan in general for not admitting to their crimes and paying restitution to the victims. Other recent book regarding the actions of 20th century Japan also implicate collusion with western powers, especially the US, in protecting the interests of the very powerful as part of a plot line that supersedes the entire war and millions of victims combined. I suppose this was a little outside the scope of Chang's thesis, but she might have elicited a little more outrage for connecting the dots in a comprehensive fashion.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enthralling history of Nanking when the Japanese invade China. The terror and horror of the actions of the Japanese invaders mimics those of the Nazis with the Jews. Unlike the Germans who had charges brought forward against them, very few if any people have been held accountable for these atrocities. Very little reparation to the Chinese has been done. Startling and necessary read!
matthew254 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Rape of Nanking is, in and of itself, a brutally tragic instance in human history. Hardly a fitting book to followup Tina Fey's book, it's a non-fiction book that has few modern rivals. It's terrifying to think that this part of history barely got mentioned before Iris Chang published her 1997 book. I'd say more about the book itself but this article sums it up nicely. For a dramatic interpretation, City of Life and Death is a powerful dramatization but a little slow. I enjoyed Nanking (2007) which is available to view for free online. This movie allows the audience to get to know the foreigners who lived in the city at the time by hearing excerpts from their writings.
arielfl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this up after reading Unbroken in which this period of history was mentioned. I, like I think a lot of people, did not know anything about this aspect of WWII history. In Unbroken it is referenced as being so bad that it terrified the American soldiers greatly and they were deathly afraid to be captured by the Japanese. My interest peaked and I decided to learn more.I seem to be specializing in little known holocausts as I am also reading Sandcastle Girls which deals with the Armenian genocide. Reader beware, Iris Chang spared no details in relating the Rape of Nanking. The horrific descriptions were so awful that they gave me nightmares and there were pictures to boot. Weak stomached people should stick to the Wikipedia summary. In any case what happened is during WWII the Japanese who live on a teeny tiny island dubbed themselves the master race and in order to branch out decided to take over China. They conquered Shanghai, the New York of the east and moved on to Nanking where they met no resistance. It turns out that the Chinese weren't too interested in fighting the Japanese after all and surrendered without pretty much any resistance. Thousands of Chinese soldiers were laying down their weapons for the relatively few Japanese. This caused quite the problem for the Japanese who could not feed thousands upon thousands of prisoners. Their solution? kill them all. Hague Convention out the window. As if that was not disturbing enough what happened next could hardly be described as the acts of a human being. Due in part to the sadistic way Japanese soldiers were trained all sense of decency was obliterated.Sexual depravity, mass rape, and killing innocent civilians in ever inventive ways. It got so bad it even sickened the Nazi's. Some foreigners tried to intervene but it was a drop in a waterfall. It took the dropping of the atomic bomb to finally expel the Chinese from Japan. The author took her work very personally. My times she interjects the word I into the narrative. As a Chinese American she had more than a passing interest in the terrible treatment of her people. She became consumed by Japan's minimizing the holocaust. Where the Nazi's were punished after WWII and had to make reparations the Japanese for a variety of reasons were never held accountable. Many of the Japanese involved in the atrocities were holding prominent positions in society. The Japanese tried to white wash in their textbooks and any Japanese citizens who were involved that tried to speak out and offer apologies was ostracized. Chang tried to confront Japanese officials about their treatment of Chinese citizens during the holocaust but she was rebuffed and the validity of her work was called into question. While working on a book about the Bataan Death March, another shameful chapter in Japanese history, she suffered a nervous breakdown and killed herself. She is regarded as another victim of the Rape of Nanking.This book should be read so that light can be shed on this little known chapter of world history and so that it will never forgotten. I am not sure if all of Iris Changs information is accurate as some would claim but if only a portion is true than it is bad enough. It is a shame that Iris Chang was never able to deliver to the Chinese people the apology from Japan that she so desperately wanted to hear.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book made me feel ashamed to be human.
vibrantminds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The atrocities of war can be long forgotten especially when the country involved is ashamed and in denial that such acts occurred. Even today, the Japanese government continues to deny what exactly took place. Mayhem, rape, and murder are what ensued when the Japanese invaded Nanking during WWII. In the West, it is known as the forgotten Holocaust, in a matter of weeks over 300,000 civilians were disposed of. The Japanese found it easy to kill because they had been taught that next to the emperor their life was valueless. To come back dead from the war was the greatest glory, to be caught alive by the enemy was the greatest shame. Since their life was not important, an enemy¿s life became even less so. Veterans involved in the heinous acts, were later interviewed and said they experienced a complete lack of remorse or sense of wrongdoing in torturing, raping, or killing the Chinese people, they were the enemy. A word of caution to the reader, parts of the book are quite graphic in the descriptions of what occurred, definitely not for the squeamish.
jphillips3334 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that delves into a horrific incident during the Pacific War. You get a brutal and honest look at the occupation of Nanking from those who were there. The world should have been outraged, but no one really knew their story and has been kept quiet for way too long. An excellent historical look, and well researched, into one important part of a long and brutal war in Asia.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Civilization itself is paper thin.¿ Roughly 350,000 Chinese were slaughtered in the city of Nanking by the Japanese during a seven week period. Women were raped and mutilated while the men were used for bayonet practice. People were buried alive, set on fire and tortured. In the midst of a real-to-life Dante¿s inferno a small number of foreigners fought to protect Chinese lives. The book was written in a very factual, unemotional manner and did not gloss over the atrocities of Nanking. It is thought provoking and makes one think about civilization and the capacity of humankind . Overall, this is a very well written book and highly recommended.
TigsW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a harrowing but well written book. The writing was clear and the exposition straightforward although at times the author could not hold back her personal emotions on this issue. Nonetheless, very well worthwhile reading. It is amazing that this absolutely horrible massacre undertaken on the Chinese by the Japanese is not more widely known about.
niklin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In one of the most important books written in the last 20 years, Iris Chang tells us about the forgotten and ignored atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese forces occupying the Chinese capital Nanking in 1937. In only six weeks directly after the fall of the city the Japanese army killed about 300.000 prisoners of war and civilians, tortured innumerable individuals in the grizzliest ways, and conducted a mass rape on unimaginable scale. Chang tells us this in a powerful mix of statistics and personnel accounts from witnesses, victims and perpetrators. Not only that, we are provided with a background. Accordingly the Japanese, in a way of modernizing itself up to the standard of the west during the nineteen century chose the German path, with a highly militarized society. This evolved into a totalitarian and fascist state that educated their children from the cradle to become merciless soldiers. Even though the Japanese saw themselves as the country that would free Asia from Western domination, this was combined with a perception of fellow Asians as racially inferior. The fall of the city was a military catastrophe for China where massive amounts of demoralized Chinese soldiers surrendered. Despite promises to the contrary the Japanese army soon started to murder them by executions, or even decapitation contests. After that they moved on to killing, what they said was, soldiers hiding among the civilians. And so it went on until no Chinese was safe in a horrifying combination with rape and pillaging. Those Chinese who managed to survive did so mainly because of the protection they got in the International safety zone that was created by a few foreigners. Here we find the glimpse of hope and humanity in this book, in how these individuals sacrificed their own safety and health to try and save as many as possible from certain death or rape. After the war most of the perpetrators of theses deeds went unpunished. Japan took a completely different course than Germany after WWII. Japan never paid any of the victims in Nanking anything, actually denied that anything unordinary happened in the city, and instead took up the position of a victim of the war. This was something that was widespread among politicians and academics. Hopefully this will change now¿ The book is well written and is an easy read. The only limit is how much horror of murder and rape the reader can digest. But the best thing about it is actually that the message of the books is out, and got massive attention. This is just such an enormous historical crime that we all (not only the Japanese) need to confront it. It actually sparked of a debate with Japanese revisionist that got many officials in Japan to acknowledge the past. But of course the book could have been better. Chang writes more like a journalist than a historian, and are more interested in getting her message out, than being right on every detail. For example in the first edition a Commodore is called a Commander. Such details should and can of course not put the main point of the book in trail, but it offered a bunch of cheap shots to the adversaries of Chang. With some more editing and better chronology this would have been a masterpiece. Chang also highlights the need for a more full account of the crimes against humanity comitted by the Japanese armed forces. Sad to say this will not be done by Iris Chang who committed suicide a couple of years after writing the rape of Nanking. A four out of five.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For two months of 1937, Japanese soldiers tortured, murdered or raped up to 400,000 innocent civilians and disarmed soldiers in Nanking but after the dust of World War II settled, these atrocities vanished from public consciousness. Chang, spurred on by her Chinese-American parents, becomes the first English-language writer to chronicle "World War II's forgotten holocaust." Chang divides the book into 4 parts, telling each from a different perspective. The first chronicles the development of Japan's military culture and the special desensitization training given to recruits bound for China. The second is the story of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese trapped in Nanking while the third focuses on the 29 foreigners who risked their lives to establish the Nanking Safety Zone. Finally, Chang examines how a tragedy so huge could have faded almost completely from historical accounts of the war. The book is written in engaging, easy-to-read prose and at a mere 225 pages, it's no chore to finish. My only complaint is the lack of first-hand accounts from survivors. Chang mentions numerous trips to China to conduct interviews, but tells only 3 personal stories. When she examines the historical consequences of the massacre, she writes that many survivors "suffer to this day" but gives few details. Then she devotes several chapters to the lives and deaths of the foreigners who operated the Safety Zone. With the superabundance of statistics and the scarcity of first-hand accounts, the real human impact of the Rape of Nanking is harder to visualize than it should be. Still, this is a minor complaint against a hugely significant and effective work of historical scholarship.
BellaFoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating well written account. It is a controversial subject, I saw at least two books claiming it never happened. One even claims that the pictures in this book were 'doctored'. Knowing the Japanese habit of re-writing history, I am inclined to believe that this is a true account. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in history especially the history of WWII. Please be aware, the descriptions of mass beheadings and systematic rapes are graphic and the pictures may be disturbing to some people.