Witness Reports



Nazi party member John Rabe wrote in a report to Hitler, according to author Iris Chang:

“They would continue by raping the women and girls and killing anything and anyone that offered any resistance, attempted to run away from them or simply happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. There were girls under the age of 8, and women over the age of 70 who were raped and then, in the most brutal way possible, knocked down and beat up. We found corpses of women on beer glasses and others who had been lanced with bamboo shoots. I saw the victims with my own eyes—I talked to some of them right before their deaths and had their bodies brought to the morgue at the Kulo hospital so that I could be personally convinced that all of these reports had touched on the truth.”

The irony of a Nazi being appalled by Japanese atrocities was not lost on commentators. But it was often this very association that saved the lives of many Chinese civilians, as Germany was officially allied with Japan during World War II.

American missionary Minnie Vautrin, president of Ginling Women’s College of Arts and Sciences, was also instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Chinese civilians—particularly women and girls—during the siege.

On December 16, 1937, she noted in her diary:

“There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from the language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heart-breaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night ... one of the girls was but 12 years old.”

Tillman Durdin, the Times correspondent, found himself in Nanking when it was occupied by the invading Imperial Japanese Army. Upon witnessing several days of atrocities, he left the city for Shanghai in order to send a dispatch home:

“Just before boarding the ship for Shanghai, the writer watched the execution of 200 men. The killings took just ten minutes. … The conduct of the Japanese army as a whole in Nanking was a blot on the reputation of their country. Their victory was marred by barbaric cruelties, by the whole sale execution of prisoners, by the looting of the city, rapes, killing of civilians and by general vandalism.”

Chu-Yeh Chang, a survivor of the Nanking massacre, experienced and witnessed the violence sweeping through Nanking firsthand:

“On New Year’s Eve of 1937 … five Japanese soldiers charged into our house, forced my father and me out, and then raped my mother, my 80-year-old great-grandmother, and my 11-year-old-sister.”