‘…Not even pregnant women were spared. After gang rape, Japanese soldiers sometimes slashed open the bellies of pregnant women and ripped out the fetuses for amusement’.An excerpt from the ‘The Rape of Nanking’ by Iris Chang
On 13th December 1937, Nanking, the nationalist capital of China fell to the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The Chinese army retreated further into the mainland and Japanese took control of the city.
What they did to the civilians might be the ‘Greatest Massacre in the history of the world’.
As 300,000 Chinese people were killed; around 20,000 to 80,000 women of all classes and age groups were brutally raped, the children, aged, pregnant women, sick, war prisoners; not even a newborn was spared from the atrocious killing by the Imperial Japanese troops.
Soon after the Imperial Japanese Army captured Nanking, the killings and looting began.
The massacre is not known to many people because the focus of World War- II was in Europe and the Nazi Germany was in the center stage of the war as the whole world plunged into chaos.
The Asian theatre was dominated by the Japanese troops at the start of the war as they began capturing Honk Kong, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Burma.
The initial success of the Imperial Army made them invade lands that were further west of the lands that have already been captured.
The Japanese captured Shanghai in November 1937 by aerial bombardment.
The Battle of Shanghai bled both the Chinese and Japanese to the extent that millions died on both sides.
Chinese fled inwards, making the way for the Japanese army to penetrate the mainland further along.
Nanking, the capital of China at that time became another war front where the Imperial army fought with Chinese troops.
The Chinese were defeated and absconded and the capital was captured on December 1937.
The killing and raping spree began as the Chinese war prisoners were brutally killed soon after.
The Chinese women and girls were raped and the estimated number reached somewhere between 20,000 to 80,000.
The written documents of the victims were burned when Japan left in 1945; when they were defeated after America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But it was ghastly for the people who survived; to forget what happened there.
Eyewitness accounts of Westerners and Chinese who were present at that time said following the fall of Nanking;
The Japanese Army perpetrated murders, rapes, arson, war crimes, looting etc.
Some of the written accounts can be disturbing to what was done there.
‘Women of all age groups and classes were raped, including Buddhist nuns.’
The Japanese troops went from house to house in search of girls to rape and kill. Any women they found was gang-raped and killed, often by mutilating her body and killing her by inserting their bayonets or bamboo or sticks into their vaginas.
The young Chinese children were cut open to make the penetration easy for the soldiers so that they can rape.
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.’
The letters that survived the passage of time had mentioned the severity of rapes…
One of the letters recounts the rape of two 16-year-old girls,
‘Two teenage girls of around 16 years of age were gang-raped in the refugee camps. The Japanese soldiers came as they please and raped her till she died…’
Another account of killing and rape can be found where a family of 11 were killed.
‘On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house at No. 5 Hsing Lu Koo in the south-eastern part of Nanking and demanded entrance. The door was open by the landlord, a Mohammedan named Ha. They killed him immediately with a revolver and also Mrs. Ha, who knelt before them after Ha’s death, begging them not to kill anyone else. Mrs Ha asked them why they killed her husband and they shot her. Mrs Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1-year-old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs Hsia’s parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14 [were]. They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha’s two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.’
This inhuman atrocity raises a pertinent question as to why the massacre occurred?
It is because of the brutal hierarchical social order that the Japanese soldiers lived in.
They submitted to power above them and oppress the ones who were below them in power or lesser ranks.
They were derailed by the assumption that their race was the superior one and the Chinese were considered pigs which were meant to be slaughtered.
What made the soldiers kill and rape millions in the process can be found in the way how their enemies were dehumanized.
Nazis described Jews as vermin. Japanese regarded the Chinese victims as animals who were meant to be exterminated.
The training and teaching of the army to view their enemies as animals who were needed to be killed to bring peace upon the planet is what made the men, women and children suffer.
The brutalities were justified as they took pride in killing so many.
One of the disturbing parts of the news can be found when a Japanese newspaper covered a contest between two soldiers Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda of the Japanese 16th Division.
The two soldiers were having a kind of competition where the one who kills 100 people earlier will be the winner.
The barbaric murders of civilians were also mentioned in some texts as to how the Japanese killed thousands in the process and still managed to not take the responsibility of the genocide.
‘…the Japanese as a nation are still trying to bury the victims of Nanking- not under the soil, as in 1937, but into historical oblivion.’
This is an excerpt from the book called ‘The Rape of Nanking’ by Iris Chang. She was the one who compelled the Japanese government to take the responsibilities of their history with the Chinese and make reforms by apologizing to their Chinese counterparts.
But some Japanese nationalists have never admitted to the atrocities done by their Imperial army.
Some even called this Nanjing massacre a ‘fabrication of lies’.
‘Never happened’ was the term that they are consistent with.
But at the end of this horrible encounter and mass rapes crimes; a question pops out from my head.
Why Are ‘Women’ Subjected To These Outrages?
Because rape is a weapon that is being used against the ‘enemy’ women as it is misogynistic and xenophobic.
Rape as a crime degrades the sense of self and the community’s morality.
It demonstrates power; over women and men; who were meant to protect them.
The serious blow of having their women raped and killed is the thing that they are still using to disgrace their enemies.
Rape as a war crime is still happening as soldiers from different parts of the world are committing rapes to bring shame to the families and communities they want to teach lessons to.
This should be stopped and if the whole of humanity stands against the rapists, then we can positively bring change in this somewhat less positive world.
Akash Rout is a jolly old fella who writes non-fiction as well as fiction. He is known for his rebellious yet subtle form of satires and humor. An aspiring stand-up comic with a science background. So, give him a break, will you!