The Nanjing Massacre, commonly known as “The Rape of Nanjing”, refers to the most infamous of the war crimes committed by the Japanese military during World War II—acts carried out by Japanese troops in and around Nanjing, China, after it fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on December 13, 1937. The duration of the massacre is not clearly defined, although the period of carnage lasted well into the next six weeks, until early February 1938.
During the occupation of Nanjing, the Japanese army committed numerous atrocities, such as rape, looting, arson and the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. Although the executions began under the pretext of eliminating Chinese soldiers disguised as civilians, a large number of innocent men were wrongfully identified as enemy combatants and killed. A large number of women and children were also killed, as rape and murder became more widespread.
The extent of the atrocities is hotly debated, with numbers ranging from the claim of the Japanese army at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East that the death toll was military in nature and that no such atrocities ever occurred, to the Chinese claim of a non-combatant death toll of 300,000. The West has generally tended to adopt the Chinese point-of-view, with many Western sources now quoting 300,000 dead. This is in no small part due to the commercial success of Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanjing”, which set the stage for the debate of the issue in the West; and the existence of extensive photographic records of the mutilated bodies of women and children.
The massacre is a major focal point of burgeoning Chinese nationalism, and in China, opinions are relatively homogenous. In Japan, however, public opinion over the severity of the massacre remains divided. The event continues to be a point of contention in Sino-Japanese relations.
HistoryPodcast 63 – Rape Of Nanjing.mp3 13:00 – 12MB
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