Very early in the morning,
on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (01.10.2014),
I stood in front of the giant cross outside the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and looked up at the date inscribed on the cross: 1937.12.13-1938.1. The date represented the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation of Nanjing.
Just beside the cross, there was this number “300 000” that glared defiantly at me under the sun. This is a rough estimation of the number of people killed over the six weeks by the Japanese Imperial Army. The people had been raped, decapitated and tortured just before they breathed their last. To be noted, most of these people were unarmed civilians.
I felt like my head was spinning.
After a short walk in the memorial hall, I escaped the crowd, found a quiet place and finished reading the Chinese translation of the book written by Iris Chang. It had a provocative title: “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II”.
Published in 1997, this non-fiction quickly became the New York Times Bestseller. Chang was an American-born Chinese (or the so-called “ABC”) and could not read or understand most of the Chinese characters. Yet, this young and passionate journalist was willing to spend about three years to conduct interviews and research in Nanjing. The result was her sensational articulation of one of the darkest moments in human history. Her daring venture finally led her to join the effort to urge the Japanese government to show remorse and to apologize for the war crimes committed. In 2004, having suffered from a nervous breakdown, she committed suicide.
John Rabe was one impressive character who was mentioned in Chang’s book and whose life story in Nanjing was transformed into a film directed by Florian Gallenberger. I watched the film a while ago in Germany.
This Rabe was called the “Schindler of China”. Together with several other foreigners, Rabe established the International Safety Zone to provide refuge for the civilians during the Nanjing massacre, and managed to rescue about 200 000 Chinese from the brutal atrocities executed by the Japanese Imperial Army. Believe it or not, Rabe was one member of the Nazi Party! Naively, he even wrote to Hitler for help, since he thought that Hitler could and would stop the massacre. He was proven wrong. After his return to Germany in 1938, he was soon arrested by the Gestapos for wanting to reveal the atrocities in China to the public. Later in the post-war Germany, he was interrogated and treated as a war criminal. In 1950, he ended up dying in poverty.
Here you go, there was this American female intellect, and there was this German Nazi businessman.
And I wonder: Why were the much needed help, the calls for justice and the acts of courage coming from the most unexpected corners of life?
Then I think of one story that I have read before:
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)