The few, the good, the Christian

A new movie is out, documenting the horrific Rape of Nanking, when Japanese troops slaughtered about 200,000 Chinese people in a matter of weeks (and probably raped at least 20,000 women). The New York Times review discusses those few Westerners who stayed to help out, and saved thousands of people, but I wonder if the reviewer really understood the thread connecting all but one of those Westerners:

Many of the dozen witnesses are heroic men and women from Europe and the United States who remained in the city and saved thousands of lives by setting up a two-square-mile safety zone for the many thousands of civilians unable to evacuate.

Woody Harrelson reads the words of Bob Wilson, who was born in China, the son of an American missionary. He was the only surgeon to remain in Nanjing after the Japanese began bombing the city.

Mariel Hemingway speaks for Minnie Vautrin, a Christian missionary and chairwoman of the education department at Ginling College, who saved countless women from rape by hiding them from the marauding soldiers.

Jürgen Prochnow is John Rabe, an imperious German businessman and Nazi Party member, who used his status to try to halt the violence; when Mr. Rabe, who harbored 650 Chinese civilians on his estate, eventually returned to Germany, he was ordered never to speak of what he had seen.

Hugo Armstrong is John Magee, an Episcopal minister and amateur filmmaker who set up a hospital for wounded solders. “Nanking” includes excerpts from grainy 16-millimeter film he shot of the grotesquely disfigured patients. His film was smuggled out of the country at considerable peril and only discovered in Germany in the 1980s.

One is also left wondering whether Rabe, the odd man out in this community of brave Christians, was a hard core Nazi, or if he was an opportunist who joined the party for its economic benefits, in the same way that Oskar Schindler did.

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Comments

  1. SGT Dave says

    BW,
    I may be wrong, but I think Rabe was Lutheran and used his ties to that church and Catholicism to assist in moving the people he helped. If memory serves (and mine fails at times) Rabe was a member of the National Socialist Party because he represented Germany and German industrial interests in a psuedo-diplomatic role. This does mean he joined a questionable political movement for strictly monetary gains – but that is not the same as fully embracing the Nazi cause.
    Anyhow, he could not have been a full, good Nazi because of his participation. Hitler’s response to the cleansing of Manchuria and the Korean peninsula was one of utter indifference, if not praise for Japan. Though not members of the “master race”, they at least were effective in removing “lesser” races that might sully humanity.
    I wish I had my books here; my personal library has a number of volumes on WWII, mainly the European theater. I may have to call my dad since he’s the one fascinated with the Pacific theater. Though he may not know, since his focus was on carriers, fighter aircraft, and the effectiveness of the bombing campaigns, not Japanese atrocities.
    Merry Christmas to all – and remember that they cannot hide the city on the hilltop, though they try.

    SGT Dave
    “It is not just the achievement that brings heroism; it is the striving, even in failure.”

  2. Lissa says

    Hi Book,

    For anyone interested in the subject, you may want to check out “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang. It’s been a while since I read it so I can’t comment on Christian vs. Lutheran etc., but I remember thinking at the time that it was an interesting counterpart to the Holocaust’s “Oh, but we didn’t know!” excuse. Chang does a good job of compiling headlines and pictures from The New York Times and other big publications, to prove that the world did indeed know, and still the massacre continued.

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