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.