What do you know about German sources on the Rape of Nanking and the War of Resistance besides the diary of John Rabe? If you’re like most people, not much.
I wanted to share a few new tidbits from sources I recently found, as a means of indicating that in the future, more work along these lines could (and should) be done. The point is that German (and French, for that matter) scholarship and primary sources on the Rape of Nanking and the War of Resistance really need to be consulted and understood in order for all of us to have a clearer view of what actually happened, who various witnesses were, and how the events were interpreted around the world in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Lily Abegg was a reporter for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in China in the late 1930s and travelled all around the country. Her description of the battle of Shanghai, and the Japanese entry into Nanking, is not completely hair-raising, but it does add some detail. For instance, she tells the following story:
Shortly before the fall of Nanking, thousands of wounded came into the city, but there they could not count on the ruling [KMT] to take care of them any longer. Once, two thousand (2,000) wounded from the Shanghai front arrived in the city in medical train cars, and lay there for two days. There, in the station, the patients who had died in the meantime were laid, and the wagons were needed for other uses. The dead fouled the air [Die Toten verpessteten die Luft.] Refugees from the city ran and jumped over the wounded and stole away with their packs. Members of the international aid committees went to the ostensible Chinese leaders and demanded a single ambulence, but there was no money with which to purchase gasoline for the vehicle. Finally one brought an automobile….But no one [foreigner] was left to move all the wounded. Chinese observers stood by and watched. They wanted the foreigners to do it themselves, but then a brave policeman emerged and declared that this wouldn’t do [das ginge nun doch nicht]. Finally… the leaderless people began to move themselves.
[Lilly Abegg, China’s Erneuerung: Der Raum als Waffe [China’s Renewal: The Land as Weapon], Frankfurt: 1940, pp. 167-167, translation from the German by Adam Cathcart]
There are plenty of more details in this text, including an analysis of General Iwane Matsui’s tactics in the battles at Shanghai that led toward Nanking, and more worth analyzing. But instead I will leave you with a few relevant photographs.