The massacre of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937: this is how a young suicide portrayed the horror

The Chinese city hell in December 37 will be remembered as one of the most brutal massacres in wartime kill to kill.

Four years ago a very long book was published that came to say that we are in the most peaceful world of all time, that even the 20th century, traditionally considered the paradigm of the most ruthless violence with technological support, was not particularly violent in comparison with other periods .

The Canadian scientist Steven Pinker stated this in “The Angels We Carry Within” , saying that today we do not indulge “in atrocious torments applied to other living beings” as in the mosaic of human depravities – torture, superstitious killing, ethnic or religious genocide, sadism, slavery–which he had been exhibiting in the four corners of the planet since prehistoric times.

– Asian Cruelty

Pinker warned: “I think many will also be surprised to learn that of the 21 worst things individuals have done to each other (that we know of), fourteen took place before the 20th century ,” and in a graph it was seen how the conquests of the Mongols in the 13th century or the rebellion and civil war of An Lushan (eight years of the Tang dynasty, which led to the death of 35 million people) in the 8th century were much higher in deaths than recent atrocities.

Thus, the presence of China in his book was absolute, not only with the power of the brutal Genghis Khan, who would go on to conquer practically all of Asia, but also with the Manchu conquest of China in the 17th century , which caused the fall of the dynasty Ming and the disappearance of 25 million people, or the Taiping Rebellion, the civil war that devastated the country between 1851 and 1864 and caused 20 million deaths, plus the two Opium Wars in the second third of the 19th century (60 million of victims), in which the Chinese and the English destroyed each other over the monopoly of that drug, to which must be added the policies of Mao Zedong, who under the “democratic dictatorship of the people” would assassinate countless millions of compatriots, condemning them to death. capital punishment, sending them to concentration camps or condemning them to starvation.

Well, one of the most brutal recent episodes in that China that has seen so many massacres throughout its ancient history was the one suffered by the city of Nanjing, in December 1937, at the hands of the Japanese army.

The journalist Iris Chang tells it in “The Rape of Nanjing. The forgotten holocaust of the Second World War» (Capitán Swing Libros, translation by Álvaro G. Ormaechea), in which he includes what he calls a holocaust within the scope of the Second World War, given that it can be dated in different ways: In the United States, World War II is often thought of as an event that began on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor., which was carried out from aircraft carriers. Europeans date it to September 1, 1939, when Hitler’s Luftwaffe and Panzer divisions launched their Blitzkrieg against Poland. For Africans, it began even earlier, with Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Well, for Asians, World War II began with Japan’s first steps toward military dominance in East Asia. , that is, with the occupation of Manchuria in 1931».

Such steps would have in Nanjing, then the Chinese capital -from 1928 to 1949; in fact, it literally means “the capital of the south”, being today the second largest city in the region, a clear objective on the part of Japan after taking over Manchuria and such important cities as Beijing, Tientsin and Shanghai. The occupation would last until 1945, and for some twisted reason not yet clarified, it would be in Nanjing where “Japanese soldiers began an orgy of cruelty rarely – or perhaps never – seen in the history of the world,” says the author: riddled with bullets with machine guns, used as a target to practice with bayonets, burned with gasoline, forced to rape each other among relatives, castrated and hung by the tongue on iron hooks, Buried up to their waists to be torn to pieces by dogs were the horrific fates of much of Nanjing’s population, according to historians, almost three hundred thousand. And the most shocking thing is that the atrocity happened in a few weeks, which proportionally exceeds the exterminations of the Nazis or Stalinists, or the effects of aerial bombing during the war.

In this sense, in the prologue, the professor of Modern Chinese History at Harvard University, William C. Kirby, speaks, on the one hand, of the seriousness of the facts, and on the other, of international tolerance in the face of events that even today show consequences in Chinese society and that have not yet been recognized by the Japanese Government: «The Japanese looting of the Chinese capital was an abominable event. The mass execution of soldiers and the massacre and rape of tens of thousands of civilians took place in contravention of all the laws of war. What still amazes us today is that it was a public looting, evidently designed to terrorize. It was carried out in the open, in full view of international observers and largely in defiance of their efforts to stop it.

– Open bellies

To complete her research, Iris Chang, the daughter of a couple who fled China in the post-war period to settle in the American Midwest who told her about the so-called “Nanjing Datusha” since she was a child, uses the testimony of foreign missionaries, officials and businessmen who remained in the city. Her work brought to the attention of many people a massacre that she, she observed, was hardly explained in the books on World War II published in the United States. Finally, a series of coincidences revived Chang’s interest in this story, and that myth from his childhood memories turned into harrowing images: during a conference held in a California town, he saw some poster-sized photographs of the Rape of Nanjing, some of which are reproduced in this book: “Decapitated heads, ripped open bellies, and women forced by their rapists to pose in various pornographic scenes, their faces contorted into unforgettable expressions of agony and shame.” It was then that Chang decided to cover an empty space in English: tell in black on white how and why the victims had kept silent and reveal to the world crimes that made the city stink of rotting meat and the rivers reddened by the spilling of human blood.

In ancestral Nanjing

The city of Nanjing today may not have as much tourist interest as Beijing, Xian and Shanghai, but, as Iris Chang relates, it was “long celebrated as one of the greatest literary, artistic and political centers of China.” In fact, it had been the capital of the country between the 3rd and 6th centuries and, after the 16th, intermittently. “It was in Nanjing that the canons of Chinese calligraphy and painting were set, that the four-tone Chinese language system was established, that some of the most famous Buddhist scriptures were edited and transcribed, and that the classical essay style of the Six dynasties (a fusion of Chinese poetry and prose)”. There too, in 1804, the Opium Wars ended and the first president of the Republic of China emerged in 1911. Today, inside the Nanjing Massacre Memorial.

The suicidal author

This book, the first in Spanish by Iris Chang (1968-2004), is a good opportunity to meet an author with an unhappy end, because, a victim of depression, she ended up committing suicide, although some voices insinuate that she was murdered. The daughter of two university professors who emigrated from China, married and the mother of a child, she grew up in the State of Illinois and wrote for the “New York Times” and the “Chicago Tribune”. He published “The Chinese in America: A Narrative History” (2003) and “Thread of the Silkworm” (1995), about a Chinese professor who collaborated with NASA but was accused of being a spy and member of the American Communist Party, although it developed a missile program that would be used in the Iraq war against Iran and by the United States in the Gulf War. Chang was the subject of the book “Finding Iris Chang” and the documentary “Iris Chang.

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