What is the Alleged Nanking Massacre?
The alleged Nanking Massacre, commonly known as the Rape of Nanking, is the name of a genocidal war crime said to have been committed by the Japanese military in the city of Nanking, the then capital of the Republic of China, after it fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on December 13, 1937. There is a dispute about whether it really occurred or not.
Massacre affirmationists claim that during the occupation of Nanking, the Japanese army committed numerous atrocities such as rape, looting, arson and the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. They say that the Japanese massacred about 300,000 Chinese people in Nanking during the six weeks after the Japanese occupation of the city. On the outer wall of the Nanking Massacre Memorial Museum in China is written “300,000” as the number of the massacre victims. Many Chinese children visit there every year to be planted anti-Japanese feeling in their hearts.
Massacre denialists claim that newspapers, photos, documentary films, records and testimonies in those days all tell the Nanking Massacre of 300,000 people, a large-scale massacre or even a small-scale massacre, did not take place. According to denialists, the so-called Nanking Massacre was a fabrication and false propaganda spread by Chinese Nationalists and Communists for their political purpose.
Today, we have numerous reliable pieces of evidence showing that the massacre did not actually occur. Firstly, I will give a brief explanation of what actually occurred in Nanking, and then, show the details.
What Actually Occurred in Nanking
In 1937, to end the China Incident, the Japanese military advanced on China and fought against Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese military in Nanking. During the battle, every civilian who remained in the city took refuge in the Safety Zone, which was specially set up within the walls of Nanking. The Japanese military did not attack it, and no civilian was killed.
Until the time of the Japanese occupation of Nanking, the Chinese military had committed numerous bad deeds such as plunder and rape among citizens. The citizens who had abhorred them welcomed the entry of the Japanese military into Nanking, giving cheers and rejoicing (see the picture at the top of this page).
Just before the Japanese occupation, the population of the city was about 200,000. One month after the occupation, many Chinese citizens came back to Nanking learning that peace had returned, and the population increased to about 250,000. Newspapers in those days had numerous photos of Chinese citizens who had come back to Nanking and lived peacefully, buying, selling and smiling with Japanese soldiers.
In the battle of Nanking, many Chinese soldiers discarded their military uniforms to run away, killed Chinese civilians to take off civilian clothes, and hid themselves among Nanking citizens. Some Westerners remaining in Nanking sheltered Chinese military officers secretly, breaking the agreement with the Japanese military to be neutral. Many of the Chinese soldiers not only hid weapons to prepare urban warfare, but also raped Chinese women and put it on an act of Japanese soldiers for anti-Japanese maneuvering purpose. The Japanese military found out these illegitimate soldiers, and there were those who were executed by the Japanese military; however, these executions were recognized as legitimate under international law.
It is also a fact that there were around ten or several tens cases of small crimes such as plunder and rape committed by Japanese soldiers in Nanking. However, these were similar to the crimes which soldiers of other countries also committed in occupied territories, and the Japanese criminals were strictly punished.
There were such things, but the Japanese military did not massacre anyone in Nanking. The Japanese military rather did many humane aid activities to Nanking citizens and POWs. There was no single Chinese citizen who starved to death under the Japanese occupation. Seeing these Japanese activities and being moved by them, there were even Chinese POWs who later joined Wang Jingwei’s pro-Japanese government.
Those who committed atrocities were Chinese soldiers. Many Chinese soldiers discarded their military uniforms and chose to hide themselves among Nanking citizens. Since they couldn’t be naked, they killed civilians to take off their civilian clothes. Espy, the American vice-consul at Nanking, and others witnessed these scenes. Those who massacred Chinese people were Chinese soldiers.
The Chinese military in those days was rather a crowd of robbers, than to be called a disciplined military. They plundered Chinese villages of foods, raped women and burnt the villages. Civilians who were killed in and around Nanking were mostly killed by the Chinese military. There are many testimonies about it. The Chinese government has been putting these Chinese soldiersEatrocities on an act of the Japanese military to establish the government authority over Chinese people.
The following are the details:
Evidence that the Japanese Military Did Not Massacre
Return of the Populace
The population of Nanking just before the Japanese occupation was about 200,000. About a week before the Japanese attack on Nanking, on November 28, 1937, the head of the Police Department of Nanking, Mr. Wan, announced at a press conference for foreigners, “About 200,000 people still live here in Nanking.” Five days after the Japanese occupation, on December 18, 1937, the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, which was a group of Westerners remaining in Nanking, announced that the population of the city was about 200,000. Later, on December 21, the Foreigners Association in Nanking referred to 200,000 as the population of Nanking.
How could the Japanese kill 300,000 citizens in a city that held only 200,000 people?
One month after the Japanese occupation, many Nanking citizens who had escaped the city came back to Nanking, learning that peace had returned, and the population increased to about 250,000. There is a record that the Japanese troops distributed food to that number of citizens. On January 14, 1938, about one month after the Japanese occupation, the International Committee announced that the population of Nanking had increased to about 250,000.
The Japanese military had published Good Citizen Certificate to Nanking citizens from the end of December 1937 to January 1938 to distinguish them from Chinese soldiers hiding in Nanking in civilian clothing. The total number of the certificates reached about 160,000, although this figure does not include children under the age of ten and old people above the age of sixty. Professor Lewis Smythe, who was in Nanking as a member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, wrote in his letter to Tokuyasu Fukuda, a probationary diplomat of the Japanese Embassy in Nanking, that according to this figure, the population of Nanking was about 250,000-270,000.
Many Nanking citizens thus came back to the city, and the population increased. Would the citizens have come back to a city in which there had been a massacre?
On the day when the Japanese troops entered Nanking, more than 100 press reporters and photographers entered together with them. The press corps were not only from Japan, but also from European and American press organizations, including Reuters and AP. However, none of the press corps reported the occurrence of a massacre of 300,000 people. Paramount News (American newsreels) made films reporting the Japanese occupation in Nanking, but did not report the occurrence of a massacre.
The British newspaper North China Daily News, which was published in China in English on December 24, 1937, eleven days after the Japanese occupation of Nanking, carried a photo taken in Nanking by their photographer. The photo was entitled “Japanese distribute gifts in Nanking.” In the photo are Japanese soldiers distributing gifts, and Chinese adults and children receiving the gifts and rejoicing. Is this the scene of a massacre?
The Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, who had escaped from Nanking just before the attack by the Japanese military, broadcasted radio addresses hundreds of times to the Chinese people until the end of the Pacific War. He never mentioned the Nanking Massacre even once. This is very unnatural—if the mass slaughter really occurred.
At the time of the Japanese occupation of Nanking, a major Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, published many photos of Nanking. Five days after the occupation the newspaper reported on the peaceful scenes of Nanking. In one of the photos, Japanese soldiers are buying something from a Chinese without carrying their guns. In another photo, Chinese farmers who returned to Nanking are cultivating their fields. In others, a crowd of Chinese citizens are returning to Nanking carrying bags, and Chinese adults and children wearing armbands of the flag of Japan are standing around a street barbershop and smiling.
The Asahi Shimbun also reported scenes of Nanking eight days after the occupation in an article entitled, “Kindnesses to Yesterday’s Enemy.” In one of the photos, Chinese soldiers are receiving medical treatment from Japanese army surgeons. In another, Chinese soldiers are receiving food from a Japanese soldier. In other photos, Japanese soldiers are buying goods at a Chinese shop, a Japanese officer is talking with a Chinese leader across a table, and Chinese citizens are shown relaxing. Are these the scenes of a massacre? Articles from other dates are similar, reporting that peaceful Chinese living returned to Nanking. Many Chinese civilians came back to the city; farmers began to cultivate their fields and merchants began to do business again. How can we say there was a massacre in the city?
The sources of these photos are very clear. They can be seen at the National Diet Library of Japan. We cannot deny that they were taken in Nanking just after the Japanese occupation.
The Japanese Military Did Not Attack Civilians
Before the battle of Nanking, the commander General Iwane Matsui ordered the Japanese army to be very careful not to kill any civilians.
During the battle, every civilian took refuge in the Nanking Safety Zone, which was specially set up to protect all the civilians of Nanking. The Japanese army knew that many Chinese soldiers were also in the Zone; nevertheless, the army did not attack it, and there were no civilian victims, except for several who were accidentally killed or injured by stray shells.
This Nanking Safety Zone was managed by the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, which was a group of professors, doctors, missionaries and businessmen from Europe and the USA. They did not leave Nanking before the beginning of the battle, but chose to remain in the city. The leader of the Committee was John Rabe, and after the Japanese occupation, he handed a letter of thanks to the commander of the Japanese army. The following is an excerpt from his letter of thanks:
December 14, 1937
Dear commander of the Japanese army in Nanking,
We appreciate that the artillerymen of your army did not attack the Safety Zone. We hope to contact you to make a plan to protect the general Chinese citizens who are staying in the Safety Zone. We will be pleased to cooperate with you in any way to protect the general citizens in this city.
–Chairman of the Nanking International Committee, John H. D. Rabe–”
If the Japanese military wanted to massacre every Nanking citizen, it would have been very easily done if they only bombarded the Nanking Safety Zone, because it was a narrow area and all civilians gathered there. The Japanese military did not attack it, but rather protected all the people of the Zone.
The reason why the Japanese military attacked Nanking was similar to the reason why the American and the allied militaries once attacked Baghdad of Iraq at the Gulf War in 1991. The alliance wanted to get rid of the Iraqi dictator who was doing bad things to neighboring countries. Similarly, Japan wanted to get rid of Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship which was giving torments to many Chinese people and also to Japan. General Matsui’s purpose of the war was not to take the land, but to save Chinese civilians from his dictatorship and from the Chinese civil war, killing among the Chinese themselves. Japan wanted to establish in China a strong Chinese government not of communists, not of Western powers, but of the Chinese people who were willing to build in cooperation with Japan the great Asia which would not be invaded by communists or exploited by Westerners. It was impossible for such Japanese military to kill Chinese civilians.
Traditionally in Japan, Samurai warriors lived inside walls of castle, and inhabitants like farmers and merchants lived outside the walls. Civilian cities were not walled. War was a fight only among warriors, and they never killed civilians. If a Samurai killed innocent civilian either in his land or enemy’s land, the Samurai’s lord blamed him as against the Samurai spirit, and punished him. While, in China, inhabitants like farmers and merchants lived inside a walled city, and in wars the inhabitants inside were often all slaughtered along with warriors. In Chinese chronicles, we often read such massacres. The Chinese language has the word which writes slaughtering castle and means slaughtering all people within the city. It was a Chinese culture. The Japanese never had such a culture. Nanking was a walled capital city, and the idea of massacring all inhabitants was Chinese, not Japanese.
Total Number of Buried Bodies
After the battle of Nanking, the Japanese military entrusted the burial of the war dead to the Chinese.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Trial) used the burial records of about 40,000 bodies by the Red Swastika Society, a Chinese voluntary association in Nanking, as evidence of killings of the Japanese military. The Tribunal also used the burial records of 112,267 bodies by the Chung Shan Tang (Tsung Shan Tong), a 140-year-old charitable organization. The combined total was about 155,000.
However, concerning the Chung Shan Tang, none of the documents which were written by members of the International Committee in Nanking or the Japanese authorities in Nanking mentioned that the Tsun Shan Tang was engaged in the burial work. Kenichi Ara, a researcher of modern history, showed evidence in an article of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper that the Chung Shan Tang’s burial report of 112,267 bodies had been entirely forged and that they had actually buried no bodies. The Chung Shan Tang’s report was a false one added after the war to amplify the number of burials.
It was a fact that the Red Swastika Society engaged in the burial work. They buried almost all the war dead in Nanking, and according to the Society, the burials reached about 40,000. This is far from 300,000. In addition, these 40,000 were killed in battle, not in a massacre, because among the bodies were almost no corpses of women and children. This means that the Japanese military did not massacre civilians. I will mention the details later.
Denial of Massacre in Testimonies
Shudo Higashinakano, a professor at Asia University in Tokyo, published a compilation of the testimonies of Japanese soldiers who had participated in the Nanking operation in his book entitled, The Truth of the Nanking Operation in 1937. In these testimonies, no Japanese soldiers testified that there had been a massacre. For instance, Colonel Omigaku Mori stated, “I have never heard or seen any massacre in Nanking.”
Kenichi Ara, a researcher of modern history, published a compilation of the testimonies of Japanese press reporters, soldiers and diplomats who had experienced Nanking during the Japanese campaign. In these testimonies, also, no one testified that there had been a massacre of civilians. Yoshio Kanazawa, a photographer from the Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun newspaper, testified, “I entered Nanking with the Japanese army and walked around in the city at random every day, but I have never seen any massacre nor heard it from soldiers or my colleagues. It is impossible for me to say that there was a massacre. Of course, I saw many corpses, but they were those killed in battle.”
Tokuyasu Fukuda, who was in Nanking as a Japanese diplomat, testified, “It is a fact that there were crimes and bad aspects of the Japanese military, but there was absolutely no massacre of 200,000-300,000, or even 1,000 people. Every citizen was watching us. If we had done such a thing (massacre), it would be a terrible problem. Absolutely it is a lie, false propaganda.”
Kannosuke Mitoma, a press reporter of the Fukuoka Nichinichi Shimbun newspaper, worked as the head of the Nanking branch office at the time of the Japanese occupation. In those days his daughter attended the Japanese elementary school in Nanking (from the first grade to the fifth). She testified, “I used to play with neighboring Chinese children in Nanking, but I have never heard even a rumor of the massacre.”
Humane Activities and Fellowship in Nanking
A chief of infantrymen testified, “We defeated the enemy and saw thousands of them dead on the ground of Nanking. But finding a Chinese soldier still alive, our captain gave him water and medicine. The Chinese soldier folded his hands and said “Xie xie” (Thank you) with tears welled up in his eyes. In this way, our infantry company saved 30-40 Chinese soldiers and let them go home. Among them were many who cooperated with us and worked for us. When they had to part from us, they were reluctant to leave, shed tears and then went home.”
A sergeant major of infantrymen testified, “On the way to Nanking, I was ordered to stand as a guard having a rifle one night when I noticed a young Chinese lady in Chinese dress walking toward me. She said in fluent Japanese, ‘You are a Japanese soldier, aren’t you.” And she continued, ‘I ran away from Shanghai; other people were killed or got separated and I thought it would be dangerous for me to be near the Chinese military, so I’ve come here.” “Where did you learn Japanese?” said I, and she said, “I graduated from a school in Nagasaki, Japan, and later, worked for a Japanese bookstore in Shanghai.” We checked but there was nothing suspicious on her. And since we did not have any translator, we decided to hire her as a translator. She was also very good at cooking, knowing Japanese taste, and turned on all her charm for all of us, so we made much of her. She sometimes sang Japanese songs for us, and her jokes made us laugh. She was the only woman in the military unit but made our hard march pleasant. Before the beginning of our attack to the city of Nanking, the commander made her return to Shanghai.”
A first lieutenant testified, “When we had just entered the Nanking Safety Zone, every woman was dressed in rags with her face and all her skin dirtied with Chinese ink, oil or mud to appear as ugly as possible. But after they got to know that the Japanese soldiers were strictly maintaining military discipline, their black faces turned to natural skin, and their dirty clothes turned to fine ones. Soon, I became to come across beautiful ladies in the streets.”
Another soldier testified, “When I was washing my face in a hospital in Nanking, a Chinese man came to me and said, “Good morning, soldier,” in fluent Japanese. He continued, “I was in Osaka for 18 years.” I asked him to become a translator for the Japanese army. He later went to his family, came back and said, “I told my family, ‘The Japanese army have come. So, you are now all safe.'” He cooperated faithfully with the Japanese army for 15 months until we reached Hankou.” If there had been a massacre of civilians in Nanking, it would have been impossible for the Chinese man to work for the Japanese.
Naofuku Mikuni, a press reporter, testified, “Nanking citizens were generally cheerful and friendly to the Japanese just after the fall of Nanking, and also in August 1938 when I came back to Nanking.” He points out that if the Japanese crime rate was very high, such cheerfulness would not have been seen in the city.
Not only these Japanese persons, but also James McCallum, who was in Nanking as an American medical doctor, wrote in his diary on December 31. 1937, “Today I saw crowds of people flocking across Chung Shan [Zhongshan] Road out of the Zone. They came back later carrying rice which was being distributed by the Japanese from the Executive Yuan Examination Yuan.”
McCallum also wrote, “I must report a good deed done by some Japanese. Recently several very nice Japanese have visited the hospital. We told them of our lack of food supplies for the patients. Today they brought in 100 shing [jin (equivalent to six kilograms)] of beans along with some beef. We have had no meat at the hospital for a month and these gifts were mighty welcome. They asked what else we would like to have.”