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Excerpts From Journal:


Although it was such a terrible event, the Nanjing Massacre was very obscure to international attention, and even today, its credibility is still doubted by some, however, the various documents, photographs and written records kept by the International Committee members and other witnesses serve as solid proof of what truly happened in Nanjing over half a century ago. John Rabe's diaries are one of the greatest and most accurate examples of bringing back a forgotten history. During the massacre and his return to Berlin, he wrote two volumes of a diary, through which he told the precise and stark reality of the horrors he witnessed in the city, and hoped that "one day, the truth will out." In the Berlin Diaries, Rabe, as an honorable man, seldom wrote down his complaints despite his plights believing that there were always others who were in worse circumstances. These are several excerpts taken from the diaries conveying what he had witnessed.

Beginnings: September 21, 1937 Amidst the Massacre
Afterwards/Berlin


December 3, 1937
Although General Tang, who is in charge of defending the city, promised us that all military personnel and installations would be kept out of the refugee zone, we now learnt hat three new trenches and/ or foundations for antiaircraft batteries are being dug in the Zone. I inform General Tang's emissaries that I will resign my office and disband the International Committee if work is not stopped at once. Written promises to respect my wishes are provided but I am informed that carrying them out may take some time.


December 4, 1937
Soldiers continue to build new trenches and install military telephones inside the Safety Zone. Air raids lasting for hours have begun again. My friend Kröger was almost killed when several bombs landed not a hundred yards from him. The refugees have slowly begun to move into the Safety Zone. One small newspaper has repeatedly told the Chinese not to move into the "foreigners" refugee zone. These extortionists write that it's the duty of every Chinese to face the dangers that a bombardment of the city may bring with it.


December 5, 1937
When I'm finally sitting in the car, the alarm sounds and bombs start dropping, but I have a pass that lets me drive around even after the second alarm. Besides which, there's so much to do that you can hardly worry about bombs. That sounds very heroic, but luckily the bombs kept landing somewhere else. With the help of the American embassy we have finally received an official answer from Tokyo. They answer is somewhat more detailed, but is not all that much different from the reply wired to us several days ago by Pater Jacquinot, which is to say the Japanese refuse our proposal once again, but promise to respect the Zone if possible. Together with Dr. Bates and Sperling I pay a call on General Tang, who is in charge of the city's defense, in order to get his consent to have all military personnel and establishments removed from the Zone at once. Imagine our amazement when Gernal Tang tells us that this is quite impossible, that at best it will be another two weeks before the military can vacate the Zone. A nasty blow. It means that the Japanese condition that no Chinese soldiers are to be allowed in the Zone will not be fulfilled. Fore now it's a "refugee zone." The matter is discussed at a long committee meeting and a tezt prepared for release to the press, because if we don't want to see our work destroyed, we dar not let the press learn the whole truth yet... Meanwhile one bomb after another is falling. When it all gets too noisy, we pull our chairs away from the window. The city gates have been walled up; of the three gates only one half-panel is still open. We are feverishly trying to get rice and flour into the Zone. Flags marking its borders are being prepared, as well as wall posters intended to explain the Zone to those poor people outside, whose safety we unfortunately cannot guarantee. Dr. Rosen curses the Chinese military roundly for, as he describes it, having slunk into our Zone, because it's safer next to all those vacant houses with German flags than it is outside the Zone. I can't swear that it's true. But the fact is that General Tang himself received us today in a house inside the refugee zone.


December 17, 1937
Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear, they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall. When I show them my party badge they return the same way they came. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I manage to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hostpital. There are about 200 refugees in the garden now. they fall to their knees when you walk by, even though in all this misery, we barely know up from down ourselves. One of the Americans put it this way: "The Safety Zone has turned into a public house for the Japanese soldiers." That's very close to the truth. Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling Girls College alone. You hear of nothing but rape. If husbandsor brothers intervene, they're shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiery... At six p.m. I bring sixty straw mats to my refugees in the garden. Great joy! Four Japanese soldiers scramble over the garden wall again. I catch three of them on the spot and chase them off. The fourth works his way through the rows of refugees as far as the main iron gate, where I nab him and politely escort him out the door. No sooner are these fellows outside than they take off at a run. They don't want to tangle with a German. Usually, all I have to do is shout "Deutsch" and "Hitler" and they turn polite, whereas the Americans have real trouble getting their way...


December 24, 1937
The morning I carefully packed up the red Advent star that we lighted yesterday evening and gave it as a Christmas present, along with a Siemens calendar notebook, to the ladies at Kulou Hospital. Dr. Wilson used the opportunity to show me a few of his patients. The woman who was admitted because of a miscarriage and had the bayonet cuts all over her face is doing fairly well. A sampan owner who was shot in the jaw and burned over most of his body when someone poured gasoline over him and then the course of the day. Almost two-thirds of his skin is burnt. I also went down to the morgue in the basement and had them uncover the bodies that were delivered last night... I have had to look at so many corpses over the last few weeks that I can keep my nerves in check even when viewing these horrible cases. It really doesn't give you in a "Christmas" mood; but I wanted to see these atrocities with my own eyes, so that I can speak as an eyewitness later. A man cannot be silent about this kind of cruelty! Everyone's competing to make this a happy Christmas for me. It's really touching! Everybody likes me suddenly. And it used to be, or so I thought, that no one wanted to have much to do with me, or might I have been wrong there? I feel as if I'm surrounded by loving thoughts. That does a man boundless good after all that I've had to go through these last two weeks. Believe me, I have a prayer in my heart for all of you as well. The terrible crisis that has overtaken us all here has restored our childlike faith. Only a God can protect me from these hordes whose deadly games include rape, murder and arson. We've just had news that new troops will be arriving today who will restore the order we've been longing for. From now on, all crimes are to be severely punished at once. Let's hope so! By God it's time there was a turn for the better. We're very near the end of our tether. I'll close today's entry with this prayer in my heart: May a gracious God keep all of you from ever again having to face a crisis like the one in which we now find ourselves. I do not regret having stayed on here, for my presence has saved many lives, but all the same, my suffering is indescribable.


February 15, 1938
I am now busy packing. It's not an easy task: My health is not up to par, I'm sleeping only about two hours a night. Maybe it has something to do with my diabetes, but so what? You simply do what must be done. Things will turn out all right. I've just heard that the camp managers have all decided to send a telegram to Siemens in Shanghai asking the company to allow me to remain on here. I don't like that at all. My nerves are pretty well shot, and I long for my vacation trip. I'm also afraid that the firm could get the idea that I was behind the telegram, which, of course, is not the case. What shocks me most about a report by our committee that cannot be made public is the observation that although the Red Swastika Society has thus far been burying about 200 bodies a day, there are still 30,000 to be dealt with... I'm touched by the way all my American friends, one after the other, have been inviting me to a farewell dinner, when they themselves are short on rations. And now here comes Miss. Minnie Vautrin, who wants me to come to a farewell tea. Miss. Vautrin won my highest and very special respect in those worst December days when I saw her marching through the city at the head of 400 fleeting women and girls, bringing them to safety at the Ginling University camp.


January 1, 1938
...When I return home in my car, I am received with a royal salute. The lao bai xing [common folk] my poor refugees, have formed two long lines and in my honor set off thousands of fireworks they've been given by the Japanese to celebrate the establishment of the new Autonomous Government. Then all my six hundred parishioners surround me and give me a New Year's greeting written in red ink on white wrapping paper. They all bow three times and are very happy when I bow my head in gratitude and fold up the greeting and put it in my pocket. What a shame the paper is so big. There's no possible way I can fit it into this book. One of my Chinese friends translates the greeting as follows: For Mr. Rabe,
With best wishes for
A happy year.
Hundreds of millions are close to you!
The refugees of your camp
1938.
I'm still not sure what "hundreds of millions" means. It's probably to be read as "hundreds of millions of good spirits." When I ask number-one boy Change, it puts it very succinctly: "In German mean just Prosit Neujahr!"


January 16, 1938
Dinner at the Japanese embassy went off without incident. We were 13 people in all. Besides the officioals of the Japanese embasy, nine representativbe from our committee showed up: Miss. Vautrin, Miss. Bauer, Dr. Bates, Mills, Smythe, Dr. Trimmer, Kroger, and I. On his arrival Kroger received the good news that he may leave for Shanghai. As glade as I am for Kroger, since he plans to get married soon, I am very worried about filling his slot. Kroger is our treasurer and will not be easy to find a replacement. The food was excellent. Since I needed to be careful about what I say in my after-dinner speech, I brought along the following written text: ` Ladies and Gentlemen, In the name of the International Committee of the Nanking Safety Zone, I would like to express my thanks to our hosts, the officials of the Japanese embassy, for their cordial invitation to join them for dinner. We have, I can assure you, not eaten so well in a long time. I ask our honored hosts to forgive me for saying a few words about ourselves. Since most of the members of our committee were active here as missionaries, they felt was their Christian duty not to desert their Chinese friends in time of war. As a businessman who has lived in this country for 30 years now, I joined then. Having enjoyed the hospitality of this land and its people for so long, I considered it fitting that I not abandon the Chinese in a time of distress. Those are the reasons that led us who are strangers to this land to remain behind and make some attempt to stand beside those of the poorest Chinese, who in their need lacked the means to leave the city and did not know where to turn. I do not wish to speak of the work and hardship that we too upon ourselves. They are known to you all. We appeal to the noble sentiments of the Japanese, to the spirit of the samurai, about whom we foreigners have heard and read so much and who fought so bravely for their land in countless battles, yet never denied clemency to a foe who could not defend himself. You, the gentlemen of the Japanese embassy, have patiently heard our requests and complaints, and there were many, and have always lent us a willing ear. You have also, to the extend that you could, done your best to help us. And for this much-appreciated help, I would like, in the name of the International Committee, to hereby express my thanks. I don't know what the Americans thought of my speech. I am aware that I spoke a little against my own conscience, but I thought it useful for our cause and followed the Jesuit principle: "The ends justify the means."


January 31, 1938
Chinese New Year's Day: formal ceremony of congratulation by servants and employees. The refugees stand lined up in rows in the garden and bow to me three times. There are many young girls among them. They all thank me for the protection I've provided, for saving them, which however is not yet a done deed. They present me with a six-by nine food red silk banner inscribed in Chinese, a statement of gratitude, I presume.
You are the Living Buddha
For hundred thousand people.
You have the heart of a Buddha
And share his bold spirit.
You have saved thousands of poor people
From danger and want.
May the favor of Heaven be granted to you.
May good luck follow you,
May God's blessing rest upon you!
The Refugees of Your Camp.
If these were not such perilous times, I could almost laugh at this touching dedication. I've not even resigned yet from my post as mayor and here they are making me a living Buddha for thousands of poor people! But I don't dare take any real delight in this gift, which was brought into the house amid exploding fireworks, because 4 February looms ahead, the day when all these poor people are to be forced from my garden camp. I still hope, however that by showing my German flag I can prevent the worst. God grant it be so! You grow weary in this constant battle against a demoralized Japanese soldiery.