Weird History
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Details About The Rape Of Nanking You'll Never Unlearn

Updated October 3, 2018 500.1k views11 items

The Rape of Nanking represents a truly brutal moment in the history of humanity. Chinese civilians in the then-capital of the Republic of China were tortured, raped, and killed in shocking numbers over a span of six weeks. Also known as the Nanjing Massacre, the event followed one of the battles involving China in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The war was a bloody conflict between Japan and the Republic of China from 1937 to 1945. Tensions had been running high between the two countries because their politics and beliefs viciously collided. Photos of the Second Sino-Japanese War reveal that Japan was initially successful in its military campaign. They captured Nanjing in 1937, which was the capital of China at the time, and continued to spread across their enemy's territory with plans to conquer as much land as possible. Japanese soldiers were told to annihilate both the city and the residents. What followed such vicious orders were mass killings of Chinese citizens, from infants to the elderly. Historians have always debated the death toll, though most agree that around 300,000 perished in the Nanjing Massacre. 

Be warned: both the text and the photos contain graphic content. 

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  • Some Women Were Held As Sex Slaves

    Rape ran rampant throughout the six weeks of the Nanjing Massacre. The open assaults shocked civilians as Japanese soldiers went from house to house, looking for any female victims. Eventually, soldiers grew tired of having to find women, so they began to take them away and stockpile them in houses as sex slaves. A 15-year-old girl told John G. Magee, an American missionary, about such an experience: 

    She was carried off to some barracks where there were some 200 to 300 soldiers. She was kept in a room and her clothes taken away and there raped a number of times daily for about a month and a half when she took sick and they were afraid to use her. She told me that there were a number of other girls held there in the same way as herself. 

  • Thousands Were Executed And Tossed Into Mass Graves

    Photo: Moriyasu Murase / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    Thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians captured during the invasion found themselves taken in large groups to ditches, where they were executed and tossed into mass graves. The largest of these graves became known as the Ten Thousand Corpse Ditch. The ditch was a trench that was five meters wide and 300 meters long, and it is believed at that least 12,000 bodies were thrown into the mass grave. 

    Tillman Durdin, an American reporter for the New York Times, recalled how horrific the executions were. He remembered how in a span of 10 minutes, 200 people were murdered. He writes:

    I was 29 and it was my first big story for the New York Times [sic]. So I drove down to the waterfront in my car. And to get to the gate I had to just climb over masses of bodies accumulated there. The car just had to drive over these dead bodies. And the scene on the river front, as I waited for the launch [...] was of a group of smoking, chattering Japanese officers overseeing the massacring of a battalion of Chinese captured troops. They were marching about in groups of about 15, machine-gunning them.

  • Chinese Prisoners Were Buried Alive

    With the initial invasion of Nanjing came several executions. While gunning down victims and throwing the bodies into trenches was a common practice, so was burying them alive. Groups of victims would be forced into a hole and have dirt heaped on top of them as several Japanese soldiers watched. 

  • The Japanese Soldiers Set Captured Prisoners On Fire

    Photo: WL from Shanghai, China / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Being captured did not mean safety as a prisoner-of-war. For many of the soldiers, their gruesome treatment of captured Chinese people was nothing more than a game. Some prisoners were tied together in groups, doused in fuel, and lit on fire. Some groups had grenades tossed among them.

    One female prisoner caked herself in mud to hide, but was found, locked in a shed with straw, and burned to death.