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The Diaries of Minnie Vautrin
and John Rabe

Members of the International Safety Zone Committee open pages of the journals they kept during the Rape of Nanking

Dec. 16, 1937 (Three days after the fall of the city to the Japanese)

There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night--one of the girls was but 12 years old. Food, bedding and money have been taken from people. ... I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out "Ging ming! Ging ming!"--save our lives. The occasional shots that we hear out on the hills, or on the street, make us realize the sad fate of some man--very probably not a soldier. ... Djang Szi-fu's son, science hall janitor, was taken this morning, and Wei has not returned. We would like to do something but do not know what we can do--for there is no order in the city, and I cannot leave the campus.

Mr. John Rabe [Nazi party member and head of the Safety Zone] told the Japanese commander that he could help them get lights, water and telephone service, but he would do nothing until order was restored in the city. Nanking is a pitiful broken shell tonight--the streets are deserted in darkness and fear.

I wonder how many innocent, hard-working farmers and coolies have been shot today. We have urged all women over 40 to go to their homes to be with their husbands and to leave only their daughters and daughters-in-law with us. We are responsible for about 4,000 women and children tonight. We wonder how much longer we can stand this strain. It is terrible beyond words.

--Minnie Vautrin, Head of Studies at Jinling Girls College


The "strain" would continue for up to eight more weeks. Vautrin suffered a nervous breakdown in 1940 in China. When she returned to the states, she was admitted into a mental institution and underwent electroshock therapy. She committed suicide in Indianapolis in 1941. According to relatives, Vautrin never recovered from her experience in Nanking. She is considered a heroine to the Chinese today.

Estimated date: winter, 1938, after the worst of the massacres.

Groups of three to ten maurading soldiers would begin by traveling through the city and robbing whatever there was to steal. They would continue by raping the women and girls and killing everything and everyone that offered any resistance, attempted to run away from them, or simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. During their misdeeds, no difference was made between adults and children. There were girls under the age of eight and women over the age of 70 who were raped and then, in the most brutal way possible, knocked down and beat up. We found corpses of women on beer glasses and others who had been lanced by bamboo shoots. I saw the victims with my own eyes--I talked to some of them right before their deaths and had their bodies brought to the morgue at Kulo Hospital so that I could be personally convinced that all of these reports [he had written] had touched on the truth.

You would have thought it impossible, but the raping of women even occured right in the middle of the women's camp in our zone, which held between 5,000 and 10,000 women. We few foreigners couldn't be at all places all the time in order to protect against these atrocities. One was powerless against these monsters who were armed to the teeth and who shot down anyone who tried to defend themselves. They only had respect for us foreigners--but nearly every one of us was close to being killed dozens of times. We asked ourselves mutually, "How much longer can we maintain this 'bluff'?"

--John Rabe, Leader of the International Safety Zone Committee and head of the Nazi Party in Nanking


After the Rape of Nanking, Rabe lectured in war-time Germany about what he had seen, and submitted an amateur film taken by a minister in Nanking to the German Nazis, intended for Hitler, who confiscated the film and ordered Rabe barred from pursuing his lectures. Rabe was denounced both by the Nazis and, later, the Allies until he was finally exonerated and "de-Nazified" by the Allies in June of 1946. He died, impoverished, in 1950.

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From the December 12-18, 1996 issue of Metro

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