Telling the world of Japan’s atrocity
Exhibitions in European countries will help to increase awareness overseas of a tragic episode in Chinese history
Exhibitions recalling the horrors of the Nanjing Massacre will be held in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, next week to explain one of the most brutal episodes in human history to people in the two countries.
The first will start on June 5 at the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War in Minsk, which is the only museum established in Belarus during the years of Nazi occupation.
Staged jointly by the Belarus Ministry of Culture, the Jiangsu Foreign Cultural Exchange Association and the two museums, the exhibition will consist of four parts, including details of Japan’s atrocities in Nanjing, humanitarian rescues, early Western media reports and the trials of the war criminals.
On June 7, a onemonth exhibition will begin at National House Smichov in Prague.
More than 100 photos, videos and cultural relics will be exhibited, with descriptions in Russian, Czech and English to explain the facts about the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking in the West.
Some Europeans and Americans who were in Nanjing at the time, including missionaries, professors and doctors, recorded the massacre in photos, diaries and letters. Some of their material will be shown at the exhibition.
Precious videos of the massacre images taken by John Magee (1884-1953), a US missionary who risked his life to use a 16mm movie camera, can be seen at the exhibitions. These include images of the scene after the massacre and victims receiving treatment at a hospital. Though disturbing, they effectively introduce the facts to the audience.
“Many of the items on display belonged to foreigners living in Nanjing,” says Zhang Jianjun, curator of the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. “As foreigners, they provided a more objective view to observe the massacre.”
He says 25 foreigners stayed in Nanjing and established the Nanjing Safety Zone to protect Chinese.
Yang Xiaming, a professor with the Jiangsu Administration Institute, says the foreigners tried their best to protect Chinese refugees.
“They not only saved thousands of lives but also made efforts to reveal the massacre to the world. Thanks to them, we now have solid evidence of the massacre.”
Starting on Dec 13, 1937, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed by Japanese invaders during a six-week holocaust after they captured the then-capital of China.
About a third of the city’s buildings were destroyed, treasures were plundered and 20,000 women were raped, according to Chinese historical material.
“We have communicated with some museum curators in Europe,” says Zhang. “Like most European people, some of them don’t know too much about the Nanjing Massacre.”
“By holding exhibitions overseas we hope that the facts of the Nanjing Massacre can be known to more people in the world. By sharing histories and acknowledging massacre facts, we can further reach mutual understanding and value world peace.”
By 2017, more than 73.7 million people from over 100 countries had visited the Nanjing Massacre memorial hall, where 4,000 photos and 6,000 cultural relics are exhibited. Ambassadors and consul generals from more than 30 countries and regions have visited the hall.
In 2017, President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic became the second sitting head of state to visit the memorial hall.
In the same year, Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Andrei Ravkov visited the site.
In 2014, Queen of Denmark Margrethe II became the first sitting head of state to visit the hall.
In 2012, former United States president Jimmy Carter visited the hall and wrote, “This is a wonderful testimony to the horrors of war, and to the need for peace in all nations.”
The memorial hall has held exhibitions in more than 30 foreign cities, such as San Francisco, Nagoya and Florence. Founded in 1985, it was built on the site of a mass grave where nearly 1,000 bodies of massacre victims were unearthed.
A photo of the Japanese Army blocking Zhonghua Gate in Nanjing was published in the Illustrated London News on Jan 15, 1938.