THE GOOD MAN OF NANKING: The Diaries of John Rabe by John Rabe

THE GOOD MAN OF NANKING: The Diaries of John Rabe

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Diaries of a man who is justly called the Oskar Schindler of China. In December 1937, the Japanese army conquered and occupied the Chinese city of Nanking. What followed was, as Rabe notes, ""destruction barbaric beyond all comprehension."" Japanese soldiers raped, tortured, and murdered indiscriminately, and in all, as many as 300,000 people were butchered. Rabe at this time was Nanking director of Siemens, the German industrial concern. He was also a member of the Nazi Party and an (apparently naive) admirer of Hitler. Easily able to leave the city, he chose to stay and by staying was able to blunt some of the effects of the Japanese onslaught. At first he simply opened his home to Chinese desperate for sanctuary: The number of refugees in his house and (not very large) yard eventually totaled 600. More significantly, he became head of an international committee that was able to create a safety zone in the city where it was hoped noncombatants would be afforded protection. Some 250,000 Chinese streamed into this zone, where, quite literally, the only thing standing between them and the depredations of the Japanese soldiers was the courage of Rabe and a handful of other Westerners. Rabe's diaries describe in detail the atrocities committed by the Japanese, but also how Rabe cajoled, flattered, and when necessary bullied the Japanese authorities into tolerating the safety zone. Like Schindler, Rabe was quite aware that his Nazi affiliation afforded him a degree of influence and protection. This does not, however, account for the heroism and steadfastness with which he saved thousands of lives. Rabe's dramatic--and perhaps, to some, ambiguous--tale shows how unremarkable people can sometimes do remarkable things, and how one evil can, sometimes, be used to fight another.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1998
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf