The Rape of Nanking : The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, Paperback Book

The Rape of Nanking : The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II Paperback

4 out of 5 (7 ratings)


In December 1937, the Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking.

Within weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were systematically raped, tortured, and murdered,a death toll exceeding that of the atomic blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Using extensive interviews with survivors and newly discovered documents, Iris Chang has written the definitive history of this horrifying episode.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 360 pages
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780465068364

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Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.

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Review by

The Rape of Nanking is, in and of itself, a brutally tragic instance in human history. Hardly a fitting book to followup Tina Fey's book, it's a non-fiction book that has few modern rivals. It's terrifying to think that this part of history barely got mentioned before Iris Chang published her 1997 book. I'd say more about the book itself but this article sums it up nicely. For a dramatic interpretation, City of Life and Death is a powerful dramatization but a little slow. I enjoyed Nanking (2007) which is available to view for free online. This movie allows the audience to get to know the foreigners who lived in the city at the time by hearing excerpts from their writings.

Review by

One of the most horrific atrocities in the 20th Century was called The Rape of Nanking. At the height of Japanese aggression during the Sino-Japanese War; General Chaing Kai-Shek was forced to abandon the old Chinese capitol of Nanking in order to preserve his army. Japanese troops, frustrated at being held at bay, ran amok in the town, killing hundreds of thousands, and ruining as many more lives as civilians were enslaved, raped, mutilated, or all of the above. Japanese actions during their occupation of Nanking and through out China, Burma, the Philippines, and other nations was utterly horrific by any measure of history. Yet even today, Japanese teach their children very little about this dark period of their history, both misrepresenting their actions or omitting any sort of picture altogether. Despite an initial outcry when it first happened, Nanking quickly fell into the realm of general antipathy that bad things that happen to far away people unfortunately occupy. Like the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia; Nanking suffered from brutal treatment by a foreign force who doesn't even regard them as human. Author Iris Chang wrote this book to make sure that Japanese efforts to suppress this incident and the ambivalence of the west doesn't lead to so many victims being forgotten by history. Her motives are clear throughout this book. She cites first-hand accounts by observers and surviving victims, as well as a corroborating account by, of all people, a German official who set up a safe zone for refugees and reported the Japanese action to Hitler (after which he was ordered to keep silent over it). Chang cites some of the worst offenders by name, especially those who fates are recorded as war-crime executions. Chang is also appropriately disgusted over those who were so high up they evaded prosecution -- and regarding the nation of Japan in general for not admitting to their crimes and paying restitution to the victims. Other recent book regarding the actions of 20th century Japan also implicate collusion with western powers, especially the US, in protecting the interests of the very powerful as part of a plot line that supersedes the entire war and millions of victims combined. I suppose this was a little outside the scope of Chang's thesis, but she might have elicited a little more outrage for connecting the dots in a comprehensive fashion.

Review by

The "Rape of Nanking" refers to the astounding atrocities committed by invading Japanese soldiers during the first several weeks of their occupation of Nanking, then China's capital, slaughtering perhaps half the city's population. From 250 to 350 thousand non-combatants killed and 20 to 80 thousand women raped in a matter of six to eight weeks after Nanking fell in December of 1937. The book tells that story through the Japanese soldiers who witnessed and took part, the Chinese survivors, and about two dozen European and American residents who stayed and created a "safety zone" within the city harboring 300,000 people and which Chang credits with saving the other half of the city's population. It is, in other words, like many stories of World War II, a story of nearly unbelievable evil and incredible goodness. Of atrocity and heroism--and until recently selective amnesia as the Japanese chose to forget and countries wishing to foster good relationships with them from Communist China to the United States aided and abetted them.The Foreword notes that what "is still stunning is that it was a <i>public</i> rampage, evidently designed to terrorize. It was carried out in full view of international observers and largely irrespective of their efforts to stop it. And it was not a temporary lapse of military discipline, for it lasted seven <i>weeks</i>." The story Chang recounted was nothing less than horrific and thoroughly documented and made for disturbing reading--and viewing given the photographs included. There were killing competitions by Japanese soldiers, murder by burying alive, fire, ice, acid, dogs. One irony of Japan's refusal to come to terms with what happened is that many who took part <i>can</i> speak out about what they themselves did with impunity and no fear of prosecution. One former soldier related that they killed, raped and tortured without remorse--and were prepared for it not simply by a regime that dehumanized the Chinese but had long instilled self-sacrifice--the idea they didn't individually matter. He explained, "if my life was not important, an enemy's life became inevitably much less important."There are heroes in this--the "International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone"--ironically headed by the local Nazi Party head. John Rabe was "the Oskar Schindler of China," a German businessman who can be credited with saving hundreds of thousands. And who carefully documented the atrocities--an indictment with all the more credibility because it came from a German--a man whose nation was allied with Japan. Finally Chang deals with how so much of this history has been denied and erased from the education of the Japanese. A phenomenon I saw firsthand. A few years after this book was published I was in my last semester of college and enrolled in a program that placed students in DC internships and provided courses for credit. I took a course on modern Asia given by an American career diplomat. Also in the class was a Japanese national. We once asked him what he thought of what he was hearing, and he said he thought it very biased. One day our teacher told us he had dropped the course in protest--he had simply <i>refused</i> to believe what he was hearing about Japanese conduct during World War II could be anything but propaganda. She told us the Japanese simply are not taught about the shameful parts of their history. Or weren't. As of 1997 when <i>The Rape of Nanking</i> was published, Chang tells us the whole incident was airbrushed out of the textbooks, and the government of Japan had refused to provide reparations or offer an apology--very much in contrast to Germany and how it has dealt with its Nazi legacy. I don't know how much that might have changed over the last 15 years. But Chang certainly did history a service in writing this thorough--and at times moving--account of terrible events during World War II.

Review by

Enthralling history of Nanking when the Japanese invade China. The terror and horror of the actions of the Japanese invaders mimics those of the Nazis with the Jews. Unlike the Germans who had charges brought forward against them, very few if any people have been held accountable for these atrocities. Very little reparation to the Chinese has been done. Startling and necessary read!

Review by

I picked this up after reading Unbroken in which this period of history was mentioned. I, like I think a lot of people, did not know anything about this aspect of WWII history. In Unbroken it is referenced as being so bad that it terrified the American soldiers greatly and they were deathly afraid to be captured by the Japanese. My interest peaked and I decided to learn more.I seem to be specializing in little known holocausts as I am also reading Sandcastle Girls which deals with the Armenian genocide. Reader beware, Iris Chang spared no details in relating the Rape of Nanking. The horrific descriptions were so awful that they gave me nightmares and there were pictures to boot. Weak stomached people should stick to the Wikipedia summary. In any case what happened is during WWII the Japanese who live on a teeny tiny island dubbed themselves the master race and in order to branch out decided to take over China. They conquered Shanghai, the New York of the east and moved on to Nanking where they met no resistance. It turns out that the Chinese weren't too interested in fighting the Japanese after all and surrendered without pretty much any resistance. Thousands of Chinese soldiers were laying down their weapons for the relatively few Japanese. This caused quite the problem for the Japanese who could not feed thousands upon thousands of prisoners. Their solution? kill them all. Hague Convention out the window. As if that was not disturbing enough what happened next could hardly be described as the acts of a human being. Due in part to the sadistic way Japanese soldiers were trained all sense of decency was obliterated.Sexual depravity, mass rape, and killing innocent civilians in ever inventive ways. It got so bad it even sickened the Nazi's. Some foreigners tried to intervene but it was a drop in a waterfall. It took the dropping of the atomic bomb to finally expel the Chinese from Japan. The author took her work very personally. My times she interjects the word I into the narrative. As a Chinese American she had more than a passing interest in the terrible treatment of her people. She became consumed by Japan's minimizing the holocaust. Where the Nazi's were punished after WWII and had to make reparations the Japanese for a variety of reasons were never held accountable. Many of the Japanese involved in the atrocities were holding prominent positions in society. The Japanese tried to white wash in their textbooks and any Japanese citizens who were involved that tried to speak out and offer apologies was ostracized. Chang tried to confront Japanese officials about their treatment of Chinese citizens during the holocaust but she was rebuffed and the validity of her work was called into question. While working on a book about the Bataan Death March, another shameful chapter in Japanese history, she suffered a nervous breakdown and killed herself. She is regarded as another victim of the Rape of Nanking.This book should be read so that light can be shed on this little known chapter of world history and so that it will never forgotten. I am not sure if all of Iris Changs information is accurate as some would claim but if only a portion is true than it is bad enough. It is a shame that Iris Chang was never able to deliver to the Chinese people the apology from Japan that she so desperately wanted to hear.

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