The Nanjing Massacre: Scenes from a Hideous Slaughter 75 Years Ago

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75 years ago, on Dec. 13, 1937, Japanese troops captured the city of Nanjing, then the capital of the Chinese republic led by Chiang Kai-shek and went on a six-week campaign of carnage and slaughter that would be forever remembered as the “Rape of Nanjing.” Reports document widespread rape and the indiscriminate killing of civilians; some death tolls estimate over a quarter of a million people were killed. The incident, though, still rankles Sino-Japanese relations. Japanese nationalists contend that the death tolls are inflated and the majority killed were resisting Japanese occupation. To this day, pages in Japanese school history textbooks can incite heated protests on the streets in China. Then and now, the Nanjing massacre remains one of the darkest events of the last century.—Ishaan Tharoor

More Photography from Time

182 comments
Djkoz78
Djkoz78

The Japanese people who deny this happened are fools, how would these Japanese people feel if a group of Americans denied the dropping of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and made light of the Japanese people who died or suffered? I bet it would upset a lot of Japanese people and rightly so. If the Germans denied what happened to the Jewish people. None of this is alright, war and war crimes is ugly, wrong, & IMHO is unnecessary. People no matter where you live, no matter what your race, no matter your sex, no matter your religion have people and families and loved ones they care about. We are ALL human beings! All of us. Have you ever wondered why different countries go to war? Is it because soldiers want to kill people or is it because the wealthy send the poor to war while they use it to steal other people's property, reaources, and to control the others? Is it so people can profit from war and manipulate their countrymen to hate another group of people for no other reason than they are different? I will never understand why people treat each other with suspicion, cotempt, xenophobia, and hatred for another race. NO ONE IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER!

aidian
aidian

@ToshiakiHaginoya Please read more books or even watch some NHK documentaries. I hope you will have a deeper understanding on that history.  God bless you.

J.Wong
J.Wong

I read some posts and up to a point I understang what are your feelings about the event. However, from the perspective of a Chinese I would like to post some opinions. First and the most important, the Chinese government host a national memorial for those victims of Nanking rape, not to deepen hatred between China and Japan but to remind people, especially for descendant of Chinese people who might lack of basic historic recognition about WWT, when the whole country or race fall far behind others in economy, industrial production, they must be defeated.

Second, the reason why Chinese people could not forgive Japanese invasion is that the Japanese government never ever made an apology to Chinese people formally and honestly. In contrast, some officers dare to deny the event which had been identified by thousands of documents and files separately existed at US, Britain, German and Russian mesumes. So, from the attitudes to the historic tradegy, their( Japanese government) actions are unacceptable. At least, those people should behave like a responsible adult not a childish student. Why they cannot apologise to victims in Asia not only in China just like what Willy Brandt did to Jewish to hopely ask forgiveness from China and other countries?

The last but not the least, you say how Tibetan being badly treated, at least you should cite some true sources to provide these unless as my knowledge I can believe that is also propaganda which is one of functions played by a mass media society. You some people compared the so-called Tibetan incident to the rape of Nanking, are you kidding? These two things are completely different essentially. There are having 260 million students studying at U.S in 2012, which means we better understand your country than you do about China. Because the majority of news happen at America we can expericece in our person or can be witnessed by our friends not having reliance on reports of media.

kundelic
kundelic

@J.Wong "There are having 260 million students studying at U.S in 2012" , don't say things like that, otherwise people will really think Chinese like to exagerate numbers....

nukodaisuke
nukodaisuke

Japanese troops away.
Foreign Press was possible to take a picture.
Photos of a pile of 300 000 dead bodies.
However photo does not exist.
Genocide is a big lie.

kokch2112
kokch2112

@nukodaisuke thats the problem with peoples like you, dare not own up to your mistake. Sick weirdo.

MerchantMmo
MerchantMmo

In any case, China has had SOME sort of apology from Japan so they really need to let go. Sure its horrible. But as an outsider looking at this squabble, it feels like china is almost loving the fact that they can victimize themselves. The holocaust was worse and even that didnt garner this much DRAGGING hate. I have a feeling that if japan asked china what sort of apology they want, they would ask for something totally outrageous (like provide them with money for the next 100 years) and get butt-hurt if its not met. China isnt exactly known to be humble.

tyrant
tyrant

Well this seems like a perfect time to bring this up, China 1 - Japan 0 , but then again we should also be reminded that China also supported Khmer Rouge which cost about a couple million innocent Cambodian, oh yea we should even mention that because it's not serving any political agenda...

jethromayham6
jethromayham6

These photos are still denied by the Japanese? No wonder there are problems with China. Japanese text nooks deny such a terrible past. Japan does not want to say sorry because most of the offsprings are from the same that caused the massacre. I believe lee than a handfull were ever executed.

joulaid
joulaid

You mean like how western textbooks don't mention that Tibet attacked China first in the 1930 Sino-Tibetan War, and only claim China was the aggresor in 1949?

carledgar
carledgar

"Vinegar Joe" Stilwell supported the Chinese during WWII and could have done a lot more if he hadn't been continually baulked by Chiang Kai-Shek, who was indecisive, ineffectual and self-serving. Stilwell also got pushback from General Chenault, the guy who organised the air bridge over the Hump.


Nevertheless, Stilwell persevered and managed to put together a Chinese force with which he marched into Burma and put a bit of stick about the Japanese

GypsumSterling
GypsumSterling

True, this was one of the worst massacres of the 20th century, but should we really dwell on these horrible events? I can see looking back at them as reminders of what can happen, but I really don't think I would want to see some of the more gruesome photos taken during the time of this event. Some of the photos even after 75 years can evoke such intense negative feelings, and I find that unusually frightening.

KasRoo
KasRoo

As a Chinese descendant in Thailand, I've been in agony anytime I read the Nanjing slaughter and related topics. Nonetheless, this incident has passed for 75 years and the Japanese took the rap of their aggression in atomic bomb of 2 cities which caused hundreds thousand of people died or serious injured. It got even. Let bygones be bygones!

henryhsu
henryhsu

As Chinese, we should never forget what Japanese have done in China! Nevertheless, we have been supporting Japan's economy by cooperating with their industries in the past decades......we are just short in memory!!

Suddenly, the disputed islands waked up the nation and rioting follows! In a few weeks, everything will be back to normal and the Chinese are going to buy Japanese goods as id Nanjing Slaughter has never occurred. We are just a sad nation.........

Cloudryder9
Cloudryder9

Commenting only on what happened in Nanking and leaving the present Chinese politics under communist rule out of it: The photos were hard to look at, and from what I know these are not the worst. Generally speaking, war is a sad thing and to excuse what happened to any group of people b/c you disagree with their government's policies is the saddest. B/c of this reasoning- people turn a blind eye to plights b/c they think a group of people for whatever reasons "deserve it".  Its the same reason Hitler and Japan got away with what they did for much longer then they should have, and countless other historical tragedies.   And if you believe that a group of Chinese civilians deserved what they got from the Japanese (before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950), then you are no better then those you are calling out as criminals.  Tibetans did not deserve the treatment they received under Communist rule, and no more than the Chinese under Japanese rule. Too see any human suffering, regardless of race and politics, should be enough to move one to heart break. Sympathy has a broader umbrella then some allow. 

Lawrance
Lawrance

America’s lack of composure reflects the complexity of China-U.S. relations. No matter how China reiterates the path of peaceful development and shows good will in practice, the United States remains distrustful of China. The United States has a tradition of creating imaginary enemies, and China seems to be qualified as its imaginary enemy from cultural, historical, and social perspectives. However, imaginary enemies are “imaginary” for a reason, and it is unwise to translate strategic mistrust into strategic confrontation.

Djkoz78
Djkoz78

Even now the American government is distrustful of their own citizens and spy on us, and seem like they're gearing up for a war against the American people.

Dachman
Dachman

This is why the US bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima; the Japanese of this time were brutal and merciless. The things they did to their own people during WW2 were also terrible. The Japanese were willing to keep sacrificing their people in WW2 which left the US with only one option to stop them.

LEEFUCHEN
LEEFUCHEN

我的校友跟我说,南京大屠杀应该是假的,是共产党编造出来煽动普通人对日本的仇恨情绪的假新闻.他请我在美国帮他查找有关资料. 当时真的是觉得特别的蠢和愤怒. 时代的这个图片报道在十天前就有了,现在依然还挂在国际新闻的首页,很感慨万千.一个反共的中国人,因为政治信仰问题,而否定南京大屠杀,在对比一下一个所谓的反华国家的媒体,在他最重要的媒体平台告诉世界,曾经有过南京大屠杀. 

carelord
carelord

China is the continuous ancient civilization for millenniums. Our ancestors have experienced peak and bottom cycles, weathered through up and down for millenniums. The youngest generation like me will grow up to full fledged soon with the mother land recovering from huge physical and mental damages mainly caused by the devilish Japanese for the last two centuries. We will and have to let the sick Japanese right wing and its supporters on their island nation fully know what justice and wrath is, soon.

carelord
carelord

I sincerely appreciate the help, credit and sacrifice of American people, which saved numerous lives and dignity of Chinese people, during that crucial grim period, though I only can represent myself not my nation now.

carelord
carelord

It is OUTRAGEOUS that the Japanese right wing, including many government seniors, still annually go to worship the Devilish sick Nazi criminals who committed enormous inhuman crimes, such as mass rape hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Korean women, Sex Slaves, Massacres millions of innocent civilians including children, 731biochemistry live human body experiment Unit, Pingdingshan Massacre, Zhenjiang Massacre, Nanjing Massacre, Yangping Massacre, Suqing Massacre, Sandu Island Atrocity, ChangJiao Atrocity, Chongqing Bombings, Pingyang Massacre, 516 unit, Panjiadai Massacre, sadly the Japanese government seniors( including this former PM Shinzo Abe when he was incumbent) go to worship the criminals even now at 21th century, blatantly deny Nanjing Massacre(by Abe at last week again), and shamelessly water down, cover up and bleach the textbooks.

atlcat
atlcat

So tragedies happened to Chinese people are not tragedies? If you hold this logic, it only proves that you are just a cold-blood animal without a brain. 

tenor
tenor

Japanese are far kinder to China than what China is for Tibet. For any logical conclusion to draw Chinese occupation of Tibet has left 1.2 million Tibetans dead, according to a record, about 6000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries were flattened into dust and ground, at the initial period of invasion Buddhist monks and nuns in Tibet were forced to marry with one another, high lamas were executed in the name of democratic reform, Tibetan women are still forced to go into sterilization, Tibetan language is now officially made redundant, a huge number of Tibetans are still in exile in India and abroad and are separated from one's family for 64 years and this is still continuing, if Tibetan singers and artists speak about Tibetan 'identity' they would be jailed for a lengthy period of time, if an ordinary Tibetans call for a 'free Tibet' it is an act of state crime and would be imprisoned, beaten and sometimes death, possessing and worshiping the photo of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is punishable in extreme measure, to make weaken Tibetan movement the Chinese govt is officially encouraging Han Chinese to migrate into Tibet on a special rights and concessions backed by the Chinese govt and today Tibetans are being outnumbered by Han than Japanese in China 75 years ago. In the name of peaceful liberation, the PRC liberators have killed more Tibetans than the act of  imperial Japanese in China. Today there are more Chinese military stationed in Tibet than Buddhist monks and nuns, more army checkpoints in Tibet than the Tibetan yaks, in the name of economic development there are more Chinese traders and businesses in Tibet than the Tibetans themselves, Tibetans inherent rights in their country are now framed illegal in Tibet and a national security threat in China. Since 2009 as many as 100 plus Tibetans had died out of self-immolations as a protest to end the unbearable Chinese occupation of their country, still where is the concern from Chinese govt instead the Chinese govt labelled these Tibetans a bunch of  mentally sick. Are Tibetans too inconsiderate and trivial a matter for Chinese govt?   And whats more? The communist government will soon collapse for no doubt but the legacy of China's historical crime against Tibet will have to be bore by the countless future Chinese citizens, for that, no amount of apology is enough to heal and mend the pain and lost the Tibetans had passed through under Han occupation. True as an invader isn't imperial Japanese were by far  kinder than the occupying forces of PRC in Tibet? A serious thought is required! 

monsterkingkin
monsterkingkin

Lol. Perpetrators have no right or justification to ask the victims to be forgetful or forgave. If the descendants of criminals want people to forget and move on, at least, they have taught their children that their fathers and uncles are criminals, invaders and monsters. Don't expect any forgiveness even if the descendants of criminals apologize. It is up to the victims and the descendants to CHOOSE to forget and forgive. The choice is not the US or Japan. In addition, criminals are criminals because of what they did. It won't make any differences what OTHERS had committed. 

tennentlee
tennentlee

No one mentions the heroic actions of about two dozen foreign nationals who set up a safe zone in a small area around the U.S. Embassy. With great courage and at great personal risk to themselves they provided a sanctuary for hundreds of thousands of Chinese, mostly women and children. The invading forces recognized the Red Cross flag and did not enter the zone allowing many to be spared.

Although the government in Tokyo must share the blame, it should not be forgotten that by 1938 the Japanese Army in China was acting free of almost any civilian control.

One final comment: the mindset of the Japanese people at the tims is best shown by newspaper accounts in Tokyo of the score in the ongoing decapitation contests between Japanese army officers.

eduhsim
eduhsim

It is funny to read of comments from people not affected directly by the war (ie. from countries that were not invaded by Japan during WW2), and stating their opinions on what happened in Nanjing. It is also frustrating to see the comments of those who are from the nation that caused this tragedy, and easily dismissed their guilt by claiming that the past is the past, and that everyone has to move on. My late grandparents escaped Japanese occupation of China by running to Malaysia, only to find that the Japanese forces has also captured and colonised the latter. Immigrant Chinese in Malaysia was also severely punished and tortured by the Japanese during WW2 because of their affiliation to mainland China. I remembered a story from my grandfather about Chinese men and women who were subjected to water torture. For those who are ignorant of this form of torture, it involves forcing the victims to gorge down large quantity of water, after which they would be stepped on by the soldiers and vomited profusely. Many of these victims suffered permanent internal injuries if they survived the ordeal. I remembered stories of young Chinese men being stripped naked, tied to the stakes, and their private parts burnt using cigarettes. I remembered my grandmother's rendition of how she and my eldest uncle (a toddler then) had to hide in the attic whenever Japanese soldiers raided and searched the town. It was not because they were looking for resistance forces, but for Chinese women to rape. The past can be the past, and what's done definitely cannot be undone. Truth be told, a mere apology cannot solve the tragedy or console the pain. Nevertheless, to dismiss this as a matter of the past, and to opined that bygones should remain as bygones is the worst mindset to have. It is insensitivity in the extreme form. It belittles the suffering of those who are affected. This is why many Chinese and Southeast Asians stubbornly want the Japanese government to publicly acknowledge their war crimes during WW2, and to make an honest apology. Is this too much to ask? During the WW2, many Japanese treated the Chinese and other Asians as sub-humans. It was this attitude that fuelled their contempt and disregard for humanity towards non-Japanese. TIME's rendition and revisit of the Nanjing Massacre remind us that the tragedies in our human history is important. It is important that we learn from it. And, to call our history as merely records of the past best left forgotten means that we have failed to push our human civilisation towards a better future. Sometimes, to make our future brighter we have to acknowledge and learn from our past. 

BenKim
BenKim

This was very wrong....but the past IS the past. BUT the Japanese government did not say 'We're Sorry' to many countries they colonized and these days they are starting to act like the WW2 days, saying bad things about other countries and worsening the land issues...

Everybody likes Japan and we want to as long as we can, I just hope they(the JP GOVERNMENT) to ADMIT the past for the good of all

etherealminstrel
etherealminstrel

Japan’s rapid rise to power has been one of the most amazing miracles of the post-world-war era. By keeping a sober distance from their militaristic past, the Japanese people were able to give full play to their creativity in economy and technology, transforming the war-torn nation into a vibrant, efficient, and benign image within only a few decades. By the mid-1980s, Japan was already the world’s uncontested number two economy, with a per capita gross national product (GNP) exceeding that of the United States.A success example for economically dwarfed neighbors, Japan was generous enough to help some of them including China, which, apart from Japan’s strategic economic considerations, is generally seen as a gesture of goodwill to mend relations. In response, the onetime embittered neighbors also reached out fraternally to Japan and took pride in the success story it brought to a rising Asia. There should be no doubt that Japan’s historical contribution will continue to be observed and celebrated by the Asian community.However, since the turn of the century when Japan began to feel its national ambition increasingly challenged by the rise of other regional powers, the nation’s psychological balance has started to tilt. Though a strong call continues to sound from the depths of its tradition for stronger regional and global assertiveness, a failing domestic front contrasted with steadily growing neighbors has tremendously disturbed its previous priority and equilibrium, which used to be the making of Japan’s success, and resulted in an incohesive political order and an inconducive social morale.Such ambivalence besetting Japan is made more complicated recent years by the intrusive US presence in the region, which, unfortunately, is seen by some Japanese politicians as the bandwagon that Japan can’t afford to miss.But Japan may already be missing vital points, both in reality and in the light of history. History-wise, it is important that Japan remind itself of at least two basic points. First, militarism once brought Japan to success but that was a short-lived success resulted in the fall of the Japanese Empire and the untold sufferings of its neighboring peoples; second, in the long course of history, Japan benefited from but was rarely threatened by its traditional neighbor(s), and it was Japan who invaded almost all of its close neighbors in modern times.This is not to rake over the unhappy past, nor is it any evaluation of the Japanese as a people. This is only to caution against the possibility that the hard-earned friendship might be ruined by certain ideology or mentality that is not even in the interest of Japan itself.Wise men of the world should be able to realize that, with a foreign policy of independence, non-alliance, and good-neighborliness, China’s rise is not likely to pose any real threat to others’ security. Though competition is naturally unavoidable and disputes may long persist, through communication and cooperation we may jointly unfold a more promising future for our two peoples.But to create conditions for better communication and cooperation and for that bright future to happen, both countries should “take history as a mirror and look into the future”, particularly Japan for this matter. I would offer three practical proposals for the Japanese authorities to consider.First, Japan should make a formal apology on historical issues it has been reluctant to face and match its words with deeds. Japan’s major neighbors have been indignant at its attitude towards comfort women and the Yasukuni Shrine. With fewer and fewer former comfort women still living, they deserve a symbolic apology, if not any real compensation. With a sincere apology, Japan can also turn over completely that page of shame in its history. As for the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine, the neighbors are not intolerant or fussy at all. They are just concerned about the class-A war criminals being worshipped. However, the frequent high-profile visits or alleged visits by incumbent Japanese politicians have not shown the least consideration for countries and peoples who were victims of Japanese aggression. Days ago, a high-ranking Japanese official declared he would visit the Shrine on August 15, the day of Japan’s unconditional surrender in World War II, making another yearly provocation for its neighbors.If such politicians are not crazy, the world must have been crazy. If Japan cannot face up to its own history, it shall never have the moral ball in its court.Second, Japan should try to be a more independent Asian nation. Although there are historical reasons for today’s reality, Japan could make greater contribution to world peace and stability if it were more on its own, especially when it is now striving for a decisive role in the Security Council of the United Nations.Third, there should be more sincerity and flexibility in resolving territorial disputes. Having territorial disputes with several neighbors, Japan is hardly surrounded by quiet waters. The final resolution of these disputes first and foremost requires parties concerned to respect basic historical facts. Without recognizing historical facts, disputes will always be there, putting the situation in deadlock and bringing benefits to nobody. However, if historical facts can be respected, parties concerned can proceed to build basic consensus from it. And with further accumulation of sincerity and confidence, it is not unlikely that they can show enough flexibility to create a win-win situation and even a new dispute-solving model for the world. In a word, not only can the negative status quo be transformed into a positive outcome, but also Japan may usher in a more successful future, provided it can take a decisive step from its past shadows.

mkiyoshi
mkiyoshi

well..

i think everyone should get over it and move on, honestly, this may come out as ignorent or what not, but the past is the past, move on, future is the future. Do you still families related to slaves complaining that they were killed raped etc. no. because the past is the past. Complaining and asking for a "formal apology" wont make anyone more happy. Whats done is done. Yes what they did was wrong. Yes it was inhumane. But you cant change it now

nagoyashi23
nagoyashi23

as a hapa girl/haafu girl...born n nagoya ..  just know many n my generation want to move forward..and know how horrific this crime was...   therefore push for peace and anything that involves humanity.  i'm a soldier's kid .. so i've been on the other side of this also.. war makes monsters of all of us.. no matter who is fighting.  war is evil. 

RossInOz
RossInOz

I have been to the Massacre Museum in Nanjing and it is a sobering place: both dignified and heartbreaking at the same time. But what intrigues me is that the Chinese, whose spectacular history is in many ways is the history of the world, choose to completely ignore the fact that Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) was (and still is for that matter) the worst mass murderer in history, having killed something like 50 million of his own people by his failed "Great Leap Forward" social experiment. 

I do not mean to take anything away from the sadness and horror of the Rape of Nanking, which was a truly awful event with the Japanese showing what utter pigs they could be when given the power, but I wonder how a nation can accept one tragedy and mourn it's victims while completely ignoring another, and much worse, tragedy that occurred only slightly more recently.

JeffHall
JeffHall

And you wonder why the Chinese hate the Japanese so much.

cmackisthe1
cmackisthe1

like sherman said war is all hell what army did he serve in ?

yabis2000
yabis2000

250,000+ massacre of innocent civilians, woman and children was executed by what country in a period of three days?

KEI.MAJIMA
KEI.MAJIMA

While the number of victims claimed by the Chinese still remains as a debatable issue, it is clearly undeniable fact that many Japanese soldiers were responsible for slaughtering Chinese guerrillas and Chinese civilians. But the first and foremost condition that has be brought up in discussing this issue is that the Chinese tried to defeat Japanese conventional armed forces in the measure of unconventional guerirlla war fare in other words, the civilian collateral damage were inevitable. Can someone differentiate the acts of Japanese soldiers from those of US military forces in Iraq, Afghan and Vietnam or from those of even PLA soldiers in Sino-Vietnam war back in 1979?

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

I cannot wait for the Time Magazine article that profiles all of China's atrocities committed in the last 90 years.  Such a piece would be breath-taking, as many do not know how brutal the Communist regime has been over its people.

FredericBrewer
FredericBrewer

By the way, there are much more disturbing and violent photographs at the Wikipedia page for "Nanking Massacre"

ayuuu324
ayuuu324

Japan still never really officially as a nation apologized to Korea or China for its past. A Japanese politician or Prime Minster briefly mentioning how they are sorry for doing what they did in the past at their own Japanese press conference or meeting is not being truly apologetic to the nation. The German chancellor went directly to Poland and apologized to the people there and visited a monument and knelt in forgiveness. Get the point?

BenIncaHutz
BenIncaHutz

Japan paid for its sins in Nanjing a few years later in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 America taught it that if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. 

leejk67
leejk67

shameless japan that has never really apologized for its wrongdoings during invasion to asian countries like Korea, China.

TangyTangoJuice
TangyTangoJuice

@JessSmith You are joke. No one is listening to your biased and uneducated banter about history. Your misunderstanding of the fact that human lives were lost, no matter who exaggerated what baffles me and shames the entire human race. Get a life. No one is attacking Japan, 75 years after this occurred. We already understand atrocities occur all the time, and yes, some are not well known or accounted for, and countries can get away with these things. You spouting out hate and undermining the deaths of thousands of people sickens me. Show some respect and give me a sign of human decency please.

JessSmith
JessSmith

FAKE OF NANKING-THE exaguaated lies by the sick Chinese communist govenment

Rowena_Li
Rowena_Li

Good gracious, what, has TIME been bought by the Japanese? As someone else commented, this "article" is basically a censored version and makes absolutely no mention of the horrible sexual atrocities committed during the Rape of Nanjing. They don't call it that for no reason. 

hamentashen1
hamentashen1

No mention of Unit 731?  Probably the most insidious chapter of WW2 - leaves the Nazi concentration camp doctors and scientists in the dust.....check it out if you don't think so.