The Wrong Side of History

The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe:

I got my first right wing comment from a troller called Kimonos for Peace. I found this person’s comment on my Pinterest page. It was in response to a pin I had posted three years ago. The pin was a picture of the cover of the book The Good Man of Nanking:The Diaries of John Rabe.


John Rabe is China’s equivalent of Oskar Schindler. During the Rape of Nanking, now Nanjing, he and a handful of westerners, including Minnie Vautrin, save 250,000 Chinese from death.


I had posted this pin under the board “Book Recommendations” to which I had also posted a pin of Iris Chang’s book The Rape of Nanking.


This person’s particular beef was about Chinese soldiers who had taken refuge in the Safety Zone. One sticking point of the agreement was Chinese soldiers be not allowed in the Zone. The complaint was that Rabe broke the terms of agreement between the Japanese military and the International Safety Zone Committee by allowing Chinese soldiers to take refuge in the Zone. This person also stated that Minnie Vautrin, dean of the Gingling Women’s College, was disappointed that Rabe allowed these soldiers in.


While there were soldiers in the Safety Zone I don’t think there were intentionally allowed in as Kimono believes. During my research for my upcoming historical novel Color Wolves, there were at least twenty-three foreigners. Many of them served on multiple international committees including the Red Cross and the International Safety Zone Committee.


The Committee was also given around four hundred Chinese police officers. Imagine four hundred twenty-three people in charge of law and order in a bombed out city of at least 300,000 people. It’s not possible for four hundred twenty-three people to keep tabs on the whereabouts of 300,000 people.


Kimono also failed to mention that fleeing Chinese soldiers would discard all military gear, including uniforms. Many of them changed into civilian clothing before slipping into the Safety Zone unnoticed. How were the foreigners in the Zone to know who is a civilian and who is a former Chinese soldier? Even the Japanese military had no idea how to determine soldiers from civilians. Men with callouses on their hands or teen age boys with old scars that haven’t quite healed properly, were detained and then shot. There was no real system. A rickshaw driver with calloused hands could be arrested. A boy with scars on his feet could be detained on trumped up charges of fighting with the Kuomintang. These are observations that Rabe and other westerners have witnessed time and time again.


Kimono also mentioned that Vautrin was disappointed that Rabe allowed these soldiers to take refuge in the Zone. Kimono overlooked the fact that just before Rabe left Nanking in February 1938, Vautrin hosted a farewell tea party for him. Furthermore, I have read several first hand accounts as well as reports regarding their friendship. I could not detect any friction between the two foreigners.


I find it disturbing that Kimono is quite all right with criticizing a dead man’s first hand account of the Rape of Nanking. I am of Chinese ancestry. Just by looking at Kimono’s username and the comment left, I can only guess that this person is a right-winger who believes that the war in Asia was justified and that the massacre of 300,000 victims is a fabrication of the Chinese government. While I don’t always trust the Chinese government and their idea of transparency, I would never refute a first hand account of such a historical event from a person who actually witnessed it.


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