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Nanjing Massacre Survivors' Testimony Documented
   2014-12-11 16:56:19    Xinhua      Web Editor: Yangyang

Chang Zhiqiang, one of around 200 living survivors of the Nanjing Massacre in 1937 [Photo: Xinhua]

Chang Zhiqiang, one of around 200 living survivors of the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, describes his memories of the incident as "an experience of death."

Chang, now 84 years old, still lives with the pain of seeing his parents, sister and four brothers killed by Japanese soldiers 75 years ago, when he was just 9 years old.

"I have tried to bury the grief deep in my heart and live like an ordinary man. But I found I could not walk into the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall when it was built in 1985," Chang said, his words captured by associates of the Nanjing Massacre Research Association, which has been working to record the oral history of the massacre's survivors since April.

Chang's tale, as well as those of another two living survivors, will be exhibited at the memorial hall on Thursday, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the massacre.

The memorial hall was built in the city where at least 300,000 Chinese were killed over the course of six weeks by Japanese invaders after the soldiers occupied the city of Nanjing on Dec. 13, 1937.

"I could not rest peacefully after I saw media reports in 1997 stating that Japanese right-wingers were wantonly denying the atrocity," said Chang, adding that he decided at that time to write a testimonial for his experience to be sent to the memorial hall.

"I was nervous and angry. If the Japanese right-wingers can deny history when many of us who survived the atrocities are still alive, I can't image how they might whitewash history after all of us have died," he said.

Zhu Chengshan, rector of the memorial hall, said the hall sponsored an extensive survey program in Nanjing in 1997 to search for witnesses and survivors of the massacre.

The survey resulted in the location of 1,213 people who witnessed the massacre or were directly involved in it.

Only about 200 survivors are alive today, the youngest being 75 years of age. Testimonies have been collected from 43 of the survivors.

Zhu said the memorial hall became an oral history branch of the Nanjing Massacre Research Association in April and began to collect documents in line with international oral history documentation standards.

"We started this year to copy written documents using recordings and video tapes in both Chinese and English. Our work has become focused on telling the whole story of the survivors, instead of just quoting wartime testimonies, in order to better understand how the massacre affected their lives," Zhu said.


Chang and his family lived on Nanjing's Babao Street, selling small commodities like matches. His parents refused to flee the city just weeks before the Japanese invaded, as their grandmother was too old to move.

The parents did attempt to move their six children out of the city, but not before the Japanese bombardment began. A crowd of refugees, including Chang's parents and their children, were violently confronted by Japanese soldiers.

"My mother was holding my youngest brother. She was stabbed by a bayonet in the chest. My brother slid out of her arms when she fell down. He cried and fumbled for our mother. I ran to hold him to mother's side, when mother unfastened her clothes and breastfed my weeping brother for the last time before she died," said Chang.

The Japanese soldiers then killed the baby and kicked him away from his mother's corpse. It was then that Chang fainted. When he awoke, he found that only he and his 11-year-old sister, who had suffered multiple knife wounds, were still alive.

A widow surnamed Zhang gave the children shelter for a few days. But both the woman and Chang's sister were raped by Japanese soldiers after the Japanese occupied the city.

The young girl's suffering did not end there. She and many others in the city died of disease after the Japanese military sprayed airborne chemicals in areas near the city's military airport.


Xia Shuqin, 83, won a victory against the Japanese right wing after suing two rightist historians in 2009, gaining compensation of 4.55 million yen (about 44,500 U.S. dollars).

In the case, the Japanese Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Shudo Higashinakano, an Asia University scholar, and Tendensha, a publishing house, ordering them to pay a combined total of 4 million yen in damages to Xia.

In his book, Higashinakano defamed Xia by saying she was a false witness to the mass murder, and claimed that she was not featured in a documentary shot by John Magee.

The book, published by Tendensha in 1998, was translated into English and Chinese and has sold thousands of copies.

The court ruled that Xia's reputation had been damaged and that she had suffered psychological trauma. The verdict demanded an immediate end to the publishing of the books and the recall and destruction of all sold books.

Xia was 8 years old when seven of her nine immediate relatives were slaughtered by Japanese soldiers in Nanjing.

"I lived with the bodies of my family for 14 days before I dared to go out. My mother and my two sisters were raped and tortured before they were killed," Xia recalled.

Xia's story was also written in "The Diaries of John Rabe," a collection of diary entries written by a German businessman who helped protect Chinese civilians during the massacre.

"I met Mr. Rabe in the safety zone. He did not mind how dirty I was and held me in his arms. He even proposed adopting me when he was about to return to Germany, but my uncle refused, although my uncle's family could barely make ends meet," Xia said.

As an orphan, she lived a harsh life. She helped her uncle sell vegetables and worked as a maid for a living.

In 1994, the mother of three children became the first Nanjing Massacre survivor to recount her experience in front of a Japanese audience at a peace rally organized by Japanese non-governmental organizations.


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