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1/12/10

John Rabe, The Good Nazi

John Rabe (1882-1950) was a remarkable man whose story should be spread far and wide. A Nazi party member, he was deeply human and saved countless lives during the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese Imperial Army. Like so many others, he believed that Hitler provided a future for Germany. Living in China, he was unaware of the Brown Shirts, the SS, and the Gestapo. Employed by Siemans he was witness to history as the Japanese invaded China. In what is now Nanjing (Nanking), he established an International Safety Zone to shelter some 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the massacre.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Rabe was a businessman in Africa for several years. Interested in the world beyond Germany's borders, in 1908 he moved to China. In 1910 he was hired by the Siemens AG China Corporation and worked for it until 1938.

"On November 22, 1937, as the Japanese Army advanced on Nanjing, Rabe, along with other foreign nationals, organized the International Committee and created the Nanjing Safety Zone to provide Chinese refugees with food and shelter from the impending Japanese slaughter. He explained his reasons thus: '...there is a question of morality here...I cannot bring myself for now to betray the trust these people have put in me, and it is touching to see how they believe in me.' The zones were located in all of the foreign embassies and at Nanjing University. Rabe also opened up his properties to help 650 more refugees. The following massacre would kill hundreds of thousands of people, while Rabe and his zone administrators tried frantically to stop the atrocities. His attempts to appeal to the Japanese by using his Nazi membership credentials only delayed them; but that delay allowed hundreds of refugees to escape. The documentary film Nanking credited him for saving the lives of 250,000 Chinese civilians."

"On February 28, 1938 Rabe left Nanjing, travelling to Shanghai and then back to Germany. He showed films and photographs of Japanese atrocities in lecture presentations in Berlin and wrote to Hitler to use his influence to persuade the Japanese to stop any more inhumane violence. As a result, Rabe was detained and interrogated by the Gestapo and his letter to Hitler was never delivered to him. Due to the intervention of Siemens AG, Rabe was released. He was allowed to keep evidence of the massacre, excluding the film, but was not allowed to lecture or write on the subject. Rabe would continue working for Siemens, which posted him briefly to the safety of Afghanistan. Rabe subsequently worked in the Berlin headquarters of the company until the end of the war." More.

More on what happened to him after the war, and on his death and legacy. About John Rabe, The Good Man of Nanking. A new movie on his life has been recently produced. The video below is about the Japanese Rape of Nanking, in which 300,000 lives were lost, and about John Rabe and the making of the movie.

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