The Nanjing Massacre, 1937-38

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Case Study
The Nanjing Massacre, 1937-38


The Nanjing Massacre, also known as "The Rape of Nanking," is a rare example of simultaneous gendercides against women and men. It is generally remembered for the invading forces' barbaric treatment of Chinese women. Many thousands of them were killed after gang rape, and tens of thousands of others brutally injured and traumatized. Meanwhile, approximately a quarter of a million defenseless Chinese men were rounded up as prisoners-of-war and murdered en masse, used for bayonet practice, or burned and buried alive.

The background

The Second World War began in Asia. Japan's military dictators had long viewed China as the main outlet for their imperial and expansionist ambitions (for an overview, see Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War 1931-1945). Japanese forces invaded and occupied Manchuria in northeast China in 1931, setting up the puppet state of Manchukuo. After the manufactured "Marco Polo Bridge Incident" of July 1937, the Japanese launched a fullscale invasion of China, capturing Shanghai on 12 November and the imperial capital, Nanjing, on 13 December. Numerous atrocities were committed en route to Nanjing, but they could not compare with the epic carnage and destruction the Japanese unleashed on the defenseless city after Chinese forces abandoned it to the enemy.

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