Cover image for The rape of Nanking : the forgotten holocaust of World War II
The rape of Nanking : the forgotten holocaust of World War II
Chang, Iris.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Books, 1998.

Physical Description:
xi, 290 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS796.N2 C44 1997C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In December 1937, in what was then the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenceless city, but systematically raped, tortured and murdered more than 300000 Chinese civilians.

Author Notes

Iris Chang was born in China, but emigrated to the United States with her parents while she was still a child. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where her parents were professors, and received a masters degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a freelance writer who regularly works with The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and the Associated Press

Chang's books include Thread of the Silkworm and The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. The Rape of Nanking, in particular, involved extensive research both in the United States and abroad. It recounts the Japanese rape and slaughter of the captive population of Nanking, China, in December, 1937 and the early part of 1938. Through the book and her lectures on the subject, Chang has been instrumental in helping the world remember the atrocities of Nanking.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

In December 1937, the Japanese army captured Nanking, then China's capital. Thereafter Japanese embarked on two months of mass murder that have come to be called the rape of Nanking and during which as many as a third of a million Chinese may have been killed. Most survivors owed their lives to the heroic efforts of foreign residents, including a German engineer who was head of the local Nazi Party. Although thoroughly documented then and since, the rape of Nanking has been largely ignored by subsequent generations, as China and the West built new and better relations with Japan. This ignorance now seems part of the Japanese effort to portray themselves as innocent victims in the Pacific war. But if the events in Nanking are appalling in one way, Japanese editing of history is appalling in another. Chang's book is a memorial to the victims of Nan-king, a damning indictment of Japanese political historiography, a valuable addition to Pacific war literature, and a literary model of how to speak about the unspeakable. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Japanese sack of the Chinese capital Nanking is surely among the world's worst atrocities. In 1937, Japanese forces captured the city and embarked on an orgy of rape, murder and destruction of property unparalleled in scope anywhere to that date. Estimates of those killed within a few days range upward of 350,000. Chang, a freelance writer, first heard about what came to be known as the Rape of Nanking from her parents, who fled China after WWII and settled in the U.S. The author's extensive research lays bare the depravity of Japanese conduct during the war and the heroic resistance of members of the international community in Nanking, who established a safety zone, at great personal risk, to shelter countless thousands of Chinese refugees. One of the unsung heroes of the tragedy is John Rabe, an influential Nazi German in the city who tried without avail to use his influence with Hitler to stop the massacre. Chang's account also takes Japan to task for failing to acknowledge its role in the bloodbath, noting that many high-level Japanese officials still refuse to admit their country's complicity. Likening the siege of Nanking to the recent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, the author reminds us that "civilization itself is tissue-thin." A compelling, agonizing chronicle. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When Japan occupied China in 1937, its army subjected NankingÄthen China's capitalÄto brutalities on a scale matched only by Nazi Germany's treatment of European Jews. Precise figures are unobtainable, but in only a few weeks, the Japanese appear to have killed 300,000 civiliansÄmany in ways too unspeakable to describe. However, despite the scale of these atrocities, the event has been virtually unknown to the outside world. This book will go a long way toward correcting that deficiency. Drawing on long-neglected documentation and interviews with Nanking survivors, Chang (Thread of the Silkworm) has written a forceful narrative that not only reconstructs the grisly events in detail but analyzes Japan's reluctance to admit its responsibility. Many library patrons will prefer to listen to Blackstone's unabridged recording, while others may wish to limit their descent into hell to this three-hour abridgment, which, with Barbara Rosenblatt's strong reading, delivers the full message.ÄKent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA‘The events in this book are horribly off-putting, which, paradoxically, is why they must be remembered. Chang tells of the Sino-Japanese War atrocities perpetrated by the invading Japanese army in Nanking in December 1937, in which roughly 350,000 soldiers and civilians were slaughtered in an eight-week period, many of them having been raped and/or tortured first. Not only are readers given many of the gory details‘with pictures‘but they are also told of the heroism of some members of a small foreign contingent, particularly of a Nazi businessman who resided in China for 30 years. The story of his bravery lends the ironic touch of someone with evil credentials doing good. Once the author finishes with the atrocities, she proceeds with the equally absorbing and much easier-to-take story of what happened to the Nazi businessman when he returned to Germany and the war ended. This by itself is material for a movie. The author tells why the Japanese government not only allowed the atrocities to occur but also refused, and continues to refuse, to acknowledge that they happened. She is quite evenhanded in reminding readers that every culture has some episode like this in its history; what makes this one important is the number of people killed and tortured, the sadism, and the ongoing Japanese denial of responsibility. Mature readers will look beyond the sensational acts of cruelty to ponder the horror of man's inhumanity to man and the examples of heroism in the midst of savagery.‘Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The Japanese have been preoccupied with their wartime role as sufferers, not as conquerors, and this historical amnesia severely affects Japan's current relations with Korea and China. Japan's war in China was brutish, as Chang's powerful book vividly shows. The Japanese capture of Nanking is a chronicle of protracted, studied bestiality; at least a quarter of a million Chinese died, many of them civilians. Yet this has been a forgotten event, characterized by the silence of the victims as well as the perpetrators. Who was responsible? The possible involvement of members of Japan's imperial family has seemingly discouraged investigations in Japan. Chang, an American journalist, has done good research, unearthing some eyewitness accounts (including one by a German businessman and member of the Nazi Party) that make much clearer what happened. Just why it happened remains muddy, but the episode is certainly a cautionary tale of how young men can run amok in the environment of war. All levels. J. C. Perry Tufts University

Table of Contents

Title Pagep. iii
Publication/Copyright Pagep. iv
Dedication Pagep. iv
Forewordp. ix
Introductionp. 3
Part 1

p. 17

1 The Path to Nankingp. 19
2 Six Weeks of Terrorp. 35
3 The Fall of Nankingp. 61
4 Six Weeks of Horrorp. 81
5 The Nanking Safety Zonep. 105
Part II

p. 141

6 What the World Knewp. 143
7 The Occupation of Nankingp. 159
8 Judgment Dayp. 169
9 The Fate of the Survivorsp. 181
10 The Forgotten Holocaust: a Second Rapep. 199
Epiloguep. 215
Acknowledmentsp. 227
Notesp. 231
Indexp. 285