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THE GOOD MAN OF NANKING: The Diaries of John Rabe Paperback – March 14, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In November 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army took Nanking (Nanjing), the capital of China and home to 1.3 million people, and began an orgy of murder, rape, and looting. By the time discipline was restored two months later, hundreds of thousands of Chinese were dead, with hundreds of thousands more homeless, starving, and traumatized. The Rape of Nanking, as it is commonly known, still causes international controversy, as Japanese politicians refuse to apologize unequivocally to China and school textbooks continue to misrepresent the events.

Like Oskar Schindler of Schindler's List, John Rabe was an enterprising and fundamentally decent German businessman caught up in war. Head of the Nanjing branch of Siemens, the German electronics firm, he had lived and worked in China for almost 30 years. Rather than flee from the threatened city, he stayed to organize a safety zone as refuge of last resort for Chinese civilians. The Good Man of Nanking is his firsthand description of the terrible events and his ultimate success in saving perhaps a quarter of a million lives. The diary format provides a forum for the extraordinary power and immediacy of John Rabe's words, including his gallows humor, placing the reader there in Nanking as the bombs explode and the Japanese soldiers begin their massacres. Rabe's trials were not over when he returned to wartime Germany; diary entries that he wrote during the occupation of Berlin by the Soviet army form a fascinating coda to this book. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Considered the Oskar Schindler of China, Rabe was a German businessman who saved the lives of 250,000 Chinese during the infamous siege of Nanking. But Rabe was also a member of the Nazi party and a man whose motto was "Right or wrong-my country." This gaping paradox adds a fascinating complexity to his newly translated diaries, which primarily focus on the six-month Nanking siege in 1937 and 1938. When the Japanese air raids began over Nanking?where Rabe was regional director of the German industrial giant Siemens?Rabe's wife, along with most foreigners, evacuated the city. But Rabe stayed to protect his Chinese staff and co-workers; as he put it, "I cannot bring myself for now to betray the trust these people have put in me." As the magnitude of the Japanese assault became apparent, Rabe, along with American doctors and missionaries, created an International Committee whose purpose was to set up a Neutral Zone where Chinese civilians could take refuge. Six hundred of the poorest Chinese were soon living in Rabe's own house, symbolically protected by an enormous canvas painted with a swastika; thousands more took shelter in the arbitrary Neutral Zone that Rabe continually begged the Japanese to respect. Lacking food and medical supplies, Rabe was mobilized to continue his good works by the atrocities he witnessed; his descriptions of the sadistic rapes, torture and slaughter perpetrated by Japanese soldiers are chillingly vivid. Similar in some ways to Giorgio Perlasca, the Italian fascist businessman who helped save Budapest's Jews (Enrico Deaglio's The Banality of Goodness, Forecasts, June 1), Rabe was a complicated figure whose ultimate reasons were very matter-of-fact: "You simply do what must be done."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375701974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This makes his diary all the more compelling.
M. Heiss
He made entries nearly every day during the 4 months in 1937-1938 that he was in Nanking under Japanese domination.
john purcell
Books like this are meant to describe history as how it happened.
Yesm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Yesm on November 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
First and foremost, one should question the reason why a book is written. Is there a hidden agenda? When dealing with a sensitive subject such as Nanking, it is best to keep an eye open for any biased style that could be behind the book.

This was written by someone who was present at the time the Japanese occupied Nanking. That someone was a man named John Rabe. He was a German businessman who was a manager of a Siemans company branch, and was warned by his superiors to leave Nanking at once. However he didn't heed their warning and decided to stay at his home because he felt that he would've abandoned his 30 years with the company and his Chinese staff members and helpers whom he called his extended family if he did. So John Rabe would stay to witness and document all that happened in Nanking in his personal diaries.

The book gives some background on Rabe, a little bit about the war, his role at Nanking in establishing an "International Safety Zone" for what grew to save the lives of 250,000 Chinese civilians. The book closes with period where he finally goes home to his native Germany. Sadly enough, he dies in poverty though he was promised a fortune if he testified in the War Crime Tribunal against the Japanese army. But he declinded because he thought if anyone should punish those who participated in the slaughter at Nanking, it "should be the Japanese goverment itself."

While in Nanking, Rabe writes candidly not from reflection years later, but with the clarity of the events happening daily. He sees and documents:
- women being indiscriminately raped. Even 60 year old women were raped. After being raped, they were often killed with bayonettes slashing their throats or stabbed into their abdomens.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Luke on August 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's embarassing how some Japanese reviewers, like Hiromi below, still would pretend that the Nanking massacre never happened. Reading the diaries, Rabe actually himself revealed he saved Chinese many times from certain death; his own courtyard is a haven for fleeing refugees. He mentions first-hand many times indiscriminate killings, gang-rapes, and the havoc witnessed by not just himself, but also by the majority of the Westerners remaining in the city who had to intervene personally to save lives. He sees bodies of civilians lying everywhere, often disbowelled, including children, often left to rot. He documents that he wants to remain as an "eyewitness" to these atrocities (check out the appendix, for instance). The only way to counteract these lies is to read the book itself, and to determine yourself the integrity of some Japanese reviewers who so-called "read" the book. Don't just take my word for it - read the book. Highly recommended.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By john purcell on May 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
John Rabe was a German businessman, living and working in Nanking when the Japanese invaded and conquered the city in 1937. Rabe had lived in China for 30 years and had risen to the position of senior agent for the German conglomerate, Siemens. He was tasked with selling industrial equipment to the Chinese government, enabling the construction and maintenance of electrical, water, phone, and health care facilities.

As it became clear that Nanking would fall quickly to the invading Japanese army, most Westerners, including Rabe's wife, left for Hong Kong or other safer locations. Rabe chose to stay in Nanking, feeling it his duty to look out for the interests of Siemens and its local stafff. Realizing that Nanking was essentially indefensible and that the Japanese army was bent on ruthless behavior, Rabe and some others, mostly American missionaries, formed an organization to protect refugees and non-combatants.

Rabe was named the head of this International Committee and set out to build international support for the formation of a refugee zone. Ultimately more than 200,000 residents of Nanking were housed in this refugee zone, including about 600 on the grounds of Rabe's own home. Rabe fought the good fight with building support for the zone, communicating regularly with all the embassies and officials, even writing to Hitler at one point. Many attribute the International Committee's work with saving thousands of Chinese lives.

This book is primarily Rabe's diaries. He made entries nearly every day during the 4 months in 1937-1938 that he was in Nanking under Japanese domination. Some additional information to explain the historical context is provided by the author. Rabe quit writing diaries during the war, then restarted with the fall of Berlin.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the outstanding testimony of the witness of the Nanking atrocity, though he was limited to move around only in the safety zone except some occasions. Rabe describes what happens around him day by day, before and after the fall of Nanking by the Japanese. The Nanking diary by George A. Fitch, from December 17 to the new year's day in 1938, parallels to Rabe's diary and they have no conflicts with each other. Fitch's Nanking diary anonymously appeared in H.J.Timperley's "Japanese Terror in China" published in 1938, which was translated in Japanese in the same year and read by limited numbers of Japanese, and then in Reader's Digest of July 1938. Fitch wrote in his "My Eighty Years In China" published by Mei. Ya Publications in Taiwan, "The DIGEST story brought such a storm of protest from readers who thought "unbelievable" that three months later the editors published excerpts from my diary and those of others who went through the occupation, which verified my observations."(P103) But if you compare with these three books each other , I'm sure you'll find Timperley, Fitch and Rabe tried to tell us the true stories which occurred in Nanking. Among these books, Rabe's diary is overwhelming in its volume and historical values. I recommend "Good Man of Nanking" to all who are interested in Sino-Japanese conflict and the Nanking massacre. "Eighty Years In China" with the Nanking Diary is still available at online antique book shops."Japanese Terror in China" is rare.
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