Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Goddesses of Mercy", Women of the Other Holocaust

On 14 May, 1941, a fifty-four year old spinster turned on the kitchen gas in a house in Indianapolis and did away with herself. It wasn't the first time she had tried - a year earlier on her way home to the United States after close to thirty years missionary service in China she had attempted suicide on the ship. Considering the mental burdens she must have carried and the horrific physical abuses and tortures she had witnessed, it isn't that surprising. Her name was Wilhelmina ("Minnie") Vautrin, known to the Chinese as "Goddess of Mercy" for her actions during the infamous Rape of Nanking (Warning - link contains some graphic images) in which she saved many thousands of Chinese women from rape and murder by the Japanese army.

I am very familiar with the story of the Massacre as I grew up hearing about it from my parents who lived in China at the time and who personally knew some of the witnesses who escaped from Nanking to Shanghai to tell the tale of what they had seen. My father served in the Shanghai Defence Force during 1937 and I still have his albums that contain gruesome photographs that he took of the Japanese carnage inflicted on the civilian population of China.

What makes this event particularly distressing is that, unlike the Holocaust in Europe which is only denied by a recalcitrant few, the majority of Japanese still refuse to acknowledge it ever happened, or at least they minimise the scale of the brutality and dispute the Chinese figures of 300,000 dead.

And as if the rest of the world still doesn't want to know either, just this weekend reports of the first Chinese commemoration seem to have been relegated to the less important mid-sections of Western newspapers. BBC version - Nanjing Massacre

Minnie Vautrin knew the truth of it. And so did Tsen Shui-fang - reputedly the only Chinese woman to keep a secret diary of the events as they unfolded. Their stories are told in two books by Hua-ling Hu.

See Google Books for full biographical details of both women

The other book by Hua-ling Hu.

 Minnie Vautrin is buried in Illinois.


Links to other sites:

Youtube re-enactment of Minnie's testimony.

Detailed history of the atrocities of the Massacre.

John Rabe - German Nazi businessman who saved an estimated 250,000 Chinese.

Several movies:

Article about Chinese film The Flowers of War.

Another Chinese film City of Life and Death

German film John Rabe (apparently Minnie was written out of the script and replaced by a French woman!)

American film Nanking (Mariel Hemingway played Minnie.)

Many books on the subject - just key "Nanking" or "Nanjing" into your search.

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