rotating gif.gifFor more on Japanese, German and Italian drives for empire, see World History II.23
Monument to the Victims in Nanjing Massacre
Monument to the Victims in Nanjing Massacre

After taking Nanking, the Japanese soldiers were encouraged to loot and burn down property, and torture and kill Chinese civilians in what is known as "The Nanking Massacre" or the "Rape of Nanking."

During this six-week period an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Chinese were killed, and an estimated 20,000 women, children, and elderly people were raped [1].
  • Many thousands were saved due to the creation of the Nanking Safety Zone, established by Westerners living in Nanking who often personally intervened on behalf of the Chinese [3].
  • Deep feelings of resentment linger, and the war remains a source of ongoing diplomatic conflict even today between the two nations. Click here and here for more information.

During the Rape of Nanking, political leaders in both America and Britain were mostly focused on the situation in Germany and Hitler's rebuilding of its military [3].
  • They did respond to Japanese aggression in the form of sanctions, mainly preventing Japan from buying oil.
  • Japan responded to these sanctions by bombing Pearl Harbor, thereby initiating the Pacific theater of World War II.

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Invasion of Nanking lesson plan
Multimedia.pngItalian newsreel from 1939 of the Invasion of Nanking. It is in Italian, but there are pictures and it is interesting to watch.

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  • Minnie Vautrin was a dean at a college for women in Nanking, and was integral in the establishment of the Nanking Safety Zone. When most of the faculty fled the school, Vautrin stayed behind and opened the campus up to female refugees and wounded soldiers. Vautrin kept a diary of the experience, documenting many of the atrocities.


  • A fascinating read on how sexualized violence can be used as a weapon of war to exert power, to humiliate, to terrorize, to "protect" soldiers, and to "enforce" duty.

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  • A collection of letters and journal entries from members of the Nanking Safety Zone.



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"The Road to Pearl Harbor" information and lesson plans