Sirens blare for Nanjing Massacre victims
The people of Nanjing observed a minute of silence, and sirens were heard across the city as China held a memorial ceremony on Sunday to mourn the 300,000 victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
Despite the winter chill, thousands of people clad in dark attire attended the seventh national memorial ceremony for the massacre victims in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province, with white flowers pinned to their chests to convey their condolences.
Attendees included massacre survivors, local students and foreign visitors.
At exactly 10:01am, sirens began to blare, and drivers across the city stopped their cars and sounded their horns. Pedestrians paused for a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims.
More than 80 teenagers read out a declaration of peace and citizen representatives struck the Bell of Peace. White doves, symbolizing hope for peace, were released to fly over the square of the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders.
China’s national flag flew at half-mast in the square.
In 2014, China’s top legislature designated December 13 as the national memorial day for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, which took place when Japanese troops captured the city on December 13, 1937. The Japanese invaders brutally killed about 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers during the six-week massacre, making it one of the most barbaric episodes of World War II.
Xia Shuqin, 91, was one of the survivors present at Sunday's memorial ceremony. She was only 8 when Nanjing fell to the Japanese invaders. She lost seven of her family members in the mass killing and barely managed to live after suffering multiple knife wounds.
Touching the names of her families engraved on a memorial wall on Sunday, she said though it has been more than 80 years, the trauma of losing beloved family members still haunts her. “I’m here today to mourn not only for my family but also for all the lost lives in the massacre,” she said.
Survivors like Xia are living witnesses of the slaughter, even as the number of registered survivors has decreased to 73 so far this year.
In a bid to better spread the history, the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders has been recruiting international volunteers since 2008 to explain the history to foreign visitors and translate the memorial hall’s historical materials.
In October this year, a total of 73 foreign volunteers from countries including the United States, Iran, and South Korea, went on duty in the memorial hall.
“This place serves as a reminder for the future, a lesson that must never be forgotten, no matter how painful or sad it is to remember,” said Jonathan Gragert, one of the volunteers from the United States.
“It is the responsibility of every man, woman, and child to remember the horror that happened here so that such an event can never happen again,” said Gragert, who teaches at a Nanjing University.
Zhang Jianjun, the curator of the memorial hall, said the international volunteers are expected to sow the seeds of peace in the hearts of visitors from around the world and become guardians of peace and harmony.
In the visitors’ book in the memorial hall, “remember the history” and “cherish peace” are among the most common comments. Staff with the hall said more than 20,000 visitors left comments in the book so far this year, with more than half of them expressing hope for world peace.
Chinese people have been honoring the legacy of those who fought for peace alongside the Chinese during the most difficult times in World War II.
In Nanjing, the most celebrated of these humanitarian heroes is John Rabe, a German businessman who helped protect hundreds of thousands of Chinese during the Nanjing Massacre.
Dubbed the “Oskar Schindler of China,” John Rabe and dozens of foreigners risked their lives to set up an international safety zone in Nanjing and saved more than 200,000 Chinese people.
John Rabe’s former residence in Nanjing, now a museum, receives about 20,000 visits each year. Various exhibitions have also been held across the country to cherish the memory of the late hero.