John Rabe: Short Biography

John Rabe (1882-1950) was a German businessman. Originally from Hamburg, he moved to China in 1908 and spent most of the following decades there as a representative of the Siemens company. When the Japanese military began its attacks on the city, Rabe decided to remain in Nanjing. In 1937, together with other foreigners, he formed the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone and served as its chairman. In this position as ‘de facto mayor’ of Nanjing, he helped save thousands of Chinese from death of starvation, cold, or atrocities committed by the Japanese military (Nanjing Massacre). During the critical period from September 1937 to February 1938, Rabe wrote a detailed diary comprising more than 1800 pages. This diary is the main object of this research project.

Cite this blog post
Torsten Weber (2019, June 24). John Rabe: Short Biography. John Rabe's Nanjing Diaries. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from

2 thoughts on “John Rabe: Short Biography”

  1. hi. I am very interested in John Rabe but the details of how grateful Nanjing citizens helped him after after his return to Germany are unclear. I know that they collected money for him and sent him food parcels. I also understand the mayor of Nanking traveled to Europe to deliver aid to him in April 1948 but don’t know if he managed to get to Berlin or only got as far as Switzerland. And did the mayor travel on his own or with others? Any guidance on this greatly appreciated. The answers are not in Iris Chang or any other reliable source I can find

    1. Thank you for your comment, Andrew! You are right, the details are unclear. So far I have not been able to verify the trip by the Chinese delegation to Europe. Contrary to what Iris Chang writes, it is not clear whether the mayor of Nanjing was part of the delegation. I will update this blog once I find out.

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