Category Archives: Rabe Diaries

Starting his diary

On 7 September 1937 John Rabe returned to Nanjing from the beach resort Beidaihe (Peitaiho) in Eastern Hebei where he had spent most of August with his wife Dora. For safety reasons, he had left behind Dora in Beidaihe. She later moved to Tianjin and then Shanghai. In February 1938 John was reunited with Dora in Shanghai where he stopped on their way back home to Germany via Hong Kong. Rabe’s first diary entry is dated 21 September 1937. Rabe writes about his family, the situation in Nanjing, and his motivation to stay in the city – despite the frequent Japanese air raids and worsening conditions in the city. Continue reading Starting his diary

John Rabe’s birthday

Based on:  Hua-ling Hu and Lian-hong Zhang, The Undaunted Women of Nanking: The Wartime Diaries of Minnie Vautrin and Tsen Shui-fang. Carbondale, 2010
Thomas Rabe, John Rabe. Sein Leben, seine Zeit. Heidelberg 2009

John Detlef Heinrich Rabe was born on 23 November 1882 in the harbour area of Hamburg. His father, Marcus Rabe (1846-98), went to sea and later became a naval captain for the Hamburg South American Line. He died of cancer when John was just 15 years old. John’s mother, Anna (1849-1916), like Marcus, was originally from Uetersen, a city in Holstein, 30km northwest of Hamburg. In his biography, John Rabe writes that he owes his English first name to his great-uncle John George Rabe (1840-1913) who had emigrated to Australia in his teens. Continue reading John Rabe’s birthday

Preparing for war: 6 August 1937

John Rabe started his famous Nanjing Diaries on 21 September 1937, approximately twelve weeks before Nanjing fell to the Japanese. However, the first document he included in the first volume of his diary is dated 6 August 1937. It is a letter he received from the “security committee” at the German Embassy in Nanjing requesting all German nationals in the city to provide emergency contact details. Rabe typed his response: Continue reading Preparing for war: 6 August 1937

Rabe and the ‘History Wars’

Ever since their discovery, the Rabe Diaries have been politicized as part of the ‘history wars’ between China and Japan over the Nanjing Massacre. While some have claimed that Rabe’s accounts are ‘ironclad proof’ and represent ‘the truth’ about Nanjing, others have dismissed them as ‘full of lies’ or anti-Japanese propaganda. This essay explains the background to the politicization of the Rabe Diaries in the context of the Nanjing Massacre as the main site of the so-called ‘history wars’ between Japan and China. Continue reading Rabe and the ‘History Wars’