University of Nebraska–Lincoln scholar Suping Lu has spent his career researching and writing about the Nanjing Massacre, and has sourced new documents from Germany for his latest book exploring the atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation of Nanjing in 1937 and 1938.
Lu, professor in University Libraries, recently published Japanese Atrocities in Nanjing: The Nanjing Massacre and Post-Massacre Social Conditions Recorded in German Diplomatic Documents, which examines documents drafted by members of the German diplomatic corps and German citizens who resided in the city during that time. He called the book his most ambitious project to date.
“It is my most ambitious project because I translated the German documents into English and Chinese simultaneously,” Lu said.
The volume was published by Springer in English in August 2022. The book was also published in the German and Chinese languages by Springer Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften (October 2022) and Nanjing Publishing Press (December 2021), respectively. Lu worked closely with his editors on each version to bring to the public for the first time this collection of German documents in German, English and Chinese.
The collection of German diplomatic documents published in the book covers a wide range of topics with detailed information from the perspective of the citizens of Germany, a close ally of Japan.
In his research on these documents, Lu found that the Germans were involved both militarily and through business interests. Germans and German-owned businesses, including Siemens Company, suffered property damage during the Japanese invasion. Forty-one German military advisers were also embedded with Chinese troops, and those advisers had property concerns as well.
“German diplomats were the most aggressive in dealing with the Japanese over the damage and losses experienced by their citizens,” Lu said. “They would send detailed reports with photographic descriptions.”
Lu said that even people of other nationalities (French, Belgian, Swedish and Italian) made inquiries about lost or damaged property to the German diplomats. The Germans’ main focus may have been on property, but they also recorded Japanese atrocities, including reports and lists of victims of the raped and slaughtered from the eastern suburban villages.
Collection and translation of the documents for this book began in earnest in 2008 when Lu made the first of three trips to Berlin to visit the German Foreign Ministry Archives. Subsequent trips were made in 2016 and 2017.
“I had several research grants from the university supporting my work, and an archivist at the German Foreign Ministry Archives was of great help,” Lu said.
His research into the Nanjing Massacre began in 1999 with his first trip to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. Since then, Lu has gathered documents from government officials, missionaries, doctors, military personnel and ordinary citizens — housed in archives all over the world — that detailed and recorded the atrocities that took place. Lu aims to illuminate the historical record of this dark period in world history.
The Nanjing Massacre has a Nebraska connection, too. In 2010, Lu published a set of new documents under the title, “A Mission under Duress: The Nanjing Massacre and Post-Massacre Social Conditions Documented by American Diplomats.” Most of documents were sent to the United States Secretary of State from Nanjing by a University of Nebraska alumnus, John Moore Allison (1927). Lu noted that it was an alumnus who helped him uncover the documents at the National Archives: Milton Odell Gustafson (1969).
Lu’s research into the Japanese occupation has spanned decades, and included trips to archives all over the world to gather primary documents. Recently, however, he searched the UNL Libraries’ newly acquired database Adam Matthew Digital Primary Source Collections to assess the database, and was excited to find the Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1980 included. Lu found many volumes of the British diplomatic documents, which are exactly the same as those he took painstaking efforts to discover by traveling to London 20 years ago. He said it was unimaginable 20 years ago that a researcher could access this original primary source material in an office in Nebraska with just a click of the mouse. The files can be instantly downloaded.
Lu highly recommends this database and believes that interested professors, researchers, scholars, graduate students, undergraduate students, and even community users can take advantage of these conveniently accessible and varied sources in the Adam Matthew Digital Primary Source Collections.
“They will undoubtedly benefit our university community,” Lu said.