When Nebraska’s Suping Lu, started research on the Nanjing Massacre in January 1997, he had two goals in mind — to write a comprehensive overview of the Chinese city’s tragic occupation by Japanese military and to raise awareness of this human tragedy.
Two decades later, Lu’s 13th book, “The 1937-1938 Nanjing Atrocities,” published by Springer Nature, finally achieves one of his goals. According to Lu, it took the culmination of 20 years of research collecting vast amounts of source materials from libraries, archives, and historical societies located on three continents.
“The scope of the topic is vast and my research journey uncovered an enormous amount of source materials. At the start of my career I had to break down the research focus into smaller chunks,” said Lu, a professor in the University Libraries.
His first published work, “They Were in Nanjing: The Nanjing Massacre Witnessed by American and British Nationals,” analyzed the eyewitness reports of American and British diplomats, then Lu worked on the papers and letters left by missionaries that were stationed in Nanjing at the time. Other published work tackled different aspects of the research or a different population of eyewitnesses. All of his work has been published in English and Chinese.
His current book, “The 1937-1938 Nanjing Atrocities,” based on the original sources in Chinese, English, German and Japanese, includes analysis of materials created by American, British, and German diplomats and military personnel, civilians, missionaries, soldiers and contemporary Japanese and Chinese news media. This book also covers some of the controversies related to the Nanjing atrocities — including the killing contests, postwar tribunals and Japanese revisionists. Lu also includes new information on burial records kept by charity organizations, wartime diaries of Japanese soldiers and eyewitness accounts of German diplomats (which will be covered in more depth in his next book). No one else has detailed these materials in an English publication.
Lu’s work has shed light, not only on this historical tragedy, but on the human condition as well. The witnesses left a record of reports, letters and diaries and as Lu says, it was the author’s way of relieving the stress and purging the feelings they were experiencing from what they had witnessed. Lu also explained that a variety of people both allies to and enemies of the Japanese shared the same details in their first-person accounts.
“The reports done by German officials and the letters written by 13 American missionaries share similar details and corroborate each other,” Lu said. “Apparently what they left behind are accurate and truthful accounts of that tragic incident, for it is unlikely that they would lie in unison in their respective private records.”
Lu hopes we can learn the lessons of that time, so that we can learn to live together today.
“We need to live together in harmony,” Lu said.