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Massacre survivors' words saved forever
By Bao Xinyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-07 01:30

Dozens of university students in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province are collecting an oral history from survivors of the Nanjing Massacre.

Worried that elderly survivors, like veterans of World War II are dying off rapidly, the Jiangsu Youth League committee organized a special activity for university students to talk with victims and gather evidence.Four universities are taking part, including Nanjing University, Nanjing Normal University, Hehai University and Nanjing Aeronautics and Astronautics University.

"Originally we planned to have fewer than 20 students from each university, but so many students entered their names for the activity," said a committee worker surnamed Zhang. "Finally every university had to choose qualified members among hundreds of volunteers."

After receiving training on June 26, the volunteers began collecting materials over a two-week period.

Their main target is the Nanjing suburbs, which, in the past, have generally been neglected.

Some 16 students from the History Department of Nanjing University have interviewed people, made recordings, took notes and then sorted out all the materials they collected for more than one week now. In 11 towns in Pukou District, the students found that survivors in their 80s described painful memories.

In Xige Village of Yongning Town, a 86-year-old man surnamed Ge said he clearly remembered his younger brother being killed by bombs "thrown from a Japanese fighter plane."

When the plane had gone, he could only find a single leg of his younger brother remaining.

In the same village, another man surnamed Zhang told the students that more than 30 of his small workshops were burnt by "the savage Japanese army."

In Dingshan Town, an old man who refused to give his name recalled that Japanese soldiers invaded the village, locked more than 20 villagers in a small house on the top of a local mountain and burnt the house down.

Fortunately, there was a back door, and the villagers made their escape and hid in the mountains.

Later the uncle of the old man went out to see whether the Japanese were gone or not and was shot dead. Soon, the old man's father died of fright.

The students plan to pay a return visit to the interviewees and get them to confirm what they earlier said. They will get the statements notarized.

Chen Dahai, a college senior in the group said he had learnt many things no book could possibly relate.

"Although we were very tired doing the interviews in such a hot season, we hope to contribute our share to the protection of these oral historical materials, and leave no pity for the history," he said.

Experts think highly of the activity and the materials the students are gathering.

"As days pass by, there are fewer and fewer survivors of the Nanjing Massacre," said Zhang Sheng, professor of the History Department of Nanjing University. "We should spare no efforts in protecting these precious memories and show them to the public... the history must be remembered."

In December 1937, Nanjing fell to the Japanese invading troops, who committed atrocities including horrific rapes of women and girls and the murders of more than 300,000 people, mostly civilians.

However, some Japanese right-wing forces still deny there was a Nanjing Massacre.

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