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Tributes paid to the hero of Nanjing

China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-07 09:46
People clean the tombstone of John Rabe in Berlin on Sunday. PENG DAWEI/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Event held to mark 70 years since death of Rabe, who saved many during WWII

BERLIN-At a corner of a cemetery in the west of Berlin stands the tombstone of John Rabe, an ordinary German businessman who is revered and remembered by the Chinese for helping protect Chinese citizens during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Rabe. Nearly 30 people, Germans and local Chinese expats included, held a memorial at the tomb of Rabe, as in previous anniversaries.

Laying flowers, tidying up the tombstone, and standing in silence, many Chinese came to pay homage. A Chinese student soprano sang a German song to say "we thank you" at the memorial.

"As Chinese, we all know John Rabe," said Song Liguo, a middle-aged man who has lived in Germany for 19 years and went to the memorial with a bouquet of flowers.

"The well-known movie Schindler's List often reminds me of John Rabe. And I was surprised to learn that his tomb was in the city where I live. So, I decided to pay my respects in person," Song said on his third visit to Rabe's grave.

Rabe, a Hamburg-born business representative of Siemens in China, is regarded as the "Oskar Schindler of China", as he set up a security zone in worn-torn Nanjing with a few foreigners and saved tens of thousands of lives between 1937 and 1938.

When Rabe was called back to Germany in early 1938, he took with him a 10-volume diary that recorded the atrocities of the Japanese invaders.

Ju Zhengji, a Chinese doctorate student of history at the Free University of Berlin, has a more compelling reason to pay homage to Rabe because he is a Nanjing native. He volunteered to speak in front of all attendees at the memorial.

In his speech, he said: "Representing the people of Nanjing, I stand here to express our gratitude to Mr Rabe."

As a Nanjing native, Ju learned about the history and the touching story of Rabe while quite young. And reflecting on the lasting power of the manifestation of the greatness in human nature, he said: "Seventy years on, many people still rally at Rabe's tomb, remembering him. When man does a great thing, people do not forget him."

Wolfram Wickert from the Erwin Wickert Foundation, the organizer of the memorial, said Rabe helped promote mutual understanding and friendship between Germany and China. The courage shown by him at that extremely difficult time touched many souls.

After the memorial, attendees visited the building where Rabe last lived. There hangs a metal plate on a wall with a description of Rabe's life in Chinese, German and English, along with his portrait.

The designer of the plate, Thomas Wangler, a Siemens engineer, is among those who paid homage to Rabe. He said Rabe was a stranger to him until he saw a film about him, though only out of interest because the movie was about Siemens.

"But I was so impressed by the spirit of humanity and courage shown by John Rabe that I decided to take the job of designing the plate," Wangler said.

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