In December of 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese military invaded Nanjing, China and engaged in a campaign of mass killing.
USC Shoah Foundation partnered with the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in 2012 to preserve the testimonies of the last survivors of these atrocities, also known as the Rape of Nanjing, in which 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed over the course of two months.
In late 2012, through the partnership, a dozen video testimonies of survivors of the 1937-38 Nanjing Massacre were recorded in Nanjing, China, all conducted in Mandarin. After being catalogued and indexed, the 12 testimonies were integrated into the Institute’s Visual History Archive in early 2014.
The next 18 testimonies were recorded in the fall of 2014. As of January of 2015, the average interviewee age for the survivors was 85 years old; the oldest was 94.
Testimonies in the Nanjing collection seek to establish full-life histories of the individuals, including their social and cultural life before and after the Nanjing Massacre.
These testimonies add new perspectives and knowledge to the history of the Nanjing Massacre. The interview procedure was informed by the Institute’s experience in having gathered testimony from nearly 53,000 survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, and survivors and witnesses to both the Cambodian and Rwandan Tutsi genocides.
The collection augments existing collections of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, which currently holds around 4,000 testimonies collected mainly in a written form over the last twenty years, as well as a smaller number of audio-visual testimonies that were filmed in the 1990s.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall will play an essential role throughout its international collaboration with USC Shoah Foundation, from survivor outreach to providing their expertise in supporting the interview methodology and process. In short, the organization acts as the crucial link to the Nanjing survivor community and provides expertise in this historical chapter.
A local team in Nanjing, whose services were donated by Beijing-based Long Legacy International Communications, a company specializing in large-scale events, filmed the testimonies. A staff researcher of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall conducted the interviews. The Siezen Foundation provided funding for the Nanjing collection.
With approximately 200 survivors alive today, the need to preserve a significant collection of comprehensive video testimonies has become urgent. The goal is to record up to 100 testimonies with survivors, scholars and experts on video for the Visual History Archive. In addition to being available through the Visual History Archive, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall will receive a full copy of the completed collection.