John Rabe, a member of the Nazi party, was the leader of an International Safety Zone which was responsible to save thousands of lives during the Nanjing Massacre. A WWII operation performed by the Imperial Japanese Army led by Prince Asaka right after the Battle of Shanghai. During the time of crisis, he had the option to escape to Germany, but he decided to stay to protect his workers. At a time where Swastika was a symbol of extermination and hate, he used a Swastika flag to shelter many innocent refugees. He even became the chairman of the International Safety Zone near the center of the city. However, when he returned to Germany near the end of the massacre, he became the victim of his own heroism.
He lived in a 3 stories house provided by Siemen as a corporate worker in China. In modern day Nanjing, it faces a Best Buy and it is in an economically thriving environment. However, less than a century ago, in 1937, during the midst of the massacre, 600 desperate refugees camped in his backyard. At first he was very reluctant to accept them, but he soon learned that the fate of these refugees if they were not accepted into his backyard or the International Safety Zone. Japanese soldiers murdered thousands in the city, and “approximately one thousand women and girls of all ages were sexually assaulted and raped, daily, throughout the early stages of occupation”, Bix, Herbert, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.
Angered by the brutality of the soldiers, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Using his Swastika armband, he was able to save women in the midst of violence. As his diary states, ``My car is held up by a group of some 50 Chinese, who asked me to rescue a woman ... I am led to a house and find ... the soldier was just about to rape the woman. I am able to drag the soldier from the room.'' There were many occasions where he risked his life in order to save another’s life. With his Swastika armband, he saved victims who were inches away from the swords or bayonets. He wrote many complains to the diplomat Hidaka Shinorokuro, but was ignored often by the Japanese officials.
He finally left Nanking in February 1938. He had a collection of the atrocities documentations and films documented by another International Safety Zone member, John Magee. He held public lectures showing the documents to Germans. He even wrote letters to Hitler telling him of the atrocities. However, his letters never reached Hitler. His public discussions led him to be interrogated by the Gestapo, the secret state police at the time. The Gestapo allowed him to keep most of his documents except of the film documenting the atrocities. Soon after the war, in 1950, he met his ends in extreme poverty.