Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sixteen Photographs

After the Chinese city of Nanking fell to the Japanese in December 1937, the Imperial Army embarked on a six week orgy of rape, murder, arson and looting almost unparalleled in modern warfare. When the protagonists were brought to trial one of the most important exhibits was an album of sixteen photographs of atrocities. This was hidden in the wall of a bathroom; secreted under a statue of the Buddha; passed from hand to hand. People risked their lives possessing it: one man even fled Nanking and wandered from city to city for years like a fugitive, simply because of this small album.

Photograph One
General Matsui Iwane salutes his victorious troops as he enters the walled city of Nanking. He is mounted on a magnificent chestnut horse.

Photograph Two
A female corpse lies in the street. Clothing covers the body from the waist up and the knees down. The vagina has been split to enable easier access and a bamboo stick has been inserted, mimicking a phallus.

Photograph Three
A man is beheaded with a sword. We see the actual moment of the victim's decapitation.

Photograph Four
The head of a Chinese soldier balances on a barbed-wire barricade. A cigarette has been inserted between the soldier's lips.

Photograph Five
This woman barely escapes rape, fighting off three Japanese soldiers armed with bayonets. Seven months pregnant during the attack, she has suffered a miscarriage in the hospital.

Photograph Six
A teenage boy lies in the hospital, his head charred black after being doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Photograph Seven
The doctor examines a gang-rape victim whose head has been almost severed by repeated bayonet thrusts.

Photograph Eight
Two Japanese soldiers pose nonchalantly for a newspaper cameraman. They are engaged in a contest to see who can be the first to behead one hundred Chinese prisoners. The accompanying article describes the two men as being 'neck and neck'.

Photograph Nine
Portrait of the German businessman John Rabe: balding and bespectacled, he wears a formal dress suit and has his hands clasped across his groin. This Living Buddha of Nanking helped save the lives of two hundred thousand people. He wears his Nazi regalia with pride.

Photograph Ten
Portrait of the American missionary Minnie Vautrin: elegantly coiffured, she looks thoughtfully into the middle distance. This Living Goddess of Nanking helped save the lives of two hundred thousand people. Three years later she will seal the windows and doors of her home with tape and turn on the gas.

Photograph Eleven
A young woman has been bound to a chair, with her legs spread open to encourage repeated attacks. A thin black strip has been placed across the bottom of the photograph to protect the viewers' sensibilities.

Photograph Twelve
A Buddhist monk has been ordered at gunpoint to rape an elderly woman. When the monk refuses he is castrated and left to bleed to death.

Photograph Thirteen
The Japanese cannot find enough bodies of dead and dying Chinese soldiers to fill these trenches to allow tanks to pass over them, so they shoot nearby residents and throw them in as well.

Photograph Fourteen
A Chinese soldier is stripped naked and buried up to his waist. Dogs are released on the man, ripping open his belly and jerking out the intestines along the ground.

Photograph Fifteen
The body of an eleven-year-old girl who has died after being raped continuously for two days. According to eyewitness reports ‘the blood-stained, swollen and ruptured area between the girl’s legs creates a disgusting scene difficult for anyone to look at directly’.

Photograph Sixteen
A shopkeeper is forced to sodomise his wife and two young daughters in front of laughing Japanese soldiers. The entire family kill themselves by drowning in the Yangtze river.

Photograph Seventeen
Twin jets of blood gush from a severed neck. Blood and dried semen stain the corpse. Blood and dried semen you fuckers. You fuckers. You cunts.

Russell J Turner and Iris Chang – May 2009

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