On Tuesday, three more portraits of Nanjing Massacre survivors went dark at a special “lights out” ceremony to mark the recent passing of those who endured that terrible event. As the colored digital images turned to black and white, the number of registered survivors dwindled to just 39.
The photos are among 100 displayed on the walls of the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, located in eastern Jiangsu Province’s capital city of Nanjing. A total of 11 massacre survivors passed away so far this year.
The Nanjing Massacre occurred when Japanese troops captured the city on Dec. 13, 1937. About 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed in just over six weeks in the city, making for one of the most brutal episodes of World War II.
Liu Jun gently stroked the darkened photo of her mother Ruan Xiuying, and placed a white chrysanthemum beneath it.
“My mother told me that my grandfather was captured by the invading Japanese soldiers during the massacre, enduring unimaginable torment,” Liu recalled.
“There’s a knife scar on my mother’s eyebrow, left by a Japanese soldier. However, in my opinion, the emotional damage was harder to heal for my mother than the physical pain that she suffered. She could not help crying every time she recalled those horrible experiences,” Liu added.
The atrocities almost destroyed Xiao Yaping’s family. Standing in the memorial hall, Xiao mourned her mother Yang Jingqiu, who passed away this June, and her aunt Wang Suming, who departed the world in March last year.
During the massacre, Xiao’s grandfather was killed by the Japanese invaders. While escaping from the Japanese soldiers, Xiao’s fragile grandmother suffered a miscarriage. Finding it difficult to make ends meet, she sent one of her two daughters for adoption.
“My mother and aunt eventually reunited many years later,” Xiao said. “They both came forward in their old age as witnesses to history, demanding an apology from the Japanese government.”
However, the witnesses of history are fading away. The average age of the remaining 39 registered survivors is over 93.
“I’m already 89 years old. Although I don’t know how much longer I can wait, I’ve been waiting all this time, for the day when the Japanese government extends a heartfelt apology,” said Fang Suxia, one of the survivors.
Zhou Feng, curator of the memorial hall, said the dimming photos on the wall act as a reminder, urging him to make more meticulous efforts in caring for and supporting the remaining survivors. “There is an urgent need to preserve and pass down the historical memories,” he said.
Fortunately, many descendants and relatives of the survivors have shouldered the responsibility of passing on memories of the massacre, taking part in various related activities and sharing their family memories with more people. Ge Fengjin and Ge Fengliang are among them.
“We want to tell more people the story of our father, Ge Daorong, a victim of the Nanjing Massacre. People need to know what happened and understand that the massacre brought catastrophe to innumerable individuals and families,” Ge Fengjin said.