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Students Collect Oral History of Nanjing Massacre

Dozens of university students in Nanjing, the capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, are collecting an oral history from survivors of the Nanjing Massacre.

Worried that elderly survivors, like veterans of World War II, are dying off rapidly, the Jiangsu Youth League organized groups of university students to talk with victims and record their memories. Four universities are taking part in the project: Nanjing University, Nanjing Normal University, Hehai University and Nanjing Aeronautics and Astronautics University.

"Originally we planned to have fewer than 20 students from each university, but so many volunteered," said a committee worker surnamed Zhang. "Finally, each university had to choose the most qualified from hundreds of volunteers."

After receiving training on June 26, the students began collecting materials over a two-week period.

Their main target is the Nanjing suburbs, which have generally been neglected when such research is conducted.

Sixteen students from the History Department of Nanjing University have interviewed people, made recordings, taken notes and then collated all the materials collected for more than a week in 11 towns in the Pukou District.

In Xige Village, Yongning Town, an 86-year-old man surnamed Ge said he clearly remembered his younger brother being killed by bombs "thrown from a Japanese fighter plane."

When the plane had gone, he could only find a single leg of his younger brother.

In the same village, a man surnamed Zhang told the students that more than 30 people in his small factory were burnt by "the savage Japanese army."

In Dingshan Town, an elderly man who refused to give his name recalled that Japanese soldiers invaded the village, locked more than 20 villagers in a small house on the top of a nearby mountain and set the house on fire. Fortunately, the villagers were able to escape through a back door and hide in the mountains. When the man's uncle later went out to see whether the Japanese had gone, he was shot and killed. The man's father died during the period as well, of causes the old man attributes to fright.

When the students have collated their materials, they will pay return visits to their interview subjects and ask them to confirm the accuracy of the written statements. The affirmed statements will be notarized.

Chen Dahai, a college senior, said that he had learned many things that no book could possibly relate.

"Although we were very tired doing the interviews in such a hot season, we hope to contribute our share to the protection of these oral historical materials, and leave no regrets for posterity," he said.

Professor Zhang Sheng, of Nanjing University's History Department, said, "As each day passes, there are fewer survivors of the Nanjing Massacre. We should spare no effort to protect these precious memories and show them to the public. . . . History must be remembered."

In December 1937, Nanjing fell to the invading Japanese troops, who committed atrocities including horrific rapes and the murders of some 300,000 people, mostly civilians.

However, some Japanese right-wing forces still deny the massacre took place.

(China Daily July 7, 2004)

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