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Nanjing Massacre Survivor Recalls Haunting Memories

It was 68 years ago, but the grim voice haunts Luo Zhongyang even now.

He can still hear the cold tones that chilled his darkest days during the Nanjing Massacre.

"The Japanese shouted to us: How do you want to die?" said 85-year-old Luo, a former soldier.

Born in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, Luo and his elder brother, Yiwu, joined the army in 1936 and trained for almost a year in Huizhou with the artillery.

The following year, Luo Zhongyang took part in the war defending Shanghai and the battle protecting Nanjing.

He was one of the lucky survivors of a massacre that has deeply scarred the Chinese nation. He has been living in Nanjing, which is the capital of Jiangsu Province, since 1937.

Luo has been invited to the United States and Japan to speak about his memories of those awful days, but he finds doing it too painful.

He still remembers seeing his brother, who was in another army unit, when he arrived in Nanjing with his fellow soldiers.

It was the last time they met.

"We should fight for the country!" his brother told him.

Just days later, Luo heard his brother had been killed by the Japanese invaders.

On the night of December 12, 1937 the day just before the massacre, Luo's troops were dispersed.

He and some other soldiers wanted to flee the city by sailing along the Yangtze River, but their steamship was so crowded it could not move.

Luo took off his uniform and dressed as an ordinary city dweller, but the following morning, at about 7 am, he was caught by the Japanese army.

More than 20,000 Chinese people were forced to gather on the south banks of the Sanchahe River, and Luo was among them.

An interpreter was shouting to the crowd: "How do you want to die? Do you want to be shot by strafes, rifles, burnt by gasoline, fire bombs or stabbed by a bayonet?"

The slaughter began, Japanese soldiers ruthlessly murdering unarmed, defenceless Chinese people, from morning till night.

Some people desperate not to die at the hands of the invaders committed suicide.

Most were stabbed or shot to death.

Luo and two others managed to dig a hole in the wall of a shabby house nearby and hid inside.

When darkness came, one left - never to return. Luo and his hiding mate crept out at about 2 am.

They saw piles of bodies and rivers of blood. Finally they found a boatman, who urged them to get refugee cards to save themselves from being slaughtered.

The two men found their way to the Fayunsi Temple Refugee Camp, which was one of 25 camps set up in Nanjing by international organizations after the city was occupied by the Japanese.

There they were given refugee cards and their first meal since the slaughter.

But the refugee camp did not mean safety. Luo witnessed all kinds of crimes by the Japanese.

Japanese soldiers often checked refugee cards there. Whenever they felt suspicious about someone, they just killed them, Luo said.

The women in the camp, no matter how old or young, were raped, and many died from Japanese brutality, he said.

"Apart from all kinds of examinations, the Japanese soldiers often collected young and middle-aged men in the camp, and asked other people to claim who were their relatives," Luo said.

Those who had no relatives would be regarded as Chinese soldiers and were later killed.

Luo was claimed by two old men who did not actually know him, but who saved his life.

(China Daily July 14, 2005)

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