What is the relationship between war and war crimes? On December 13, 1937, Nanjing, then capital of China, fell to the Japanese Imperial Army. Thousands of civilians and soldiers were massacred, mass rape and murder of thousands of women occurred, and homes throughout the city were looted and burned. Much of the city was destroyed. Through the study of primary source documents, films, and our new resource, The Nanjing Atrocities: Crimes of War, and stories of survivors and rescuers, we will examine the events leading to the siege of Nanjing, the choices individuals and groups make during moments of collective violence, and the enduring legacies of the atrocities in Nanjing.
By inviting educators to a critical analysis of and ethical reflection on one case of mass atrocities committed in the 20th century, we hope to model a pedagogical approach to teaching difficult histories — histories that raise ethical and moral questions about humanity’s capacity for violence, as well as its capacity for empathy.
Recommended for 10th-12th grade history, social science, or humanities teachers. $10 fee includes lunch and materials.