Carrying on John Rabe's legacy toward building a community with a shared future
Published: Sep 12, 2023 12:18 AM
Guests unveil the plaque for the Internationalism Education Center at Beijing Union University in Beijing on September 11. Photo: Courtesy of Ma Panchao

Guests unveil the plaque for the Internationalism Education Center at Beijing Union University in Beijing on September 11. Photo: Courtesy of Ma Panchao

2023 marks the 115th anniversary of John Rabe's arrival in China. An internationalism education base was unveiled at the Beijing Union University on Monday to commemorate the "Oskar Schindler of China."

"We gather here today, not only to express our deep gratitude to John Rabe for saving hundreds of thousands of civilians during the Nanjing Massacre, but also to honor his legacy, which is his heroic humanitarian effort and spirit of internationalism," said Shi Mingde, president of the China-Germany Friendship Association, at the unveiling.

Faced with global challenges such as climate change, energy and food security, the world is in urgent need of such a spirit of humanitarianism and internationalism to build a community with a shared future, Shi further noted.

Born in Hamburg, Rabe came to China in 1908 at the age of 26 and was employed by Siemens. He lived in many Chinese cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Nanjing.

On December 13, 1937, Japanese troops captured Nanjing and slaughtered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers within weeks. Rabe risked his life to save Chinese who were unable to flee. He led the Nanjing Safety Zone that harbored about 250,000 Chinese civilians from death and violence, including about 600 refugees who found shelter in Rabe's garden. He recounted the heinous crimes committed by the Japanese army in Nanjing in his writings, The Diaries of John Rabe.

"By establishing the internationalism education base, we hope to call on the public to hold dear humanity's shared values of love, respect, peace and development. In essence, it is about the vision of building a community of a shared future for mankind," Michael Crook, chairman of the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (ICCIC), told the Global Times.

The event also hosted an academic seminar themed "Starting from Beijing - The Friendship between John Rabe and the Chinese People." Scholars from China and abroad shared their insights into the deep-rooted bonds between Rabe and China.

Perhaps the most awaited moment was the personal account of Thomas Rabe, the grandson of John Rabe. History resurfaced and memories were rekindled as Thomas Rabe shared how his grandfather's actions in Nanjing were remembered and passed down in his family and beyond. He also extended heartfelt thanks to China for offering medical supplies to aid the hospital where he works to fight COVID-19.

The echoes of Rabe's actions continue to reverberate, reminding us of the power of compassion and the enduring bonds of international friendship. More than a mere glance back at history, the event was also a testament to how collective memories can shape future collaborations.

Global Times