Mr. Vincent Hermans 鲁汶大学南怀仁研究所 Verbiest Institute Catholic University Louvain Belgium
For years uncertainties about the Zhengding Massacre have existed. It is clear that on the 9th of October 1937 nine Europeans were massacred in Zhengding. When 13 days after the murder the French Father Louis Chanet appears in Zhengding, he tries to reconstruct the events of that day. The evidence given by the Chinese is so confusing and contradictory that he fails to give an accurate reproduction of the facts.
Crucial matters need to be clarified. 77 Years later based on research in important European archives (provisional) answers can be given.
1) WERE THE MARTYS BURNT ALIVE?
In all kinds of documents about the cause of death of the martyrs one finds the expression: ’they were killed and burned’. How must this be understood? First killed and how? Killed by a piercing bayonet or shot dead or possibly only by burning? Chinese witnesses are afraid to speak freely. The witnesses who do speak freely do so in contrary ways. The local archives of the county of Zhengding show this writing: ‘no mention that they were killed first and then burned’. There too uncertainty exists.
1) Differing declarations about the cause of death:
In the researched texts the following declarations stand out:
a) killed by knife-stabs or by the swing of a sword: Zr. Poulieu writes this.
b) shot to death. Several people mention finding cartridges. One witness says to have heard some ten gunshots. Fr. Schlooz adds that the finding of cartridges does not tell us anything, because they were found all over the town. The Chinese interpreter who was present there on October 9 tells Fr. Olivers: “They started to torture the youngest person first. The other missionaries protested against that. Immediately three of them were shot to death with revolvers’. The interpreter does not tell us if the others died in the same way.
c) Pierced with bayonets and thrown into the fire: Fr.Schlooz, Dom.Gérardin and Fr. Chanet make this declaration once. Already on November 17, 1937, does P. Ramakers speak about this conduct in Beijing. In 1948 Fr. Schlooz mentions that it is generally agreed that, according to a beggar, they were one by one pierced with a bayonet and then, while still alive, doused with petroleum and set on fire.
d) Burned while still alive: This is how Bro. Friedrich speaks of it. It is not clear if they were first pierced with a bayonet, or tortured in another way. Fr. Schlooz is very clear: first pierced and then set on fire.
e) Killed and burned: The two most important persons after the tragedy, Fr. Chanet and Msgr. De Vienne, do officially not go into details by speaking of ’killed and burned’. Msgr. De Vienne carefully phrases it by adding the word ’probably’. The Japanese priest Taguchi mentions that they have been murdered. Should we understand this as having been shot to death?
f) Combination: Fr. Denys van Leeuw speaks in detail about the combination of bayonet piercing, followed by gunshots to death and then being thrown on the fire.
The witness time wise:
Immediately after the disappearance all kinds of rumors appear about the missionaries having been shot or burned to death. Beggars might have been witnesses, but it is given no attention. Everything is concentrated on finding the kidnapped persons. The witness about the use of bayonets surfaces immediately when the bodily remains are found on November 10. This witness travels via Fr. Ramakers to Beijing and around the whole world. The witness about being shot to death is found in the correspondence only at the beginning of December, while the cartridges had been found already on November 10. Was the story about bayonets believed earlier? When death by gunshot is mentioned, the finding of cartridges on November 12 is always pointed to.
Conclusion: What is mentioned above shows a diverging collection of declarations. How are these to be valued?
2) Weighing up the declarations:
Ad a) killed by knife-stabs or by the swing of a sword: Zr. Poulieu herself says that they are only conjectures.
Ad b) Killed by gunshots: at the murder in Zhengding only one witness mentions to have heard gunshots that fatal evening. Has nobody else heard anything apart from him? The town was conquered and the battle was stopped. Fr. Olivers speaks about the death by gunshot of three persons at their arrival at the pagoda, after they had begun torturing the youngest person. What is meant by torturing? Is it only the pulling of his beard, as Fr. Olivers writes ( a little pulled out piece of bloodied beard was found) or is it also the use of a bayonet? Fr. Denys van Leeuw too mentions first the use of bayonets and after that of the bullet. The other persons who mention death by a bullet, all base it on the discovery of cartridges, something that Fr. Schlooz does not accept as proof.
Another current way of shooting to death and of burning is described by Iris Chang as happened in Nanjing. Victims are doused with fuel and then shot with machineguns, which led to the victims catching fire. Can this method also have been used in Zhengding? Bro. Friedrich mentions the use of 4 jerry cans of ‘petrol’. How did he get to know this? The victims must have been doused considerably.
Ad c) The use of bayonets and the throwing into the fire: On entering the town of Zhengding the Japanese sixth army began killing citizens with their bayonets. The army commander was general Tani Hisao, who later conquered Nanking, at that time the capital of China. Witnesses there tell about horrible scenes. People are either shot to death or pierced with bayonets or thrown into a fire. They are common ways of killing people. Iris Chang also writes about mass incinerations in Nanjing. ’In Hsiakwan a Japanese soldier bound Chinese captives together, ten at a time, and pushed them into a pit, where they were sprayed with gasoline and ignited’. In another passage she mentions the use of iron wire to bind prisoners together. From these examples it appears that in the Japanese army the use of iron wire, the piercing with bayonets and the ignition of these pierced people are common. Fr. Olivers writes that the Japanese interpreter tells him ‘men on arrival at the pagoda begin to torture the youngest‘. It is a pity that Fr. Olivers did not write what else the interpreter told him. Were the remaining details too gruesome for words? What is meant by torture in this case? Is the piercing with a bayonet also part of it? Or did he mean with ’begin to torture’ that the torture of the youngest was the beginning of the end?
Ad d) burned alive: Bro. Friedrich speaks about it this way. It remains unclear whether at first people were pierced with bayonets or tortured in some other way. Fr. Schlooz is very clear: first pierced and then burned alive.
Ad e) killed and burned: this wording is used in the official declarations of Fr. Chanet and Msgr. De Vienne, as suggested by the adage that the Japanese army should not be damaged at the instigation of commander Yokoyama. It does not say anything about the way in which people were killed.
3) Proofs at the disaster area:
Can the disaster area tell us something about the way in which the Europeans were murdered?
a) Iron wire:
On the day of the discovery of the bodily remains Bro. Friedrich finds much iron wire. From the way in which the iron wire is fastened he understands that the victims were bound hands and feet. Fr. Schlooz indicates that they must have suffered much pain because the wire was so tightly bound. At the kidnapping itself ropes were used to bind the hands on the back of the body. Why then were these ropes replaced with iron wire? To bind people together in groups, as happened in Nanjing? Why bind them with iron wire when a person can be disposed of with one gunshot, while the hands are bound together with a rope? Here the use of iron wire indicates another purpose besides shooting people dead.
b) Blood at the disaster area:
At the place of the murder a little basket of chopped off stones, full of blood of the martyrs, is collected. Christians take away the soil in bags. Is that because of the ashes or also because of the blood of the martyrs? It is written: ‘The earth was drenched with blood’. The presence of blood can indicate shooting people dead, but even more so the use of bayonets. The use of bullets causes more internal bleeding, while the piercing with bayonets cause more external bleeding. The ‘ground being drenched’ clearly points to the use of bayonets.
c) ‘Mon Dieu’:
In the reports about the murder it is written that witnesses of the murder have heard the cry ‘Mon Dieu, mon Dieu’. Those present understood: ‘Mong tie’, which means ‘great?’. Nobody doubts this witness and it is repeated over and over again. It points to something awful that must be seen or endured, at which people call to God in order to persevere or beg for his help. It can refer to how people see how others are tortured or shot dead. It can also refer to a cry of distress from someone who is consumed with pain because he is torn apart with a bayonet. Among all kinds of vague messages there are two striking witnesses, of which one with lucid authors. On November 17 P. Gerardin writes to Fr. Chanet that two non-Christians, veteran soldiers, tell two Christians in Paitang that on the evening of October 9 they were in a house which bordered on the place near the tower, where they might have seen it. They saw how bayonets were used. Fr. Denys van Leeuw gives the same witness but in this case from a beggar, who also mentions the use of bayonets and that they were thrown into the fire. Then the victims start to cry out ’Mon Dieu’ He then says: ’A small Officer comes near and talks to the soldiers. Then they shoot a bullet through the head of each missionary’. Both witnesses are full of little details which point to direct eyewitness accounts, and are therefore credible. The two statements are not exactly identical.
Conclusion: proofs in the disaster area:
The following headlines can be made:
1) The use of iron wire points to another purpose apart from only killing with a bullet.
2) The amount of blood in the disaster area points to the use of bayonets.
3) The cry ‘Mon Dieu, mon Dieu’ can point both to the use of bayonets and of bullets. The two most acceptable eyewitness accounts point both to the use of bayonets.
Conclusion: on the basis of the now available documents the following conclusions can be made. The use of bayonets has certainly been in the order of the occasion. Before the missionaries were thrown into the fire, they were tortured. The possibility that they were shot to death within the fire cannot be excluded.
In his diary John Rabe in Nanjing describes a story that could be an image of what happened in Zhengding: ‘50 Chinese were carried away..They were taken to an empty house and robbed of all their valuables and clothes, and completely naked they were bound together in little groups of five persons. The Japanese then lit a large wood fire in the inner court, brought the groups one after another outside, pierced them with bayonets and threw them alive into the fire… We have heard this message time and again from different sources’.
Fr. Denys van Leeuw heard from the mouths of two concrete witnesses of the murder in Zhengding: ‘At about eleven o’clock in the evening the soldiers brought outside (from the pagoda) the Europeans, one by one, eyes blindfolded, hands bound behind their backs. They pierce their bellies with a bayonet, put them together three by three, bind their feet with iron wire, throw petrol on their clothes and ignite them.
2 HOW TO UNDERSTAND THAT AFTER THE MASSACRE THE ABDUCTORS DID NOT RETURN TO JUST SIMPLY TAKE AWAY CHINESE WOMEN?
What is the secret that of the Chinese women not a hair was touched?
In his call immediately after the disappearance of the Europeans to fr. Chanet to come to Zhengding, prior Gérardin of the Trappists writes that no serious offence against the women has taken place. “Usually plunder happens together with the rape of women […]. A consolation: neither one of the religious nor of the refugees has suffered sexual violence”. In his notebook Fr. Chanet writes: ‘No rape of persons, neither with the Josephines nor with the Sisters’ . Others repeat the same words . But there have been cases of impudence. The former abbot of the Trappist monastery in Hong Kong, present in those days, gave witness about this question, that he has never heard of such a thing happening. He has no record, not any remembrance of ever hearing of anyone being raped in the Cathedral Compound, neither the first day nor afterwards. Some refugees in the nuns’ compound were ‘touched’ by the Japanese soldiers the first day, but not raped. Indeed, the Japanese did take many of Zhengding’s Chinese women for their ‘use’ during the first few days of their stay there. Only in one place is there real talk about rape, namely in the local history of the county of Zhengding, in which is written: ‘Knowing the Japanese soldiers’ intention, Fr. Charny and Fr. Bertrand want to stop them, but they kept the two priests in the gatehouse, and two soldiers guarded them. Then the sisters were raped by those beasts’. What is meant here must be that they went to the Chinese sisters Josephines. This is the only exception in the various firsthand declarations
from the earliest moment that nothing has happened. Indeed, from those declarations even relief says that it did not happen, exactly in a context of rape being the order of the day. That is why at the first information immediate mention of it is made.
Fear of rape:
How greatly the fear of rape is present is shown in the report of the sisters, when the Japanese order the refugees to go home. Well-to-do families want their older girls of 17/18 years to be admitted by the sisters so as to escape the dangers. Outside of the compound the cruelties and atrocities continue. When on October 23 the order comes that all refugees have to go away, Fr. Chanet writes: ‘How many women and girls went on their knees and beseeched us to save them out of fear for a trap’. When a soldier appears on the roof of a neighboring house or in a garden, they assume at once that a mass invasion will occur where the young girls, the refugees or the orphans are. So great is their fear!
Why did it not happen?
The former abbot answers this question as follows: ‘The Japanese did not take away any of the women immediately, yes. There are several factors here. The first, very practical, one is that the Japanese had only just arrived in Zhengding, and as yet had no place to put them (even in town, they abused the women at first in the women’s own houses, before later setting up a place for such things). Secondly, the Chinese guides were very much afraid of t he ‘spiritual power of sisters’ and so the Japanese did not touch the sisters or bother them in any way. With the (mostly non-Catholic) refugees, however, the Japanese abused them personally and looted their things.
This explanation does not suffice. How does his remark about not being able to accommodate women agree with the demand for women earlier that day? Apparently they knew what to do with them, even 200 women! And what concerns the spiritual power of the sisters, was that only valid in the case of rape and not in their attempt to also murder them?
When after the murder of the Europeans the Japanese soldiers still had taken women and girls, everybody then automatically made a connection with the motive for the murder. The indignation would have been great worldwide. The hatred against the Europeans because of their refusal and combined with their loss of face must have been so great that they chose murder of Europeans rather than taking women with violence and sparing the Europeans. This is specially underscored when also after the murder plundering soldiers in the residence did not touch any women, while in the city they continued their gruesome deeds.
3. HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE ORDER TO SURRENDER 200 0R MORE WOMEN. What did the band intend to do with 200 women? What does this mean with respect to the relationship between the band and the Japanese army?
On various occasions the number of women, whom the Japanese came to demand at the residence on October 9, 1937, was mentioned. Bro. Friedrich mentions the number of 200 and Yuan Li gives a number of 300 . Bro. Friedrich is a source who is close to the fire and who carefully investigates what happened. Being an Austrian he is a compatriot and admirer of the murdered Fr. Thomas Cheska, and is directly concerned with finding the truth. In 1946 Yuan Li writes a series of articles about the Zengding massacre in the newspaper YiShi in Tientsin.
When Bro. Friedrich gives the number nothing is said about the moment at which the women are demanded. The Japanese soldiers say: ‘If the desired 200 girls had been given for their pleasure, they would not have been burned.’ That is all. Elsewhere in the text it appears that it all happened in the morning of October 9.
In Yuan Li’s case the context is clear, namely during the abduction. When the prisoners stand on the truck, they are faced with a terrible dilemma: 300 women in exchange for their own freedom. This number is higher than the number 200; 100 women more is the ransom for their own lives. It gives a dramatic weight to the story. This also becomes clear from the following: ‘ When the bishop heard this, he shouted down from the truck: “I am the bishop, I would rather die than allow this to happen”. When he said this his voice was strong and reprimanding. It was then that the beasts were still more determined to kill the people of the church’. The bishop repeats his refusal mentioned in the morning.
The question about such a precise number of women is not exceptional, as is shown from the murder of the Dutch Franciscan Aemilianus from Heel in 1938. From him too 300 women were demanded. September 2014 a Dutch journal reports on a debate in Japan about comfort-girls: The Japanese veteran Seiji Yoshida declared he captured about 200 women to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Apparently the number 200/300 has a special meaning.
The rape of Chinese women:
‘During wars women suffer most’ is a much heard remark. It certainly also applies to the Japanese war in China. After the conquest of Nanjing it is estimated that during the orgy of violence in only the first two weeks about 20.000 women were raped. During the war tribunal of Nanking the total number mentioned is between 20.000 and 80.000 cases. The stories about them are gruesome. What was thought about rape in the Japanese army? In Iris Chang’s book a Japanese veteran says that the army had officially placed rape outside the law . Nobody took it serious that it
was not allowed. The military police forbade rape formally, but encouraged soldiers to kill the victim afterwards. The rape of Chinese women grew to be a wartime weapon for the humiliation of the Chinese people and showed the supremacy of the Japanese people. Against this background it becomes understandable that Japanese soldiers came to demand such a large number of women from Msgr. Schraven.
Can a number speak?
Coming up with a concrete number is important. In the book by Iris Chang numbers are also important in this respect, when she describes that women taken along wash clothes during the day and at night are raped by 15-20 men, and the dearest even 40 times. The Japanese soldier Takokoro Kozo says that trucks were sent out to catch women. ’And then each of them was allocated to 15 to 20 soldiers for sexual intercourse and abuse’ .
It is clear that the 200 women are intended for the needs of more men than the group that took them along. In both these examples mentioned by Iris Chang it is said that one woman was made available to 15-20 men. It is too gruesome to do, but when one multiplies the number of 200 women, that was demanded on October 9, with the number of Japanese soldiers who wanted or could use them, one reaches a number of 3.000 to 4.000 soldiers. The 200/300 women were intended for a much larger army division. How many soldiers were involved in the conquest of Zengding? More than 3.000-4.000? From the formation of the Japanese army it appears that a regiment counted 3.845 soldiers . A regiment like that was led by a colonel or a lieutenant-colonel. The order to fetch 200 women has been an organized order from above, given to a group of soldiers of the Japanese army led by a ’chief’. In this way the number of 200-300 reveals something essential about the drama .
4) WHY WERE ONLY THE EUROPEANS MURDERED?
What is the background of the murder of Europeans only? It is striking that fr. Chanet never poses this question in his correspondence and reports. All he mentions is the actual fact. In the dining room 9 Europeans were seated next to 12 Chinese priests. Nothing happened to the latter. This cannot be a coincidence. The intruders made very sure that all the hostages were Europeans by aiming the light of a flash lamp at each of them. The Chinese, at first instance seen to be Europeans, were let go. The spokesman of the intruders tells all the frightened Chinese priests that they have nothing to fear. After the kidnapping of the Europeans a soldier returns to repeat that they were only after the Europeans. The kidnappers came with a clearly thought out plan. It has to be like that and nothing else.
Was the motive espionage?
The Japanese priest Taguchi touches on this question. According to him the foreign priests in Zhengding were suspected of espionage. Therefore only the Europeans were taken away. The presence of an electrical engine for among other things telegraphy strengthened this suspicion. Moreover, the Europeans offered protection to some Chinese soldiers. Before the massacre of Zhengding Taguchi wrote a confidential report about how catholic missionaries were looked upon in the Japanese army. The highest military officials consider the missionaries to be spies. That is what they learn in their basic and higher schools. They find it hard to understand why catholic missionaries are willing to live in a strange land under such poor conditions, if they are not ordered by their superiors to work as spies. The use of the flag of their native countries is misunderstood by the authorities, and why do they ask for the help of the Japanese through the diplomatic offices of these countries. In Zhengding Fr. Taguchi sees the confirmation of what he had stated earlier. If the Japanese military men look upon the foreign missionaries that way, the accusation of espionage by foreigners is easily available. On the other hand the Japanese could have expected espionage more from the Chinese than the European priests.
During the conquest of Zhengding the Trappists experience no suspicion at all or antipathy by the passing Japanese soldiers for the Europeans, on the contrary. At their place the French flag flies almost everywhere for 4 days. There has been no thought of raising the Japanese flag. The Japanese behavior in Zhengding towards the mission of Zhengding is according to them extraordinary. But then, what makes it so extraordinary? The guest priest of the Trappists excludes suspicion of espionage or cooperation with the Chinese army as a motive. There are also no indications of Japanese elsewhere murdering missionaries with that same motive. How easily could Yokoyama have hidden himself behind such a suspicion, and thus have limited the damage to the Japanese army. He does not do that. In that he is honest.
Was there another motive?
According to professor Xiao Chen-Li the Japanese knew that the European priests were the leaders of the catholic church of Zhengding. They hated the Europeans because of their refusal to give women. That is why they imprisoned only the foreign priests to threaten them and get what they were after. The story about the exchange on the truck after the abduction: 300 women in exchange for the freedom of the Europeans, proves it. The exchange therefore becomes a means for the Japanese of adding pressure to get what they wanted, or as yet to get it, because it seems that there was much rancor because of the refusal earlier on that day. That rancor by the intruders must have been very great, because members of the gang also demand to know where the women of the Europeans are. This is an undeniable fact, told by various sources, in various colors. Earlier on that day they had already asked where the women of the Europeans were, and after the abduction from the dining room a Chinese priest was threatened and told to take the abductors to the sisters in order to take them away as well. At the Daughters of Charity 12 European sisters stayed, because the orphanage of Baoding with 5 European sisters had also come to stay with them. The number of victims could have grown to 21 persons. Apparently they were not afraid to do so.
The former abbot of the Hong Kong monastery father Benedict agrees with Xiao Chen-Li. The Japanese treated the Europeans differently from the Chinese. They considered what the Chinese said and did as being unimportant; but they paid relatively careful attention to what the foreigners did and said. Every catholic in Zhengding knew that the leadership in the diocese of Zhengding was in the hands of the bishop with his council of European priests and lay brothers. That is why for him the target of the Japanese attack was all European priests and lay brothers.
Conclusion: The kidnappers knew that the Europeans in Zhengding were the leaders, and not the Chinese. During the day the Europeans had caused very great anger because of the protection of women, and the Japanese had lost face. The members of the gang clearly showed the distinction of the Chinese by kidnapping only the Europeans and sparing the Chinese.
5) THE PLACE AND TIME OF THE MURDER.
Why were the victims locked up in the pagoda for such a long time? Did a tribunal take place and were the victims condemned to death?
At seven o’clock in the evening the victims were taken prisoner in the dining room, blindfolded and shackled, and were taken to the pagoda in a truck. They were locked up there for two hours and were taken before a court. These facts are assumed by everyone.
a) Taken to court and condemned?
When on October 22 fr. Chanet arrives in Zengding, there is almost immediately a witness who declares that the Europeans did appear before a court and were condemned. In his diary fr. Chanet writes: ‘were accused and why?’ It is striking that the prior Laurent Gérardin of the Trappist monastery makes no mention of this witness in his detailed report of December 5. Did he not know the message or did he not immediately consider it believable? According to Mr. Lacoste, the secretary of the French embassy, fr. Chanet did not have hard proof. Mr. Lacoste himself too mentions the military tribunal in his talks with Japanese citizens or soldiers, and with religious too Mr. Lacoste hinted at a military tribunal, but nobody has been able to present hard facts . Several people mention it in their correspondence with others, and speak always of ’probably’.
This question is finally answered when in February 1938 commander Yokoyama has a serious interview in the Dutch embassy with baron de Vos van Steenwyk who blames him repeatedly with respect to the correct settlement of the whole tragedy. The baron blames him: ‘that the priests had been dragged before some kind of court of Japanese officers and other military personnel’. At that, commander Yokoyama denied it pertinently. From this whole course of affairs we can draw three conclusions:
1) The Japanese commander Yokoyama did know what exactly had taken place during that evening, otherwise he would not be able to deny it so pertinently.
2) Yokoyama may have had an advantage by not killing this rumor. It was preferable that the uncertainty about the murder stayed alive. Persons like father Chanet and Msgr. De Vienne were on confidential terms with Yokoyama. The French secretary Lacoste had several talks with Yokoyama about the dramatic affair. Yokoyama was always non-committal. Only when baron de Vos van Steenwyk pressed him emotionally, did Yokoyama reveal the truth.
3) The honesty which father Chanet declares to have noticed in colonel Yokoyama, is probably relative … as long as it served the Japanese case.
Apparently this solution was communicated, because since then it never returned.
2) The stay of two hours in the pagoda.
This witness is accepted by Fr. Chanet as fact. The burning to death of the abducted persons would have occurred between 10 and 11 o’clock in the evening. There would have been around two hours between the abduction and the murder. It is apparently a later information that it was heard from a beggar who saw it happen, and that it was believed, because Fr. Chanet writes about it only at the end of November 1937. A year later Fr. Chanet mentions it again when the monument is erected.
How to asses this information?
Several people independently say that in the evening of October 9 the Japanese cremated their killed comrades-in-arms near the pagoda according to Japanese custom . That afternoon the Japanese had built two large funeral pyres, which they lit at around 6/7 o’clock. People living nearby say that the third pyre for the Europeans was lit later. They do not say that it had been built beforehand. The funeral pyre on which the 9 Europeans were burned is about 10 paces away from the two other pyres. Photographs that were made after the human remains had been recovered show clearly three spots where the pyres had been, closely together.
What do we make of the two hours of confinement in the pagoda?
1) Purely practical reasons: so many Japanese had to be cremated that a certain file was the result. Moreover, hands and feet (?) had to be carefully bound with iron wire. One had to wait two hours for the kidnappers to do their work.
2) A strategic reason: the kidnappers had to hide something from the Japanese soldiers who cremated their comrades-in-arms, and waited for a suitable moment when ’the coast would be clear’.
3) A logistical reason: the funeral pyre had first to be built.
Three comments can be made about the three reasons.
About 1) the practical reason: the Japanese had two funeral pyres for their dead comrades. When the kidnappers had simply to await their turn, they would have been able to use the pyres already there, and would not have had to prepare their own pyre. But this did not happen.
About 2) the strategic reason: it is almost impossible for the kidnappers to hide anything from the Japanese soldiers present or their accomplices. One cannot really imagine that the Japanese army allowed their dead to be cremated by Chinese people in the service of the army, without the presence of the Japanese. That would not have been very respectable. The truck delivered the Europeans at the pagoda still living. That is close to the place of disaster. Their religious clothing must immediately have been noticed. If the kidnappers had all been Chinese, as Yokoyama maintained, albeit in the Japanese army, it could have led to problems with the Japanese present. The kidnappers could only do their thing if a Japanese leader was present among them. In that case there would not have been a problem with the Japanese present. The kidnappers could have simply gone ahead. There was nothing to hide in that case. The Chinese interpreter I his statement to Fr. Olivers speaks of a Japanese commandant asking for women at the residence. Also Fr. Van Leeuwen mentions the presence of a small officer. Maybe we can assume that the same commandant was present at the massacre.
About 3) the logistical reason: 2 hours were needed to find the material for the funeral pyre, while the abducted were locked up. Windows and doors of houses nearby were collected. Quite a large pyre is needed to burn 9 persons. That would certainly have taken quite some time. It is the most plausible reason for the lock up in the pagoda.
Final conclusion: the martyrdom happened while the cremation of the killed Japanese soldiers was still going on. The kidnappers could do this without any disturbance in the presence of an own Japanese leader.
6) WAS THE PROTECTION OF CHINESE REFUGEESBY THE ZHENGDING CHURCH AN EXCEPTION AT THE INVASION OF THE JAPANESE ARMY?
How did other missionaries react at the arrival of the Japanese?
The reception of refugees at the mission of Zhengding:
It appears that two weeks before the attack on Zhengding already 2.000 refugees had come to the mission property. The sisters of Baoding had come to Zhengding with all their orphans. In his report Dom Gérardin writes that the courtyards within the mission property, as large as a park, were overcrowded with refugees. The buildings of the sisters of St. Vincent were also packed with women[…] there were thousands of them! The sisters themselves give differing numbers. Sr. Groeneweghe writes ’more than 3.000‘ , and Sr. Levallois mentions a number of 5-6.000 refugees. Does Sr. Poulieu perhaps only mean the property of the sisters, and Sr. Levallois perhaps the total number at the residence? According to Yuan Li there were more than 10.000. According to this author there were 2-3.000 young girls with the sisters and later on another 3-4.000 women from the city. In its report about the murder the Japanese army says that there were 2.000 refugees. In this case the number is minimized, while with others it is possibly maximized. The property of about 20 hectare was in any case brimful with refugees, most of them women and children. Every corner was occupied.
The reception of refugees elsewhere:
The French Vincentian Felix Aubé writes that every place is more than full, residences, courtyards, streets, etc. At the school for girls alone 500 persons. Later on thousands of refugees are mentioned. Apparently they occupy also other buildings. Father Chanet in Dingzhou mentions diverging numbers: at the invasion of the army more than 4.000 girls and women slept on the ground. Official persons, notables and businessmen of the city send their wives and daughters. About 2.000 refugees arrive from nearby places. All buildings are occupied and people live under mats in the courtyards.
The Trappist fathers of the monastery of Liesse have also received refugees. They were Christians from almost everywhere, who came looking for shelter.
The Chinese priests and catechists also received refugees, as appears from the narrative of Father Chanet to the Japanese commander, how five Japanese soldiers demand women from the Chinese catechist who has refugees in the church. Sometimes the Chinese priests flee together with their faithful to safer and larges residences, like Mr. Tchao Jean from Toung Tien, who flees to father Morelli. Fr. Morelli writes to Msgr. Schraven: ‘Residence, orphanage and village are all filled with refugees’. The Dutch Franciscan fathers in Luanfu have received 10-12.000 refugees. The church is packed with refugees. ‘Terrible murders occur’. About the murder of father van Heel is said that from all surrounding villages refugees have streamed to his residence.
A tradition of receiving refugees:
Reception of refugees by missionaries has for a long time been a habit in China, and not without reason. Father Chanet writes that it is the sixth in 10 years. Msgr. Schraven has a long record of service. In 1927 contending armies and gangs of robbers made the region around Zhengding unsafe, and the residence of the mission always served as a place of refuge. The protection of refugees reflected their moral character. The principle of sacrifice of your own welfare for the sake of that of other people characterizes a missionary.
The attitude of the missionaries towards the Japanese army: the case of father Chanet
When the Japanese army occupied the town of Dingzhou, the Chinese authority took flight. Father Chanet immediately started a temporary urban committee, with even a new mail service, when everybody ran away. The Japanese commander praised him for it. It is the first time that he sees something like this. Fr. Chanet was apparently a great exception. He invites officers for a meal, questions them and gets the latest news. His reaction about it to others is: ‘The Japanese leaders are very good, and when something is not right, all you need to do is warn them’. The infantry is different. He often feels duty bound to mention the misconduct of the soldiers to their superiors, when they misbehave towards refugees. He tries to gain an advantage for the refugees from his good contacts with the Japanese officers. The example of fr. Chanet is one of the few exceptions. In his report to Rome fr. Taguchi writes that missionaries rather stayed away from the Japanese army. ’They fear to approach them on any occasion, if required. They were doing everything possible to comfort the Chinese people and they showed a kindly feeling towards the Japanese soldiers’.
Flight behaviour of missionaries
Professor Xiao Chen-Li reports that the foreign consulate in Peking would have asked bishop Schraven to take flight together with his inferiors. Schraven did not do that. He preferred to stay with the refugees. This fact has never been found to be confirmed in the documents that were researched. It is indeed usual for embassies to advise their subjects to take flight in war threatening situations. Embassies are also aware that missionaries do not leave their posts. Fr. Taguchi reflects what the Japanese army ascertains as they march through China: ‘Missioners remained at their posts to comfort their people, while the protestant missionaries left’. Missionaries stay faithfully at their posts. They have close relationships with the Chinese. Taguchi strikingly expresses that when he says that they have been in China for years, have learned to love the Chinese, and consider China their second fatherland.
7) IS THE MEANING OF THE ZHENGDING CHURCH MASSACRE GREATER THAN ONLY THE EVENT ITSELF?
Prevention of recurrence of this incident:
On November 17 a commission of investigation arrives in Zhengding on behalf of the Japanese headquarters in Tianjin, a commission of the Japanese commander Yokoyama, the Japanese priest Fr. Taguchi and the French bishop of Tianjin Msgr. Jean de Vienne de Hautefeuille. On November 12 (5 weeks after the massacre) the bodily remains of the murdered Europeans were found at the foot of the Pagoda, at a distance of about 300 meters from the residence. To the provisional suggestions for further negotiations as formulated on November 18 by commandant Yokoyama adds the French embassy a demand, viz. the guarantee that similar incidents will be prevented in the future.
The Japanese protection of the Catholic mission in China:
During their visit on that fateful day Japanese officers tell Msgr. Schraven that all catholic missions enjoy protection. There is nothing to be afraid of. In saying that they repeat what the Japanese army has repeated time and again in all kinds of ways. Nevertheless there are regularly incidents and each time France lets its protests be heard in Tokyo. The Japanese minister says that those incidents are deplorable and he blames an accident, and says that Tokyo makes constant efforts to prevent this. All heads of the army of occupation received instructions as well as lists of religious and cultural buildings. The French embassy sends long lists of places where the catholic mission has buildings, each time that the war front moves elsewhere. Until October 9 this concerned only material damage by the Japanese army, but the massacre of Zhengding is a ’smashing blow’ to all propaganda of the Japanese army which claims that foreigners in China are protected. In the case of the Zhengding Church Massacre it concerns the brutal murder of 9 Europeans from 5 different countries.
After the memorial service in the Cathedral of Zhengding November 22 commander Yokoyama addresses the Japanese officers in Zhengding. Msgr. De Vienne writes that Yokoyama in front of them undoubtedly will have called the death of the missionaries ‘a disgrace for Japan’. Possibly commander Yokoyama used these words in speaking to Msgr. De Vienne. Both the French and Dutch embassies sharply lashed out against Japan after the murder. Mr. Lacoste calls the acknowledgement of guilt by the Japanese army ’a humiliation for Japan’. There is no doubt that the Japanese authorities must have been badly bothered about it. The incident turned critical the relations between those five countries and Japan. What was the situation there?
Relations between Japan and western countries during the massacre of Zhengding
During their journey to Zhengding Fr. Taguchi and Yokoyama come upon a bombed mission in the town of Baoding. According to Fr. Taguchi the cause lies with Chinese soldiers who in that way want to raise international questions with Japan. According to him also the murder of Schraven is committed by Chinese and Koreans in the Japanese army, in order to sow discord between the catholic church and Japan. Fr. Taguchi said that Fr. Chanet and Msgr. De Vienne proposed to solve the question as a private [local] internal affair, without involving nations because there is only a question of missionaries. He probably speaks about his own wish. Yokoyama begged not to widen the affair, particularly in these times that the relations among countries are difficult to handle, and to arrange the affair among themselves, ‘for the wellbeing of all…’ The proposal of a telegram of condolence to the pope which will be sent not via the French embassy but via the apostolic delegate in Japan. In that way Fr. Taguchi and Yokoyama try not to make of it a political question. Fr. Chanet says that he might agree with it, but he wants to sit on the fence by saying that he can only speak on behalf of the mission of Zhengding, and not on behalf of the mission of Shuntefu, the Trappists of the family of Biscopitch and the countries concerned. From this it appears that Fr. Taguchi and commander Yokoyama want to keep the question as much as possible away from political affairs. Commander Yokoyama thanks Fr. Chanet and Msgr. De Vienne for their sympathetic attitude. The Japanese army will take care of the matter neatly as a case of honor. Is that why commander Yokoyama later on receives a feather in the cap from the government major? Everything utters the fear for political consequences.
Guarantee for prevention of repetition:
How does one handle the demand that such an incident will not be repeated? At the end of November 1937 the newspaper in Beijing brings the message that the Japanese army takes special care and attention to guarantee the safety of foreign missionaries in China. It is striking that the message is passed on in Shijiazhuang close to Zhengding! Chosen on purpose? The Japanese army does it by sacrificing a lot of strategic advantages and at the cost of quite a few supplementary strategic difficulties, so it is said. At the end of December Yokoyama flies to Tokyo for deliberation. On January 28 1938 the formal guarantee reaches the French embassy and Japan sums up what has concretely been done. The same happens on February 13 at the Dutch embassy. This is the formal side of the case. In letters to the French embassy it is mentioned what Japan has already done up to January 1. The measures would therefore have been taken earlier. Or did Japan especially get going immediately after the Zhengding Church massacre? When did the Japanese authorities really get to know something about the massacre?
Knowledge by Japan about the massacre of Zhengding:
a) knowledge at the local level: The Japanese army command in Zhengding must have been aware of the drama immediately. That not even one women was taken after the kidnapping points in that direction. When after the murder of the Europeans the Japanese soldiers still had taken women and girls, everybody then automatically made a connection with the motive for the murder. The indignation would have been great worldwide. The hatred against the Europeans because of their refusal and combined with their loss of face must have been so great that they chose murder of Europeans rather than taking women with violence and sparing the Europeans. The statement of the Japanese colonel, who the day after the kidnap blurts out that in Zhengding people have ‘lost face’, also says a great deal. After the kidnap there are as many protests as possible at the local Japanese authority in Zhengding. On October 23 after arrival in Zhengding fr. Chanet writes a letter to general Tani Hisao. He writes that each day at least 2 or 3 officers have been on the property. Nothing official happens to free the prisoners or look for them. When on October 10/12 the remains have been found, fr. Chanet ask for guards of the place where they were found, but they do not come. From the behavior of the Japanese authorities one can see that there was definitely an awareness that something has gone wrong, that it has gone out of hand. The committee of investigation of colonel Yokoyama and Fr. Taguchi speaks about ’mistake’ and misunderstanding.
It is certain that the leadership of the Japanese army did not control their subordinates , as also happens later on in Shanghai and Nanjing. The world outside is carefully closed off and the wall of silence is erected. We may infer from the above that the local Japanese authorities had been aware from the beginning about what happened on October 9.
b) Knowledge at the higher than local level:
The massacre happened on October 9. On October 25 a message appears via Reuter about the disappearance in the world press. On October 25 Mr. Morishima at the Japanese embassy in Beijing passes on to the minister of foreign affairs Mr. Koki Hirota in Japan that the French embassy has asked for a detailed investigation. On October 29 Mr. Lacoste in turn mentions that he has made the request at the States major in Tianjin. By word of mouth Commander Yokoyama tells Mr. Lacoste on that same day that ‘the honor of the Japanese army is at stake’. Would Yokoyama have previous knowledge in saying that, or is it an anxious suspicion that something has gone wrong? On November 2, a week later and 3,5 weeks after the murder a first investigation takes place at the mission residence. Sent by whom? Local colonels or from elsewhere? Was it a kind of preliminary investigation as a reaction to the request of the French embassy? According to Sr. Poulieu of Zhengding that day a plane flew past at a low height, after which Japanese officers arrived by car. ‘Undoubtedly the plane brought an order from the authorities for this investigation’. On November 12 (14 days after the request for an investigation by Mr. Lacoste) the Japanese embassy made known that the States major is on the point of sending a colonel to lead the local investigation. The States major did not allow a missionary to go with him. That refusal is withdrawn and on November 15 Msgr. de Vienne joins the committee of investigation of the Japanese Yokoyama and Fr. Taguchi, and they arrive in Zhengding on November 17.At the memorial service in the cathedral of Zhengding on November 22 a telegram of condolence from the top general of the Japanese army in North China is read out. This what externally is noticed.
But what happened internally at the Japanese authorities? Will the military leadership in Zhengding not have felt duty bound to immediately after the tragedy of October 9 inform the States major in Tianjin? And will the States major on his part not have informed the Japanese authorities in Tokyo, especially because the murder may have political consequences? That is why Mr. Lacoste rightly writes already in his correspondence of November 16 1937 that ’The Japanese must have known long ago about it, but nothing has been said about it’. A signal in that direction is the slip of the tongue of Yokoyama when on his way to Zhengding with his investigation team he meets fr. Ramakers in Baoding and speaks about the tenth European who escaped the murder. Fr. Ramakers then wonders ’how Yokoyama knew that’. That might indicate that the military headquarters were already completely informed about the whole case. That might indicate that after the murder it would matter a great deal to Japan to prevent new incidents in the further course of the military operations. Maybe more information about the internal Japanese correspondence can be found in the National Archives of the U.S.A in College Park (Virginia) where the American Intelligence keeps its archives of secret messages to and from the Japanese leadership in Tokyo.
Professor Li Xiao Chen writes in her article that until the Pacific war the Japanese would not dare anymore to murder foreigners in China. By their identity and background some foreigners could establish refugee area to keep and save a large number of Chinese refugees.
Other safety zones in China:
During the Zhengding Church massacre of October 9 father Jacquinot de Besange SJ was in discussions with the Japanese authorities about the installation of a safety zone in Shanghai. He would be able in a safety zone there to offer protection to several hundred thousand Chinese refugees. The conquest of Shanghai began a month after the Zhengding Church massacre. Two months after the Zhengding Church massacre the members of the safety committee in Nanking took the greatest risks in protecting refugees in the safety zone at the danger of they themselves being murdered. Their safety zone too was a giant, compared with the one in Zhengding. Members of the committee threw themselves with great heroism into the line of fire and beat raping Japanese away from the women. They incurred slaps, blows with fists and cuts from a bayonet or sword. Never did any Japanese soldier in Nanjing proceed to kill a foreigner, while for weeks an enormous slaughter took place. An American officer guessed the number of victims to be about 50,000 in a few days. Amidst these gruesome scenes not even a (so called) little accident with those foreigners took place. Only superior officers could have given a strict order to all the troupes. The Japanese Fr. Taguchi writes on December 3, 10 days before the conquest of the city of Nanjing that orders were given ’ to even the last soldier’ to spare foreigners. With regard to this statement it is important not to forget the relationship of Fr. Taguchi with the Japanese army. He says of himself: ‘I stand more or less within the army’. Is this here a little more than propaganda? Apparently that Japanese order to each soldier was strictly adhered to even amidst the most violent scenes. In the diary of the committee member Magee is written the surprising sentence: ‘We are all surprised that none of us have been killed’. Was the massacre of Zhengding their bulletproof vest? Did it give them some protection? A proof that Japan wanted to prevent at all costs that a murder of foreigners like in Zhengding would repeat itself in Nanking? A large fogbank hangs above the possible effects of the Zhengding Church massacre. A challenge for especially Japanese historians to take a new look at the placing of safety zones in Shanghai and Nanjing in the light of the Zhengding massacre.
A response to this question may possibly shed new light on the relation between the safety Zone of Zhengding and the ones of Shanghai and Nanjing . Maybe it turns out that the Zhengding Church massacre has contributed to the protection of the westerners in Nanjing and to the ’holiness’ (as the Japanese General Matsui called him of Fr. Jacquinot.
During the War Tribunal of Nanking in 1946 general Tani Hisao stood trial and was condemned to death and later on shot because of his contribution to the slaughter of about 300,000 people in that city. General Tani Hisao was also responsible for the Zhengding Church massacre in 1937. He was not charged for this crime by the military tribunal of Nanking. The true fact always remained wrapped in mists. Mr. John Rabe thought it his duty to publicize worldwide the truth about the gruesome deeds of the Japanese army in China, but he refused to accuse the Japanese people of the crimes of their soldiers. But he did pose that excuses were necessary. The massacre of Zhengding also belongs to those gruesome deeds of the Japanese army, the guilt of which in certain circles in Japan is still placed on the Chinese, even up to today. Even last year there was a reaction in Japan with indignation at the message that the Zhengding Church massacre was committed by Japanese soldiers. Accusations were uttered of falsification of the history and of a contrived narrative.
The victims/Bishop Schraven and his companion martyrs cannot defend themselves and tell the truth.. ’The dead are always wrong’, the French consul in Tientsin formulated so touching. They are no longer able to tell the truth. But their history still remains actual. That is why historical finding of the truth is important in order that the victims and the people of China are given their rights. To this must be added that the significance is brought to light which the 9 Europeans in the further development of the war in China have had.
ANNEX ABBREVIATIONS ARCHIVES:
AA.EE.SS Segretaria di Stato Vaticano, Sezione per i rapporti con gli stati, Archivio Storico, Congregazione degli Affari Ecclesiastici Straordinari, Rom
ACGR: Archives Casa Generalizia of the Trappists in Rom
AFCP: Archives Daughters of Charity in Paris
ACMCG: Archives Congregation of the mission Curia Generalizia in Rom
ACMP: Archives Congregation of the Mission in Paris
ACMPA: Archives Congregation of the Mission of the Province of Austria in Graz
ACMPH: Archives Congregation of the Mission of the Dutch Province in Panningen
APF NS: Archives of the Propaganda Fide in Rom
ASFN: Archives Msgr. Schraven Foundation the Netherlands
ASV: Secret Archives of the Vatican in Rom
BZNL: Archives Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
MAE: Archives French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris
MOFA: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tokyo