Dreaming of becoming a superpower, Japan attacked China on 7 July 1937, starting the Second Sino-Chinese War. Since China simultaneously descended into civil war, the Middle Kingdom could barely withstand the attack.

When the Japanese military arrived before the gates of the former capital Nanking, they were initially met with strong resistance leading to heavy casualties on the Japanese side. Poison gas and aircraft bombs however broke the resistance. Panic ensued. The Chinese army, officials and the civil population tried to escape Nanking, although they knew that the Japanese surrounded the entire city. The only way outside Nanking led over the Yangtze river. When attempting to cross the river, many Chinese drowned and froze to death. But those who did manage to leave the city in time, escaped hell on earth.

Having invaded Nanking, the Japanese army celebrated its victory in the most inhumane manner possible. They didn’t spare anyone. Soldiers, civilians, women, children. They killed, tortured, raped and burnt everything down, following the command of the military leadership that ordered the entire soldiership to not take any prisoners. Today, we can’t fathom the extent of horror the Chinese must have gone through. They were burnt and buried alive, beheaded, blown up, tortured. Fathers were forced to rape their own daughters. The Japanese soldiers themselves raped thousands of women and children and killed them afterwards. For the Japanese, it was a fun game, for which they invented more and more gruesome methods to kill and rape. They participated in violent competitions which required them to kill and rape as many people as possible.

After approximately 6 weeks, the Rape of Nanking ended. At least 200,000 Chinese were killed. 20,000 women were raped. The numbers are anything but precise because the Japanese destroyed the records on the killings. To this day, Japan did admit to the killing of civilians in Nanking. But the Japanese government has never officially apologized, mostly because the world has never paid much attention to this disastrous and inhumane act of violence.

Nevertheless, The Flowers of War, a movie featuring Christian Bale, was dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of victims that had to suffer during the massacre. It is a beautiful, tragic, nerve-wrecking and heart-wrenching cinematic visualization of the horrors of this dark chapter in the history of humanity and absolutely worth seeing. But get yourself a box of tissues before watching because tears will flow.