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French people call Nanjing Massacre 'painful and horrifying'
2016-10-23 06:08

Daniel Renouf and his wife visit the exhibition of historical facts about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in the Memorial de Caen museum in France on Saturday. It will run until Dec 15. [Photo by Fu Jing/chinadaily.com.cn]

The retired French engineer Daniel Renouf was born in August 1937, days after Japanese troops attacked China and several months before the Nanjing Massacre, which claimed 300,000 lives. Together with his wife, he joined French people in the hundreds on Saturday at an exhibition about the World War II-era war crimes.

With his wife holding a stick, they carefully examined the 270 historical photos, diaries, letters and other documents from Western diplomats, professors, doctors and reporters from the 1930s. The exhibit in the Memorial de Caen museum in France runs until Dec 15.

"The year 1937 is very special for us, and we had such very sad historic memories in our mind as we had grown," said Renouf, who was one of the last to leave the exhibition, which opened on Saturday afternoon.

"We knew something about the Nanjing Massacre."

However, Renouf, a resident of Caen, a city about 200 kilometers from Paris, said the exhibition helped him know more about the "horrifying pages" of Japanese aggression against China.

"These equal the Nazi crimes in Europe, and I believe, we must stop," said Renouf.

Japanese troops killed an estimated 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers s they rampaged through Nanjing in 1937. Thousands of women had been raped.

China has made Dec 13, the date when the Nanjing Massacre started, a National Memorial Day since 2014. And more than 30 similar exhibitions have been organized across the world, but the French exhibit is the first in Europe to display historical facts about Nanjing.

The Memorial de Caen museum, which opened in 1988, is dedicated to the history of conflict in the 20th century. It is considered the only European museum to recount and explain World War II from a global perspective.

Stephane Grimaldi, the museum director, said for many Europeans and Americans, the Second World War is only about Europe.

"But from the historic facts, you can see that this war started from China, due to Japanese aggression. It was not only in Europe but also in Asia, mainly in China," said Grimaldi. "We want to expose these historic truths to the public."

Chinese Ambassador to France Zhai Jun (right, first) and mayor of Caen France, Joel Bruneau (left, first), inaugurate the exhibition of historical facts about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in the Memorial de Caen museum on Saturday. [Photo by Fu Jing/chinadaily.com.cn]

Grimaldi said it is "a pity" that China's sacrifice and suffering has not been shown sufficiently in French history books. He held up a history book for French pupils at the press conference, saying more than 20 pages cover World War II, but only one page is dedicated to the Nanjing Massacre, without much about China's fight against Japan's aggression.

"We must cooperate with China to help our next generations to remember that human beings are easy to make severe mistakes," said Grimaldi, who was invited to attend the National Memorial Day events this year in China.

Grimaldi's suggestion was echoed by Zhang Jianjun, curator of the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre in Nanjing. The memorial hall has organized the French exhibition.

"It is very important for our young generations to remember the history, and we can deepen cooperation in organizing exhibitions, history education and joint research," said Zhang, who signed an agreement with Grimaldi prior to Saturday's opening of the exhibition.

One of the largest items on display in the exhibition is a 3.25 meters by 7.46 meters painting titled Deliverance by French painter Christian Poirot. The art depicts violent scenes of the Nanjing Massacre and was donated to Nanjing Memorial Hall in 2015.

Poirot recalled that during his stay in Hangzhou of Zhejiang province three years ago, life was peaceful and calm until one day, a TV news program reported that Japanese leaders showed respect to suspected war criminals.

"I felt extremely indignant about that since Chinese people always welcomed and treated me friendly,"he said.

"I decided to create a painting to call for memory of that significant history when Chinese victims suffered terribly in the massacre, and condemn the Japanese leaders honoring wars," he said.

The painting took Poirot six months to complete, as he read historical documents an hour a day. Now he is working on a second one, focusing of the abuse of "comfort women", which he expect will be displayed in Nanjing next year.

"Just as I added in the painting Deliverance with some white peace doves, I hope there will not be war anymore," he said.

"We aim to stop relaying hatred by remembering history," said Zhai Jun, Chinese ambassador to France, who attended the exhibition.

French visitors attend the opening of the exhibition of historical facts about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in the Memorial de Caen museum in France on Saturday. It will run until Dec 15. [Photo by Fu Jing/chinadaily.com.cn]