A gigantic massacre is overlooked

The Japanese army occupied the city of Nanking after an ineffectual resistance by the disorganised Chinese army. The Japanese troops launched into an orgy of rape and murder of helpless civilians. The violence was essentially spontaneous, on the age-old pattern of victorious troops sacking a conquered city after a severe campaign but the leadership of the Japanese army did almost nothing to hold them back. The total number of people killed has never been reliably established and serious estimates run from some tens of thousands to 300,000. Western newspapers reported that the invaders were behaving brutally, but the full scale of the horror somehow remained largely unknown. John Rabe was a German businessman working in the city and he worked heroically to mitigate the atrocity and on his return to Germany attempted to publicise the massacre but, mindful of the damage that this might do to its ally Japan, the Nazi government silenced him.

At a ceremony to mark the completion of the first 2,000 kilometers of motorways (Autobahnen) in Germany, Hitler announced that the long-promised people’s car (Volkswagen) would go into production at the rate of hundreds of thousands per year. Beyond generalized comments on its cheapness, quality and reliability, he disclosed almost nothing about the vehicle. Together with the extension of the Autobahn network to a total of 12,000 kilometers the car would be an emblem of the civilization and progress that Nazi rule brought to Germany.

The Spanish Republican army launched a major offensive to capture the city of Teruel. It was the main centre in a long salient of Nationalist held territory that reached deep into the western third of the country that was still held by the Republic. This salient extended almost to the Mediterranean. The attack also aimed to draw Nationalist troops away from a planned renewal of the assault on Madrid. The battle was fought in the worst winter weather for many years and was one of the bloodiest combats of the Spanish Civil War. It achieved nothing and further depleted the Republic’s already weak military resources.