Last week saw the unveiling a new display at the John Rabe House in Nanjing, profiling two local Rotary Club members and their contribution to the International Safety Zone, as well as the people of Nanjing, following the initiation of the project by current members and friends of Nanjing Rotary.
Having got underway earlier this year, the completion of the project was marked by a small ceremony on 24 May at the International Safety Zone Museum, John Rabe’s former residence, located on Nanjing’s Guangzhou Lu, near to the intersection with Zhongshan Lu.
The new display pays respects to the Rotary Club’s presence during the Nanjing Massacre, that comprised Xu Zhendong and George Ashmore Fitch. Coordinator of the effort, Udo Looser, told The Nanjinger, “The work of these two luminaries inspires the civic efforts of foreign members of Rotary who work for the well-being of all people, inside and outside China”.
In 1937, Xu was president of the Nanjing chapter of the club, and was a banker also known as T.T. Zee. As a Chinese national, he stayed in Shanghai, and contributed from there. Ashmore Fitch was a member of the Nanjing Rotary Club and local director of the Y.M.C.A in Nanjing. Born in Suzhou, he was a missionary and philanthropist, going on to become the Administrative Director of The Nanjing International Safety Zone Committee.
Created by foreigners living in Nanjing at the time, and led by German businessman, John Rabe, the International Safety Zone was responsible for saving the lives of 50,000-200,000 Chinese civilians during the Nanjing Massacre that commenced on 13 Dec, 1937, when Japanese forces invaded Nanjing.
The Safety Zone made up a not insignificant proportion of Nanjing, approximately the area confined by today’s Zhongshan Bei Lu, Zhongshan Lu, Hanzhong Lu and Huju Lu, equating to the size of New York’s Central Park.
Over US$300,000 in funds were raised in Shanghai and Nanjing at the time, and contributed to Rotary International. The organisation’s committee thereby then requested Shanghai to send not money, but food.
The Rotary Club was formed by Paul Harris in 1905, so as professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships and give back to their communities.
Pictured are members of today’s Nanjing Rotary Club and friends who contributed to the project, led by Looser (third from left).