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'Schindler' of China premieres at Berlin fest

The remarkable true story of a German who helped save the lives of more than 200,000 Chinese during the Japanese invasion of Nanking during World War II came to the Berlin Film Festival this week.

"John Rabe John Rabe (November 23, 1882 – January 5, 1949) was a German businessman whose Nanjing Safety Zone sheltered some 200,000 Chinese from slaughter during the Nanjing Massacre. " profiles a man who has been compared to Oskar Schindler Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a Sudeten German industrialist credited with saving almost 1,200[1] Jews during the Holocaust, by having them work in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in Poland and what is now the Czech Republic. , the German businessman and member of the Nazi party Nazi Party

German political party of National Socialism. Founded in 1919 as the German Workers' Party, it changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party when Adolf Hitler became leader (1920–21).
 who risked his life to save hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust.

Rabe was an executive in China and card-carrying Nazi who had been living in Nanking, then the Chinese capital, as the head of the Siemens subsidiary there.

The Japanese siege of the city begins in 1937 as Rabe was to return to Berlin. But during the farewell ball in his honour, an air raid sparks a panic and he opens the company gates to offer refuge to his staff and their families.

As the bombardment persists unabated un·a·bat·ed  
adj.
Sustaining an original intensity or maintaining full force with no decrease: an unabated windstorm; a battle fought with unabated violence.
, Rabe orders an employee to locate the giant Nazi swastika swastika

Equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise. It is used widely throughout the world as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.
 flag on the grounds of the Siemens offices.

It is quickly spread out like a canopy and dozens of Chinese seek shelter beneath it. The Japanese pilots fly off, recognising that as members of the Axis the Germans should be spared -- ending what would have been a bloodbath blood·bath also blood bath  
n.
Savage, indiscriminate killing; a massacre.

Noun 1. bloodbath - indiscriminate slaughter; "a bloodbath took place when the leaders of the plot surrendered"; "ten days after the
.

It is a remarkable scene that director Florian Gallenberger told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol.  was true to life.

"The aspect of a Nazi as a hero was one of the things we gave the most thought to when we made the movie," Gallenberger said after the film was warmly applauded here at its premiere.

"I didn't want to show him in a way that wasn't accurate. After living in China for 30 years, he had a naive, romantic image of National Socialism National Socialism or Nazism, doctrines and policies of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which ruled Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945.  (the Nazi cause) as an humanistic worker's movement.

"I would prefer this to be seen as a film about a human being who displayed civic courage against all odds rather a film about a Nazi. But that was an aspect of his character and it would be wrong to try to cover that up."

Moved by the Chinese plight, Rabe opts to stay in Nanking and, together with members of the expatriate community, wins the approval of the Japanese occupying forces to create a safety zone for civilians run by the Westerners.

Japanese soldiers mount repeated raids in the city, staging mass executions and raping tens of thousands of local women. But up to 250,000 Chinese eventually survive the seven-week onslaught by staying in the safety zone.

Gallenberger said he had never heard of Rabe when his producer approached him with the idea of doing a biopic bi·o·pic  
n.
A film or television biography, often with fictionalized episodes.


biopic
Noun

Informal a film based on the life of a famous person [bio(graphical) + pic(ture)]
.

To prepare for the film, Gallenberger travelled to China to speak with survivors of the rape of Nanking, as the genocidal campaign is known, which ultimately claimed the lives of up to 300,000 Chinese civilians.

He said the Chinese authorities were reluctant to allow him to make the movie as the country had little interest in seeing itself as a victim of the Japanese. But they eventually granted him permission.

Ulrich Tukur Ulrich Tukur (born Ulrich Scheurlen, July 29 1957 in Viernheim) is a German actor and musician. Biography
Tukur spent his youth near Hanover where he finished his final secondary-school examinations in 1977.
, who appeared in the German Oscar-winning film "The Lives of Others" leads a cast that also includes US actor Steve Buscemi, French actress Anne Consigny ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") and Germany's Daniel Bruehl ("Goodbye Lenin").

Though a hero in China, Rabe was until now little known in his native Germany and died impoverished and forgotten in Berlin in 1950.

The film-makers take Japan to task for seeking to wipe the horrors of Nanking from the historical record.

"It would great if the film could help start a debate in Japan about this subject because it is not being confronted there," Gallenberger said, adding that he hoped the involvement of the well-known actor Teruyuki Kagawa Teruyuki Kagawa (香川照之; born 7 December 1965) is a Japanese actor. He has twice been nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award at the Japanese Academy Awards, once for Warau iemon and once for Kita no zeronen.  would ensure broad distribution in Japan.

Gallenberg said that only the passage of time has allowed Germany to look at its own heroes from that shameful era in the country's history.

"The thing about Rabe is that his story is surprising and paradoxical. This confusing image for example of the Nazi flag as a symbol of salvation -- which in this instance is historically accurate -- is perhaps only possible now at a historical distance," he said.

"John Rabe" is screening in the Berlinale Special section of the festival, which wraps up Sunday.
Copyright 2009 AFP Global Edition
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Feb 11, 2009
Words:711
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