Photos document brutality in Shanghai
September 23, 1996
Web posted at: 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT)
From Bangkok Bureau Chief Tom Mintier
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Relations between Japan and China,
strained in recent months over a disputed chain of
uninhabited islands, may fray even further because of 18
small, grainy black and white photos taken 59 years ago.
(113 sec./937K QuickTime movie - Warning: contains violent images.)
The photos, taken by a Swiss photographer near Shanghai in
1937, all depict the brutality of Chinese soldiers toward
Japanese prisoners and Shanghai residents accused of helping
the Japanese as they began their military conquest of China.
The photos are so disturbing that Tom Simmen, who was in
business and asked to witness the executions by the Chinese,
kept them hidden away. But he told his son to make them
"It was his wish that I publish it," said John Simmen. "He
said it would finance his stay in the hospital."
John Simmen is now trying to find a publisher for the graphic
photos. He said that he has been offered 3,000 German marks
per photo, but that his primary concern is to let people know
what his father told him happened in Shanghai.
"They enjoyed it," Simmen said. "They (were) waiting for the
head to get cut off, then they took the head and played
football ... I mean that was a terrible thing." (13sec./134K AIFF or WAV sound) Image of decapitated bodies.
Simmen's father told him that the Chinese soldiers used a
variety of torture methods on prisoners, including suspending
them in wooden cages by the neck until they died of
starvation. Image of man being tortured.
Some were shot, and their bodies stacked for mass burials.
Others, mostly Chinese nationals accused of aiding the
Japanese, were beheaded with a large sword.Image of bodies in a cart.
"For a Chinese," Simmen said, "somebody collaborating at that
time with Japanese was worse than the Japanese because he
sold out his own people."
Simmen said that his father destroyed the negatives before
leaving China, and that his then-pregnant mother smuggled the
prints out under her clothing.
The photos, Simmen said, will most likely reopen the wounds
of war for many Japanese and Chinese with connections to
Shanghai in 1937. But unlike the atrocities committed by the
German Nazis during World War II, he said, too many have
forgotten what happened in China.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.