A Minnesota pawn shop owner claims to have found long-lost photos taken during the Nanjing massacre.
In a video posted to TikTok with more than 9.5 million views, Evan Kail says a customer sent him an old album of photos from World War II with the intention of selling it. When he opened the album and inspected the contents, he found disturbing photos labeled as if they had been taken during the December 1937 massacre, which lasted six weeks and in which at least 200,000 Chinese civilians were killed by the Imperial Japanese Army.
At first glance, the photos seem nothing special.
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“The soldier is stationed in Southeast Asia, probably around 1937-1938, and it’s off to a good start,” Kail says. “But the photos are starting to get more war-related here.”
He proceeds to turn the page to what are believed to be the images of the… Massacre in Nanjing – also known as the Nanking Massacre or the rape of Nanking – but stops and says, “I can’t show you what’s behind this page.”
“When I got that book Monday, and I opened it and I got past that page, I screamed,” Kail says. “Somehow that man who took those photos was present at the Nanking rape. He took about 30 photos that history has no record of and that are worse than anything I’ve seen in color on the internet – those photos are in black and white.”
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“I studied Japanese studies and we reported on the Nanking rape, and I remember my professors telling me that photographic evidence was largely destroyed by the Japanese,” he continues. “There are very, very few photos out there. This guy was taking photos of things I’ve read about in books that I didn’t even know anyone had ever documented before.”
However, questions about the validity of the photos currently remain unanswered. For example, the photo album lists the ship the owner sailed on as the USS Augusta. According to Naval History and Heritage Command, the Augusta… not in nanking at the time of the massacre, which began on December 13, 1937. Although the ship had previously been in Nanking several times, it was in Shanghai, nearly 300 km away, on December 12, when it took in the survivors of a gunboat and three oil tankers, one of which was the ships were sunk by Japanese naval aircraft north of Nanking.
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Image via @pawn.man
Furthermore, Khail shared some of the photos on Twitter, most of which are extremely graphic. They depict beheadings, corpses with their hands tied behind their backs, and one of a man tied to a stake and tortured to death with knives marked ‘Death of a thousand cuts’.
Twitter users were quick to point out that some of the shared images have been posted online in the past with contexts that contradict the captions in the album. Similar images of the man who was tortured to death have been taken before published onlinee and described as depicting the execution of a man named Fu Zhuli. The image of a man being beheaded in public is available as a Stock photo and listed as “Public Execution of a Communist on the Streets of Nanking 1927.”
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Kail ends his video with a plea to his viewers to “blow up this video so the right channels can see I have it and contact me” in the hopes that the content will be preserved and studied further.
Featured image via TikTok