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City of War: The Story of John Rabe (2009)

John Rabe (original title)
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A true-story account of a German businessman who saved more than 200,000 Chinese during the Nanjing massacre in 1937-38.
8 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Valérie Dupres
Dagmar Manzel ...
Dora Rabe
Prince Asaka Yasuhiko
Mathias Herrmann ...
Werner Fließ
Tetta Sugimoto ...
Nakajima Kesago
Akira Emoto ...
Matsui Iwane
Arata Iura ...
Major Ose (as Arata)
Dr. Lewis Smythe
Dr. Oskar Trautmann
Fang Yu ...
Hsianglin Han


After 28 years building and managing a vast Siemens plant in Nanking, John Rabe is ordered by the new Nazi regime to close it down. Before he can pack, the Japanese army, lead unofficially by a bloodthirsty imperial uncle, lays siege to the city. Rabe accepts, as prominent representative of Japans' major European ally, to head the Western ex-pats society's plan to start and run an international zone, like worked in Shangai. Rabe however wants it to save his workers and their close ones, over 200,000, and sacrifices all his personal interests. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


History needs extraordinary heroes.


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Release Date:

2 April 2009 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

City of War: The Story of John Rabe  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$5,199 (USA) (28 May 2010)


$67,255 (USA) (8 October 2010)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Not surprisingly, none of the major film companies in Japan were interested in investing - or indeed screening - the film. See more »


Jinling Girls' College Master of Studies Valérie Dupres never existed. The real person - Minnie Vautrin - was an American missionary who was so traumatized by the tragedy that she committed suicide in 1941. See more »


Prince Asaka Yasuhiko: Congratulations, Major. You'll make an excellent commander one day. But I ask myself, why is it that I give orders not to take prisoners, and you arrive with thousands?
Major Ose: Please forgive me.
Japanese Officer: Your Highness.
Prince Asaka Yasuhiko: I didn't ask you to speak!
[Japanese officer steps back and bows]
Prince Asaka Yasuhiko: So, Major. What do you propose?
Major Ose: Your Highness. It would be extremely difficult to execute that many prisoners.
Prince Asaka Yasuhiko: Is that so?
Major Ose: Furthermore, I believe such executions could be considered to be illegal.
Prince Asaka Yasuhiko: Illegal? I am entrusting you ...
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User Reviews

Good but I think I prefer some of the documentaries about the topic instead.
20 January 2015 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

"John Rabe" is a very glossy and well done film about the actions of Rabe and a few other foreigners in saving as many of the residents of Nanking as they could during the Japanese invasion. The airplane attacks and look of the film were absolutely great--and the film is well worth seeing.

I am very familiar with the story of John Rabe and used to teach my world history students about him and the Japanese destruction of Nanking (I have since retired). Much of what I'd learned were from the book "The Rape of Nanking" as well as several well made documentaries. So, I am NOT the typical person watching the story for the first time--I am a bit tougher to please. Because of this, I am much more critical that average and to me, the story was flawed because it actually seemed very sanitized. In other words, while the film DID show some of the Japanese atrocities, it didn't do much--probably because it would nauseate most viewers. BUT, by doing so, it minimized the evil that was perpetrated here--making the Japanese troops seem almost normal. It's rare, but I would have included much more blood and talked much more about the rapes and murder of children. Evil must not be minimized and here it just didn't seem as sadistic and wrong as the Rape of Nanking was.

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