24 user 52 critic

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

John Rabe (original title)
2:08 | Trailer

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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 »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Ulrich Tukur ... John Rabe
Daniel Brühl ... Dr. Georg Rosen
Steve Buscemi ... Dr. Robert Wilson
Anne Consigny ... Valérie Dupres
Dagmar Manzel Dagmar Manzel ... Dora Rabe
Jingchu Zhang ... Langshu
Teruyuki Kagawa ... Prince Asaka Yasuhiko
Mathias Herrmann Mathias Herrmann ... Werner Fließ
Tetta Sugimoto Tetta Sugimoto ... Nakajima Kesago
Akira Emoto Akira Emoto ... Matsui Iwane
Arata Iura Arata Iura ... Major Ose (as Arata)
Shaun Lawton Shaun Lawton ... John Magee
Christian Rodska ... Lewis Smythe
Gottfried John ... Dr. Oskar Trautmann
Fang Yu Fang Yu ... 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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Parents Guide:

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France | China | Germany

Release Date:

2 April 2009 (Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

City of War: The Story of John Rabe See more »

Filming Locations:

Nanjing, Jiangsu, China See more »


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,199, 28 May 2010, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$67,255, 10 October 2010
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Production - and indeed most of China - ground to a halt during some severe snowstorms during filming. See more »


When the safety zone is being established, a banner is being hung over the portal. The mis-spelled inscription reads "INTERNATIONAL SAFTY ZONE". See more »


Dr. Robert Wilson: I don't like Nazis.
Valérie Dupres: He isn't a Nazi.
Dr. Robert Wilson: Yes he is.
Valérie Dupres: He's just a member of the party.
Dr. Robert Wilson: Which makes him a Nazi.
Valérie Dupres: Are you a member of the church?
Dr. Robert Wilson: Yeah, so what?
Valérie Dupres: What do you think of witch burning?
Dr. Robert Wilson: Ah, well, looking at you, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea.
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Alternate Versions

German TV version features ca. 45 minutes of additional footage. See more »


Colonel Bogey March
Music by Kenneth Alford
Lyrics attributed to Toby O'Brien (uncredited)
Performed by Ulrich Tukur and Steve Buscemi
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Excellent film.
25 December 2011 | by makelvinSee all my reviews

Prior to watching this file, I have read John Rabe's diary as well as Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking. I have also watched many documentaries and movies made about the subject from China as well as from the US. I found this film to be one of better film on this subject than most of the other ones in existence today.

The film is based primarily on the actual diary of John Rabe. Certain details were filled-in by the excellent and exhaustive work of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking. The importance of John Rabe's diary as opposed to the other accounts of what happened during the massacred is the fact that John Rabe was a German Nazi Party member that was working for Siemen in China. Germany was an allied of Japan at the time and there would have been no reason for John Rabe to have lied about atrocities committed by the Japanese if it did not actually happened. Also since John was mainly writing this as a personal diary for himself, there does not seem to be any reason for him to have exaggerated his description of the event. As a result, his diary is probably the credible historical account of the what actually happened in Nanking.

I found some the Chinese version of the film on the subject seemed a little removed from the complex character interactions between most of these reluctant heroes of war. As a result, those movies does not seem quite as genuine and touching as this film.

Most the events from this film seems very accurate or at least true to the overall sense of John Rabe's diary. Obviously some of the atrocities had to be consolidated to be able to fit those events into a slightly over two hour film. But one of the most puzzling inaccuracy of the film was the fictional character Valérie Dupres at the International Girls College. Why was it necessary for the film to use a fictional character's name instead of the actual courageous heroine Minnie Vaultrin from the Ginling Girls College. She had done so much during the massacred that it seems unfair to not use her real name in the film. This is my primary reason for not giving this film a perfect 10. If anyone can provide an explanation as to why Minnie Vaultrin name was not used in this film, I really would appreciate it.

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