Years Active: 714 - 741
Charles Martel, or Charles the Hammer, was an early Frankish leader, both politically and militarily. Born the illegitimate child of a notable Frankish leader, Charles soon began to impose his succession to become the real power behind the throne of Francia, taking the role of Mayor of the Palace, which was, in essence, a prime minister who wielded all the real power in a kingdom. Thanks largely to Charles Martel, power in Francia (modern-day France) was consolidated and centralized, leading Francia to become the eminent power in Gaul.
Most notably, Charles Martel halted the Islamic encroachment into Europe. The Umayyad Caliphate, which had recently conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain & Portugal), had looked to further march through Europe, starting with Gaul. At the Battle of Tours, Charles Martel routed the Islamic invaders with soldiers trained via Catholic Church funds. Due to Charles, the spread of Islam and the Arabic Empire was stopped. Because of his actions during the Battle of Tours, he gained the name “Martel,” which, as previously mentioned, means “hammer.”
Charles was wildly successful in his military campaigns against the southern foes, the Umayyad Caliphate, and politically successful, in his shrewd politicking to become the most powerful leader in Gaul, consolidating his power by strong-arming out rival kings. He died in 741, buried in Paris, and divided his lands up among his sons. One of his sons, Pepin the Short, would eventually father a young man who would go on to be known across Europe as Charlemagne.
Charles Martel has been called a “hero of an age,” for his routing of the Umayyad Caliphate.
(Author’s Note: Hi.)
Location of Events: China
Time Period: World War II
John Rabe was a German businessman working in China during the late 1930’s for the Siemens AG corporation. Rabe worked across all of China, from Beijing, to Shanghai, and finally in Nanking. While working in Nanking in 1937, the Japanese Army began to approach, causing most foreigners, tourists, and visiting businessmen to flee. Twenty-two foreigners and businessmen stayed, including fifteen missionaries from Europe and the United States.
These remaining people formed the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, and subsequently formed the Nanking Safety Zone. As these events began to take shape, the Japanese Army entered the city, and began the horrific historical event known as the Nanking Massacre, or more gruesomely, the Rape of Nanking. While the Japanese devastated the city and it’s inhabitants, Rabe and his acquaintances formally set up the Nanking Safety Zone, an area where Chinese refugees could be safe and be provided with food and water.
Rabe was elected the leader of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone due to his position as a Nazi Party member, and the Anti-Comintern Pact between Japan and Nazi Germany, effectively allying the two groups, ensured that Rabe’s work would be relatively untouched by the Japanese Army. Sources suggest that Rabe’s work saved somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 Chinese lives.
Supposedly, Rabe was ordered back to Germany by Adolf Hitler himself in order to preserve German-Japanese relations. Rabe brought home numerous sources and evidence of the massacre that occurred in Nanking. When he arrived back in Germany, he was detained and interrogated by the Gestapo. There they seized a letter from Rabe addressed to Hitler that pleaded for him to use his influence with the Japanese to end the brutality in China. In 1948, after Rabe went through a thorough de-Nazification process, his family was left on the streets. The citizens of Nanking were made aware of this, and raised the equivalent of $2,000 USD for Rabe and his family.
Rabe’s grave was moved from Berlin to Nanking, where it currently resides in the Nanking Safety Zone.