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St. Louis Park Precious Metals Store Receives Rare Photo Album

Evan Kail posted on TikTok asking for help authenticating the album which may contain never-before-seen photos of the Nanjing Massacre.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minnesota — St. Louis Park Gold and Silver became the unassuming place where history and TikTok met in a big way this week. Store owner Evan Kail said he didn’t expect what he had in his possession to become an international phenomenon.

Kail, who does much of her marketing on TikTok, made one about a book he received from a client on Monday.

“If a customer contacted me and said they had this old WWII photo book,” the TikTok begins.

“I sparked an international incident,” Kail said. “Oops.”

Kail said that while he sees quite a bit of historical paraphernalia coming his way, he’s never seen anything like the book before.

“I start going through and maybe 10, 15 pages in…that’s when it gets really disturbing,” he said.

The scrapbook of sorts, by an American named Leslie Allen, features remarkably well-shot photos from Southeast Asia and Asia. The collection shows mundane moments of life in this part of the war before the war. However, the several pages Kail refers to show gruesome images of utter devastation and murder from the late 1930s, presumably around the time of the Nanjing Massacre, formerly known as the Rape of Nanjing.

“I closed the book and had to process it,” he said. “And [I] kept coming through, and it’s only a few pages, but the pages over there are really, really bad.”

Kail said that since his TikTok exploded, he’s had many visitors to the store, either because they were curious or because they wanted to help identify/authenticate the photos.

“I asked someone to watch it yesterday and what they thought was genuine was the violence in Shanghai, not Nanjing,” he said. “Nanjing Road is in Shanghai, there is a legend about it. However, it accurately documents the atrocities committed against the Chinese people by Japan.”

Also among the visitors, Kail explained that many Chinese come to see a part of history they have never seen before. Kail said many were emotional.

“We were told we had this period – we were weak at the time – this is the first time I’ve seen pictures,” said a man who only wanted to be identified as Owen. “During this period we have this in our history textbook but there is no picture[s] above.”

“I would love for it to be put in good hands for protection, preservation and maybe a traveling exhibit where it can circulate,” Kail said. “The whole book tells the story, a narrative from start to finish and that’s why I think it’s so powerful and important.”

Kail said he has no plans to sell the book to private collectors, although he has received numerous offers. He said he wanted help authenticating the photos and hopes he can turn them over to a museum somewhere.

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