Sindberg Leaves Lasting Legacy

Danish ambassador to China Friis Arne Petersen last week concluded a three-city celebration of Bernhard Arp Sindberg, a Dane who helped save thousands of Chinese lives during the Nanjing Massacres of 1937-38.


In a ceremony on Feb 24 at Beijing’s Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression to mark the 100th anniversary of Sindberg’s birth, Petersen noted that Sindberg’s story had been little-known outside Nanjing until recent years.


He presented 100 copies of a new book on Sindberg by Chinese journalist Dai Yuanzhi. The Danish embassy financed the research and production of the book, now available in a Chinese edition, and Petersen told China Daily he was optimistic funding could be found to publish the book in English.


“This is a story that needs to be told, needs to be known,” he said. “While this book is an important way to share the history between the Danish and Chinese people, publication in English would bring the story to a worldwide audience.”


Sindberg was 26 when he came to China, seeking adventure as a newly hired watchman at the Jiangnan Cement Factory, run by the Danish firm FL Smidth. His job was to protect the plant from looters in the chaotic days before the Japanese invasion, which occurred in December 1937, soon after he arrived.


For more than 100 days during the bitter winter that followed, Sindberg teamed with a German colleague, Karl Gunther, to establish a temporary camp for Chinese civilians inside the cement plant.


Japanese aggressor troops occupied Nanjing in eastern China on Dec 13, 1937, and began a six-week massacre, Xinhua News Agency recounted in an article about the recent commemorations. “Chinese records show more than 300,000 people – not only disarmed soldiers, but also civilians – were brutally murdered and thousands of women were raped,” Xinhua said.


Dai told the crowd that Sindberg had particular skills, as both a former soldier and former journalist, to get things done. In addition to saving perhaps as many as 20,000 Chinese lives, Dai said, his vivid reports and meticulous documentation of Japanese atrocities against the local people provided an important record of war crimes.

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