Foreign and Military Affairs

He saved 20,000 Chinese in Nanjing Massacre

Updated: 2011-02-21 10:57
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He saved 20,000 Chinese in Nanjing Massacre
Xie Hangsheng (5th R), Chinese ambassador to Denmark, vice mayor of Aarhus Rabih Azad-Ahmad (4th R), family members of Bernhard Arp Sindberg and representatives from Qixia District of Nanjing, China, pose for photos during an event marking the 100th birthday of Bernhard Arp Sindberg in Aarhus City Hall, Denmark, on Feb. 19, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua Devapriyo Das]

Sindberg helped to save nearly 20,000 Chinese in Nanjing Massacre

Sindberg's heroic feat was re-discovered after the diaries of John Rabe were published in 1997

"To us Chinese people, especially the people in Nanjing, he (Sindberg) is a friend in need and a friend indeed, who is entitled to our everlasting gratitude and respect." -- Chinese Ambassador

AARHUS, Denmark -- Bernhard Arp Sindberg, a Dane who helped save thousands of Chinese lives during the Nanjing Massacres of 1937-38, was honored and commemorated on Saturday in his hometown Aarhus, Denmark.

Sindberg was honored at an event marking his 100th birthday in Aarhus City Hall. Some 100 guests, including Sindberg's 80 year-old sister,  Bitten Stenvig Andersen, his niece, Marianne Stenvig Andersen, and other family members, attended the event.

The remembrance ceremony, organized in partnership with the Chinese Embassy in Denmark and Aarhus City Council, was also attended by officials from the Chinese Embassy in Denmark, Aarhus City Council and Qixia District of Nanjing, as well as representatives of Chinese and Danish media.

"We remember Mr. Sindberg for his heroic acts during the horrendous Nanjing Massacre, when up to 300,000 Chinese were murdered by Japanese occupation forces," said Rabih Azad-Ahmad, vice mayor of Aarhus, at the ceremony.

"As a Dane and a member of the City Council, I am very proud to know that a fellow Dane from Aarhus found the courage to stand up against the Japanese occupation forces, and by doing so, saved the lives of thousands of Chinese," Azad-Ahmad said.

"And I am grateful that Sindberg proved that even in the most difficult times, there is always the little glimpse of hope."

The vice mayor also warned against forgetting historical crimes, saying that they should be remembered and similar crimes should be prevented from happening again.

He saved 20,000 Chinese in Nanjing Massacre
An undated file photo of a young Bernhard Arp Sindberg, provided by Edith Koerner Guenther to China Youth Daily for its first publication on Dec 9 2009. Edith is wife of Karl Guenther, who was a colleague of Sindberg at the International Committee for Nanjing Safety Zone initiated by John Rabe in Nanjing. [Photo/China Youth Daily]


Sindberg was born in Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, on February 19, 1911 and died in California, USA, in 1983.

He was just 26 years old when he went to China seeking adventure, and eventually found a job as a watchman at the Jiangnan Cement Factory, run by a Danish firm. His arrival coincided with the Japanese invasion of Nanjing in December 1937, making him a witness to extraordinary brutality perpetrated against unarmed soldiers and civilians.

In 107 days during the bitter winter of 1937 and 1938, along with a German colleague Karl Gunther, Sindberg established a make-shift camp for Chinese civilians inside the cement plant, ran a small field-hospital for the wounded and tried to provided food and other supplies to the refugees.

It is believed these helped to save the lives of up to 20,000 Chinese.

Sindberg's name and actions in Nanjing were re-discovered when the diaries of John Rabe, a German who helped rescue many Chinese in Nanjing during the Massacre, were published in 1997, in which Sindberg's name was  mentioned several times.

A Nanjing Massacre exhibition came to Denmark in 2000 and the local newspaper "Aarhus Stiftstidende" ran an article in search of people who knew a Dane who had been in Nanjing in 1937-1938.

Sindberg's sister, Bitten Stenvig Andersen, read the article and realized her brother was the person they were looking for. Since then, Sindberg's life and stories have resurfaced.

He saved 20,000 Chinese in Nanjing Massacre
In this undated file photo provided by Edith Koerner Guenther to China Youth Daily, Chinese refugees swarmed inside a make-shift humanitarian camp organized by Sindberg and Karl Gunther at Qixia District in Nanjing. [Photo/China Youth Daily] 
For more file photos, read the China Youth Daily report in 2009. (In Chinese)

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