Bernhard Sindberg

Based on: Benjamin Lai, The Unlikely Shining Buddha – Bernhard Arp Sindberg,  Osprey Publishing Blog, 2017

Last Updated: 04/09/2019

Sindberg in a refugee camp outside of Nanjing (public domain)

Bernhard Arp Sindberg  (1911-83) was a Danish adventurer from Aarhus who came to China in 1934.  He worked as an assistant to the British journalist Pembroke Stephens until he was mistakenly shot by the Japanese in Shanghai in November 1937. Sindberg subsequently started to work for Jiangnan Cement Works in Qixiashan, 20 km northeast of Nanjing’s city centre.

On 20 December 1937, Rabe notes in his diary that he met Sindberg in the headquarters of the Safety Zone’s Committee in Ninhai Lu. Sindberg had tried to bring wounded workers to Nanjing but was stopped by the Japanese military. Sindberg spent some time in the Safety Zone and appears to have traveled frequently between there and the factory by car. In Qixiashan, he and the German manager of the factory, Karl Günther, created a safety zone. According to one of Christian Kröger’s reports, approximately 4000 Chinese stayed there.  Similar to Rabe in Nanjing, they protected the area from Japanese assaults by displaying a Nazi flag as well as a Danish flag (‘Dannebrog’), as in the photo above.

Sindberg also provided the foreign community in Nanjing with news unavailable in the city. He later also brought food to the city which was desperately needed. On 21 January 1938, Rabe writes:

“Sindberg is in the city again and has brought me six eggs and twenty
live ducks. Three of them took their last breath during my office hours which they had to spend inside the sack. Cook says: ‘No problem – ke chifan – can eat!”

Sindberg left Nanjing in 1938, returned to Europe, and later emigrated to the United States. He died in California in 1983.

Testifying and Contesting War Experiences in China and Japan