Dane who sheltered Chinese during war honored
Bernhard Arp Sindberg might be little known in his home country of Denmark, but in China, the Aarhus native is revered for his humanitarian efforts of saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians during the Nanjing Massacre of 1937-38.
To commemorate his heroism, a three-meter tall bronze statue of Sindberg was unveiled by Danish Queen Margrethe II on Saturday in Marselisbourg Memorial Park, Aarhus, Denmark.
The memorial is the result of a Chinese-Danish artistic collaboration between three artists, Shang Rong, Fu Licheng and Lene Desmentik, and is a gift to Aarhus by the city of Nanjing, which wished to honor Sinberg, who has been called the Danish Schindler, and who is known as "Shining Buddha" and "the greatest Dane" to this day in China.
During the horrific Nanjing Massacre, an estimated 300,000 Chinese were tortured, maimed, raped and murdered by occupying Japanese troops in the six weeks starting on Dec 13, 1937. But the young Dane from Aarhus – just 26 years old at the time – succeeded in saving thousands by protecting them in a Danish concrete factory in the city, where he worked as a guard.
Speaking at the statue-unveiling ceremony, Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus, praised Sindberg "a man of extraordinary character" as history placed him in the middle of one of the most terrible massacres the world has seen.
"We do not know the reason why Bernhard Arp Sindberg reacted at the time as he did, and gave protection to the thousands who, during the massacre, sought refuge at the cement factory where he was a guard," he said. "Maybe even he never knew the reason himself, but simply reacted because it was once again what he had to do - solely for the reason that it was the right thing," he said.
Peng Zhengang, director of the information office of the Nanjing Municipal Government, said: "During the 72 years of his adventurous life, Sindberg had 106 days closely interwoven with the people of Nanjing by witnessing the darkest moment in the history of human civilization - the Nanjing Massacre.
"In the face of catastrophe and death, Sindberg, who was only 26 years old, did not retreat or escape, he set up and took care of a refugee camp in Kiangnan Cement Works, increasing the chance of survival for hundreds of thousands of Chinese people," Peng said.
"While keeping on fighting back, he recorded everything he had witnessed, leaving behind irrefutable evidences for us to remember that part of the history and giving the best interpretation of the fraternity and courage to reach out to the people in need and assist the people in distress at the risk of his own life," Peng said.
On behalf of the Municipal Government of Nanjing, Peng also presented the queen with a combination of precious gifts: Her Majesty's Royal Portrait made with traditional Chinese handicrafts and painting.
Nanjing and Aarhus also signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with aims to provide a strong impetus to mutual understanding, enhance friendship and promote exchange and cooperation between the two sides.
Both sides have agreed on advancing toward the goal of a twinning relationship by carrying out and supporting inter-governmental visit and the exchanges and cooperation in scientific research, education and healthcare, peaceful city-building, smart-city promotion, innovation and entrepreneurship, culture and other aspects so as to shore up the competence for the two municipal governments to serve their economic and social development goals.
The "Nanjing-Aarhus" Twin Cities Friendship Promo, produced by students from the Film & Transmedia Academy of Aarhus-based VIA University, was premiered at the signing ceremony.