It’s to humanity’s credit that every country has an Oskar Schindler – but not all of them are properly thanked. For example, did you know that Gert Frobe, the actor who played Goldfinger, never sought recognition for saving the lives of a Jewish family whilst serving in the German army during World War II.
It was only after he was persecuted by the world media after the Daily Mail misquoted him following the release of the film. He endured a year of misery during what should have been the happiest period of his life.
“During the Third Reich I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party’’ magically became “Naturally I was a Nazi” in the Daily Smell – a ‘confession’ that led to his films being banned in Israel.
Eventually a man came forward to say that Frobe had saved his and his mother’s lives. Fifty years later, nobody has yet stepped forward to vouch for the integrity of the Daily Mail.
Managing during a massacre
Denmark’s answer to Schindler is Bernhard Sindberg, but like Frobe he has had to wait for recognition in his home country, during which time he has died.
In some parts of China, however, Sindberg has been a household name for generations, as 82 years ago he heroically saved thousands of Chinese lives in Nanjing during the Japanese invasion of the country in 1937.
When the Japanese arrived in Nanjing, Sindberg had only just beaten them to it, as the 26-year-old had barely days earlier assumed his managerial role at a FLSmidt cement factory in the city.
During the six weeks commencing on 13 December 1937 – a period that history would come to remember as the ‘Nanjing Massacre’ – a total of 300,000 Chinese people were killed.
The swastika has its uses
The factory became a beacon for the Chinese population of the city when Sindberg and his German colleague Karl Günther raised the Dannebrog and Nazi swastika at the gates to warn off the soldiers that it was foreign property – perhaps the only time in history that the flags sat side by side harmoniously.
Word quickly spread that the Japanese were giving the factory a wide berth, and a refugee camp and makeshift hospital quickly formed alongside its perimeter. On the occasions that soldiers entered the camp, both Sindberg and Günther risked their lives to step in front of the soldiers, armed only with their flags. And they also made numerous trips to obtain food and medicine.
Sindberg left China shortly after his deeds – so he never had to have ‘that’ awkward conversation with his German colleague three years later. He emigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen and died in 1983.
Recognition a long time coming
The deed earned him several nicknames, including ‘Our Saviour’ and ‘The White Buddha’, and a statue has stood at the location of his heroism for many years. His deeds are also recounted in Chinese classrooms.
And now, 36 years after his death, Sindberg’s actions are finally being recognised in Denmark. A three metre-high bronze statue is being erected in Aarhus Memorial Park, not far from where he was born.
With funding from Danmark-Kina and other contributions overseen by Sindberg’s neice Mariann Arp Stenvig, three artists – two from China and one from Denmark – were commissioned to make the sculpture, which will be shortly unveiled by Queen Margrethe.
“I feel quiet joy at the honorable recognition that is being bestowed upon him. That statue is a glorious memory of Bernhard – a city kid here from Aarhus,” Stenvig told TV2.