A statue of a Danish citizen who is credited with saving thousands of people in China during the Japanese invasion that led to the Nanjing Massacre was unveiled by Denmark’s queen on Saturday.
Queen Margrethe II revealed the 3m bronze statue of Bernhard Arp Sindberg at a park in Aarhus, the city where he was born in 1911.
Designed by Chinese and Danish artists, the statue was a gift from the city of Nanjing, which was the Chinese capital at the time of the massacre in December 1937 and January 1938.
Chinese authorities have said Sindberg’s actions saved up to 20,000 people — Danish historians gave an estimate of 6,000 to10,000 — during the six-week rampage by Japanese forces.
About 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers are estimated to have been killed during the massacre.
“In Nanjing, everyone knows Sindberg. China is a very large country, so of course there are Chinese who do not know Sindberg, but most do,” academic Yinquan Wang, part of a 40-strong Chinese delegation that attended Saturday’s unveiling, told Danish newspaper Aarhus Stiftstidende.
Sindberg, an adventurer who served with the French Foreign Legion in the early 1930s, ended up in China as a stowaway on a Danish merchant vessel.
He got a job in Nanjing working as a security guard for a Danish cement company days before the Japanese invasion.
One of the few foreigners in the city, he turned the factory into a makeshift refugee camp, hospital and shelter for Chinese during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which lasted from July 1937 until September 1945.
To keep the Japanese troops away from the site, Sindberg flew a Danish flag outside to deter soldiers, as the Japanese Empire considered Denmark a friend.
Pressured by Japanese authorities, Sindberg returned to Shanghai and left China in early 1938. He later moved to the US, where he served as a captain with the US Merchant Marine and died in California in 1983.
Sindberg “is a reminder that a single person can make a difference,” Margrethe said.
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