Bernhard Arp Sindberg:
An Inventory of His Papers and Photography Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
Bernard Arp "Barney" Sindberg (19 February 1911-1983) was a Danish national employed in China in 1937 by the Kiang Nan Cement Factory. He first served in the Second Sino-Japanese War as a volunteer with Chinese forces during the Siege of Shanghai (September-November 1937) by the superior Japanese forces. Assigned to take over a cement factory in Nanjing, China, he arrived in that city shortly before the infamous Japanese invasion at the end of that same year. When the Japanese army routed the Chinese defenders and entered the walled city on December 13, Sindberg, working both alone and with other foreign nationals, sought to find ways to protect portions of the civilian population from what would eventually become known as the "Rape of Nanking," or the Nanjing Massacre. During the course of the atrocities that went on until March 1938 and resulted in upwards of 300,000 civilian deaths, Sindberg provided a safe haven and improvised hospital within his cement works for approximately 10,000 Chinese civilians. Like his more famous counterpart, John Rabe ("the Wallenberg of Nanking"), Sindberg used his foreign status and resourcefulness to save the lives of countless civilians from the marauding Japanese army.
An amateur photographer and friend of a number of foreign newsmen, Sindberg carried his camera everywhere during this period, snapping often graphic scenes of civilian massacres and public destruction. In Shanghai, Sindberg served as a driver for Philip Pembroke Stephens (1903–1937), a journalist for the Daily Telegraph. Stephens was killed in November 1937 by stray sniper fire from the Japanese. Sindberg was present when Stephens was shot and documented his death in several photographs. In order to protect himself from the Japanese, Sindberg smuggled the undeveloped film out in company shipments, where it was developed by others in his company. Following the end of the war, he reclaimed his previously unseen prints and realized that he had produced one of the few photographic records of Nanjing's destruction. Over the subsequent decades, during which he served as a merchant seaman on a variety of ships, he retained a significant portion of the photographs. It is this extant visual record -- supplemented by his notes and captions -- which makes up this important, amateur photojournalistic collection.
The collections consists of 394 photographs, most of which were taken during the Nanjing Massacre, or "Rape of Nanking," in 1937 and 1938. Many of the photographs are in an album compiled by Sindberg, and some have typed or handwritten annotations. Many of the images are extremely graphic, and capture the dead and dismembered bodies of men, women, and children, including infants. Of note are several photographs capturing the death of journalist Philip Pembroke Stephens. The photographs are gelatin silver prints and, with the except of one panoramic photograph, range in size from 2.8 x 4 cm (1.1 x 1.6 inches) to 12.3 x 17.4 cm (5 x 7 inches). The collection is supplemented by a small amount of manuscript material That includes correspondence, employment and military service records, an autobiographical account in typescript, and a collection of newspaper articles.
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Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.
Bernhard Arp Sindberg Papers and Photography Collection (PH-02638). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Gift, 2006 (R 12520)
Elizabeth E. Preston, 2019