Thomas Edgar: Two Post-war Letters

My father was one of the earliest non-governmental to leave Stanley after the arrival of Harcourt’s fleet on August 30, 1945. On September 3 the South China Morning Post reported that the Stanley internees could expect their first half pound loaf of wheat bread that day – baked by him. There had been an intensive search for the flour by members of the Food Control organisation and I think it’s likely he was involved in that search and that he left camp on September 1 or 2nd.

In this post I transcribe two letters he sent to his family in Windsor Berkshire in October 1945. The telegram he sent telling them he was alive and free has been lost – they knew it was genuine because he signed it ‘Ooke’ his family nickname (see below). He probably wrote at least one letter in September but if so that too has been lost.

Scans of the original letters and some indication of the context of his work in September and October 1945 can be found here: https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/thomass-work-6-post-war-reconstruction/

1-10-45

32, Hong Kong Hotel

Hong Kong

 

Dear Mum & all

Well I think it is pretty well official now that I can not come home till about Christmas. Everybody is shouting for bread (we have not had bread, meat or fish since January 1944[1]) so will have to stay for a short while.[2] Glad to know everybody well have just received your Aug 23rd the first since Sept 1943. Wish Dad many happy returns on the 5th.[3] hope to be home for your birthday.[4] We are quite fit really & the navy & Australian Red Cross are doing their stuff now.

Write again soon am very busy getting bakeries into working order.

Love

Lena & Ooke

17-10-45

              Lane Crawford’s

     Hongkon

Dearest Mum & all

Very many thanks for Joyce’s[5] letter. Glad to know that everybody’s well. Congratulations on Joyce’s engagement.[6]

I put on 17 lbs. since I left Stanley. Life in Stanley was pretty grim. What really saved us from starvation were our private gardens (which produced sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables etc.) and what we could buy from the black market with money we obtained through selling our engagement ring & watches. the Formosan guards used to smuggle the goods into the camp.

We didn’t know when we shall be going home yet as everything is still in a horrible mess. I am still trying to have Lane Crawford’s bakery in production. I have four men from H.M.S. Resource[7] but the Japs were using our bakery as a button factory, rattan basket factory & for salt fish, so you can imagine the state of affairs. We hoe to leave here about January or February.

Mr. R. Bauder a great friend of ours might be staying in England on is way to Switzerland [8]and will call home for a few nights, hope you can look after him O.K.

Love

Ton & Lena

[1] Mistake for 1944 – even then this is not really true as small amounts of low-quality fish continued to be sent in to Stanley.

[2] In fact Thomas and Evelina didn’t leave Hong Kong until the summer of 1946.

[3] Herbert Sidney Edgar was born on October 5, 1878.

[4] Alice Edgar was born on January 1 1888.

[5] Joyce Edgar, Thomas’s sister, was born in Windsor in the first quarter of 11920.

[6] Joyce married Ernest A. Sadler in the second quarter of 1946.

[7] A Royal Navy Repair Ship.

[8] Robert Bauder worked in the watch department of Lane Crawford. He ended the war as an Assistant Superintendent of Rosary Hill Red Cross Home. He left employment there on October 31.

HMS Resource in 1932.jpg

H.M.S. Resource in 1932 : Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33574907

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‘The Necessary Boldness’ – Rudolf Zindel’s Red Cross Work

Even though neutral and apparently free, the Swiss were in fact prisoners in Hong Kong, as their representative Harry Keller found when, on June 16 1942 he wrote to the Government in Bern about the possibility of community repatriation. About 10 weeks later he received a reply to the effect that the Hong Kong expatriates might not be able to get back to their homeland because of the effects of the war in Europe, and that if they did so they would experience ‘grave disillusions’ at the lack of job opportunities. In a clear rebuke, the minister advised them to show ‘quiet and dignified courage’ and stay put.[1]

Many of the Swiss wanted to leave because the possibilities of earning a livelihood were ‘practically absent’,[2] and we know that Rudolf Zindel, a businessman in his early forties, was broke and looking for work when the job of Red Cross Delegate came his way. Later in the war his salary was 1200 Swiss Francs a month – if he was getting anything like this in June 1942 he must have rejoiced in his good luck as at that stage of the occupation it was enough to support comfortably himself  and his wife and their young daughter.

But it can’t have been long before he started to wonder if he’d made a mistake taking on his new role. The Japanese put obstacle after obstacle in his way and in one important area he had to risk his own safety to do any kind of decent job.

The Japanese were paranoid about the fighting men they had captured, and they provided as little information as possible about these prisoners, although in the summer of 1942 cards and sometimes even letters did begin to move slowly to and from Shamshuipo and Argyle Street Prisoner of War Camps.

One of Zindel’s ‘greatest disappointments’ was his failure to induce the POW camp authorities to disclose information about the whereabouts and welfare of the Hong Kong POWs.  His requests were batted away and he was sent on a wild goose chase of fruitless enquiries;[3] a personal appeal to Prince Tatsugu Shimadzu, head of the Japanese Red Cross failed, so he was reduced  to indirect means of gathering information.

Most of these were legal – he could, for example, learn a lot from the receipts for the 10,000 remittances sent through his office to the Prisoners of War. But if one of these receipts was marked ‘undeliverable’ that left him with three possibilities: 1) the man was dead 2) he was in Gendarme custody 3) he’d been sent to Japan as a labourer.[4]

This meant that he was in position to reply to enquiries, so he adopted a courageous expedient: he bribed a Japanese officer attached to POW headquarters with occasional presents (a Swiss watch, razor blades, a civilian suit….). Once or twice a month he slipped into his hands a small folded piece of paper which contained the names of those whose fate he was anxious to ascertain. On the next visit, the officer would secretly return the list to Zindel with coded signs signifying the prisoner’s state: dead, alive in camp, transferred to Japan, or ‘unknown’. This system enabled him to reply to a large number of queries, but had to be abandoned when the Gendarmerie placed their own man in Prisoner of War Headquarters.[5]

Zindel calls this course of action ‘dangerous’ and this is no exaggeration. Bribing a Japanese officer to become a spy – which is how the authorities would have seen the matter- would almost certainly have meant a most unpleasant interrogation with a likely sentence of death to follow. In fact, two of his fellow Red Cross workers – delegates whose position the Japanese never recognised – were executed in Borneo on charges that included seeking information about POWs, with  no bribing of a Japanese officer involved.[6] That was in Borneo, in May 1943 when Zindel faced arrest himself.

He’d been warned in February that his Kempeitai dossier was getting thicker and as part of the crack-down that began that month he’d been followed by two men and had his phone tapped; even a few of the people he helped denounced him to the Japanese! Some of these ‘needy’ aid recipients were almost certainly agents provocateurs sent to try to get him to carry out illegal relief – the Japanese had told him they didn’t want him involved in relieving Asians, who would be looked after as part of their Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Nevertheless, in some cases, he did provide ‘illegal’ relief to Eurasians.

He was also told he was suspected of espionage in Stanley. In May, at the time of the mass arrests designed to break up the (non-existent) spy ring the Japanese believed had been run by Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, who Zindel had always worked in loose co-operation with, he was warned he would be dealt with if he went wrong just once more. He decided to act pre-emptively and appeal to a senior Japanese of his acquaintance, a tactic that worked and which he used again in the autumn when he was once more being harassed by the Kempeitai:  this time he appealed to the head of that organisation, the much-dreaded Colonel Noma, who proved to have a detailed knowledge of the Red Cross and its problems, something that must have been both re-assuring and disturbing. In any case, Noma seems to have called off the pursuit.[7]

So when, during the sticky Hong Kong summer of 1944, Zindel faced a difficult decision he was no stranger to illegal activity and the dangers it posed.

His problem was this: Hong Kong’s official currency, the Military Yen, experienced more or less continual depreciation during the occupation and things were reaching a crisis point. Most of his relief work was paid for by remittances from the British, Canadian and American Governments, sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, and transferred to Hong Kong via Tokyo, where the Japanese changed the sum, received in Swiss Francs, into Military Yen at the official rate of about one franc to one MY. By summer 1944 this amount in depreciated Hong Kong currency wasn’t enough to enable him to buy the supplies he needed for his work, which by that time was based on housing and feeding most of the dependents in Rosary Hill Red Cross Home and sending food, medicine and money into Stanley. In fact, Zindel was obviously soon going to find it hard to feed himself and his family on his Red Cross salary. As far as I can reconstruct his situation, he was faced with three basic choices.

The safest course of action was simply to resign as Red Cross delegate. We know that at some point – maybe in summer 1944, maybe earlier – he did indeed approach the Japanese to tell them he was standing down. They loved the idea but wouldn’t accept anyone in his place, and he felt that to resign, under such circumstances, would have been a betrayal of trust. He could do little but that little was better than nothing.[8] Of course, if he’d left the Red Cross at any point he would have lost his SF1200 a month salary, but, like other of his co-nationals, he could have drawn on loans from the Swiss Relief Fund and, in summer 1944, it would be a reasonable calculation that he, Alice and Irene would make it through to the end of the war. And in such circumstances he would have been as safe from the Kempeitai as any European in occupied Hong Kong could be.

The second plan, reasonably safe and assuring Zindel a continued income, would have been to carry on with his Red Cross work doing the best he could with the limited purchasing power at his disposal. He could, for example, have sent the Stanley internees cash only and not tried to send in health-preserving foods and life-saving medicines, while shutting down Rosary Hill and forcing the dependents to revert to the system of small cash allowances at levels that would have meant the speedy demise of those with no other source of income or sustenance. He would have had lived with the knowledge that he was doing little to preserve life, but this would not have been the fault of the Red Cross, and such a course of action would not have added to the risk of arrest he was running simply by trying to help the British and Americans.

Rudolf Zindel – who had already risked his life and had come close to arrest on at least two occasions in 1943 – rejected both these plans and instead chose a third course, one that put him in huge personal danger.

To understand what he did we need to consider another aspect of the financial situation in the second half of 1944. Not only were Military Yen  plunged in value -with further falls likely – those who had large holdings of them were worried that when the British returned (as they probably would) the Japanese currency would immediately be declared invalid, leaving their holdings literally worthless. (The British did in fact try to do this, but soon back-tracked because of the problems this caused.) This fear meant there were wealthy people who, in return for a reliable promise of repayment in a solid currency after the war, were willing to advance loans in Military Yen at much better rates than the official 1=1. In fact, Zindel managed to get  MY21 for each Swiss Franc he committed in return:

In raising money locally, I contravened Japanese regulations and thereby exposed myself to a considerable risk.

He asked the Red Cross to pay his salary to relatives in Switzerland so that could act as collateral.[9] But that wasn’t enough to finance the entire relief operation he was responsible for:

(F)or this reason, {the possibility of being caught in illegal activity} and so as not to compromise your committee{the I.C. R.C} I raised the money in my own name, using as backing…personal resources I had in Switzerland and the U.S.A. 

This added the risk of financial ruin to those of being imprisoned, tortured and executed by the Japanese for breach of their currency regulations.

This procedure involved the risk that, under certain circumstances, I, or my heirs, might not be able to recover from your Committee the commitments entered into by me personally for the benefit of the British, American and Delegation interests….

The last remittance Zindel received through Tokyo was in April 1945[10] – after that the chaos and destruction of the final stages of the war prevented any further payments. Zindel carried on, now supporting the relief effort entirely from his own pledged resources. In that time he spent over 3,000,000 yen.[11] Of course, he hoped the Red Cross (and the Governments which paid it to help their citizens) would re-imburse him after the war, but he had no way of being certain this would happen.

During this period when he was regularly breaching Japanese exchange regulations, Zindel defied their rules on at least one other occasion, bringing further possibility of retribution, but saving five lives.

That was the number of diabetics in Stanley, and they needed 2,400 units of insulin a month, provided mainly by the Red Cross. When during the summer of 1944 it became known the camp would be taken over by the Japanese military, he sent in as much as he could lay his hands on as he realised it might be difficult to do so later. He then had discussions with the new administration which told him to suspend supplies as they would furnish the insulin themselves. He was unhappy, but his visits had been reduced to one every six months and he was no longer permitted to speak to the internees or Gimson, so he couldn’t check the situation.[12]

In spring 1945 Zindel received ‘an underground chit’, presumably from Stanley, which showed him the Japanese had failed to supply the promised insulin. Although he realised he’d have a problem explaining  his actions, he immediately purchased a few months’ supply and got permission to send it into camp. After the war, Gimson told him the Japanese had made enquiries as to how the ‘leakage’ from the camp occurred but had accepted the story that individual internees had mentioned the insulin problem in postcards to friends in town and one of these had got past the censor. Zindel felt that the incident showed the Japanese had no compunction about letting the diabetics die, even though the insulin came at no cost to them, and that action by him solely on the strength of unofficial information put at risk both the Delegation and the internees.[13] This suggests that he didn’t act on such ‘unofficial’ messages very often.

Nevertheless, as the war came to an end, Zindel was told he was on a list of eleven Europeans about to be arrested – the third time he had been close to the nightmare dreaded by everyone in occupied Hong Kong.

Zindel refers to the arrival of Harcourt’s fleet on August 30, 1945 and the return of British administration as ‘our liberation’ – with no pretence of neutrality. Like many others, he suffered as a result of his experiences during the occupation, but he agreed to stay on at his post in order to provide relief for the now imprisoned Japanese. At the same time, he had to waste his energy fighting the lies about the Red Cross and his own personal role that were circulating in Hong Kong:

(U)nfortunately, my sustained efforts during the 31/2 years of Japanese Occupation (in the face of unceasing difficulties, set backs and frustration as well as occasional threats to my personal safety, had sapped my vitality to an alarming extent, and my expectations that I would pick up quickly with the better food and the less strenuous conditions after our Liberation, have only been partly realized… I am therefore carrying on my work under a considerable handicap and I am keenly looking forward to my forthcoming holiday in Switzerland, which will represent the first break during 9 years in the Tropics.[14]

I’ll detail British Hong Kong’s appalling reaction to Zindel’s work in more detail in a future post. For now, let the judgement of Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke – who usually adopts the generous policy of not mentioning anyone who he can’t praise and at least has the decency to leave out Zindel’s name – be itself judged against the record I have described:

A year after the capture of Hong Kong the International Red Cross was allowed to send a Swiss representative {Zindel wasn’t sent, he was already in Hong Kong and, as I showed in this post, he was hard at work from late June 1942} and to him I handed over  most of my welfare duties. Although I was glad to do so, I gained the impression that he had heard rather too much about Japanese severity to act with the necessary boldness on behalf of the prisoners and internees. And from what I was told after the end of the war my foreboding had been justified.[15]

Schloss Sargans.jpg

Castle at Sargans, Zindel’s birthplace (Wikipedia – Adrian Michael, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargans)

Note: Most of these references are given in incomplete form to prevent plagiarism.

[1] Letter from the Swiss Minister, sent via Camille Gorgé on August 18, 1942 to Keller, pp. 1-3 (Swiss Federal Archives).

[2] Letter from Keller to Hoffmeister, 30 July, 1942 (Swiss Federal Archives).

[3]  Rudolph Zindel, ‘Supplementary Report – A Few Aspects of the Delegation Work in Hong Kong Under The Japanese Occupation’ pp. 3-4 in BG17 07 074 (Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

[4] Supplementary Report, 11.

[5] Supplementary Report, 12.

[6] Charles Roland, Long Night’s Journey Into Day, Kindle Edition, Location 4689.

[7] In Correspondance Avec M. Zindel á Coire et Shanghai, 25.05.46-12.10.46 (AICRC).

[8] Russell Clark, An End to Tears, 1946,  67.

[9] General Letter no. 29/46, 28 March 1946 pp. 1-2, in Lettres recues (General Letter) 02.01.46-05.05.47 BG017 07-074 (AICRC).

[10] AICRC.

[11] Clark, Tears, 66.

[12] Supplementary Report, 12.

[13] Supplementary Report, 13.

[14] General Letter No. 21/46, 20 February 1946 p. 2 (AICRC).

[15] Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, Footprints, 1975, 71.

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Zindel Wrings His Hands: Emily Hahn on the Early Work of the Red Cross in Hong Kong

He was not permitted to visit any of the military camps, He wrung his hands and sat in his office, and hired more people (Swiss) to do the paper work that mounted and mounted.[1]

Thus did American writer Emily Hahn sum up the early activity of Red Cross Delegate Rudolf Zindel. She’s talking about the period from late June 1942 to January 1, 1943; on June 26 Edouard Egle arrived from Shanghai to help Zindel set up the Delegation (not, as Hahn claims, to inspect it) and at the start of 1943 Zindel took over most of the legal side of Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke’s relief operation, leaving the Director of Medical Services free to concentrate on the illegal side, although how much Zindel knew about that is uncertain.

Hahn’s first claim is wrong, although not badly so.

On July 3 Zindel and Egle, accompanied by Colonel Tokunaga and several of his officers visited, Argyle Street, North Point, Shamshuipo (all POW camps) andSt Teresa’s Hospital and Bowen Road Military Hospital. [2] He gathered a little information about the Indians at Ma Tau-chung Camp but he was forbidden to concern himself with them – as Asians, they would be looked after by the Japanese as part of the Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. I’ll return to this visit later.

As to the second claim – that the new Delegate indulged his own feelings of impotence while hiring his co-nationals to do paper work unrelated to any actual relief of distress – I’ll summarise Zindel’s own documentation of what he was doing in the second half of 1942.

It’s of no importance to the subject in hand, but I think Hahn is probably wrong to state that Zindel had lived in Hong Kong ‘for years’, although I’ve seen this in other sources too, one stipulating twenty of them. In 1927 he sailed to New York via Britain on his way to live in China. [3] In 1937 he left Genoa on the journey back to Hankow (now part of Wuhan) where he had been living before what was presumably a visit home.[4] When the Japanese attacked in December 1941 he still had possessions stored in his former apartment in Hankow.[5] All this, and the pattern of references in the South China Morning Post, make me think he came to Hong Kong in about 1939 after 12 years in China. His job, at any rate, is not disputed: he was a ‘Kaufmann’ or merchant, working for a German-founded company, Arnhold Trading, which had been in Hong Kong since 1867, a year after it was first set up in Shameen (now part of Guangzhou). In the 1930s this became part of the powerful Sassoon conglomerate.[6]

The Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. The Zindel family’s flat on the Peak was destroyed by a shell on December 20. The early months of the occupation found Zindel, his wife Alice and daughter Irene (aged 8) ‘settling down under present changed conditions’ in a ‘nice little apartment on MacDonnell Road’. He was cheered by the resumption of the mail from Hong Kong to Switzerland and his wife’s parents sent them greetings over the Swiss radio. But the money situation was ‘tight’ and the breadwinner out of work and needing a job.[7] The appointment as Red Cross Delegate obviously turned round Zindel’s financial position. A money transfer from Switzerland he had requested was no longer required.[8] Later his salary was to be 1200 Swiss Francs a month, and if it was anything like that at the start it would have given him a comparatively comfortable life at this early stage of the war.

In so far as Zindel was doing anything in the first months of the occupation, he was looking after the interests of Arnhold and Co. He had no previous connection with the Red Cross or relief work – so how did he become Delegate?

In early February the British forwarded an alarming report on conditions in Hong Kong to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva. The Swiss consul attempted to get permission for an ICRC delegate to visit but failed. On March 30 another alarming report was forwarded to Geneva,[9] backed up by a cable from the Canadians asking for the ICRC to try to secure an independent report. In spite of being overstretched in Europe, the ICRC was already pressing the Japanese, but meeting with a complete lack of co-operation. There were almost no Japanese prisoners, so reciprocity was not possible. In March they offered a concession above the recognition of Fritz Paravicini in Tokyo: they agreed to the appointment of a delegate in Shanghai – Edouard Egle was chosen. The ICRC hoped to be allowed a delegate in Hong Kong too, and after speaking to his uncle in a Swiss village, settled on Zindel, who, they were assured had been a diligent employee of Arnhold,had an ‘honest and open nature and healthy spirit’ and, his uncle assured his questioners, the necessary qualities for such a task. [10] If  a post-war newspaper interview with Zindel is to be believed, the Japanese gave him full Delegate status only by mistake!

As we have seen, his mission began at the end of June, 1942 when Egle came down for an extended stay to help him get started and together they visited all of the ‘European’ camps including Stanley, which Zindel was allowed to re-visit without Egle on July 18.

Then something strange happened. Egle’s formal account of these inspections was sent back to Geneva on August 7 – and a cable about the POW camps actually went off on July 10th. But Zindel didn’t draw up his report until December 15, sending it to the ICRC a few days later. His explanation was that ‘the work involved {as Red Cross Delegate} had rather outstripped my capacity and that I found it difficult to keep pace with the many new problems which constantly cropped up’. As he promised to ‘organize my office as rapidly as possible, in such a way as to be able to meet all legitimate requirements without undue delay’ the implication was that lack of secretarial support had also contributed to the delay.[11] All this is unconvincing: Zindel was a businessman of long experience and the idea that he couldn’t put together two reports of little more than half a dozen pages in total for over four months is absurd.

My guess – and it is only a guess – is that he realised he was in an impossible position: if he told the truth about the camps, the Japanese, who read all his reports and other correspondence, would at the very least censor the critical passages out, perhaps end his mission and even imprison him (Red Cross work gathering information for the outside world about prisoners, internees and casualties looked rather like spying to them anyway, so they wouldn’t have to go far for an excuse). But if, as in fact happened, he chose to give an idealised picture of life in the camps, he would be accused of inaccuracy and bias in their favour.

Hahn hated Egle, who she obviously regarded as a Japanese toady if not actually an outright supporter,[12] and his report certainly seems to be genuinely enthusiastic:

(Stanley)  indeed looks more like a summer colony than an internment camp. Mr. Zindel and I were there for about three hours and were left absolutely free to move amongst the prisoners and converse with them. I did not see a single sentry inside the camp, internees appeared to have complete freedom, some played lawnballs (sic), others had a sun bath, practically all looked in perfect health, internees have permission for swimming, the canteen seemed well stocked, internees receive a liberal supply of food and comfort parcels….[13]

Not surprisingly he soon felt the need to defend himself to the ICRC – he probably became aware of the very different accounts carried out of Hong Kong by escapees or American repatriates. A self-justificatory letter was sent back to Geneva on August 27 suggesting, among more convincing things, that the sun-bathing was contributing to any weight loss experienced by the internees.[14] e’d Perhaps Zindel understood the reality of internment better and was reluctant to be forced to either promulgate an idealised picture to the outside world or face the possible consequences I outlined above.

Whatever the reason for his dilatoriness, Zindel’s exculpatory account of what he had been doing belies Hahn’s claim that he ‘wrung his hands and sat in his office’:

A great deal of my time has been taken up by the interviewing of large numbers of destitute Third Nationals {neutrals}and others applying for relief. Moreover, there are several hundred families (dependents of Prisoners of War) living in Hongkong, many of whom rush to my office whenever some fresh rumour regarding the Camps or its inmates crops up. I might also mention that my office, since the middle of August, has handled 1,399 individual remittances to prisoners of war and Civilian Internees in local Camps.

He points out that he hasn’t been able to use cheques so every transaction involved a cash withdrawal which only he was authorised to make.

In August 1943 Zindel reported that he was no longer allowed by the Japanese to relieve Third Nationals.[15] As the accounts of his 1942 activities that he’d sent to Geneva in March hadn’t arrived, he enclosed duplicates which give a glimpse of some of 1942 work and are also a good source for the historian of Third Nationals during the occupation.

Most of those he helped were White Russians, who made up the largest non-interned ‘European’ community in Hong Kong. Other recipients were Latvian, French, Hungarian, Portuguese, Filipino, Czechoslovakian, Costa Rican, and Polish. Some, but not all, of these were in the category of  ‘British dependents’ which was to prove one of the biggest problems for the Red Cross as the occupation wore on. But perhaps the most interesting thing in the detailed accounts Zindel provides is the fact that from the middle of 1942 a number of German residents were coming to him for help. Most of Hong Kong’s Germans had been sent to various locations after the outbreak of the European war, but a number managed to stay on and, for all their country’s alliance with Japan, they seem to have had the same kind of experience as the neutrals.

By August he and his four ‘girl’ assistants and Chinese staff were running  ‘well organisated (sic – one of Zindel’s rare mistakes in English, which was one of the four languages he knew) shopping service for benefit of pows and internees who prefer receiving parcels instead of money’. This meant a lot of work and he felt the need for more employees.

Another major responsibility arrived in mid-November 1942 with the first remittance of ‘British Funds’ to spent for the benefit of prisoners, internees and their dependents[16]. This came at an opportune time: the resources of the International Welfare Committee, a body set up in Stanley Camp to work with Selwyn-Clarke’s Informal Welfare Committee (more diverse naming and a different acronym would help the historian!) had just about reached the end of its resources. Zindel was able to use the British Fund (provided by the London Government) to offer emergency assistance to the destitute and to offer Stanley bulk supplies of healthy food and small ‘pocket allowances’ for the internees to spend at the canteen. All went well with the British Fund until spring 1943 – I’ll discuss the problem that arose in another post, as it forms part of Hahn’s indictment of the Swiss.

But that was in the future. Zindel ended 1942 by sending each Canadian POW – just over 1500 officers and men – a Christmas gift of ten yen in individual envelopes with a pine tree motif to remind them of home. He needed special authorisation to use the Fund for this purpose, and it seems the Canadian Government reimbursed the British.[17]

That wasn’t all Zindel was doing, not by a long way. Another 1942 task was dealing with requests from Stanley to try to salvage personal belongings from the internees’ former homes. Such visits required him to get an individual permit in each case.  With the help of two Belgian bankers, he and his staff acquired more than 5000 books for Stanley, the POW Camps and Bowen Road Military Hospital. They had to check each book page by page to make sure none contained a secret message! [18]

All this – and more – was done before January 1, 1943, when he took over as much work as possible from Selwyn-Clarke. In December he was obviously preparing for that transfer and there’s a fascinating letter from Selwyn-Clarke in this part of the Archive that give the best picture I know of the work of his Informal Welfare Committee.

This is hardly a picture of hand-wringing inactivity. In a future post I’ll consider the other aspects of Hahn’s negative portrait of the Red Cross: that Zindel was too scared and ineffective to do his job properly, that he let his Roman Catholic prejudice against ‘common law’ wives interfere with his work, and that he was, in any case, Swiss and thus one of a nation of cowardly neutrals who spent the war looking after themselves while others fought to bring down the Axis.

[1] Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed. (1944), 372.

[2] ‘Interim Report On First Visit To Prisoners Of War Camps And Military Hospitals In Hongkong’, in Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva) BG 017 07-061 (first dossier).

[3] Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

[4] Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

[5] Letter from Zindel to Hoffmeister, July 21, 1942 in Zindel, R. Hong Kong: E2200.122#1000/156#47 (Swiss Federal Archives, Bern).

[6] http://www.arnhold.com.hk/about-arnhold/

[7] Letter from Zindel to Hoffmeister, 24 April 1942 in Zindel, R. Hong Kong: E2200.122#1000/156#47 (Swiss Federal Archives, Bern).

[8] Letter from Zindel to Hoffmeister, July 21, 1942 in Zindel, R. Hong Kong: E2200.122#1000/156#47 (Swiss Federal Archives, Bern).

[9] Caroline Moorehead, Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland and the History of the Red Cross, HarperCollins, 1998, 473.

[10] Moorehead, 474.

[11] Zindel to ICRC, General Letter No. 10/42, December 18, 1942, AIRC (Geneva) BG017 07-61.

[12] Hahn, 372-374.

[13] Report by Mr. Egle, 7 August 1942 in Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva), BG17-07-062.

[14] Letter fom Egle to ICRC, 27th. August 1942 in BG017 07-062.

[15] Zindel to ICRC, General Letter No. 73/43, 21 August, 1943, AIRC (Geneva) BG017 07-61.

[16] Zindel to ICRC, General Letter No. 4/42, November 16, 1942 in AIRC (Geneva) BG017 07-61.

[17] Zindel to ICRC, General Letter No. 13/42, December 23, 1942 in AIRC (Geneva) BG017 07-61.

[18] Zindel to ICRC, General Letter No. 10/42, December 18, 1942, AIRC (Geneva) BG017 07-61.

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Into Stanley, May 7, 1943: Lessons in Mis-Reading

In a previous post I wrote about the way in which knowledge of important facts about what goes on in the confused conditions of war and occupation sometimes depends on just one document:

https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/walter-naef-and-the-chances-of-history/

In today’s post I want to say a little more about documents and the pitfalls in interpreting them.

Actually the first case also depends on just one document – a Stanley Camp diary – although it’s possible I might have guessed the truth eventually even without it as there is a conflict of evidence that the diary neatly resolves.

My father was kept out of Stanley in 1942 and early 1943 to bake bread for the hospitals. During that period he married my mother – part of  their wedding photo can be seen at the top of this page, and the full portfolio is here:

https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/a-wartime-romance/

I have naturally always been interested in the date and circumstances of their despatch to Stanley, and for a long time the date at least didn’t seem a mystery. In my father’s archive is this typewritten letter announcing to his family that they’ve finally been interned:

Stanley letter 001

 

True, no date is given for that event, but it must have been before (or in the early part of) April 30. But when I learnt more about events around that time, a problem emerged: I had assumed my parents were sent to Stanley along with a number of others recorded to have been consigned there after the arrest of Dr. Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, who had been allowed to stay uninterned to organise public health work and who was effectively my father’s boss. But that was on the May 2 a few days after the latest possible date of his arrival in Stanley as established by clear documentary evidence! So I devised a plausible enough theory: the Japanese prepared for the arrest of Selwyn-Clarke (and a number of others) by getting a few ‘small fry’ like my parents, who they didn’t suspect of any illegal activity, out of  the way.

But then the truth was revealed. The holders of the diary of internee George Gerrard kindly transcribed it and put it online for members of the Yahoo Stanley Camp Discussion Group. Gerrard stated that early in May the Japanese authorities agreed that internees could send off one letter back-dated to April 30 and then another at the end of month. This small act of kindness was responsible for misleading me as May 7 was obviously in time for him to get to a typewriter and send off that letter to is parents with the ‘wrong’ date! Since then I’ve noted a lot of cards and letters from April 30, which, like my parents’, were in fact composed sometime in the first ten or so days of May.

So my parents went into Stanley with others from the French Hospital on May 7 – the ‘others’ arrival in camp was established by multiple sources and now I knew that my parents were almost certainly with them.  No doubt they all felt huge relief at being safe for a time at least from the attentions of the Kempeitai – although one of those ‘others’, Dr. George Graham-Cumming, recalls, that they were sent off to the accompaniment of ‘We know where to find you…’ which was both obviously true and extremely disturbing, as brutal investigations of Selwyn-Clarke, Dr. Bunje and dozens of other suspected of being part of a British spy ring were currently taking place.

So that was when they went in to Stanley, but who exactly were the ‘others’ with them?

A couple of diaries stipulate that 18 people arrived on May 7, so I set about creating a list based on partial information in these diaries and known inhabitants of Bungalow ‘D’, where my parents, Selwyn-Clarke’s wife and daughter and other former inhabitants of the French Hospital are known to have ended up.

I was delighted to find an authoritative list in the Red Cross Archives in Geneva:

May 7 List

Amongst many services performed by Rudolf Zindel, we can include meticulous and careful record keeping. My own names were about 80% correct, but Zindel’s list surprised me in a number of ways.

I had thought, for example, that my parents’ best man, Owen Evans – the tall man standing behind my mother in the wedding photo – had gone into Stanley some time in September or  October 1942. There were three pieces of evidence that led me to that conclusion: the claim in a secondary source that he spent about nine months uninterned, the statement by an Irish doctor that just before his escape from Hong Kong (that began on October 25, 1942) Selwyn-Clarke had somehow had Evans’s Red Cross status removed (something the doctor thought was appalling because he was doing a lot of good), and finally the absence of his name from a list of those living in the French Hospital drawn up by the BAAG in November or December 1942. Good enough reason for a preliminary conclusion, but there is no doubt that Zindel was correct, so the evidence I referred to has to be interpreted with this in mind.

But the real lesson is this: the mistakes in my list were caused by the fact that I was working with the clear statement in the diaries that 18 people came into Stanley on May 7 – and in fact that was wrong!

Well, ‘wrong’ might not be quite the word I’m looking for.

I have no excuse for not realising that – in the vocabulary and conventions of the time – 18 people meant 18 adults! I didn’t know about young Ian Mackie anyway, but I had assumed that a six -year-old like Mary Selwyn-Clarke would be considered one of the 18, and the fact that she wasn’t threw off all my calculations. Having been through the ideological revolutions of the sixties and seventies, if I had to sum the matter up with  a bald statement I would say that 20 people were sent from the French Hospital to Stanley on that day. If given a little more space I would state, reflecting the culture of liberal Europe in 2016, that 18 adults, a child and a baby entered camp – and who knows how that kind of taxonomy will look in the future? In any case, I have long since abandoned the idea that our current sensitivity to the way we write about children reflects any moral superiority in myself and my generation or any improvement in the way children are treated! But that disillusion is another story altogether.

Happily the Red Cross archives have freed me from my misconception and I now have a definitive list of those who sat alongside my parents in what was probably an open truck ride down the Colony’s decaying roads to the southern peninsula. And a valuable lesson in the need for eternal vigilance in the struggle to understand documents in the context of the ideas and vocabularies of the era that produced them. This is never harder when that period is almost our own.

 

 

 

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Rudolf Zindel and the Red Cross in Hong Kong

In February 1947 Hong Kong Red Cross Delegate Rudolf Zindel received a request for a description of any ‘outstanding experiences’ that he and his co-workers had had during the war. A ‘General Report’ of Red Cross work was being prepared, and it seems the compilers were looking for anecdotes to enliven its pages.

Zindel, who had served the International Committee of the Red Cross from late June 1942 until early in 1946, referred the requester to a ‘Supplementary Report’ he’d already sent back to Geneva, but then went on to provide over two pages of reflections that form a moving account of his work under impossible conditions, and a terrible indictment of the ingratitude and misrepresentation of some of those who he’d risked his life to help.

Unfortunately some of the most commonly used sources for the occupation – such as Emily Hahn’s China To Me and Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke’s Footprints – perpetuate the myth of a Zindel too terrified to carry out his work properly – so I’m putting a substantial chunk of this letter online.[1]

I provide a few notes in ((double brackets)).

When I look back on my own activities in Hong Kong, from June 1942 to the arrival of the Allied Liberation Forces on 30th August 1945, it seems a miracle that the Delegation should have found it possible to carry on its extensive work without ever getting into serious trouble with the Japanese. I attribute this achievement to the fact that I deliberately and firmly avoided being drawn into underground-activities of any kind, with the result that, inspite ((sic)) of denunciations of my person to the Japanese Gendarmerie, and inspite of constant suspicion and supervision on the part of the Japanese, I could surmount several critical periods by maintaining a calm attitude thanks to my “good conscience”. ((In the wake of the arrest Selwyn-Clarke and other British personnel in May 1943 Zindel was told by the Japanese he was one ‘offence’ away from being taken himself. He managed to stay out of prison by pre-emptive visits to senior Japanese officials but at the end of the war he was on a list of eleven ‘Europeans’ facing arrest.)) At the same time it is also true that many risks were taken by myself, beyond what was required of me as Delegate of the I.C.R.C., and in view of the fact that I never received a written acknowledgement from the British or American authorities in Hongkong concerning my Red Cross work, I believe it would be a mistake were I to remain silent regarding my personal contribution (apart from my duties as Delegate), towards the maintenance of the activities of the Hongkong Delegation at a time when British, American and Delegation funds were held up in Tokyo, ((Spring 1943)) and at other times when the funds at the disposal  of the Delegation proved inadequate.

((Zindel goes on to explain how he saved almost M.Y. 2 million by raising money on the black market against the promise to repay the loan in Swiss Francs after the war, thus getting an exchange rate of about 21 SF = 1 M.Y. – much higher than the official rate of roughly 1 SF = 1 M.Y. – for the funds sent to him by Geneva.))

In raising money locally, I contravened Japanese regulations and thereby exposed myself to a considerable risk ((including death)); for this reason , and so as not to compromise your committee ((the I.C. R.C.)), I raised the money in my own name, using as backing for my Promissory-Notes, payable after the conclusion of the war, personal resources I had in Switzerland and the U.S.A.  This procedure involved the risk that, under certain circumstances, I, or my heirs, might not be able to recover from your Committee the commitments entered into by me personally for the benefit of the British, American and Delegation interests….

((Zindel mentions the establishment of the Rosary Hill Red Cross Home in Autumn 1943 and the operation of the Red Cross unit in the French Hospital; at their height these two organisations cared for about 750 women, children, sick and elderly – all dependants of the prisoners of war and the internees.))

You may also wish to refer to the fact that our Delegation with the help of its connections, manufactured substantial quantities of Fish-Liver-Oil and Peanut-Butter for the Camps, and was instrumental in arranging delivery to Hongkong of large quantities of Wheat-Bran, which proved most valuable to the Camps in the absence of Vitamin Drugs on the Hongkong market.

Through personal influence, I also succeeded in obtaining an overdraft of M.Y. 1.000.000 from the Yokohama Specie Bank, which was used entirely for British relief and was repaid very advantageously after the arrival of the British Liberation Forces…

On the activities of your Hongkong Delegation alone, volumes could be written, and a little more publicity on our achievements might have done some good, because we find that quite a number of people here have received a commendation, whereas the work performed by the I.C.R.C. seems to be taken for granted; the public does not seem to realize the tremendous efforts, often far beyond what could be reasonably have been expected, which have been made by myself and my collaborators to meet our difficult tasks….[2]

In this document Zindel does not mention many aspects of the work of the Red Cross Delegation: inspecting the Camps, paying small ‘pocket money allowances’ to the internees, answering requests for information from friends and relatives back home, equipping the schools in Stanley Camp, sending out messages for the prisoners, providing unofficial relief for people who fell through the gaps like Eurasians (another risky activity), receiving, storing and distributing ‘comfort parcels’…The list could be continued.

In return for risking imprisonment, torture and death – not to mention financial ruin – to keep these Red Cross relief services operating, Rudolf Zindel was given the nickname ‘Mr. Swindle’, which was sometimes used to his face on his visits to Stanley.[3]

 

 

[1]Happily Geoffrey Emerson in the preface to the book version of his thesis on Stanley has shown a much better appreciation for Zindel’s contribution and I acknowledge his influence in stirring my interest in this subject: http://www.hkupress.org/Common/Reader/Products/ShowProduct.jsp?Pid=1&Version=0&Cid=16&Charset=iso-8859-1&page=-1&key=9789888028535

[2] General Letter No. 48/47, 22 March 1947 in Archives of the International Red Cross, Geneva (incomplete reference to prevent plagiarism),

[3] George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 133.

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Walter Naef and the Chances of History

Note: The references are in an incomplete form to prevent plagiarism. I would be happy to provide a properly referenced copy of this article to anyone who wishes to contact me using the address at the foot of this page: https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/about/

SAM_4058 Lake Geneva, Montreux

I’ve just returned from a trip to Switzerland, researching in the Swiss Federal Archive (SFA) in Bern and the International Committee of the Red Cross archive in Geneva.

Bern view Bern

One of the figures I followed through the Bern documentation was the Swiss businessman Walter Naef. Naef came to south China in 1922, moved to Shanghai in 1935 when his company CIBA[1] opened an office there,[2] and at some point – probably about 1939 – moved to Hong Kong. As he had married Victoria Manning in the cathedral in 1929, this might have meant a return not a first sojourn.[3]

The story that emerged from the SFA was one that will carry no surprises for the student of the occupation. Naef was a neutral, and a man of some wealth, so he was cushioned from the worst sufferings. Otherwise his experiences seem rather typical.

On December 10 Naef fled Kowloon with his wife and their six-year-old child in the face of the advancing Japanese army and the Chinese looters. The next day he was forced to evacuate his office on the island as it was requisitioned by the British.[4] At some point Naef and his family took shelter with a number of other Swiss in 2, May Road.[5] A friend helped him set up a temporary office in St. George’s Building, but transport difficulties and the constant shelling made it impossible to get down from the Peak to work or protect it. He eventually recovered his office papers but the equipment was looted, and someone had managed to force open the safe and steal the cash and the staff jewellery.[6] In the early days of the occupation both he and his wife lost their cars to the Japanese.[7]

In January 1942 the Japanese asked for neutrals to make a declaration of the property they’d lost during the fighting – I don’t know if they ever intended to offer compensation, but nothing came of it if they did. In imitation of the Germans, they’d abolished the consular system throughout the territories they’d conquered, but they did allow someone – usually the former Consul – to act as a community representative. So the former Consul, Harry Keller, stayed at his post throughout the occupation, but with the title ‘Representative of the Swiss’ and less than full diplomatic protection. Keller used a blackboard in the former Consulate to pass on the Japanese request, and on January 19 Naef responded with an itemization of his losses during the hostilities. He rated his personal and business assets as worth over 1 million Swiss Francs; [8] along with Emil Ott[9] – whose company owned, amongst other things, the two branches of the Department Store Habade –  he was probably the wealthiest of the Swiss businessmen who would have to live through the occupation.

Naef Letter

He was soon trying to get his business started again. On February 2 Naef wote to Keller asking for his help in releasing funds from the HSBC; he needed to pay the utilities bills for the re-occupation of his office and his staff  salaries for January and February.[10]

In March 1942 he got permission to return to his home – Walvik Cottage in Kowloon, a property he owned outright and whose value after a 1940 remake he put at SF60,000.[11] He found it completely looted and occupied by Japanese soldiers. The garage was a munitions depot and the water system dismantled.[12] This confirmed that the family had lost almost everything they’d owned personally, but it seems that he was able to get his business functioning to an extent at least. David Tett’s ‘postal history’ of the Pacific war contains a card Naef wrote in 1944 to a friend in Stanley from the French Bank Building – as the first floor is stipulated this was probably CIBA’s office address,[13] but it’s possible the family also lived in the building which had residential accommodation in the upper stories.

As well as his wife, Naef had a child (aged 6 in 1942) with him during the occupation. But he also had children elsewhere to worry about. On April 22 he wrote to August Hoffmeister, the Swiss Consul in Canton, informing him that he had received his first letter from his son  John and had learnt from it that his children were well at Chefoo School (in modern Yantai). At this stage the British teachers and pupils at this missionary establishment were not interned – they were later to be sent to Weifang Camp, where Olympic champion Eric Liddell was also to be held. On August 20, 1942 Naef sent  a telegram to wish his son John a happy birthday.[14] The attendance of his children at Chefoo suggests that Naef was a Christian and Protestant.

A number of the Swiss had lost their jobs as a result of the Japanese take-over, and some needed help to avoid starvation. Naef never had to draw on the Swiss Relief Fund himself, but because of CIBA’s interests in Shanghai, it was suggested he provide the ‘route’ for a donation to this fund from the Helevetia, a charitable institution in that city.[15] It seems that in the end another Swiss firm acted as the conduit for the money,[16] but, as we shall see, this apparently trivial episode was possibly the germ of something more significant.

Although there was at least one Axis sympathiser amongst the Swiss, it’s highly likely that the vast majority welcomed back the British in August 1945. By that time only those who had thrown in their lost irreversibly with the Japanese still supported them. I’ve not been able to find any details of Naef’s activity during the period of re-occupation, but his son John Peter, then 15, left Hong Kong on October 15, 1945, boarding the Highland Monarch to sail to life at a boarding school in Worthing (England). This means he either joined his parents from Chefoo at some point in the war or came down to Hong Kong soon after the peace was announced.[17] Neither Walter nor Victoria is listed on the manifest, but other adult Swiss are, so perhaps he was in their care.

The Swiss authorities seem to have made intermittent efforts throughout the second half of the 1940s and the first of the 1950s to get compensation from the Japanese. In 1952 Naef put in a claim that attracted cynical comment from the adjudicators  who believed the value he had indicated for his losses seemed very exaggerated. They felt that Naef had put down the replacement value not the cost of purchase and had included damages caused later in the war by Allied air attack not the Japanese – they wanted to reduce his estimates by at least half’[18] In  early 1955 a Swiss-Japanese agreement on wartime damages finally led to compensation for losses in Hong Kong.  On July 12, 1956  Naef was awarded  SF35, 825. 80.[19]

In other words, a not unusual story of loss, anxiety and survival in the Hong Kong war. Not as grim as most, certainly, but containing anxiety, distress and pain of loss in much greater measure than is usual in peacetime conditions.

And as far as my picture of Walter Naef goes, that would be it if the French head of the Chinese Postal Service  hadn’t escaped from Hong Kong in February 1944. Gaston Marie Raoul de Sercey was the younger brother of a count – although some of those who came across him during the occupation seem to have thought he was the Count himself, a misconception he would have been foolish to battle against. De Sercey played a sterling role in relief work during the occupation, particularly with regard to Jardine Mattheson employees – he was a friend of the company taipan, J. J. Paterson. On arrival in Free China, suffering from nervous exhaustion after the ordeal of two years under the Japanese, he gave  a detailed account of conditions in occupied Hong Kong to the British Army Aid Group, a resistance organisation led by former University of Hong Kong Professor Lindsay Ride.

Mr. de Sercey’s account included a description of the methods used to raise money for relief of Jardine’s staff and they reveal the key role played by none other than Walter Naef.[20] Clearly his work was ongoing , as the Frenchman says that he’d ‘provided approximately M.Y. 10,000 by the time of my departure’. It seems that even before de Sercey had ‘guaranteed out’ Jardine’s employee Dorothy Cuthbertson so that she could engage in relief activities, Naef had been getting money into Stanley for this purpose. He continued this work so as to provide the funds for Cuthbertson. He was almost certainly using the Shanghai branch of his company CIBA to do so – it now turns out that the 1942 idea of Naef’s involvement in an open  transfer of the Helvetia donation, although it came to nothing at the time, was to flower later in this undoubtedly secret operation. Raoul de Sercey is in no doubt as to the perils involved:

(I)t must be mentioned here that, though the supply of  funds by Mr. W. NAEF has been most welcome, the arrangement is undoubtedly extremely dangerous for all the parties concerned. It represents a definite evasion of the Japanese exchange regulations, and if found out, it is bound to create serious if not fatal trouble.

No-one had an easy time in occupied Hong Kong, but Walter Naef  could, if he had chosen, have had it easier than most. He was the citizen of a country whose neutrality had deep roots in history and was written into international law. Although he’d lost much of what he owned during the hostilities and the Japanese plundering of early 1942, he still had access to personal and company sources of finance that would have kept him from the worst consequences of the economic travails of wartime Hong Kong. With a wife and young child to care for, the temptation to keep a low profile and look after his own must have been huge.

Nevertheless, he decided to risk being thrown into an over-crowded and foul-smelling jail cell, to face interrogation to the accompaniment of beating – and probably much worse – to be followed by a mock trial and a sentence to a relatively quick death by beheading or a relatively slow one by gradual starvation in Stanley Prison.

Like so many of those who played a heroic role during the occupation, Naef seems to have made no attempt to get his contribution acknowledged after the war. He went back to business, he helped found the Swiss Association of Hong Kong (a body partly inspired by the experiences of  1941-1945),[21] and my guess is he was the force behind CIBA’s post-war re-establishment in the Colony.[22] But I’ve never seen a reference to him in any book or article about the occupation – which is hardly surprising, given the state of the evidence I’ve outlined.

Sometimes just one document can make everything look different. But when the activity in question involved illegal operations in conditions of huge peril, that document is sometimes never produced.  Luckily in this case it was, thanks to the untiring efforts of the BAAG to understand conditions in occupied Hong Kong. Belated justice can be done to Walter Naef, in part at least – who knows what else he did that has not yet come to light and perhaps never will?

In 1958 his unexpected death in Bern made it back to the Hong Kong press.[23]

[1] A Swiss chemicals and textile business.

[2] http://www.springerlink.com/content/w0765741787qn3u3/

[3] http://gwulo.com/node/9223

[4] Naef, ‘Statement of Properties & Assets’ 19 January 1942,  E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[5] List of Swiss Citizens Residing in Hong Kong in E2200.10-01# (SFA).

[6] Walter Naef, ‘Statement of Properties and Assets’ 19, January, 1942 , pp. 1-2  E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[6] E. Ott ‘Assets in Hongkong’ in  E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[7] Letter of Naef to the Eidgenossisches Politisches Department, 28, May 1952, p. 5 in E2001D/A#1000/1553# (SFA).

[8] Letter from Naef to Keller, 19 January 1942, in E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[9] E. Ott ‘Assets in Hongkong’ in E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[10] E2200.10-01#1000/135#7* (SFA).

[11] Naef, ‘Statement of Properties & Assets.’ 19 January 1942, in E2200.10-01 (SFA).

[12] Wakter Naef, Faits dommageables’ in Anerkennung von in Hongkong durch japanische Gerichte ausgesprochenenen Schneidungsurtelien:  E2001D/A#1000/1553#596 (SFA).

[13] David Tett, Captives in Cathay, 2007, p. 133.

[14] Letter from Naef to August (Hoffmeister), 22 April 1942 and Telegram Naef to Swiss Consulate Canton, August 20, 1942 in E2200.122/1000/156 (SFA).

[15] Letter from Secretary to Keller, May 2, 1942 in ‘Keller & Co. Ltd.’, E2200. 122#1000/156#48 (SFA).

[16] Letter from Keller to the Swiss Consul-General, Shanghai, 3 July 1942, ibid.

[17] Ancestry.com. UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

[18] Letter from The Swiss Consulate Hong Kong to the Minister (Division of Political Affairs of the Federal Political Deoartment), 19 August 1952 in Anerkennung von in Hongkong durch japanische Gerichte ausgesprochenenen Schneidungsurtelien:  E2001D/A#1000/1553#596 (SFA)

[19] ‘Verteilungsplan’ in Anerkennung von in Hongkong durch japanische Gerichte ausgesprochenenen Schneidungsurtelien:  E2001D/A#1000/1553#596 (SFA).

[20] Letter from de Sercey to Keswick c./o. L. T. Ride, 2 June 1944, Ride Papers.

[21] http://www.scribd.com/doc/33621223/sAlphorn-No128-Web

[22]https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=SeoqKGX9YrYC&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=walter+naef+hong+kong&source=bl&ots=z-BSStk-zh&sig=uBMdq-RJtsd4b3_3-EHEW3gznfU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiwtaDBp8_MAhVLQSYKHX4_CCAQ6AEIKjAC#v=onepage&q=walter%20naef%20hong%20kong&f=false

[23] South China Morning Post, October 23, 1958, p. 8.

 

 

 

 

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A Note on Eric Liddell in Tianjin

In  At the Grave of Eric Liddell I blogged about Liddell in the context of my visit to the Camp (Weihsien) where he died.  This is a brief photo-note about another Liddell inspired visit, to his house in the important northern Chinese city of Tianjin.

He was born here (1902) – so he’s been called the first ever Chinese-born Olympic gold medal winner (Chariots of Fire left out the fact that he won a 200 metres bronze as well). His parents were Christian missionaries, who had sent their son home to be educated in a school for the children of missionaries in Scotland, and it was here (Eltham College) that it became clear he was a possible sprinting world champion. He also played rugby for Scotland.

In 1925, the year after his triumph, he returned to China as a missionary himself. He came back to Tianjin to begin his career, teaching science (he was an Edinburgh University graduate) to children who, it was hoped, would go on to provide an educated class of leaders for the republican China that was struggling to establish itself. He continued to take part in sports events, obviously remaining a world class competitor. In 1941, when the British were advised by their government to leave China because of the danger from the Japanese, Liddell left Tianjin for a missionary station which served the rural poor.

After a morning spent visiting some of Tianjin’s Lonely Planet attractions, we took a taxi to Liddell’s old house, 38, Chongqing Lu:

 

The plaque that marks this as Liddell’s house calls it an example of ‘modernism’ in architecture:

 

We wondered through the surrounding streets. This was obviously a European area, but the plaques told us that a number of wealthy Chinese had also lived there. It was pleasant enough, but I didn’t find most of the architecture particularly distinguished. Here are a few examples:

 

 

Fans of Jet Li’s martial arts film Fearless might be interested in this photo of a photograph in a Tianjin exhibition centre. It shows the city at the turn of the century, roughly the time of the film’s action:

I think that Fearless gives a caricatured but not necessarily wrong picture of the foreign influence on China.  I’ve read that there’s a film (perhaps two films) in the offing about Liddell’s Chinese years. These will no doubt deal with the missionary thrust into China. I believe that, on the whole, the Christian missionaries represented the best of the imperialist incursion, but it’ll be interesting to see how fairly the film(s) handle (s) the historical context of Liddell’s activities.

Update:

Five years later a Liddell film is still in the offing:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jun/24/chariots-of-fire-sequel-greenlit-in-china-joseph-fiennes-eric-liddell

 

If this article is correct and it fails to bring out the importance of Liddell’s Christianity it will be historically almost worthless. Won’t stop me going to see it though.

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