Podcast with Peter Harmsen, author of “Bernhard Sindberg: The Schindler of Nanjing”

Peter Harmsen Peter Harmsen

In December 1937, Bernhard Sindberg arrives at a cement factory outside of Nanjing. He’s one of just two foreigners, and he gets there just weeks before the Japanese invade and commit the now infamous atrocities in the Chinese city.



Bernhard Sindberg: The Schindler of Nanjing, Peter Harmsen (Casemate , January 2024)
Bernhard Sindberg: The Schindler of Nanjing, Peter Harmsen (Casemate , January 2024)

As the writer Peter Harmsen notes, Bernhard’s background isn’t particularly compelling: He’s bounced from job to job, and is known for butting heads with his colleagues and superiors. But as Harmsen explains in his book Bernhard Sindberg: The Schindler of Nanjing, the Danish man ends up doing something extraordinary: Setting up a refugee camp and using every ounce of political capital and sheer bullheadedness to protect tens of thousands of Chinese trying to escape the fighting.

In this interview, Peter and I talk about Bernhard, his less-than-illustrious path to China, and what his deeds in Nanjing tell us about the nature of heroism.
Peter Harmsen is the author of Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze (Casemate, 2015) and Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City (Casemate, 2015), as well as the War in the Far East trilogy. He studied history at National Taiwan University and has been a foreign correspondent in East Asia for more than two decades.

Nicholas Gordon has an MPhil from Oxford in International Relations and a BA from Harvard. He is a writer, editor and occasional radio host based in Hong Kong.