February 10, 1938
Dear Rev. Mother,
I thinks letter I intend to review for you some of the important events occurring in parts of China within the past months. First I shall take up the interesting topic of our own city.
Before I begin, I must tell you that I dare to write this only because the letter is being mailed from Hong Kong without passing the Japanese censorship. When you answer it please make no references to any important items in this letter.
After the fifteen thousand Japanese residents evacuated fro Tsingtao in late August, everything was comparatively quiet here. It is true, thousands of people were constantly coming and going in an attempt to find a place of safety. All boats and trains entering and leaving Tsingtao were crowded to their capacity. The majority of these people knew not where to go. They just fled. Reports say that eighty percent of the half million population of our city here evacuated.
From September 1 to December 1 many and various were the rumors. No one knew just what could happen. Chinese troops numbering from forty to sixty thousand came very near to the city, in fact, they entered within the line which was, according to the Washington Treaty of 1922, to remain demilitarized.
No doubt, the Japanese were closely watching the situation. In fact scouting planes were sent over the city at various times. Since no one knew whether or not these planes intended to drop bombs, the buzz of them caused the alarms to be sounded which sent all people scooting from the streets until the city appeared deserted. Other than this, life went on quite as usual excepting that many shops were closed.
Many times it was reported that the Chinese would not surrender this city undestroyed. It was said that particularly the Japanese property would be destroyed. And this would mean no small thing, for practically all the cotton mills and factories located in the suburbs of Tsingtao were Japanese owned. The value of these industries was a least five hundred million dollars.
A discovery was made in one of the factories which showed that the entire place was mined with explosives. However, this brought no Japanese back to Tsingtao.
Early in December rumors arose more and more to the effect that this property would be destroyed and that our government officials would leave. Questions of evacuating became more urgent for those who possibly could leave. Most people felt that if the mills were once destroyed, the Japanese would enter the city and results would be disastrous. But strange to say, such was not the case.
It was the afternoon of Saturday, December 18, when a phone call came in with the request that refugees wished to come to our school for the speaker said that the mills would be destroyed that night. She further said that foreign consuls were advising people not to fear.
I answered that I knew nothing of the exact time of the dynamiting of the mills, but that if these people were very much afraid they may come. From that hour on people literally poured into our school. To these Chinese people our school with its American flag waving over it appeared as a haven of safety.
Promptly at eight o’clock that night the first explosion occurred. We went to the roof where we could see the flames rising high into the air. One explosion followed another until the who northeastern sky was lit up.
Occurrences of this nature were frequent during the next weeks, but no Japanese excepting scouting planes appeared. The destroyed property including the millions and millions of dollars worth of industrial property which I mentioned above, besides the new dry dock worth many millions, godowns, shops, temples, breweries, and homes. But all Japanese schools were spared by the Chinese. A man had been sent out from the central government, then functioning in Nanking, for the purpose of supervising the work of destruction. In fact our own Mayor was unwilling to carry out the orders of Nanking in regard to destroying Japanese property. Rumors say that ten times Mayor Shen had been ordered to carry out the work but he hesitated to do so.
Then the man came. His plans included the destruction of our beautiful streets and whatnot. But shortly after he began the work he was injured in a fall from a horse and was recalled. While traveling from the city in an automobile, he was killed. Thus much of the work of devastation ended.
During this time train service was suspended and railway bridges were blown up. The harbor was blocked and boat service ended.
A few days before Christmas martial law was declared. During this time very much looting of Japanese property was being done. It was begun by Chinese police and others followed the example. Shops were broken into and practically emptied of their contents.
Then it was decided that the looters should be punished. However, this decision was not made until the policemen had all they wanted. Reports of gunshots became common. A person wisely stayed off the streets in order to avoid stray bullets A number of looters were shot daily. Their bodies were left to lie in the streets where they fell in order to inspire fear into others.
The suddenly our police force disappeared to unknown whereabouts. Mayor Shen and the last of the government officials took their departure in automobiles disguised by being plastered with clay and much.
All intelligent people realized the seriousness of the situation. The foreigners kenw something must be done, consequently they began at once to organize a temporary policing system with Mr. Antoshowitz, the German police adviser under the Chinese Government, at the head. A community of foreigners helped in the management of affairs. Several hundred foreign volunteers, especially Germans and Russians, did the policing and everyone was very grateful for the good work they did.
For reasons not definitely known the American and British sailors did no policing. The British did send marines to protect British property in the suburbs. Of course this whole question involved a very serious matter and it was for the Consuls of Great Britain and the United States together with naval officers to decide whether or not the marines were to come on land for patrol work.
Nine days passed under this regime. Tension was at its height. Everyone was waiting for the day when the Japanese would arrive and wreak their vengeance on this place. A delegation had been sent to the Japanese boats in the neighborhood of Tsingtao to assure them that no Chinese soldiers were in the city.
It was six-thirty on the morning of January tenth. The buzz of planes loaded with bombs roared over us. One group of ten caused great consternation.
Soon leaflets were seen falling. These leaflets advised all surrendering Chinese to hoist a white flag and all foreigners to evacuate to a certain safety zone near the sea.
It can be well imagined what the scenes in the various foreign homes were. It is true, in many homes only the father remained, for the women and children had already evacuated to their native lands or to some other part of the Orient. At any rate each home witnessed a scramble for a blanket and pillow besides a little food.
Call after call came to us from Chinese asking whether or not we were leaving and my only answer was, “No.” Shortly after the planes appeared we all decided to remain here with the Chinese. Two things we trusted in: First the protection of God, and Secondly, that the Japanese had learned a little respect for the American flag after they received the blunt reply from the USA for their apologies for the sinking of the Panay.
The various foreign consuls did not want and send their subjects out to this zone until they were somewhat more convinced that a battle was to ensue. As soon as the Japanese were convinced that no military people were in the city, they dropped no bombs within the city. However, a village, located a short distance away, was bombed.
The day wore on. We continued teaching the private groups of students who had come in spite of everything. Then a call came stating that the foreigners were not to evacuate. Shortly after this, a friend of ours, Mr Keefe, the manager of the Texas Oil Company, who was during these days serving on the committee of affairs, came in and said: “At four o’clock this afternoon we are to meet the Japanese at the municipal building and officially turn over to them the government of the city. No fighting will be done, no need for fear. The Japanese flag will be hoisted at four o’clock. If you need any help, call me, Sister.”
“What a paradox,” thought I, “foreigners handing over a Chinese city on Chinese soil to the Japanese.” But such was the case. However, a happy thought was that no political change could stop our work in the furthering of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. In fact, the above news was brought to me while I was instructing one of our converts to be baptized at Easter time. I stopped teaching long enough to listen to the news, told the Sisters, and then went back to teach.
At four o’clock some of us went to the roof to see the Japanese flag on the government building. This is the fourth flag to wave from this building since the establishment of the city by the Germans.
In order that I do not express my feelings concerning this change of flags, I shall pass on to the days which followed. My love for China and its people tells me that patient endurance and prayer will do more good for China’s emancipation than all arguments on right or wrong.
I do not mention that it was the Japanese navy that took possession of the city. Marines armed to the teeth policed the streets. Usually two stood directly in front of our school and several more, sometimes four, were at the corner three hundred feet away. Many Chinese people who ventured out carried white flags or small Japanese flags. Automobiles owned by nationals of various countries had flags placed in the most conspicuous places. The city lived at the point of daggers and guns. Certainly every one behaved well.
Customs, post office, railway and all government institutions were at once occupied by the Japanese. Shortly after the navy took possession of the city, the army arrived. Then followed a scramble for buildings which might serve as housing quarters for the army and navy.
All public buildings including schools, temples, and market buildings were taken. Chinese owned homes and apartment houses were not spared. Very many families whose daughters were in our school lost their homes. These were especially the homes of men engaged in government work under the Chinese regime. The houses were visited and labeled by the Japanese and then occupied.
Of all places the school buildings are being ruined the most. Desks and library books are used for fuel. At the Shantung University in Tsingtao even laboratory equipment was included in the heap of library books and furniture which was seen lying outside the beautiful new science building. However, I did hear that this destruction of books also took place in the private homes. There is no question concerning who has the power in Tsingtao today.
There yet remains the question of refugees. Before the Japanese occupation the International Relief Association fed three thousand daily. Many of these refugees had fled before the Japanese troops and had come all the way from the district between Peiping and Tientsin. After the Japanese occupation many of these were transported to Tientsin in order that they might return to their homes.
At the time of the burning of the mills, thousands in the suburbs where the mills were located either fled to the mountains, to the city or took refuge with the British American Tobacco Company. There five thousand gathered and sought shelter within the factory buildings. There they were fed and protected for some time until the situation eased a little.
And now to come down to the present situation. The train from here to Tsinan made its first trip since December a few days ago. Boats are again running although they cannot come way up into the harbor. Mail service is quite normal while telegraph communication is rather slow.
The officials in the new government are all Chinese. The mayor is an old man who was formerly a mayor of Tsingtao. Of course everything is under Japanese dictatorship. No move is made without their approval.
Plans are now being made for the opening of part of the Chinese elementary schools. The difficult task is to get the soldiers to evacuate the buildings. I forgot to mention above that had we not been here occupying our building, it is quite certain that it would have been taken by the marines or soldiers. They certainly would not have passed up this building. I can well imagine that would have happened to our equipment. Thank God we were here. Up to the present our school is the only middle school opening. The date set for opening of school is March 1. Neither the government nor the other missionary schools are offering the students any opportunities for study. In spite of this I do not think we will have a very large enrollment for so many of the people have evacuated.
I think the above sufficiently covers the important events of the past few months. There are still other items to be written. These items include those things which occur in all wars at places where troops are stationed. Nevertheless, I think your radios reported the terrible conditions prevalent in Nanking after Japanese occupation.
When I began this letter I intended to include some news of other places, however, my letter is already rather long, therefore I shall close. I am
Sister M. Eustella, O.S.F.