The Newspaper and the War

For the prisoners in Bando, their direct participation in the War had ended on the 7th of November 1914, three months and seven days after it started, but for the rest of the war, and on into 1919 they felt involved in the war and its consequences. As a result, many articles in the newspaper reflect this concern, and help us to understand its impact on the prisoners, and the way that they responded to events and developments. Most of all, the prisoners hoped for a successful outcome for Germany, which would result in their liberation, and possibly even, in some cases, a return to Tsingtao. Not all the articles selected here are directly related to the War, but they help to convey the spirit of the times.

In the very first edition of the newspaper there is an article taken from a British newspaper about how the German army in France was now employing defence in depth. This reminds us that a significant time had already elapsed before the prisoners came to Bando. Indeed, the prisoners from Tokushima arrived on the day that the USA declared war on Germany – the 6th of April 1917. Germany had already resumed unrestricted submarine warfare at the start of February. It is also instructive that the prisoners had access to English-language news reports – indeed there was a daily service provided in the camp – the TTD (daily telegram service), which was based on reports by British, American and Japanese agencies. Together with newspapers from Germany, the prisoners thus had a wide range of material to draw on. Although this was the case, they still felt the need for a reliable, informed and sympathetic interpretation of events. This was provided by Rudolf Mahnfeldt who had been a lawyer in Shanghai before the War. His first article in the newspaper concerned a case of apparent injustice there 1. His next article 2 was an amusing account of how the German community had developed a patois as a result of living in a treaty port where English was the norm. It conveys the hedonistic pre-war lifestyle among the expat community there. While he was there, he held a post of responsibility in the German Riding Club3. In June 1912 the Royal Asiatic Society held an exhibition of 125 Chinese paintings from his collection 4. In 1914, following the call of duty, he travelled to Tsingtao and started his military career as a private, quickly being promoted to the rank of NCO. At that time he was thirty-six years old.

Mahnfeldt was an editor throughout the life of the newspaper. In addition to his role as a music critic, his detailed accounts of the war and its consequences started with a review of events in October 1917 and continued until December 1918. The following list includes these accounts and other articles by him relating to the War:

In January 1919 Mahnfeldt’s account of Germany’s defeat in the overview for November resulted in the publication of a rejection5 by Hans Jensen, followed immediately by a rejoinder6. This in turn was followed by the Open Letter by Carl Vissering6. Mahnfeldt published two further articles on political topics before the camp closed down8,9. It is not clear what he did after the War, but he died in the Paulein Hospital in Shanghai on the 25th of March 1923 aged 4510.

First Lieutenant Robert Martin was a professional soldier aged 25 at the outbreak of the War. He was also an editor of the newspaper throughout its existence, but he did not make regular contributions to the newspaper in the same way as Mahnfeldt did from October 1917 onwards. His articles generally reflected his interest in military matters and events in the camp, only occasionally venturing into more general topics:

Martin also reviewed several performances in the camp. After the end of the war he returned to Germany and subsequently became a legal adviser.

Friedrich Solger, who was also an editor of the newspaper, was thirty-six when the war broke out. At that time he was a professor of geology in the University of Peking and a lieutenant in the reserve. In the newspaper he wrote extensively about geology and astronomy, but also about life in the camp and about the War:

Solger also wrote reviews of performances in the camp. He returned to Germany and became a professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Hermann Bohner, who was the son of a German missionary and wrote extensively for the newspaper under the pseudonym PSq (Peter Squenz), seldom wrote anything relating to the war, with one article being a slight exception11.

In addition to the articles by the above authors, some other articles in the newspaper relating to the war were unsigned, or written by authors who wrote infrequently, or whose names we could not identify:

Reports on the war, the political situation, and circumstances outside the camp taken from other sources and published in the newspaper give an insight into editorial – and more general - attitudes: