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Polish Reporter Who Died in Anti-Japanese War Remembered

A white marble statue of Hans Shppe stands in a martyrs' cemetery in Yimeng Mountains of east China's Shandong Province, where he died in 1941. 

With a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other, the three-meter tall statue of the European in Chinese soldier's uniform stares into the future.


Born in Poland, Shppe was a journalist and the first European to join the Chinese Eighth Route Army. He died as a soldier on the battlefield whilst helping the Chinese fight Japanese invaders.


Hans Shppe was his English name. He was named Crzyb at birth in Poland and was renamed Muller in Germany, where he attended university and joined the German Communist Party.


He was widely known in China as "Xi Bo," a name given by Shen Qizhen, a top health official with the New Fourth Army. The two characters in transliteration to his family name mean "hope" and "eldest son" respectively.


Shppe arrived in Shanghai in 1925 and followed what was then called National Revolution Army to Guangzhou the next year, where he edited an English periodical about China.


In 1932, Shppe again returned to Shanghai with his wife to set up an international Marxism-Leninism study group, whose members included American writer Agnes Smedley, Dr. George Hatem and New Zealand writer Rewi Alley.


By then, Shppe had found worldwide fame as an anti-fascist political commentator by writing essays on China and Far East issues for newspapers and magazines in many countries, including Pacific Affairs, in the United States, the Asian Magazine and the German World Stage.


In order to give the people of the world a vivid and objective account of what was going on in China, Shppe went to the outlying revolutionary base of Yan'an in 1938 and was able to meet Mao Zedong.


In 1939, Shppe went to Yunling of Jingxian County in Anhui Province, where the New Fourth Army was based. It was here that he met Zhou Enlai, Ye Ting, Liu Shaoqi and Chen Yi. He also wrote an 80,000-character book on how the Eighth Route Army was united with the New Fourth Army in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.


In 1941, Shppe went to today's Linyi in the Yimeng Mountains to delve deeper into the war, despite warnings from his Chinese friends.


"I have to go even if it's dangerous, because no foreign reporter has ever been there," he said in response to a Chinese army officer's disapproval.


He said his presence in the outlying mountainous area convinced the local soldiers and villagers they were not alone. The fact that a European communist was fighting side by side with them made them more confident.


Shppe felt at home in Linyi, and once said he was overwhelmed by the local people's smiles, greetings and handshakes wherever he went.


"It is as if I were a super star," he told Gu Mu, then secretary-general of the Shandong provincial branch of the Chinese Communist Party.


He promised the locals he would report to the world his real-life experience in Shandong, and he lived up to his words.


He was often seen carrying a satchel containing maps, a telescope, an enamel cup and towels, traveling from one army unit to the next. He chatted with officials, army officers, ordinary soldiers as well as villagers and Japanese prisoners of war, and wrote lengthy news reports about the Eighth Route Army in Shandong.


In one article Shppe wrote, "I, an anti-fascist pressman, am traveling freely in this region 'occupied' by the Japanese, and I have met thousands upon thousands of armed anti-Japanese fighters.


"Everywhere in this region I saw damaged helmets and the broken armor of the 'imperial army' and tattered Japanese flags. It is unimaginable to many foreigners that I have personally experienced all this. If people do not believe this, they will be astonished when the Chinese people fully recover their lost land."


In November 1941, on the eve of the Japanese troops' 'mopping up operations,' his Chinese colleagues insisted that Shppe should leave the area with his wife for Shanghai for safety considerations.


But Shppe chose to stay. "A journalist is never afraid of guns or bullets," he said.


On the evening of November 29, when Shppe was among some 3,000 people moving to the Daqingshan Mountains, they encountered a 5,000-strong Japanese force.


After his Chinese interpreter and several soldiers died while trying to protect him, Shppe took up a gun himself and killed several Japanese before he himself was killed.


He was 44 and had spent a mere 78 days in Shandong.


Marshals Xu Xiangqian and Nie Rongzhen wrote inscriptions for Shppe, which read "Great internationalist fighter, Comrade Shppe lives forever in the hearts of the Chinese people."


"Hans Shppe, just like volunteer Canadian doctor Norman Bethune who helped China fight the Japanese, should go down in history," said Cui Weizhi, an official in the city of Linyi.


"The Chinese must never forget them for what they did for the Chinese revolution."


He said China should establish a dedicated research institution to study Hans Shppe and make him more widely known among the younger generation.


(China Daily July 22, 2005)

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