The Belgian Bank manager,
Mr. Pander's story
by Zhang Xiang
Mr. Pander's Story: the Belgian Bank Manager in Tientsin
十七年前，生活在比利时的利奥波德（Leopold Pander Jr.）创办了一个名为“潍县描绘”的网站，是为了收集在山东潍县集中营的往事。2018年网站改版升级，但他不知道“Weihsien”对应的汉字怎么写，利用谷歌翻译得到的是“魏賢”两个字。六个月后，一封来自天津的电子邮件，告知他“潍县”正确的中文写法。他终于有机会给天津朋友讲述他们一家的故事，这是因为利奥波德出生地就是天津。
Seventeen years ago, Leopold Pander Jr., who lives in Belgium, started a website called Weihsien-Paintings to collect memories of Weihsien Concentration Camp in Shantung Province, China. Due to a recent renovation of his website in 2018, he didn't know how to write the Chinese characters for Weihsien, so he got the word “魏賢” ― translated by Google. Six months later, an email from Tientsin (Tianjin) informed him of the correct Chinese ideograms for Weihsien: "濰縣". Leopold took the opportunity of telling to his new friend Xiang Zheng, a story about his family in Tientsin, the city of his birth.
图 1：1945年10月19日从潍县回天津的飞机上（Greg Leck 提供）
Fig 1: Flight back to Tientsin from Weihsien on Oct 19, 1945
(By Courtesy of Greg Leck)
Leopold looked at the photos by courtesy of Greg Leck and recognized his father (Mr. Pander), his mother and himself. The photo was taken on October 19, 1945, when boarding the plane, an American C47 from Weihsien to Tientsin.
1945年，虽然潍县集中营已经被美军解放了2个月，但由于铁路和公路被破坏，潍县机场又无法起降大型飞机，所以只能改用小型飞机运送1400多名被日本人关押的欧美侨民。按照姓氏顺序，到10月19日才轮到潘德尔一家登上飞机。因为在飞机后部的颠簸，利奥波德晕机了。一位美军人员给他一个毛绒小狗安慰他，让他心情好了很多。他拿着照片回忆道（见图 1），“右侧是妈妈，抱着在集中营出生的妹妹坐在前面，我坐在她和爸爸之间，离爸爸稍远一点。爸爸的博尔萨利诺礼帽（Borsalino Hat）就放在他前面的一堆行李上。其他人都好奇地看着窗外，只有爸爸低着头，看上去非常焦虑，若有所思。”利奥波德猜对了！潘德尔先生真有一件极其重要的事情没有做完，那是发生在天津华比银行三年前的事情。
In 1945, the Weihsien Concentration Camp had been liberated by the US military for two months already. The railways and roads that were destroyed during the war had still not been repaired. It is the reason why more than 1,400 European and American who had been detained by the Japanese for over two and a half years had to be transported by planes. Finally, it was not until October 19 that the Pander family got on the plane to return home. Leopold remembers that he was airsick because of a quite bumpy voyage. A kind American military personnel gave him a little stuffed puppy to comfort him. Looking at the photo, he recalled (Fig. 1),
"This was the very last photo of our family in Weihsien. Mom was in the foreground holding our baby sister in her arms. I was sitting next to her and dad a little further, looking very thoughtful with his ’Borsalino’ hat on the pile of luggage just before him.” Leopold guessed right! Mr. Pander was really considering important matters that had not been finished yet. He was anxious because of the problems that lay ahead of him concerning the Belgian Bank.
潘德尔（Leopold Pander Sr.）1897年12月31日生于比利时。一战后来到中国，1924年作为银行职员在北京开启了他的职业生涯。在北京，他结识了后来的妻子克拉芙迪娅（Clavdia）。克拉芙迪娅1906年出生在哈尔滨，她的父母都是在中东铁路工作的俄罗斯人。不到30岁时，潘德尔即被委任为华比银行汉口分行经理。潘德尔对不同文化和习俗有着开放的态度，在银行工作中不仅有出色的专业性和卓越的判断力，而且针对复杂问题经常能够想出折中方案。1936年，潘德尔升任天津分行经理，相当于北方区负责人。1938年，他与克拉芙迪娅在天津结婚。同为比利时人的总会计师佩西奥（Lucien Pétiaux）也随同他从汉口来到天津（见图 2）。潘德尔一家住在天津华比银行二楼，佩西奥一家住在三楼。
Fig 2: Mr. Pander Sr. (L) and Mr. Pétiaux (R) in Hankou in August 1933.
Leopold Pander Sr. was born in Belgium on December 31, 1897. After surviving World War I ― as a voluntary soldier ― he started his career in Beijing as a young banker in 1924. He met his future wife, Clavdia, in Beijing. She was born in Harbin, Northeast China in 1906. Her Russian parents worked for the Chinese Eastern Railroad. At barely 30 years old, Mr. Pander Sr. was appointed manager of the Hankou Belgian Bank. He was very open to all different cultures and customs, and became an excellent expert in the art of compromise and discretion. In 1936, Mr. Pander Sr. was promoted as manager of the Tientsin Branch, the equivalent of the head of the North China Region. In 1938, he married Clavdia in Tientsin. Lucien Pétiaux, a Belgian who was the chief accountant, had come to Tientsin with him from Hankou(Fig 2). The Pander family lived on the first floor of the Belgian Bank in Tientsin, and the Pétiaux family on the second floor.
Fig.3: Mr. Pander’s armband
After the Pearl Harbor attack, in December 1941, the Japanese took over the Tientsin Belgian Bank. In late 1942, the two families, Pander and Pétiaux, were evicted from their apartment in the Bank Building, and the Japanese moved them to another place. Leopold Jr. could not remember where the place was, but definitely it was not as comfortable as the apartment in the Bank Building. From then on, the Japanese forced all "enemy aliens" to wear a red armband with the black sign indicating their nationality. Therefore, Mr. Pander Sr. went out every day with his armband and pass, on which "White"(白, Pronunciation: Bai) stands for "Bai E Er" (Fig 3), an early Japanese translation for Belgium. They were even prohibited to leave the concession during the curfew. All the cars, pianos, rugs, refrigerators, furniture, etc. were requisitioned by the Japanese.
Soon after, bowing to Japanese pressure, Mr. Pétiaux was requisitioned by the Japanese to work for the Tientsin Tramway Co. Mr. Pander Sr. had received the same kind of proposal but he refused to work for the Japanese. Just after New Year in 1943, the Pander family of four were transferred to No. 195 Singapore Road (now Dali Road), where they waited to be "transferred". On a cold day in March 1943, the Pander family, together with many other European and American expatriates, were concentrated in Victoria Park. Subsequently, they went to Tientsin East Railway Station and further on by train to a place called Weihsien in Shantung Province.
On the morning of August 17, 1945, American soldiers parachuted into Weihsien and liberated the Concentration Camp, but four-year-old Leopold remembered the scene as a chronic nightmare.
Weihsien Concentration Camp
Weihsien Concentration Camp in Shantung Province, known as the Courtyard of the Happy Way, an American Presbyterian Compound. It was the largest concentration camp established by the Japanese in Northern China during World War II. From 1943 to 1945, there were about 2,000 Europeans and Americans imprisoned there, half of them British, about 200 Belgians, including the Pander family.
They lived in Camp for two and a half difficult years. Mr. Pétiaux and other friends in Tianjin and Shanghai sometimes sent food to the Pander family. Most of the food parcels were often looted by Japanese guards. In the Camp, "penniless" was no longer a derogatory term because eating enough was the real problem. Although Leopold was only a toddler during those years, his internment affected him in a myriad of ways. Until now, he prefers silence, never leaves a plate of food unfinished.
图 4: 1945年10月19日，潘德尔一家正在登上飞机。（Greg Leck 提供）
Fig 4: The Pander family are boarding a plane on October 19, 1945.
(By Courtesy of Greg Leck)
Finally, on the morning of August 17, 1945, it was a hot and sunny day, the camp was liberated by a US OSS mission parachuted from a B24 plane with the US logo. While the parachutes were slowly descending, the people who had been imprisoned for more than two and a half years, cried, shouted, cheered and jumped. Many ex-prisoners have told their stories on the Weihsien-Paintings' website but Leopold's memory of the Weihsien days are rubbed out. He only remebered(Fig 4), “Weihsien-born baby sister, Mary-Lou, is already on the plane held by a gallant G. I. The two soldiers on the ground are helping my mother to climb into the same plane. Dad with his thick winter coat and ‘Borsalino’ hat -- waiting for his turn -- seems to be laughing. The little boy next to him with the skinny legs: is me!”
Fig 5: The three children in Victoria Garden on October, 1945. From left: Leopold, Mary-Lou and Janette.
(By Courtesy of Leopold Pander Jr.).
The Pander family stayed in the Camp for 873 days. Their eldest daughter, Janette, suffered from anorexia. Leopold suffered from amnesia and a complete blackout of what happened in the previous years. Although the family kept a red parachute used by the Americans as a souvenir, Leopold always repeated the same nightmare, “I saw myself bare footed, almost naked in the middle of a light brown dirty slope, surrounded by big dark grey stones, under a blue sky without clouds and the sun shining bright. People were running all over the place. Collective hysteria. I didn’t understand what was going on. I was completely panicked. Somebody picked me up — that is when I wake up.” However, everybody was lucky to escape from the camp alive. So, when they returned to Tientsin, Mr. Pander Sr. took photos of his three children in Victoria Park at the same place when they left Tientsin for Weihsien (Fig 5).
Leopold was tortured by the nightmare for almost a decade. As time went on, Weihsien and the Concentration Camp were slowly forgotten. Nevertheless, after retirement, the word Weihsien came back to him. He purchased a computer and learned how to use the Internet and began researching his family history in Camp. At first, he chatted pertaining to the Weihsien experience, slowly opening up after finding Father Hanquet, who told him countless stories of the Courtyard of the Happy Way. Not long after he started a website----www.weihsien-paintings.org, an amazing collection of information about Weihsien that became a valuable resource to research the Concentration Camp.
When Leopold left Weihsien Concentration Camp on the back of a lorry, his father told him to have a good last look because he would never see the place again. However, exactly 70 years later, a group of "Concentration Camp Children" returned to the place where they had been imprisoned.
On August 15, 2015, No. 104, Jie Fang Bei Road, Tianjin, two old people from Belgium stared at the building, but their thoughts were back to 70 years ago.
Banque Sino-Belge（Belgian Bank）
Janette was born in Tientsin on October 25, 1938, and Leopold was also born in Tientsin on April 22, 1941. Their younger sister, Marylou was born in Weihsien on July 7, 1944, and died in Brussels in 2000. Janette and Leopold participated in the “70-year” celebrations of liberation by the Americans from the Japanese Concentration Camp of Weihsien. It was thus an opportunity to make a special trip to Tientsin so that they could see where they lived as children.
图 6：原华比银行大楼（利奥波德 提供）。
Fig 6: Former Belgian Bank Building
(By Courtesy of Leopold Pander Jr.).
Standing in front of the familiar building, Janette and Leopold saw that the plaque showed "Former Belgian Consulate". In fact, the building should be regarded as Former Tientsin Belgian Bank, while the "Belgian Consulate" only rented rooms from Belgian Bank in the late 1940s (Fig 6).
1902年，为了发展比利时和中国之间的商务业务，在比利时国王利奥波德二世（King Leopold II）的倡议下，3月5日成立了华比银行（Banque Sino-Belge），总部设在比利时的布鲁塞尔。作为法国比利时兴业银行的子公司，华比银行曾经是在华的最大外资银行之一，也曾经是比利时海外银行系统中最重要的金融机构。华比银行中国总部设在上海的沙逊大厦，在天津、汉口、北京和香港均设有分行。1913年为扩大在东亚的影响力，改名为“比利时远东国际银行”（Banque Belge pour L'Étranger (Extrême Orient) S.A.），但中文名称一致沿用华比银行。
Under the initiative of King Leopold II, Banque Sino-Belge (Belgian Bank), headquartered in Brussels, was established on March 5,1902 for developing business between Belgium and China. As a subsidiary of Société Générale de Belgique, the Belgian Bank was one of the largest foreign banks in China and the most important financial institution in the Belgian overseas banking system. The Belgian Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, had several branches in Tientsin, Hankou, Beijing and Hong Kong. In 1913, to expand its influence in East Asia, it was renamed Banque Belge pour L'Étranger (Extrême Orient) S.A.
Taking advantage of the complete freedom of bearer note issuance in 1902, the Belgian Bank created its own local money, including 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan and 50 Yuan. It also engaged in foreign exchange and arbitration, financed import and export transactions, and provided loans on various guarantees. In 1935, after the China government promulgated the measures for the implementation of the legal money policy, the Belgian Bank immediately withdrew the paper money previously issued. Due to the thorough withdrawing of the paper money, a very small amount of it was left. Today, these rare banknotes are now sought by museums and collectors. After 1949, the bank was authorized as a designated bank dealing in foreign exchange. In 1956, Belgian Bank in mainland China was closed for liquidation. But the Hong Kong branch remained open until it was merged into Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in 2004.
The second branch of the Belgian Bank, Tientsin Branch, was established in 1906 at No. 104, Jie Fang Bei Road, and located in the former British concession. In 1922, the Belgian Bank bought the next building that belonged to former Blow & Co., then demolished it. Gustave Volkaert, a Belgian architect, redesigned a new building: a three-story building with a basement. When Janette saw the building again in 2015, it was same as when she remembered it 70 years ago ---- the stone facade, simple and crisp, the quintessential modernist style architecture. The building survived the 1976 earthquake because of its high construction quality.
1945年10月回到天津时，珍妮特7岁，利奥波德4岁。他们俩都在集中营里学会了说英语，珍妮特也正在学习写她自己的名字。她也能写利奥波德的名字：L-E-O-P-O-L-D。透过华比银行公寓的窗户，他们能够看到利华大楼（Leopold Building），“利奥波德”的字母拼写与利华大楼主人李亚溥（Marcel Leopold）的姓一致。因此，珍妮特很自豪能看到“利奥波德”在那座灰色大楼上闪闪发光。
When the Pander family returned to Tientsin in October 1945, Janette was seven years old and Leopold was four. Both of them had learnt to speak English in the Camp, and Janette was learning to write her name. She could also write Leopold's name: L-E-O-P-O-L-D. Through the windows of the Belgian Bank apartment, they could see the Leopold Building, spelled in the same letters as its owner Marcel Leopold. So she was very proud to be able to see Leopold’s name shining bright on that big grey building.
Like others who returned to Tientsin, the Pander family had to start their lives over again. The first-floor apartment of the Belgian Bank had been occupied by the Japanese for more than two years. Everything had been looted. The family remembers that friends who had stayed in Tientsin throughout the war helped them before they could relocate into their own Belgian Bank apartments. Janette remembers one of her first meals after returning to Tientsin. “Being back in Tientsin wasn’t easy at all, we were helped by French friends who had declared themselves ‘Vichyists’. I had my first real meal at their house: plates, knives, forks, spoons to the right, napkins.” Mr. Pander Sr. continued his job as bank manager. Gradually, they began to decorate their "new house" ---- new furniture, new curtains, new carpets. For Mr. Pander Sr., however, the memory of a thrilling night came back to him.
To Pander and Pétiaux, as well as the Chinese comprador Wei Tsai-Chang, December 8, 1941, was a day they would never forget.
A Thrilling Night
Near seven o 'clock on December 8, 1941, Monday morning, Mr. Pander Sr. and Mr. Pétiaux were awakened by a sharp knock on the door, and when they went downstairs, not yet fully dressed, they saw a line of Japanese soldiers with rifles and bayonets, who announced the takeover of the whole bank building in the name of their Emperor. The Japanese requested them to hand over the vault key and all the spare keys. Leopold said, “After many years, my father told us that he and the other members of the staff had previously agreed that no spare keys existed. They pretexted that it was a peculiarity of the Belgian Bank. The Japanese believed it, put a seal on the vault door, and left the guards out at the entrance.”
Quite rapidly, Mr. Pander Sr. and Mr. Pétiaux were informed regarding the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, and the state of war that existed between Japan and Britain, America and other countries. On December 8, the Japanese military occupied key institutions of Britain, America and other countries in Tientsin, such as administrations, banks, tramways, etc. Although Belgium was occupied by Germany at that time, the Belgian government-in-exile in London was a firm opponent of Japan and Germany, so the Belgian Bank bore the brunt of the Japanese takeover.
The vaults in the basement of the Belgian Bank were filled with gold ingots of varying sizes, placed on shelves against concrete walls, some of which belonged to clients. If these gold ingots fell into the hands of the Japanese, there would be no possibility of return, so the clients would lose their possessions.
图 7： 1941年地址簿上的华比银行信息。包括了潘德尔、佩西奥以及魏采章的名字。
Fig 7: Belgian Bank information in a directory of 1941, including the names of Pander, Pétiaux and Wei.
After a fierce ideological struggle, Mr. Pander Sr., Mr. Pétiaux and Chinese comprador Wei Tsai-chang decided to implement a bold action. Mr. Wei, who was born in Yingkou, Liaoning Province, had extensive business experience and a flexible mind. Unlike other hereditary compradors or foreign partner compradors, Mr. Wei was well educated. After graduating from the Economics Department of Peking University in 1919, he entered the Bank of the Northeastern of China. From 1935 to 1941, he was appointed comprador of Tientsin Belgian Bank. Because Mr. Wei had extensive connections in the Northeast of China, many northeast warlords and politicians kept gold in the Tientsin Belgian Bank. The Belgian Bank item in the directory of 1941 shows the names of all three of them (Fig 7).
Long after the closing time and in the silence of the night, the three men crept down into the basement. Mr. Wei used a special skill to remove the seal pasted by the Japanese. Next, the spare key was used to open the vault door. To avoid making a noise, a strong tarpaulin was spread on the vault’s pavement, and all the gold ingots belonging to the clients were taken out. The action went as fast as possible and in silence. Then, the tarpaulin was dragged out of the vault, and the chamber was closed. Mr. Wei replaced the seal to its previous state. The tarpaulin was painfully hauled to the upper floors and the contents were hidden all over the place in the bank building. Many years later, Mr. Pander Sr. told his children that most of the gold ingots were hidden in the toilet's flush tank.
All was not over yet.
The great deal of gold ingots couldn’t stay in the bank's apartments, or they would be discovered by the Japanese sooner or later. So, they discreetly informed the gold’s owners. When being told, the owners did not believe their ears, considering their gold to have been lost and already in the hands of the Japanese. Before long, slowly and surely, each client recovered their due. Given the exceptional situation at that time, neither party required a confirmation receipt, or the Japanese would seize it, but both the bank and the clients understood the importance of integrity.
Three years later, in October 1945, the Belgian Bank reopened after the war. What Mr. Pander Sr. worried about was whether the clients would confirm their reception of their gold three years ago. As a mere verbal statement was no guarantee, perhaps the clients could come back and ask for what belonged to them? That was why Mr. Pander Sr. was "looking very thoughtful" on the plane. But his fear was unnecessary, each of the Chinese clients gave his word of honour to confirm that they had received the contents. Three years later, none failed … Mr. Pander Sr and his colleagues had succeeded!
二战结束后，由于佩西奥曾为日本人工作，因此难以回到欧洲，只能像德、意、日等轴心国人员那样，远赴南美洲。他先后在乌拉圭和阿根廷工作，最后在巴西的意比银行（Banque Italo Belge），结束了他的职业生涯，1969年在圣保罗过世，享年64岁。魏采章又回到华比银行工作，直到50年代后调任中国银行，1973年过世，享年79岁。潘德尔回到天津后不久，即调任上海华比银行经理，1946年5月他们一家离开天津，利奥波德却抱怨父母没有带上他的毛绒小狗。1949年，潘德尔再转任香港华比银行经理。1952年5月，潘德尔回到比利时继续在银行工作。退休后，银行也为潘德尔保留了一间办公室，作为私人银行顾问，他一直工作到生命的最后时刻。
After World War II, it was difficult for Mr. Pétiaux to return to Europe because he had worked for the Japanese. He went to South America. He worked in Uruguay and Argentina before ending his career at the Banque Italo Belge in Brazil, passing away in Sao Paulo in 1969 at the age of 64. Mr. Wei returned to the Belgian Bank until he was transferred to the Bank of China in the 1950s, and passed away in 1973 at the age of 79. Soon after he returned to Tientsin, Mr. Pander Sr. was promoted to be the manager of the Belgian Bank in Shanghai, so the Pander family left Tientsin in May 1946. However, Leopold kept complaining that his parents had forgotten to bring his little stuffed puppy. In 1949, Mr. Pander was appointed manager of the Hong Kong Belgian Bank. He returned to Belgium in May 1952. Back in Belgium, Mr. Pander Sr. resumed his job as Bank Manager. When retired, he kept an office as Private Banker and worked till almost the last days of his life.
Leopold remembered that his mother used to tell them before leaving the Camp, and more often towards the end of her life. "A Japanese guard told her, face to face, that it was true that the Japanese had lost the war, but ... that they would come back again. And he said that when that time came … that they would catch all of us and put us into prison and that they would take all our possessions and that they would kill us!" Returning to Belgium, Mr. Pander always refused to work or make business with or for the Japanese. He died in Brussels in 1977 at the age of 80. During his lifetime, his family hoped that he would write a memoir of his personal experiences in China, but He refused to do so, pretexting that he knew too many secrets.
Fig 8: The five Pander family badges in Weihsien Concentration Camp