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12 May 2021, 17:24

Feature: Retracing historical footsteps of Chinese marshal in German town

Photo taken on April 16, 2021 shows an outside view of the former residence of Zhu De, a founding father and the first of the 10 marshals of the People's Republic of China, in Goettingen, Germany.
Photo taken on April 16, 2021 shows an outside view of the former residence of Zhu De, a founding father and the first of the 10 marshals of the People's Republic of China, in Goettingen, Germany.

GOETTINGEN, 12 May (BelTA - Xinhua) - With yellowed paper of a student registry from the 1920s and a former residence inscribed with his name, a university town in central Germany kept the distant memory of a student who later became a founding father of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

Zhu De was 36 when he entered the University of Goettingen in 1923. The university library still keeps a registration paper in his own handwriting, indicating that this native of southwest China's Sichuan Province was studying sociology at the department of philosophy.

Sociology was then a new discipline at the prestigious university founded in the early 18th century. Zhu's choice was vastly different from other Chinese students at Goettingen, and most of whom chose to study medicine, chemistry or other natural sciences.

While most Chinese students were in their early twenties, Zhu came to Goettingen as one of the earliest Chinese communists and an experienced army officer. Born in 1886, he took part in the 1911 Revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in China's history and fought in various wars in the country.

Zhu met Zhou Enlai in Berlin in 1922, and joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) through Zhou's introduction. They both saw the CPC, founded in July 1921, as the only remedy to save the war-torn, poverty-stricken and imperialist-bullied old China. Both were among the major founders of the PRC, also known as New China. Zhou was New China's first premier, while Zhu ranked first among the top 10 marshals of the People's Liberation Army.

"Zhu was not young, and he had spent many years in the military," said Rolf Kohlstedt, a historian at Goettingen City Archive. "He wanted to expand his vision here, in an industrialized Western country."

The city archive keeps Zhu's residence registration paper from the local police, a yellowed document with a photo of the 36-year-old man in suit and tie. It recorded his move from Wilmersdorf, Berlin to Goettingen, his temporary lodging at "Planckstrasse 3" and return to Berlin in December 1924.

At Planckstrasse 3, Zhu lived with a local family. The two-story red-brick house is still intact and has become an essential stop-off point for tourists to this university town with a population of 120,000.

In 1986, a marble plaque was attached to its facade, with inscriptions reading "Zhu De, Marshal of the People's Republic of China, 1923-1924," in commemoration of his 100th birthday.

In addition to his study, Zhu devoted himself to the work of the CPC. As head of the Chinese students' association in Goettingen, Zhu actively promoted communist ideas and prospect of New China among students who were eager to know more about their home country.

Historical documents, including memoirs of Zhu's friends and co-workers, show that he gained important insights in military strategies and publicity skills, said Dagmar Yu-Dembski, a specialist on China studies and honorary president of the Confucius Institute at Free University of Berlin.

The city archive still keeps an application filed by Zhu and other Chinese student leaders to the local police department for a demonstration, with an attached flyer entitled "what's going on in China." It condemned a massacre of students and workers in Shanghai on May 30, 1925, demanded changes to the miserable living conditions of the working class and solicited international support for China's fight against imperialism and colonialism.

Zhu was arrested twice for his involvement in revolutionary activities before he was expelled from Germany. He later studied military affairs in the former Soviet Union and returned to China in 1926.

His activities in Goettingen, however, are still remembered almost a century later. "His name is often heard, and we are all proud to tell others that we are alumni of the same university as Zhu De," said Wang Jiawen, president of the Chinese students and scholars association in Goettingen.

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