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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the first oral history interview of Susan Bartel (CN 57, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the transcriber was not sure of the spelling, particularly of proper names, “[sp?]” was used. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Place names in non-Western alphabets are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, Peking is used instead of Beijing, because that is how the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which could be understood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliterated form which corresponds to it. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber. This transcript was made by Robert Shuster and Kirk Haywood and was completed in April 2007
Collection 57, T2. Interview of Susan Bartel by Larry Clark, November 11, 1978.
CLARK: ...Larry Clark, for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at Mrs. Bartel’s home, in Wheaton, Illinois, on the 18th of November, at 3 pm, 1978. [pauses] Okay, Mrs. Bartel, this is our second session for the mission...missionary interview, and I believe last time we were saying that we wanted to discuss and for you to tell about your experiences when the war looked like it was inevitable. It looked like.... And so would you begin by just telling us how...when you first realized that there was going to be some serious trouble ahead as far as the Japan...with the Japanese?
BARTEL: Uh-huh. Ah, well, at first, when they were not close to us, of course, we would get little political news through newspapers, but afterwards that was cut off, and when they arrived at our station, it came very suddenly...
BARTEL: ...because we didn’t...we didn’t know just...just what was what.
BARTEL: So it was about December 19 in 1941, when a group of soldiers came to the house and told us that we were to leave our home. And...
BARTEL: ...at that time, my husband, still thinking it was peaceful time, he was at Ningling, [possible Ninglingchan in Henan province] at another station, holding meetings...
BARTEL: ...and he wasn’t home. Well, he had gone on his motorcycle (he had traveled quite a little on his motorcycle, unless it would be heavy rain and so on) so, when these soldiers came, I was with the four girls, David wasn’t born yet.
BARTEL: But the younger brother, Jonathan Bartel.... He was single then, just a young...young man, he was with us, and so, we were asked to get ready to leave the house, and...and go. “Well, where are we going?” They say that it doesn’t matter...shouldn’t matter to us we are going to leave the place. And then they sealed the furniture, you know, like the organ.
BARTEL: And Loyal had just recently obtained a radio (we hadn’t had a radio all those years) and they took the bulbs off of the radio, and the sewing machine, they sealed, things that were of...of value. And of course we had nothing to say, we just gave it all into their hands, because they had the authority, which we really didn’t know...
BARTEL: ...that we were under the Japanese authority that much.
CLARK: May I ask what you mean by “sealed”?
BARTEL: “Sealed?” Well, they put their label on, and that means that we will not touch it....
CLARK: I see.
BARTEL: That it doesn’t belong to us anymore.
CLARK: Almost like a confiscating.
BARTEL: Uh-huh, yeah, uh-huh. And then, they took us to the Chinese quarters in the city. We lived in the dangwang, which is the “east suburb.” And then they asked us to follow, with guards, and to go to the city, and so we did. And here in the city was just a Chinese room with mother earth floor, and [chuckles] if we remember correctly, there was a table, but no furniture, no...no chairs to sit on. And, a Chinese....They call it a kong, a bed, made out of clay and brick, and built about as high as this table is.
BARTEL: And it’s made right next to a wall.
BARTEL: And ever-so-many people can sleep on it, you see, and there’s always room for one more.
BARTEL: And straw underneath, and we happened to have our comforters with us.
BARTEL: It was, of course, wintertime, very cold, and no heat, and no...no windows. I mean, there was a little window but had no glass in, you know, just Chinese way that you can...can see a little.
BARTEL: Small, really small one.
BARTEL: And then of course, the door, which would be open all day, and would be closed for the night.
CLARK: Did anyone tell you [pauses] what they were going to be doing with you? I mean, what....
BARTEL: No, oh, no, we were...we seemingly had no business knowing, at this time.
BARTEL: And since it was in December, it was very close to Christmastime.
BARTEL: And the girls didn’t take it too seriously. They made little Christmas gifts out of bamboo, you know, little toys to occupy their time and make each other happy, for each other.
CLARK: Right. Uh-huh.
BARTEL: And those were the only Christmas gifts there were. But we...since we observed Christmas in such an unusual way, the presence of the Lord seemed to be so much more real...
BARTEL: ...because there were no things to distract us, and no Santa, and no glittering decorations on our gifts. So it became a very precious time to us.
BARTEL: But it was also hard to accept in a way, it did remember [sic] us so very much of Christ’s birth, because it was a very humble birth when he came.
BARTEL: And to me personally, I felt it was really humbling to me. Younger people, children, would not fully maybe understand some of the things.
BARTEL: But fortunately, none of them were rebellious, which help...helped us very much.
CLARK: You mentioned that your husband was away when they first came....
BARTEL: Yes. He was at Ningling holding meetings. And....
CLARK: When was the next time that you saw him?
BARTEL: Well, the thing was this, he was taken...he was house arrested at the place where he was, taken to Gwei-do-fu. [sp?] Gwei-do-fu [sp?] was a station where the Episcopalians worked, we had no workers there. But, [pauses] (let’s see now) not only (I think I had it here [papers rustling] it’s somewheres) oh, it was...and some Lutheran workers you know, also were arrested, at that particular time, and they were all together then. So my husband was with Mister...a certain Mr. Olsen [sp?]. He was a missionary to the Lutheran...of the Lutheran mission.
BARTEL: And so they were together there for a while, and my husband requested, by the authorities, if he couldn’t go back, you know, to his home, to us. At that time, of course, you know, no phones and no contact, he didn’t know that we were also arrested...
CLARK: Oh, I see.
BARTEL: ...but when he came then, later on, several days later. Well, in fact, several weeks later, because we were here from December until early spring.
CLARK: Where you and the girls were?
BARTEL: Yes, uh-huh, this particular place. Then, something else that would interest the public most likely, would be the...the food we ate. Our faithful cook from Tsaohsien [present day Romanization is Caoxian] would bring two meals a day over (by walking, of course) and the first meal would be millet porridge for breakfast. Well, we call it breakfast, we always had two meals...the Chinese had two meals a day.
BARTEL: Ours would be millet porridge and Chinese steamed bread and then the next one would be some kind of soup, either vegetables or Chinese noodle soup.
BARTEL: And it seems so clear that when he came.... It was always good to have something...something to eat. But there were no snacks in between, [chuckles] no sweets around. But anyhow, that wasn’t just so very important anyhow. We were ke...like I said, we were kept here ‘til spring, and.... [pauses]
CLARK: Was it the Japanese people who were bringing you your food?
BARTEL: No, that was our...our former cook.
CLARK: I see.
BARTEL: The one that had helped at the home. He was Chinese.
CLARK: So they left you to be pretty self sufficient, even in your imprisonment?
BARTEL: With that, yes, uh-huh. And of course, there’s so many experiences we had really forgotten, to be fully accurate, But of course, one thing we will always remember was the time when we relied on the Lord God much more than...than any time before. Then, the thing of living in suspense, not knowing what’s going to happen next made it a little difficult to accept. My husband was very patient in that line, so he was very helpful that way, even if I maybe was worrying a little more than he.
CLARK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
BARTEL: Had no reason to worry, but it seems only natural when you’re tested.
BARTEL: And then of course after we had been here ‘til spring, then all at once came a happy day, they said “You’re going to go home.”
CLARK: Without any warning?
BARTEL: Yeah. No...no preparation, nothing. We didn’t...we never knew what the next hour, what the next night might bring forth. Said, “You’re going to go home.” And, so we...we went back home, but we were not able to touch some of the things that they had sealed, so we had to be real, real careful. Still knew it was war. We were not mistreated, you know, in any way. And, too, there was one thing that was wonderful. At first, the Christians were not afraid about it, and they came to see us. And at that time we did not have a...a guard day and night, at this place.
BARTEL: So the Christians were kind to us, and we could have prayer together, and could visit together once in a while. Not...not constantly, but once in a while.
CLARK: When you were at this place, before you...they let you go back, was there any opportunity to influence the Chinese in a ministry, you know, as far as telling them about the Lord during this time from Christmas to spring?
BARTEL: No, because, well, of course, they could see and hear our testimony.
CLARK: Right, right.
BARTEL: That would.... I believe the Lord meant it for that. But...and then of course, for His [God’s] glory, that we would get more established, and learn some things that we should later on pass on to someone else...
BARTEL: ...you know.
CLARK: Right, I understand. So, when you did go back, and were allowed to go home, a lot of the Chinese Christians would come, and you all would have prayer and...
BARTEL: Sweet fellowship.
CLARK: ...sweet fellowship together. I see.
BARTEL: Well, that was that one arrest.
CLARK: One arrest, right.
CLARK: And you didn’t know still what was coming up, did you?
BARTEL: No, no we didn’t, the war wasn’t over. But, it seemed there was a calm and a change of officers and control.
BARTEL: The situation had changed a good deal, upwardly.
CLARK: It seemed that way?
BARTEL: Uh-huh. Then when we were...were back home, we had a few years of more...more peaceful times, when things were.... There were services on Sunday, and, you know, more like it used to be.
BARTEL: And it was during that time when...when David was born. We, of course, were always happy for our quartet of girls, but we did wish for a boy, and here we got a little boy. And of course, that was...brought the unbelieving people over, people that never had anything to do with us, they thought that was just so wonderful that we had a son. And.... [laughs]
CLARK: Oh, really?
BARTEL: Yes. And they brought gifts, Mohammedans [Muslims] and some of the unbelieving people that never entered our...our gate would come and admire the thing. [laughs]
CLARK: What was his birthday? Where was this? When was this....
BARTEL: It was in...
CLARK: When was he born?
BARTEL: ...‘44, ‘44, January ‘44, 25th of January.
CLARK: During this time, up to when he was born, did you see...even though you were left to carry on your work as normal, perhaps, did you see the Japanese come and go around or through your city, or were their...was their presence visible?
BARTEL: Yes, oh, yes. They...they let the Chinese know that they had...had control.
CLARK: I see. And, then, another question about this time period, you...you mentioned your inter...your first internment was December ‘41. Before they took you to imprisonment, did you already hear from the outside that the United States had entered the war at Pearl Harbor? Had you already heard the news?
BARTEL: Ah, no, we did not hear the news, but I....that happened after our third arrest, when one of the Christians came to the back yard, and clapped his hand, [claps hands] and was so happy, he was so happy, he said “The war is over, the war is over.” And the Chinese are not emotional, ordinarily.
BARTEL: You know, they are more reserved. They are not like the African type, you know, that jump and dance, and...and sing. Chinese are...are more quiet, in a quiet way. But he was so happy, and we were all so happy, we hadn’t heard yet that the war was over.
CLARK: Had you heard about...that the United States was in the war?
BARTEL: Oh, yes, yes.
CLARK: When did you...when did you hear about...?
BARTEL: You see, that’s when we were taken, after we...after the United States was.... You see, before that, the Japanese were not around, and they never bothered us, but you see, they...
CLARK: I see. So immediately after Pearl Harbor is when they came in, and had you known that the United States was bombed at Pearl Harbor at that...at that first internment?
BARTEL: Not at that particular time, later on.
CLARK: Right, just to...
BARTEL: Yes, later on we heard about it.
CLARK: Well, then, you were leading up to your second internment?
BARTEL: Ah, yes. That was... that was the next year, after that, in...in ‘45.
BARTEL: Yeah. And this time it was in...in summertime. And when...when they came, they were more ferocious, you know, not at all gentle, and said, “The foreigners have to leave.” And we asked “Where...where are we going?” and he said “That’s none of your business, that’s not for you to know.” And “You get ready, and when the [pauses] truck comes, you get...it will take you.” So that of course...there was very little time for preparation.
BARTEL: And thinking that we were a little more settled by now.... Well, the girls so clearly reminded me the other day when we talked about this, said, “Mother, you spread four real big dish towels on...on the bed...”
BARTEL: “...and one for each one of us, and you said, ‘Put your needed underwear...put your needed things in theres, [sic] and take care of it.’” And I had almost forgotten it, but they still remembered that. [chuckles]
CLARK: Everything that you think you would need?
BARTEL: Yeah. There was no time, you know, to...to find suitcases, or to get things ready. But those were just small things, you know. Just [pauses]....
BARTEL: And then [pauses] it was quite a long trip. It was a truck, a coal truck, and we were on top of it, close to the skies. [chuckles] And of course, there were many bumps on...on this trip, and we still didn’t know where we were going. And the...my husband sort of realized the road when we got farther and farther away from home. He said, “That leads to Tsaochunfu.” [current name is Heke, a town about 30 miles north of Ciaoxain] And we had...of course, we had a mission station there. So we hoped that we would go to the Tsaochunfu mission station. But when we arrived there, they didn’t take us to the mission station but they took us to a Japanese military headquarters.
BARTEL: It was a...a prison. Not just headquarters, this was a prison. [pauses] And of course, here, was no furniture, either, and just the bare rooms. [pauses] And we...this...this is the place we had... where the guard watched us day and night, and being summer, it was hot. The door was open, it was a large door, and his lantern lit, would draw the insects. And...and at this particular time, they took my husband much farther away. They didn’t keep him here.
BARTEL: Kept the rest of us.
CLARK: I see.
BARTEL: And then again, we didn’t know where he was. But this was a very serious thing because later on we learned that he had been accu...falsely accused for something, and he was behind bars with two other prison mates of the natives. And they could not exchange a word to each other, and just little filthy food was handed to them through the bars, and it was a very, very serious situation, but the Lord must have known what...what was best. Couldn’t help but think of Paul’s imprisonments, [chuckles] for the Gospel [described in the book of Acts in the New Testament], when you come to times like that, because they’re very anxious times.
BARTEL: And this was for forty days and forty nights. It always struck me that...that Christ...forty days....
CLARK: Testing. [Temptation of Christ, described in the books of Mark, Luke and Matthew in the New Testament]
BARTEL: Yes. And, here, of course, at Tsao Cho Fu, [sp?] at the mission station, that’s where Auntie Lena Gerber remained. She as the only one of all of our coworkers that remained. She was Swiss-born, and I think her passport...the visa had not come, there was something that...the reason for not being able to go...
BARTEL: ...to the [United] States, so she was still at the station. But she didn’t know that we were in prison until she heard it from the outside.
BARTEL: Then of course, we asked the officers for permission to have someone contact her. And then after she knew we were there, she...she sent food over twice a day...
BARTEL: ...like we did get before.
BARTEL: And...but she herself was not allowed to come, while, Miss [Margaret] Epp, in our book [This Mountain is Mine] says that Aunt Lena was able to...to be with us.
BARTEL: Aunt Lena wasn’t...did not have permission. But the...the Catholic nuns got permission to come, and they were just...just wonderful, like angels to us, because of...David was then under a little over a year old [sic]...
BARTEL: ...really small, and he took very sick with a high fever, and we had...had no way to do something for him, and these nuns brought pills and I don’t know what else they brought at that particular time. But when they saw our need, they brought a washbasin and they brought some soap, and...it was some necessities. We didn’t do much talking, because we were observed constantly. Then, I guess, they were not supposed to come anymore, but one time, one of the nuns came, and, of course, they had those long skirts, you know, those white skirts?
CLARK: Oh, right.
BARTEL: And with her upper one, she had plums, and she just threw them on the bed, and then of course she...she escaped immediately, because she knew that was against the regulations.
CLARK: Oh, I see.
BARTEL: Because that was one of our big treats, to get the fruit. [chuckles]
CLARK: I bet.
BARTEL: A big treat. So, then, over here, and of course, time would get more serious right along, and [pauses] I [pauses] well, just wasn’t able to talk about it for a while, without crying, but I think I’ve stronger nerves by now, and I can praise...only praise the Lord, for keeping all of us. Because I was so concerned about the girls, the older ones.
BARTEL: They were in their teens then, and the way things were, because this was a prison, we could hear the scream when prisoners were tortured, and crying, and yelling, and dogs barking, and there was very, very little rest, very little time, you know, to get...get really quiet, and peaceful.
CLARK: There was no time when they attempted any bodily harm to you, at this time?
BARTEL: No, they...they were drunk, I guess, once or twice, and I remember one time, at night, one of them came, and he placed the [pauses] revolver right in front of my face, and he said, [speaking in Chinese] “If you die, does it matter, or not matter?” Well, there wasn’t much time to think. I said, “It doesn’t matter,” then he went to the girls, one after the other, same thing. But since he was drunk, I think, the guards ushered him out quite fast, and no one was hurt.
CLARK: And I am right in thi...these are Japanese guards?
BARTEL: Yes. Oh, yes, these were Japanese. You see, they....
CLARK: Right, Right. That’s what I was thinking the whole time.
BARTEL: I guess they...they were instructed to mistreat the foreigners, because we were their enemies, you know.
BARTEL: Then, of course, some verses that came so...were so helpful, verses that I had memorized before, like the...let’s see. Job 23:10.
BARTEL: Yeah, “He knoweth the way that I take, and after he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” And “Great peace have they that love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” [Psalm 119:165] And, let’s see, “Peace, I give unto you my peace, I leave with you, said the...said the Lord..”
BARTEL: And not the “said the Lord.” This was Jesus...these were Jesus’s words. [pauses] “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27.
CLARK: Right, John 14, that’s right.
BARTEL: Yes, and then of course, others, many, many other Bible verses were very precious and dear to us. Then, just like a miracle, one day.... Of course, you see, we were in there forty days [chuckles], they said we...we should go over to the mission house, no explanation, we should go over to the mission house. So that was quite a walk, but we were just...
CLARK: [sneezes] Excuse me.
BARTEL: ...happy to have a change, and so we did go, and here Aunt Lena was all surprised, it was just...just like a miracle to her, you know, to...to...just to see us. And then, of course, she prepared a meal, and we were sitting at the table. Can’t hardly imagine how it would feel, if you’d been squatting for your meals for...for days and days, and then all at once, be organized and sit at the table, and after the meal, we went to have a little devotions, and she had an organ, and she played, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” And just while she was playing, my husband was in the door.
BARTEL: Yeah. And we just...we just...we could not...couldn’t believe it, you know? So, he had been freed and then so that...they had arranged it so that we could all be together and...with...without any explanation. They...they discovered that he wasn’t guilty, you know. And of course, most likely the authority changed some of their rules. We don’t know, exactly why.
CLARK: Did he know what he was being accused of?
BARTEL: Well, he didn’t say. One thing was, he had used...he had bought a little plat of land when our support was starting to come...not to come anymore. And, so that he thought that there’d be a little income that way, if we were shut off for a very, very long time, and later on they discovered that there was no blame, there’s no reason for blaming him for that.
CLARK: Right, I understand.
BARTEL: And as far as we are concerned, I think it was just because we were Americans.
CLARK: In the intenseness of the war?
BARTEL: Yeah, uh-huh.
CLARK: So how long were you able to stay there at that mission center with the lady?
BARTEL: Oh, with her? Well, then, we were allowed to go back home, go back...go back to Tsaohsien. But only...we were only able to occupy the kitchen and the dining room. The rest was shut off, was locked, we couldn’t use. And...
CLARK: For sleeping in and everything, even for sleeping?
BARTEL: Oh, slept on the floor. That was home, that was not bad anymore.
CLARK: Oh, right.
BARTEL: I slept on the table and whatnot when traveling sometimes. When the inn was...when there was no room in the inn? And put your comforter across the table.
BARTEL: Soldiers all around. [laughs] It’s...I remember so clearly, one time, I had very important dental work to be done, and my husband couldn’t go with me, and so one of the servants was to go with me. And we had such a hard time finding a place for resting at night, and finally, finally found one where I could sleep on the table, and they put a board against the sink, it was a wash sink, a board against the sink, where he could rest. [chuckles]
BARTEL: The Chinese never went...they say [Chinese phrase] “there’s always a way.”
CLARK: How about that. Were you...were you back at home, did the Christians gather together and...?
BARTEL: No, no, they had to be more careful at that time, because the war wasn’t over, the war was not over yet, in Asia. We were...then we were taken once more, but I haven’t made any notes on that, and I was wondering if I could...if we could use that next time.
BARTEL: Would that be all right?
CLARK: Certainly. This will be...because the third time is the last time before the war was over, you mentioned?
BARTEL: Oh, yes.
CLARK: And after the third time, you heard the...the lady come in and said, “The war’s over, the war’s over.”
BARTEL: Yeah, the war’s over.
CLARK: Well, then this would be a good breaking point, and we can arrange for a third session to talk about your last internments, and things after that.