“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Werner Otto Von Hentig, Peking and the Afghan Mission of 1915

Posted: May 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

An interesting small footnote to World War One with a China link. Werner Otto von Hentig has long interested me a bit. Born in Berlin in 1886, von Hentig was a German diplomat who became a critic of the Nazis and who, though he served in the Third Reich, intervened to save Jews, and was instrumental in arranging for thousands of Jews to be transferred to from Germany to Palestine during the 1930s. Back in 1909 he had been assigned to the German Embassy (Legation) in Peking and was in the city for the 1911 revolution. He was wounded in WW1 and then appointed a leader to the German Mission to Kabul in 1915, a collective of Indian, German and Ottoman military and diplomatic personnel sent to Kabul to try to convince Emir Habibullah of Afghanistan to join the Central Powers and rise up in a Jihad against the British in India thereby distracting troops from the European front and the Dardanelles.


Ultimately they failed to convince the Emir (who rather cleverly took bribes from the Germans and the British and then supported neither).  The Indian nationalists remained to set up a Provisional Indian Government in exile which was disbanded in 1918. Von Hentig’s journey out of Kabul was eventual and a mad dash across Turkestan (Xinjiang is you must) and the Gobi eventually to Shanghai where he managed to get on a boat to America. The Americans then repatriated him back to Berlin with a failed mission but a hell of a dinner party story.

His memoirs of this time are, I think, pretty interesting – Von Kabul nach Shanghai – but only in German as far as I know and my schoolboy German is simply not up to it I’m afraid. If any Germans out there would care to read it and tell me any interesting thoughts von Hentig had on Peking and Shanghai I’d love to know….


Left to right – Kâzım Orbay, Werner von Hentig, Walter Röhr, Mahendra Pratap, Kurt Wagner, Oskar Niedermayer, Günther Voigt and Maulavi Barkatullah


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One Comment on “Werner Otto Von Hentig, Peking and the Afghan Mission of 1915”

  1. 1 Walizada M.Yar said at 6:04 pm on June 27th, 2020:

    Dear all, Hi!
    I need this book, asking you kindly to send me a copy through my e-mail. thank you in advance for your kind help. thanks

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