On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Habsburg throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.
Doubting the Serbian alleged involvement, on July 28 Vienna declared a war on Serbia, which led to an international war dragging in the powers in the world. In Europe, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Empire) faced the Entente Powers (Britain, France, and Russia).
At that time the Imperial Japan had an alliance with the Great Britain. The Shandong Peninsula in eastern China – to the near east of Japan – was a colony of the German Empire, with Qingdao being its naval base of importance.
Based on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, Tokyo attacked the naval port from October to November in 1914, which resulted in the German defeat and transfer of 4,700 POWs to Japan. Though at first temporary camps such as temples interned the German and Austrian soldiers, the prolonged war urged the government to build decent camps across the nation in 1915 to guarantee an appropriate treatment of them.
One of such camps was in Aonogahara (currently in Kasai, Hyogo Pref.), which was intended to accept the approximately 500 POWs formerly in Himeji and Fukuoka. The mission of Aonogahara camp was to intern the soldiers of the Habsburg Monarchy, a country with eleven languages like German, Hungarian, Czech: suddenly a multilingual small world emerged in the countryside of Japan.
Then an unexpected drama folded. A letter from the family of a soldier killed in Qingdao arrived, asking the administration of the camp to let them know his last moments.
One of the POWs wrote a reply describing the details, and research revealed that from then on a correspondence started, leading to the marriage of the sister of the late soldier and the POW who answered the letter; their family still live in Austria. The finding encouraged us to organise the ongoing project, i.e., we will hold a special exhibition in their Vaterland, with the collaboration of the Lower Austria Museum and Kasai City, from November 2019 – the centenary of their return – to February 2020.
You will hear the pieces of music played in the camp in a series of concerts. 100 years after the historical event, we hope our project further promote the bands between the two regions.