Bernick, Hermann (1876 – 1939), Tiefbauunternehmer

Hermann Bernick was born 21.09.1876 in Dahlenwarsleben near Magdeburg and died 11.10.1939.

From his training he was a gardener. After having finished his training, he decided to emigrate to Australia, in order to try to make his luck there. By chance he saw an advertisement of the German navy, announcing, that on the troup transporter, bringing soldierts to Qingdao, there were still places free for persons, interested to get a free ride to East Asia. Bernick, who did not have much money, decided to make use of that chance. He was accepted and by this way he arrived in Qingdao in summer 1898. He got a job as assistant to the building architect (Regierungsbaumeister) Magens, who was the representative here of a German industrial syndicate. By order of the Qingdao government Magens built diverse elements of the necessary infrastructure: streets, canalisation, the Iltis barracks, he also started the long dam around the future Great Harbour. But later he gave that work to the firm F.H.Schmidt. Magens employed hundreds of Chinese workers and Bernick had the task to supervise their work and to pay their salaries, the latter was a complicated procedure because of the many coins (cash) the single worker received at the end of each day! The industrial syndicate competed with other German firms to build the railway from Qingdao to Jinan or to establish coal mines. Each group sent an “expert”, who had to tour the Shandong countryside from Qingdao to Jinan. Mr. Magens’ industrial syndicate sent a mining assessor Mr. Krause, and Bernick had to accompany him on a 3 months tour from April 1 st 1899 until June (on foot or horse or mule cart) through Shandong to Jinan and also to Kaifeng in Henan. In June 1899 Bernick was back in Qingdao. Magens fell ill and had to return to Germany, many works he had started were continued by the German firm F.H.Schmidt. Bernick therefore created his own underground building firm (Tiefbaufirma) and the chief of the government building department, Mr. Gromsch, gave Bernick several working orders, e.g. to pave the streets with asphalt and to establish a stone quarry in the near hills. Bernick realized, that he himself had too little technical engineering knowledge. He therefore engaged from Germany coworkers, among them Karl Poetter, who had some kind of training as engineer. Poetter arrived in 1900 and he became co-proprietor in Bernick’s fim, so it called itself now “H. Bernick & Poetter”. Bernick was the general manager und Poetter took charge of the engineering tasks. In 1902 Hermann’s younger brother Gustav Bernick also came to Qingdao and worked as assistant in the company. But in 1904 or1905 he apparently went to another town in China and only 1907 he was called back by his brother, to represent the Bernick family interests there while Hermann was in Vladivostok.

In the spring of 1906 Hermann Bernick went on furlough to Germany, here he met Miss Anne Muxfeldt and he became engaged to her. They decided to marry next year. (Anne was born 10.08.1884) Back in Qingdao, Bernick started to build his own house, which was done between Fushan Road and Chi Hsia Road. The design of the house was probably made by Poetter. (A photo is in Warner’s book on the German architecture.) In January 1907 Miss Muxfeldt left Germany by boat and arrived in Shanghai in the beginning of March. Bernick had come to Shanghai and the marriage took place there on March 9 th 1907. When the couple arrived in Qingdao, it moved into the new house in Chi Hsia Road. But it did not stay there for long. Bernick had started in 1906 to create a branch of their firm in Vladivostok, by establishing in Sidimi a factory to produce lime-sandstones for building purposes. But there were problems and difficulties, so Bernick and his wife after a few months had to go to Vladivostok to overcome the crisis there. Hermann called his younger brother Gustav Bernick back to Qingdao, he had to take care of the interests of the Bernick family there. During that time the relations between Bernick and Poetter became more and more critical. Poetter made too many risky financial investments and he had severe losses. In order to discuss with Poetter the future plans, Mr. and Mrs. Bernick returned to Qingdao end of November 1908. It was decided, that Bernick and Poetter part. Poetter stayed in Qingdao, but his firm continued to have the name: “H.Bernick & Poetter”, although he was now the sole proprietor! The Bernick couple sold its house in Chi Hsia Road and left Qingdao for good in March 1909 and lived in Vladivostok until the First World War started. Hermann Bernick was interned by the Russians and brought to a camp in Bagalansk in Central Siberia. In the beginning of 1915 also his wife and the 3 children were brought to Bagalansk, but later she and the children could travel to Germany via Sweden. Hermann returned to Germany only in 1918 after the end of the war, his wife Anne had already died on 17.03.1918 (there was an influenza epidemy in Europe in that year). He married a second time, Miss Frieda Koester (1884-1967). In 1922 twin boys were born.