Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Japan out to distort history

By James C. Hsiung (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-14 07:40

Shinzo Abe continues to disown the country's dark past by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and doctoring textbooks

In the ongoing Sino-Japanese conflict, we have again heard people asking Japan to atone for its war crimes. Many years ago, one such plea came from John Rabe, a German who witnessed the 1937 Rape of Nanking (Nanjing) but later declined to testify at the Allied Tokyo Trials, saying that, "judgment must be spoken only by (the Japanese) own nation." Rabe's plea is touching, almost noble. But the Japanese nation (led by a succession of postwar prime ministers) is not the same as the German nation.

After the end of World War II, the Germans (and their government leaders) have shown genuine remorse and repentance. This can be seen from their aggregate payment of more than $90 billion as compensation to Holocaust victims and their survivors to atone for the Germans' collective guilt. More evidence is the open teaching and discussion in schools of the history of Nazi Germany's war crimes.

In contrast, Japan has at best been ambivalent about its guilt and responsibilities for its war crimes. Rightist politicians like Shintaro Ishihara, former governor of Tokyo, have stubbornly insisted that the Nanjing Massacre - in which over 300,000 Chinese (more than the atomic-bomb casualties of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined) were slaughtered by the Japanese invaders in two weeks in late 1937- never happened and that it was made up by the Chinese.

Far from shirking its responsibility, Germans have offered official apologies for Nazi Germany's role in the Holocaust, as well as for their war crimes. German leaders have continuously expressed remorse, most notably and touchingly when former chancellor Willy Brandt, in full view of the world via the modern mass media, dropped on his knees in front of a Holocaust memorial in a former Warsaw ghetto in 1970.

Additionally, the German government coordinated an effort to reach a settlement with German companies that used slave labor during the war. The companies agreed to pay $3.75 billion to the victims, half of which, meant for victims who left no heirs, was given to the state of Israel as the inheritor. Germany has also established a National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Berlin for looted property.

Again, unlike Japan, which has been consistently dodging the issue of Japanese war guilt and has resorted to doctoring textbooks - apart from banning textbooks that realistically portrayed Japanese invaders' wanton killings and the chemical warfare by Unit 731- the Germans teach their students the truth of Nazi Germany's war crimes squarely.

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