Japan should take a lesson from Germany

Updated: 2014-01-28 09:51

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA)

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Amitai Etzioni, an Israeli-American sociologist who was a child in Germany as the Nazis rose to power in 1933, has a bit of advice for Japan.

The 85 year old said the best thing Japan could do is send 200 public intellectuals and political leaders to Germany to see what it is like for a country to face its past, come to terms with it, make it part of their schools and army and never let it repeat again.

"I was born as a Jewish child in Nazi Germany and I have some feeling about countries dealing with their past," Etzioni told a group on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington.

A renowned professor of international affairs at George Washington University, Etzioni said Germany has recognized its past, apologized for the atrocities, made amends and educated their children and army every year what went wrong in their nation's history.

"Unlike Japan, they faced their past, came to terms with it and learned from it. Japan should do the same," said Etzioni, who served as a senior advisor to the White House from 1979 to 1980 and who, in 2001, was named among the top 100 American intellectuals.Japan should take a lesson from Germany

Etzioni's words echoed the feeling of many in China and South Korea who have questioned why Japan has not been able to deal with its brutal behavior in WWII, the way Germany has.

The question was raised again after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Dec 26, the first anniversary of his second term. The shrine honors Japanese war dead, including 14 notorious Class-A and more than 1,000 Class-B WWII war criminals. The shrine has long been regarded by Chinese and Koreans as a symbol of Japanese militarism, which inflicted enormous suffering on people in the region.

Unlike Japanese leaders, German leaders are unambiguous in renouncing the Nazi past. People remember well the sight of former German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling on the wet ground in December 1970 at the monument to the Jewish ghetto victims in Warsaw, Poland.

Not long after Abe's visit to Yasukuni, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert reminded Japan to "honestly live up" to its role in the horrible events of the 20th century. He said only on the basis of this honest accounting is it possible to build a future with former foes, a conviction Germany has taken to heart.

Abe's controversy has not been limited to the visit to the shrine. The right-wing Japanese politician has publicly questioned whether Japan's actions in WWII should properly be defined as "aggression". He has also denied that the Japanese government was involved in the coercion of "comfort women".

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