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Vergangenheitsbewältigung vs. Amnesia: How Germany and Japan processed their Records of Macro-Crimes

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Title:Vergangenheitsbewältigung vs. Amnesia: How Germany and Japan processed their Records of Macro-Crimes
Authors:Henningsen, Manfred
Keywords:war responsibility of Japan
Tokyo Trial
Nanjing massacre
historical memory
show 1 morememorialization of war atrocities
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Date Issued:21 Mar 2014
Abstract:Why has the Japanese political class as a whole been unable or unwilling to follow the German example of coming to terms with the record of terror it perpetrated on the people and countries it conquered? Why are the members of the Japanese political class regularly visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo that is dedicated to the memory of the war dead of imperial Japan since the Meiji restoration, the seven hanged leaders that were sentenced at the Tokyo Trial, 1946–48? Why do members of the political class still question the casualty and rape numbers of the Nanjing carnage in December 1937? Did the American refusal to put Emperor Hirohito on trial contribute to the prevailing unwillingness of engaging in believable acts of contrition? Did the firestorm of Tokyo, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki create a sense of Japanese victimhood, absolving Japan of recognizing guilt? What role does did state Shintoism play in the amnesia of official Japan? Was the German process of overcoming a similar syndrome of amnesia in the first two decades after WWII enabled by the Christian teachings of accepting guilt, requesting repentance and expecting forgiveness? Did the collaboration of the German Catholic and Lutheran churches with Hitler’s regime undermine their moral authority and therefore prevent such impact? Why did the state-centered process in the early 1950s in (West-) Germany of reaching apology agreements, first with Israel and the Jewish World Congress and then with France and other neighboring states, turn in the 1970s into a process that slowly began to involve all areas of German civil society? Why didn’t a comparable trajectory emerge in Japan? Could Japan still extract itself from this self-inflicted moral amnesia in East Asia that will continue to have a negative impact on its standing in the area?
Description:Presented at the Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies / “Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future,” held in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20–21, 2014
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
Appears in Collections: Conference on Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions

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