Hundreds of copies of Anne Frank diaries vandalized around Tokyo / Western journalists imply connection to Shinzo Abe

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    matsuoka and hitler

    During World War II, Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany, a antisemitic state that carried out genocidal policies against the Jews of Europe. Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke of Japan (pictured aboe with Adolf Hitler), one of the chief advocates of the alliance, was clear about Japan’s position on Jewish people:

    “I am the man responsible for the alliance with Hitler, but nowhere have I promised that we would carry out his anti-Semitic policies in Japan. This is not simply my personal opinion, it is the opinion of Japan, and I have no compunction about announcing it to the world.

    Japan refused German requests to send Jewish Germans in Japan back to Germany. It also turned down a Nazi suggestion to exterminate Jewish refugees who had settled in China. Although it was allied with Hitler’s Germany, Imperial Japan was not interested in persecuting the Jews.

    Sugihara Japan

    In both pre-war and post-war Japan, antisemitism has not been popular. Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Lithuanian Jews escape the holocaust, is celebrated by both the Japanese right and the left as a hero. Japanese right-wingers who deny wartime atrocities by the Japanese military also display pride about how Japan helped save Jews from the holocaust, and are angry when Koreans or Chinese try to equate Imperial Japan’s actions to Germany’s racial extermination policies.

    Schoolchildren in Japan are taught about the Holocaust, and many of them read The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a bestseller when it was translated into Japanese and can be found in almost every school and public library in the country.

    anne frank torn in tokyo

    A few days ago, some shocking news surfaced. Apparently somebody has been visiting libraries across the Tokyo area and tearing pages out of copies of the Diary and other books associated with the Anne Frank. The first media reports said about 200 books had been vandalized, but subsequent investigation have caused the number to rise to 306. The number will probably go up again in a few days, after more libraries check their shelves.

    “The geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights organization which also houses a major exhibition on Anne Frank at its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

    “I know from my many visits to Japan, how much Anne Frank is studied and revered by millions of Japanese. Only people imbued with bigotry and hatred would seek to destroy Anne’s historic words of courage, hope and love in the face of impending doom,” Cooper added.

    This has received major news coverage in Japan. The national government even felt compelled to comment on the crime. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated: “This is a shameful act, and I am confident that the police authority is making a thorough investigation.”

    Unfortunately, some Western reporters seem to be seeing this story as an opportunity to smear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Despite that fact that Abe and his conservative friends do not advocate antisemitism or holocaust denial, certain articles are implying that these acts of vandalism are related to their views.

    For example, an AFP article that has been published in The Age/Sky News/SBS/Sydney Morning Herald/RawStory contains this paragraph:

    The vandalism comes amid criticism of a shift to the right in Japanese politics under nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with a recent volley of provocative comments about Japan’s wartime past that have sparked accusations of revisionism by China and South Korea.”

    Maybe the journalist who wrote the article and the editors who approved it were ignorant of the issue, and sloppily assumed that anyone who has revisionist views about Japanese history must also have anti-Jewish views. Or it could have been an intentional attempt to smear Abe by falsely linking his views to Holocaust denial and hatred of the Jews. Either way, it’s really bad journalism.

    Update: Nariaki Nakayama, a former Minister of Education and Minister of Transport – and one of the public faces of Japanese right-wing politics, has denounced the vandalism on Twitter.

    Nakayama wrote that he believed that such an act of could not have been committed by a Japanese person. It is against Japanese sensibilities. He also criticizes countries that compare Abe to Hitler, and advocates putting security cameras in public libraries.

    [hat tip to]

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