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Japan Should Face Its Atrocities Squarely
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What approach should a history researcher take in his scholarly pursuit?

Should a historian respect facts from the past to return history to its original landscape or serve current politics?

The answer is different, depending on who you are.

And there are always some who attempt to rewrite history through fabricating or denying facts.
David Irving is one of them.

Born in England in 1938, Irving, a historian, is known for steadfast anti-semitist stance and stark denial of the Jewish Holocaust by Nazis.

As an expert on the history of the Third Nazi Empire, he has made a career of arguing, in many of his books and incessant speeches, that many Jews died of disease and hardship during World War II, but nothing like the Holocaust - when industrialized murder took 6 million victims - occurred.

Irving has traveled widely peddling his point.

Holocaust denial, an anti-Semitism dissemination dressed up with the trappings of historiography, is defined as a crime in many European countries, including Germany, and Australia, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand. In Austria, the birthplace of World War II chief director Adolf Hitler, speeches that "deny, grossly trivialize, approve or seek to justify" Nazi atrocities are criminalized.

Because of his stance, Irving has been refused entry by Australia, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Germany and New Zealand since 1992.

Irving was arrested last November when he came to Austria to address right-wing students and was sentenced to three years in jail on February 20 for Holocaust denial. Prosecutors are seeking an increase in the term to 10 years.

It is a rare case in today's modern world that a scholar is imprisoned for spreading or insisting on a different academic viewpoint.

In one way, this is how the European countries settle ugly scores of history.

Some have stood and pleaded for him, citing the imprisonment violates academic independence.

However, this independence does not necessarily mean a scholar is free of universally accepted human morality.

In history, the anti-fascist warfare is one of the fiercest confrontations between justice and evil. Millions of Jews were put into concentration camps and grossly slaughtered.

In their memoirs, some Nazi officials who once served in Hitler's war crusade directly or indirectly confirmed the mass onslaughts. These inhuman massacres serve as a legitimate source of the Allied Forces' infliction of a destructive strike upon the Nazi bureaucracy.

In a long libel case that Irving lost in Britain six years ago, a court also found his falsification of historical records in his books about Hitler and the Holocaust.

Irving seems determined to choose to remain on the opposite of the truth.

The loud "no" the European countries and others told him also indicate that atrocities like the Holocaust are not allowed to happen again.

A deep reflection of it will prevent history from repeating itself.

Now and then, we also hear words of war denial from Japan.

Some Japanese have tried to embellish or trivialize their country's aggression toward neighbors during World War II.

In their "historical findings," some Japanese historians, such as Shichihei Yamamoto and Akira Suzuki in 1972, Massaki Tanaka in 1984, and Hata Ikuhiko in 1986, denied the Nanjing Massacre or accused the Chinese of exaggerating the fact.

During the massacre, one of the many atrocities the Japanese troops committed in China between 1937 and 1945, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians were killed. One-third of the city's houses were burned and more than 20,000 women were raped.

Some government officials and academic figures in Japan have distorted the historical facts.

From time to time, some Japanese have stood up and described the Nanjing Massacre as a minor incident that occurred because Japanese soldiers were too frustrated by the strong resistance from Chinese troops. Some say it was a fabrication made up by the Chinese.

There is a sharp contrast between Germany and Japan in dealing with the dark side of their histories. The former has made coming to terms with the Holocaust a national project, while the latter tolerates the denial of the Nanjing Massacre and other similar atrocities.

In post-war Germany, most Nazis were imprisoned, executed or prevented from occupying positions of power. The country is acknowledging its wartime misdeeds and paying restitution to its victims. It has passed laws to mandate school education on the Holocaust and has refused to issue entry visas to history deniers like Irving.

What has Japan done?

The nation has refused to pay a penny to the Nanjing Massacre victims in reparations, or adequate restitution to other victims, like women forced to serve as sex slaves or people captured as germ experiments.

Some of the country's scholars have been distorting and fabricating historical facts by every possible mean.

History allows no falsification.

Germany's resolve to look squarely at history and respect historical facts has won back some of its lost trust and respect from victims and the international community.

Japan should also face its atrocities outright.

(China Daily March 13, 2006)

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