Germans Want Japan to Continue to Be as Guilty as They Are……
An Interview with Satoshi Tanaka

Japan is often seen in the same light as Germany, as the “axis of evil”, when it comes to World War II. What do Germans themselves think of this? We asked Satoshi Tanaka who is knowledgeable regarding the historical debates in Germany.


Satoshi Tanaka

Meisei University Professor Emeritus, Satoshi Tanaka
Born in Gunma, 1935. 1957, Keio University Economics graduate. 1966, graduated as West Germany government scholarship student at Munich, Goethe Institute German instructor. 1977, Professor at Meisei University. His works include, “Seiyou to no Taiwa (Conversation with “the West”), (Nichidoku taishō Meiseidaigaku shuppan-bu) etc.

In 1997, I held a talk on “Japan in World War II” at two schools in Germany, Munich’s School of Political Science and Augsburg University.

There I said, “the Great East Asian War was a defensive war, and it was against the history of the West’s colonial rule. However, America came up with the ‘Nanking Massacre’lie, and justified the dropping of the atom bombs.” Perhaps not many Japanese had given such talks in Germany.


“Why Does Japan Believe the Perspective of the Tokyo Trial?”

First, the students at the talk I gave at Munich’s University of Political Science really betrayed my anticipation as I was expecting a very critical response. Not only did they understand my talk, they asked after the talk in a Q and A, “Why do Japan’s intellectuals believe the perspective of the Tokyo Trial still and are ruled by it?” and said, “I think you should give this talk in various places throughout Japan.” They really supported me.

Perhaps they envied the possibility of justifying Japan’s war. But they were students of a university of political science. They did not direct that envy towards criticizing Japan, and I was impressed by their calm attitude in their reception of historical facts.


When Professor Tanaka Talked about the Reason Japan Went to War, He Got “Beaten Down”

A big contrast to that was the talk given the next day at the Augsburg University. I believe participants included many older people and Asians.

When I held the exact same talk there, I was “beaten down”. There were people saying, “I can not accept anything you’ve said here,” or “The Nanking Massacre was a historical fact. I have gone to the Nanking Museum in China and had seen with my own eyes the many photos of the massacre,” speaking in a highly emotional manner. Other Germans agreed too and would hit the table.
Even more surprising was after I had gone back home, there was apparently a critical voice saying, “that talk was a political gathering to justify the Nazis.” However, I never once mentioned the Nazis.

Why do they become so riled up and try to establish the “brutality” of the Japanese? Perhaps they want Japan to be as guilty as Germany is, and wish to thereby lighten their degree of guilt. I felt that I had witnessed Germans who still tremble under the weight of guilt done by the Nazis, of the crime of “systematic ethnic cleansing.”

Germans Want Japan to Continue to Be as Guilty as They Are……
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