History teaches us what our next step should be

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TOKYO – The reviews are all malicious fabrications.

This is not a remark made recently. This is part of a statement issued by Adolf Hitler’s administration in Germany on March 27, 1933, in response to criticism of the violence and harassment against Jews which escalated after Hitler came to power in January of the same year.

The repression against the Jews has now become an undeniable historical fact. But Nazi Germany at the time shamelessly contested it.

Correspondents from foreign media organizations were able to report what was happening in Germany from within the country for about six and a half years after Hitler’s emergence as chancellor until World War II broke out.

American journalists stayed in Germany for a few more years, until the United States entered the war in 1941.

While foreign correspondents became suspicious after losing contact with the Jews they interacted with, they also fell into a situation that did not allow them to freely pass information. Restrictions on media coverage have been gradually tightened and foreign correspondents have sometimes received threats.

It was not until the summer of 1942 – nearly three years after Hitler’s invasion of Poland sparked World War II – that reports of genocide committed against Jews in concentration camps set up in the regions controlled by Germany surprised the international community.

The news came like love at first sight.

Yet Jewish groups in the United States and in the British Mandate for Palestine, now Israel, as well as the American and British governments, have reportedly refused to take it seriously. They thought even the Nazis wouldn’t go that far.

In the closing days of World War II, officers and soldiers of the Allied forces who entered genocide sites, including Auschwitz, were horrified.

More lives would have been saved if the Allied forces had taken certain measures, including bombing the train tracks leading to the concentration camps, after scrutinizing the information transmitted to them.

The Nazis stole their valuables, gold, jewelry, and other forms from the Jews, melting it and turning it into ingots. They then sold the gold bars to Switzerland to replenish their war chest and for other purposes.

Switzerland, a neutral country, will be forever marred by its role in financing Hitler’s war machines and genocide.

His government of the day categorically denied that a genocide had taken place.

Such refusals were not uncommon. Many foreign players took the information provided to them with caution and were slow to act accordingly. But Switzerland’s shame was for having indirectly cooperated in an act against humanity.

History is the record of past events that can no longer be changed. It is more than people with knowledge of past events. It also requires more than a narrow understanding, which risks misinterpreting what really happened. It is something that, compared to similar events happening now, illuminates where we are, where we should stand, and what our next step should be.

With that in mind, do the Japanese government, businesses, financial institutions, investors and other actors know what their next step should be in the ongoing crackdown on ethnic minorities? Are they responding with the appropriate urgency?


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