Japan Focus Article about Comfort Women

Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)

By Tessa Morris-Suzuki

In August 2000, the German Foundation Act established a fund to compensate tens of thousands of survivors of Nazi slave labour. The 5.1 billion Euro fund was financed jointly by the German government and companies which had been involved in the use of wartime slave labour, and by 2005, over 70,000 claims for compensation had been recognized. [1]

Some scholars of Japanese history object to the comparison between Japanese and German attitudes to war responsibility. And indeed, it is deeply misleading to make a simple dichotomy between a “good” Germany, which has faced up to its past, and a “bad” Japan, which has failed to do so. German attitudes to historical responsibility are complex and divided, and moreover in Germany a key issue is responsibility for the Holocaust, which has no obvious parallel in Japanese history.

In Japan, meanwhile, there are many determined and courageous scholars, journalists, lawyers and ordinary citizens who have fought for decades to persuade their own government to take responsibility for wartime wrongs. Their efforts deserve particular praise because they are carried on in difficult and often discouraging circumstances. Public intellectuals in Japan who raise issues of historical responsibility face a regular barrage of abusive messages, interspersed with threats of violence, which the police rarely bother to treat as criminal offenses.

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