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This article was published 29/1/2015 (2126 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Seventy years have passed since the Auschwitz concentration camp, a symbol of the mass murder of Jews by Nazi Germany, was liberated in the final phase of World War II by the then Soviet Red Army.

A commemorative ceremony was held on Tuesday at the site of the former camp in southern Poland. Together with about 300 survivors, world leaders and state ministers of Western countries, including German President Joachim Gauck and French President Francois Hollande, attended the memorial to remember the victims.

The occasion has served as a venue for the world to reiterate the lesson to "Never allow the Holocaust to happen again," on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Adopting an ideology of anti-Semitism, the Nazis embarked on the genocide of the Jewish people during the war. About six million Jews are believed to have been murdered by the regime. With its gas chamber, the concentration camp in Auschwitz can be described as a "killing factory" where 1.1 million prisoners, mostly Jews, died.

The brutal act was a war crime without precedent and beyond description.

During his speech at the German parliament, Gauck said, "Remembering the Holocaust remains a matter for every citizen of Germany."

West Germany and then the unified Germany, on the basis of their deep soul-searching over the atrocities committed by the Nazis, made efforts to build respect for human rights and establish democracy, allowing the nation to regain solid ground within the international community.

Gauck’s remarks can be interpreted as a call for the German people to firmly maintain this basic stance.

There is still racial and religious conflict in the world today, and terrorist acts by radical groups are a frequent occurrence. It is quite regrettable that such incidents cast a shadow over the ceremony.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia — which is at loggerheads with the West over the Ukraine crisis — did not attend the ceremony as he was not invited.

During his visit to the Middle East, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on Jan. 19. He vowed, "We declare our determination to never again allow such a tragedy to be repeated." He also made clear Japan’s commitment to making active contributions to the peace and stability of the world.

During his speech, Abe also noted the great deeds of Chiune Sugihara, then Japan’s vice consul in Lithuania, who issued at his own discretion, transit visas to Japan for about 6,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II.

Some media skeptics in the West have regarded Abe as a historical revisionist. In its repeated criticisms of Japan, China has compared the Nanjing Incident by the former Imperial Japanese Army to the Holocaust and viewed wartime Japan as being similar to Nazi Germany.

With his speech, Abe may also have intended to dispel misunderstanding on the part of Western countries and to counter China’s anti-Japan propaganda war by showing Japan’s stance of confronting history and recognizing the importance of lessons learned.

It is vital for Japan to convey to foreign countries its soul-searching over its past, its course in the postwar era as a peaceful nation and its clear message that it will strive to co-operate with the international community in the future.

 

The following editorial appeared in Thursday’s Yomiuri Shimbun.