Future of Asia

Japan Loves Hitler

In its shameless pursuit of Japanese suprematism, the Abe government declares Hitler’s racist diatribe as apt literature for schoolchildren.

Credit: Augusto Cabral Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • That Hitler's anti-semitic diatribe should be advocated by the next host of the Olympic games is beyond parody.
  • Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has only recently been available in libraries or selected bookshops in Germany.
  • The Mein Kampf episode isn't the first time that Japanese politicians have raised the spectre of Nazi Germany.

The Japanese cabinet deserves plaudits for uncovering hitherto undiscovered passages in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf of such educational value that they could be used in the nation’s classrooms.

The cabinet, in its wisdom, confirmed on April 14 that Mein Kampf can be classified as appropriate teaching material for schools on the proviso that the book, and this requires the greatest discipline not to howl with derision, can not in any way be used to promote racial discrimination.

The book was written during Hitler’s time in prison following his failed 1923 putsch. It is part autobiography, manifesto, anti-semitic diatribe and instructions on how to gain power.

It became a bestseller from 1933, selling a total of 12.5m copies. Finding any part of the book that could be useful for pupils would seem difficult and up until now beyond the capabilities of education authorities the world over. In chapter 11, Race and People, the Nazi leader unleashes his nonsense.

Examples of this bile….

All the great civilizations of the past became decadent because the originally creative race died out, as a result of contamination of the blood.

Or…

It is certain that the first stages of human civilization were not based so much on the use of tame animals as on the employment of human beings who were members of an inferior race.

That the author of those hideous words would have any presence in any school literature is an insult to common values and decency. That it should be advocated by the next host of the Olympic games is beyond parody.

Nor can it be considered a great, if poisonous, work of literature. It is dotted with clunky prose, generally poorly written and grammatically incorrect (it has often been called Sein Krampf or “His Cramp.”)

Hitler had been registered as living in Munich, which was in the United States sector after the war. The Americans passed publication rights to the state of Bavaria. They refused to re-publish it, though it was never technically banned.

So while Mein Kampf has always been available in a wide range of translations, and online, in Germany it has until recently only been available in libraries or selected bookshops.

The Imperial Rescript

The Bavarian copyright expired at the end of 2015, 70 years as per European copyright law, after Hitler’s death. Consequently publication of the book has been legal in Germany since 2016. Indeed it has been republished in heavily annotated form.

But why would the Japanese cabinet allow such a contentious book to be used in classrooms? The decision came just weeks after the controversial Imperial Rescript on Education in school was given the green light.

The Rescript, issued in 1890, was meant to inoculate a sense of militarism in schools and unquestioning loyalty to the emperor to groom the nation’s youth in a far-right ideology.

Schoolchildren were obliged to learn and recite it from time to time. American occupation authorities banned formal reading of the Rescript at the end of the war.

Japan’s cabinet in a statement on March 31 said that its use as teaching material (the same classification as for Mein Kampf) “cannot be denied.”

The Imperial Rescript came into the limelight earlier this year after a video emerged showing three – to five-year-old pupils at an Osaka kindergarten reciting the document.

Not the first time

The kindergarten is at the center of a growing controversy surrounding land it acquired at well below the market value and a donation it allegedly received from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife. Nor is the Mein Kampf episode the first time that Japanese politicians have raised the spectre of Nazi Germany.

In 2013, deputy prime minister Taro Aso refused to resign despite having to retract comments suggesting the country should follow the Nazi example in changing the country’s constitution.

Japan, he said, should learn from how the Nazi party changed Germany’s constitution before WWII before opposition was organized to prevent them, and for suggesting that Japanese politicians should avoid controversy by making quiet visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine, where militarism and Japan’s wartime role, is celebrated.

Considering this, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that advocating Mein Kampf for schools was a clumsy oversight taken by a cabinet distracted by more pressing and immediate concerns.

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About Tom Clifford

Tom Clifford is an Irish journalist, currently based in Beijing.

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