Soka-Gakkai, Ikeda Daisaku & The Jew Hungry-Devils
- 正教会の智：「創価学会の折伏: Break, Subdue: Soka Gakkai’s Shakubuku」
- さてはてメモ帳：Imagine & Think!
Ikeda Daisaku’s Jew-Speeches:
Makiguchi’s Lifelong Pursuit of Justice and Humane Values
By Daisaku Ikeda
Delivered at Simon Wiesenthal Center June 4, 1996
In January 1993, just prior to its official opening, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Tolerance. The history of the Holocaust must be termed the ultimate tragedy wrought by human hatred and intolerance. Viewing the exhibits, I was powerfully moved. More than that, however, I was profoundly outraged. Exceeding either of these emotions was the intensity of the determination that welled up within me: the determination that we must never allow this tragedy to be repeated–in any age, in any country.
Taking to heart the words of Simon Wiesenthal, that “Hope lives when people remember,” and with the unstinting support and cooperation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Soka University was proud to organize the exhibit “The Courage to Remember” (Japanese title: “Anne Frank and the Holocaust”) at venues throughout Japan beginning in May 1994.
At the initial opening of the exhibit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, Rabbi Cooper led a distinguished delegation from the Center, and we were honored by the attendance of U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale as well as diplomatic representatives from twenty countries.
On August 15 of last year, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the exhibition opened in Hiroshima. At that time Rabbi Hier represented the Center at an opening ceremony attended by many prominent figures. “The Courage to Remember” later traveled to Okinawa and to date has been shown in a total of nineteen Japanese cities.
The exhibit has had an average of five thousand visitors per day, and thus far has been seen by approximately one million Japanese citizens. Many of the visitors are children and teenagers, and we frequently see them moved to tears by the courageous example of their fellow teen Anne Frank, whose life is portrayed in the exhibit. There has also been an endless succession of parents visiting the exhibition with their children. I am gratified to report that “The Courage to Remember” is serving as a site of learning where people are being awakened to an invaluable sense of justice.
At the initial opening, I could not help but recall the words of my mentor, Josei Toda: “One must learn from the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people.” Indeed, I feel that there is much to learn from the strength and courage that has enabled the Jewish people to overcome endless persecutions and tragedies over the centuries.
As they have risen above each of the trials that has beset them, the Jewish people have learned, have remembered, and have passed on their wisdom and spiritual strength to succeeding generations. The courage to remember is at the same time the compassion to teach. Hatred is learned; tolerance must therefore be taught.
Buddhism asserts that anger can function both for good and for evil.
Needless to say, anger that serves self-absorbed emotionalism or greed is of an evil nature. Anger driven by hatred brings only conflict and confrontation to human society.
Anger, however, that is directed at great evil, against the desecration of humanity and the abusive disregard for human life, is anger of great good. This kind of anger reforms and rejuvenates society, opening the way to a world of humanism and peace.
Indeed, the emotion which “The Courage to Remember” inspires in viewers is none other than this feeling of “righteous anger.”
One of the most important issues facing humankind in the wake of the Cold War is that of how to bridge the chasms of mistrust and hatred between different peoples, cultures and religions. I was deeply struck by the following words spoken by Dr. Wiesenthal, when he addressed the 50th Session of the United Nations General Assembly last November, in a culminating event of the United Nations Year for Tolerance. He stated:
“Tolerance is the prerequisite for the peaceful coexistence of all people on this earth and the only alternative to the hatred that led to the horrible crimes against humanity. Hatred is the evil opposite of tolerance.” 
It should be noted here that, like anger, tolerance also has its passive and its active modes, its helpful and its harmful forms.
The indifference and apathy that is so prevalent in modern societies could be cited as an example of passive tolerance. Earlier in this century, the Japanese tendency to confuse unprincipled compromise for tolerance created the spiritual conditions that led to the growth of militarism–and to the bitter historical experience that followed.
In contrast, active tolerance is inseparable from the courage to resolutely oppose and resist all forms of violence and injustice that threaten human dignity. It is a way of life based on empathy, seeing the world through other people’s eyes, feeling their sufferings and joys as one’s own.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center provides a model of positive tolerance, actively seeking to create opportunities for dialogue between cultures, promoting shared learning and mutual understanding. A person of true tolerance is at the same time a courageous person of action who works to encourage the bonds of empathy and appreciation among people.
It is an unparalleled honor to have this opportunity to speak about the life of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the teacher of my teacher and first president of the Soka Gakkai, here at the Simon Wiesenthal Center–a fortress dedicated to the noble mission of protecting peace and human rights. I would like to share with you the convictions for which Makiguchi gave his life, focusing on the two themes of “righteous anger” and “active tolerance.”
The following quotes  from Makiguchi’s writings will suffice to indicate the degree to which his thinking ran counter to that of Japanese militarism–the prevailing mood of his times.
- “Rebuking and removing evil is part and parcel of embracing and protecting good.”
- “If you cannot be a courageous enemy of evil, you cannot be a friend to the good.”
- “One must not be satisfied with passive goodness; one must be a person of courage and mettle who can actively strive for good.”
Makiguchi opposed Japan’s role in World War II and the restrictions the military government imposed on freedom of religion. As a consequence, he was jailed, abused and died in prison at the age of seventy-three.
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was born in 1871 in a small village on the Sea of Japan in Niigata Prefecture. The name of the village was Arahama, which might be translated as “beach of rough seas.” June 6, the day after tomorrow, will mark the 125th anniversary of his birth.
Makiguchi proudly referred to his humble origins, his birth in an impoverished fishing village. The poverty of his family, and the need to support them, forced him to give up further study after elementary school. Nevertheless, he utilized every opportunity for reading and learning and showed great talent for teaching. Because of his scholarly disposition, a small sum of money was contributed by those with whom he worked so that he could go to a teachers’ college, from which he graduated at age twenty-two.
Makiguchi poured his youthful energy and passion into the task of expanding educational opportunity for his underprivileged students. Many of those who were taught by Makiguchi have left grateful descriptions of his efforts as a teacher.
It was during Makiguchi’s days as a young teacher that Japan began pursuing a national policy expressed by the slogan “national wealth and military strength” (Jpn. fukoku kyohei)–the path of imperial expansion. In the field of education, highest priority was likewise accorded to national aims, and all efforts were made to instill a blind, unquestioning patriotism.
Makiguchi, by contrast, expressed this view: “What then is the purpose of national education? Rather than devise complex theoretical interpretations, it is better to start by looking to the lovely child who sits on your knee and ask yourself. What can I do to assure that this child will be able to lead the happiest life possible?” 
Makiguchi’s focus of interest was never the state, but always people, individual human beings. This reflects his strong sense of human rights, which inspired him to declare, in an era when the priorities of state sovereignty were being forcefully emphasized, that “the freedom and rights of the individual are sacred and inviolable.” 
In 1903, at the age of thirty-two, Makiguchi published his thousand-page work The Geography of Human Life. This publication came on the eve of the Russo-Japanese war. The tenor of the times is symbolized by the fact that seven of Japan’s most famous scholars from Tokyo Imperial University petitioned the Government to take a hard-line stance against Russia, heightening public enthusiasm for war. In contrast, Makiguchi, an unknown school teacher, was promoting an awareness as global citizens who, while rooted in the local community, avoid the pitfalls of “narrow-minded nationalism.”
At age forty-two, Makiguchi was appointed principal of an elementary school in Tokyo. For the next twenty years, he served in this capacity, developing some of Tokyo’s most outstanding public schools.
One of the important influences on Makiguchi’s thinking was the American philosopher, John Dewey, whose philosophy he sought to use to create change in the Japanese educational system. An outspoken advocate of educational reform, Makiguchi found himself under the constant scrutiny and pressure of the authorities. Among his controversial proposals was a call for the abolition of the system of official inspection through which representatives of the central bureaucracy could directly interfere in the running of local schools.
He also refused to give in to the prevailing custom of granting special treatment to the children of influential families. This eventually resulted in the involvement of a leading national politician, who lobbied for Makiguchi’s ouster. Students, teachers and parents all rallied to Makiguchi’s defense and sought to have the transfer order stayed, even staging a boycott of classes. At the school to which Makiguchi was transferred he met with similar harassment. This time, he was able to make the educational authorities renovate a playground as a condition for accepting the transfer.
Makiguchi’s endeavors bring to mind the great love of humanity demonstrated by his contemporary, the extraordinary Jewish-Polish educator Janusz Korczak, who fought to the very end to protect the lives of his students, dying together with them in the Holocaust.
In 1928 Makiguchi encountered Buddhism. Buddhism, in that it recognizes and seeks to develop the wisdom inherent in all human beings, can be considered a philosophy of popular education. Makiguchi felt that in Buddhism he had found the means by which to realize the ideals he had pursued throughout his life–a movement for social reform through education. Makiguchi was already fifty-seven when he embraced Buddhism–an event that commences the dramatic final development of his life.
Two years later, on November 18, 1930, together with his disciple and fellow teacher, Josei Toda, Makiguchi published the first volume of The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy, and it is from this day that we date the establishment of our organization.
“Soka” is Japanese for “value creation.” From Makiguchi’s viewpoint, the most fundamental and central value is that of life itself. Taking into account Dewey’s pragmatism, he stated that “The only value in the true sense is that of life itself. All other values arise solely within the context of interaction with life.”  The fundamental criterion for value, in Makiguchi’s view, is whether something adds to or detracts from, advances or hinders, the human condition.
The ultimate goal of Soka, or value-creating, education is to foster people of character who continuously strive for the “greatest good” of peace, who are committed to protecting the sanctity of life, and who are capable of creating value under even the most difficult circumstances.
In 1939, what was in effect the first general meeting of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-creating Education Society) was held. Needless to say, this was the year in which World War II began with the Nazi invasion of Poland. Japan’s armies were also on the move, committing horrible barbarities in China and Korea.
Deeply disturbed by these developments, Makiguchi launched a frontal critique of militarist fascism. At the time, most religions and religious organizations in Japan lent their support to State Shinto, which provided the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings for the prosecution of the war. Makiguchi, however, opposed this trampling underfoot of the freedoms of conscience and belief, refusing to permit his religious convictions to deviate from their orientation toward peace.
He was also outraged by the attempt to impose on the peoples of Asia belief in Japanese Shinto, writing, “The arrogance of the Japanese people knows no bounds.”  His stern and uncompromising attitude in this regard stemmed from a profound spirit of tolerance toward the cultural and religious heritage of other peoples.
In December of 1941, Japan’s forces made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, thus initiating the war in the Pacific. Five months later, the periodical of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, Kachi Sozo (Value Creation), was forced to cease publication at the order of the domestic security authorities.
Having deprived the Japanese people of their freedoms of conscience and religion, it was a simple task for the fascist military powers to suppress freedom of speech. By depriving people of their fundamental freedoms, the military authorities sought to create an obedient, sheeplike mass. Makiguchi expressed his firm conviction that “a single lion will triumph over a thousand sheep. A single person of courage can achieve greater things than a thousand cowards.”  Makiguchi’s stance of squarely confronting all forms of evil and injustice made his thoughts a potent threat to the powers-that-be. He was considered a “thought criminal” and his activities were subject to constant surveillance by the “secret police.”
Nevertheless, Makiguchi continued to organize small discussion meetings where he openly expressed his religious and moral convictions. According to his written indictment, he attended over the course of two wartime years more than two hundred forty such meetings. In the presence of the police during these meetings, Makiguchi continued to criticize military fascism. Often his speech would be cut short by the police.
Where even the priests who professed to share Makiguchi’s Buddhist faith capitulated to government pressure to pray to the Shinto talisman, Makiguchi refused to the very last.
In July, 1943, Makiguchi and Toda were arrested by militarist Japan’s equivalent of the Gestapo. They were charged with violations of the notorious “Peace Preservation Act”  and with lese-majesty, disrespect for the emperor. Makiguchi was already seventy-two and spent the next year and four months, a total of five hundred days, in solitary confinement.
Makiguchi, however, never retreated a step. It is said that he used to call out from his solitary cell, asking the other prisoners if they were bored, offering to engage them in debate about such questions as whether there is any difference between not doing good and actually committing wrong.  He was an unrestrained master of humanistic education who always sought equal and unqualified dialogue with others.
He even explained, patiently and clearly, the principles of Buddhism to his guards and interrogators. The official deposition records his view that a way of life in which one is “so sensitive to the praise or censure of society that one, while not doing evil, fails to do good” runs, in the final analysis, counter to the teachings of Buddhism. 
There is a famous Buddhist aphorism that if you light a lamp for another, your own path will be brightened.  Indeed, Makiguchi was to the very end an example of a life of positive contribution, bringing forth the brilliant light of hope for himself and for others.
Elsewhere in the record of his interrogations we find him declaring Japan’s invasion of China and the “Great East Asian War” a “national catastrophe” brought on by the fundamental spiritual misorientation of the Japanese nation. At a time when Japan’s invasions were described as a “sacred war” and the press and opinion-makers were vying to glorify this undertaking, Makiguchi’s words reflect a singular courage and determination.
His prison letters to his family have survived and in them we find such passages  as these:
- “For the present, aged as I am, this is where I will cultivate my mind.”
- “I am able to read books, which is a pleasure. I want for nothing. Please watch over the home in my absence and don’t concern yourselves about me.”
- “Being in solitary confinement, I am able to ponder things in peace, which I prefer.”
His letters are filled with concern and consideration for his family; in them one senses composure, even optimism.
“Even hell has its enjoyments, depending on one’s outlook,” he wrote in a passage scratched out by the prison censors.
The hell of the four walls of his stifling solitary cell, its heats and colds, took a steady toll on Makiguchi’s aged frame. But he was never despondent; in his heart, the brilliant sun of his beliefs rose and remained high. Burning with righteous anger, Makiguchi continued his struggle against the forces of a state authority that refused to respect human fights. His anger, however, was never tainted with hatred.
Eventually, age and malnutrition brought the inevitable physical decline, and Makiguchi finally agreed to be transferred to the infirmary. Donning his formal clothes, he straightened his hair and walked there unaided, with frail yet determined step. The following day, on November 18, 1944, the anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi passed away peacefully.
Even the terror of death was unable to force Makiguchi into submission.
For human beings, nothing is perhaps more universally dreaded than the prospect of one’s own demise. It could even be said that fear of death forms the basis for instinctual aggression. Yet Buddhism speaks of the indivisible unity of life and death, asserting that these are both integral aspects of an eternal continuum. For one who fives with just and unwavering conviction, and has a penetrating understanding of the essential nature of life and death, both life and death can be experienced as joys.
In the frigid confines of prison, Makiguchi proved the truth that by living with utter dedication to humane and noble ideals, it is possible to greet death without a trace of fear, regret or loathing. Unknown to anyone, he brought to completion the life he had made great by his actions and his spirit.
His quiet passing was at the same time a new start, a new departure.
Josei Toda spoke of the unbearable grief and outrage that seized him when, two months later, one of the judges bluntly informed him, “Makiguchi’s dead.” He spoke of moaning in solitude, of crying until his tears ran dry.
But from the depths of this despair a new hope was born.
Toda the disciple emerged alive from the prison where his mentor had died. Anger at the authoritarian forces that had robbed his mentor of life was transformed into a pledge and determination to create a new popular movement for peace.
In The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy, Makiguchi wrote that, “Driven by their instinct for self preservation, evil-minded people band together, increasing the force with which they persecute the good. In contrast, people of goodwill always seem to be isolated and weak . . . There is no alternative but for people of goodwill to unite.”  This was his penetrating insight based on personal experience.
As a disciple sharing profound unity of purpose with his mentor, Josei Toda began, amidst the postwar devastation, to construct a movement based on the solidarity of ordinary citizens of goodwill. Again, his methodology was grassroots–one-on-one dialogue and small-scale discussion meetings.
Grounded on the principle of the sanctity of life as expounded in Buddhism, this is a movement that seeks to empower people, to awaken their inner wisdom, thus creating a world in which justice and humane values are accorded universal respect.
In his theory of value, Makiguchi states that the existence of religion is justified by the degree to which it relieves suffering and brings happiness to individuals (the value of gain) and to societies (the value of goodness). In his unalloyed humanism he asserted that people do not exist to serve religion; religion exists to serve people.
This past April, a cherry tree was planted on the Tokyo campus of Soka University, an institution that takes as its founding spirit the philosophy of President Makiguchi.
Seeking to eternalize the memory of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who consecrated his life to the realization of Middle East peace, this tree was planted in a ceremony attended by Vice President Moshe Arad of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which has recently concluded agreements for academic and student exchanges with Soka University.
Prime Minister Rabin left us these unforgettable words. “There is no greater victory than peace. In war there are the victors and the vanquished. But in peace, everyone is a victor.” 
I am profoundly confident that as each spring brings new and fuller bloom to the Rabin Cherry Tree, we will see new generations emerge committed to the same vision of peace which was his pursuit. Truly, education represents the light of hope and new life.
Makiguchi’s life was an all-out struggle against fascistic authority, never retreating a single step. His message of courage and wisdom will continue to echo and resound, awakening people’s conscience in the coming centuries. He realized that, no matter how noble the principle or belief, it can only be realized through a concerted, grass-roots effort. It is in this spirit that the SGI Charter  calls for dialogue and cooperation among people of different faiths toward the resolution of the fundamental issues facing humankind. This spirit of first president Makiguchi lives on within the Soka Gakkai and takes concrete form in the activities of the SGI. We will always remain firm and unbending before any form of authoritarianism, and in this way will carry on Makiguchi’s beliefs and convictions far into the future. It is our determination to continue to develop and expand a people’s movement of peace, education and culture into the coming millennia, in accordance with the vision of Nichiren, the founder of the school of Buddhism we practice.
For my own part I am determined, for as long as I live, to act with courage toward the realization of an era of peace in the twenty-first century, for the peace that will signal victory for all. And I trust that I will have the pleasure and privilege of sharing that journey with our distinguished friends and colleagues gathered here today.
In closing, I would like to dedicate today’s talk to President Makiguchi and to all those who have given their lives for justice and humane values, and to the youth of our world who live each day with a profound determination toward the future.
It is my belief-
– that a person, a people,
who embrace a noble philosophy,
people upholding sublime faith–
that only a person, a people,
who, amidst raging storms,
live out the drama
of reality and grand ideals,
subjected to and enduring
that only such a person,
only such a people,
will be bathed in the sunlight
of perpetual joy, glory and victory.
- Statement by Simon Wiesenthal as an Austrian delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, Fiftieth Session, Nov. 20, 1995.
- Collected Works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (in Japanese) (Tokyo: Daisan Bunmeisha, 1988, 1983), 9:97, 6:71, 180.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi (1981), 4:27.
- Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, The Geography of Human Life (in Japanese) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1980), 5:16.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi (1982), 5:232.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi (1987), 10:84.
- An Anthology of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s Works (in Japanese), ed. Takehisa Tsuji (Tokyo: Daisan Bunmeisha, 1994), 26-27.
- The Peace Preservation Act of 1925 was one of the prime legal tools used to suppress all forms of dissident expression. The Religious Organizations Act of 1940 consolidated all religious organizations in Japan under Shinto leadership.
- Collected Works of Josei Toda (in Japanese) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1988), 8:463.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi, 10:209- 10.
- “The Three Virtues of Food,” Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin (in Japanese), ed. Nichiko Hori (Tokyo: Soka Gakkai, 1952), 1598.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi, 10:276-78, 85.
- Collected Works of Makiguchi, 6:69.
- Yitzhak Rabin, preface to De Rabin Memoirs (in Japanese), ed. Tetsuo Sagara, trans. Junko Takeda (Tokyo: Mirutosu, 1996), 19.
- The SGI Charter has been reprinted in the SGI Quarterly magazine, January 1996.
Rabbi Marvin Hier–The Courage to Remember
By Daisuke Ikeda
Passing through the rotunda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, Rabbi Hier, the Center’s Founder and Dean, pointed to a small notebook in a glass case. “This poem is in Anne Frank’s own handwriting,” he said. “She wrote it for a friend when she was only 10 years old.”
It is only a small thing
But I give it to you
The roses that bloom in the meadow
And a handful of forget-me-nots.
The open book shows pictures of flower baskets on each page. From the flower basket on the left, a dove takes flight with a letter in its bill.
The story of Anne Frank is well-known: how, with other members of her family, she was forced to live confined in the attic of a building in wartime Amsterdam for two years, until they were discovered and arrested by the Gestapo. She was sent to a concentration camp where she died in 1945, just days before the liberation of the camp by British forces. She was only 15.
Forget-me-not: The name of the flower that Anne wished to send her friend was a plea not to be forgotten. But who could forget her? Who can forget the millions who died in the Holocaust?
Rabbi Marvin Hier founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, vowing that those slaughtered in the Holocaust would never be forgotten.
It has not been an easy task. People tend to want to forget. Not only those who perpetrated the evil but its victims as well. As Rabbi Hier points out, “Memory is fragile and pliable. And that is why, if we do not persist on our course, if we are not faithful to memory, then one day no one will believe that the eerie sounds of those trains once delivered millions of unsuspecting men, women and children to the death camps.”
The Nazis murdered six million Jews. They ripped babies from their mothers’ arms and flung them to their deaths; they used children as guinea pigs in appalling medical experiments; they herded people into gas chambers; and as life became increasingly callous, Nazi guards shot prisoners just to “let off steam.” They spread false rumors about the Jews, the victims of their atrocities, denouncing them as brutal and inhumane, morally corrupt, the dregs of humanity. Everything that was most true of the Nazis themselves, they ascribed to the Jews. These repeated lies acted like poison that, drop by drop, penetrated the hearts and minds of the German people, paralyzing their senses. Eventually, people were so transformed that they accepted without question the most evil of deeds.
Rabbi Hier is committed to perpetuating the struggle of Simon Wiesenthal, after whom the center is named. Himself a survivor of the death camps, Wiesenthal has been dedicated to bringing to justice Nazi war criminals who went into hiding after the war. Wiesenthal has been motivated solely by his duty as a survivor. Justice is his motive, not hatred or revenge.
“Without Simon Wiesenthal,” writes Rabbi Hier, “the subject of the Holocaust would not really receive serious attention anywhere in the world . . . There was a long time between 1945 and the early 60s: a crucial period when there was the greatest pressure to forget.”
The denial was remarkable. Some members of the older generation in Germany and Austria intentionally spread lies about the past, claiming that Anne Frank’s diary was a fake and that the “so-called” gas chambers were only for the purpose of disinfecting prisoners’ clothing. Their influence was so potent that in 1958, youthful demonstrators interrupted a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank in Linz, Austria, distributing leaflets with the message: “This play is a fraud. Anne Frank never existed. The Jews have invented the whole story because they want to extort more restitution money.”
Later, Simon Wiesenthal wrote of this event: “These young rowdies were not guilty; their parents and teachers were. The older people were trying to poison the minds of the young generation because they wanted to justify their own dubious past. Many of them were trapped by their heritage of ignorance, hatred and bigotry. They hadn’t learned anything from history.”
Wiesenthal’s life has been dedicated to the belief that “Hope lives when people remember.” Rabbi Hier’s work proclaims, “Hope lives as long as we do not remain silent.”
Beneath an intelligent and urbane manner, a fierce anger against evil and injustice burns in Rabbi Hier’s heart. Whenever he hears anti-Semitic propaganda, he springs onto the offensive immediately. He rebuts it, demands an apology and widely publicizes the truth, using every method at his command to cut off the poisonous weed of hate at the root.
To teach the importance of human rights, Rabbi Hier established the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance. I visited the museum on January 31, 1993. Rabbi Hier graciously showed me around the facility, even though he was very busy preparing for its official opening early the following month. There were models of Auschwitz and a ghetto where countless Jews were massacred. The many photographs and audiovisual footage gave voice and identity to their now silent subjects. Who could ever forget these tragic events? Who could fail to be enraged by them?
Yet around the same time as I made my visit, books and weekly tabloids were still being published in Japan that talked of the “international conspiracy of the Jews”–the same ridiculous lies that were once spread by the Nazis. The victims of the persecution were being attacked and painted as its perpetrators. Such is the deplorable insensitivity to human rights that exists in Japan to this day.
The lies about the Holocaust are not unlike the lies still told in Japan, claiming that the Nanjing Massacre, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese were senselessly slaughtered, never took place. In the same way that the Nazis tried to establish the Aryan race as a chosen people, the Japanese militarists called Japan the “Land of the Gods.” The belief that there is a divine people always entails the creation of the lie that there are inferior peoples. For the Nazis, these were the Jews and the Gypsies, and for the Japanese military, the Koreans and the Chinese. These lies resulted in the cruel slaughter by the Nazi and Japanese military forces.
Those who deny that Auschwitz or the Nanjing Massacre ever happened are murdering the victims all over again. And keeping Japan’s young people in the dark by failing to teach them the truth about history is far more shameful than having to face and come to terms with our own shameful past.
Debate is currently heated in Japan over the publication of history textbooks which play down or deny the reality of wartime atrocities committed by Japanese forces.
From my meeting with Rabbi Hier emerged the project of bringing the exhibition “The Courage to Remember: Anne Frank and the Holocaust” on a tour of major Japanese cities. The exhibition touched the lives of more than a million people around Japan. In a speech at the exhibition’s Hiroshima opening, Rabbi Hier called on people to speak out loudly and clearly for human rights, in every area of the globe where those rights are being violated or threatened.
The Museum of Tolerance
He also proposed a series of lectures to be held at the Simon Wiesenthal Center to make others aware of the unsung heroes of human rights around the world, to be entitled “The Makiguchi Memorial Human Rights Lecture Series.” This choice of title is a tribute to the fact that Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, first president of the Soka Gakkai, fought to protect people’s fundamental human rights from the oppressive forces of Japanese militarism and died in prison for those convictions.
When I was invited to give the first lecture in the series in June 1996, I closed my speech with the following poem:
It is my belief–
that only those individuals or peoples
who embrace a noble philosophy,
upholding sublime faith;
only those individuals or peoples
who, amidst raging storms,
live out the drama
of reality and grand ideals;
only those individuals or peoples
who have been subjected
to limitless persecution and have endured;
only these individuals or peoples
will be bathed in the sunlight
of perpetual joy, glory and victory.
In my heart, I called out to the millions in Europe and in Asia who had been trampled beneath lies and violence: We will never forget. We will fight for the truth to be known.
For, as Rabbi Hier has said, “A world without a past . . . is a world without a future.”