ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

The ambiguities of amending historical injustices and espousing a shared collective memory: the WWII forced labour narratives in Germany and Japan

Cover Image, 8(2)

State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)

Patrick Hein (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

This paper examines WWII forced labour memory politics in Germany and Japan by drawing from Barkan’s concept of amending historical injustices. After lengthy negotiations, Germany reached in 2000 a milestone agreement compensating victims individually, while in Japan, settlements, consolation payments and apologies have been overshadowed by a revival of revisionist historical narratives and victim denial. It is argued that the official recognition of forced labour as historical injustice made a mutually acceptable outcome possible in Germany and helped to shape a genuine historical memory in victim nations. In Japan, by contrast, an alliance of politicians, bureaucrats and academics has been reconsecrating revisionism as official position. The revisionist inability to recognize victims and admit mistakes has implications for South Korea as the rift between right-wing pro-revisionists and left-wing nationalists divides the country and prevents the formation of a shared collective memory. unintended consequences have dimmed prospects for a settlement…(read more)

State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)