Truth in History Textbooks, Freedom in Education and Peace for Children

By Thekla Lit President of Vancouver Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA)

The multi-ethnic support campaign

The Vancouver & Toronto chapters of the Association for Learning & Preserving the History of World War II in Asia (ALPHA) and the Human Rights Committee, National Association of Japanese Canadians jointly organized a nation-wide multi-ethnic campaign in support of Professor Ienaga's lawsuit against the censorship and distortion of historical facts in history textbooks in Japan. This is in line with the aim of ALPHA for pursuing racial & ethnic harmony and justice. We believe that unless mankind has learnt from the tragic past, we are doomed to repeat it.

Ethnic supremacy treads on humanity

The militarists of Japan invaded China, waged a war of aggression on Korea and started the Pacific War. They committed crimes against humanity and atrocities of unspeakable horror. Incidents like the Nanking Massacre, Unit 731 experiments on living human beings, forced labour and military sexual slavery, all shocked the world. Millions and millions of innocent women, children and elderly suffered and died because of Japanese militarism which was bred and driven by ethnic supremacy.

Distortion of historical facts

We are disturbed that up till now Japan has not accepted the responsibilities for the crimes and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese troops before and during World War II. The Japanese government has refused to make any official apology nor compensation to the victims including those Canadian veterans who were interned and tortured by the Japanese military. We are especially concerned that this dark chapter of Japanese history has been whitewashed in history textbooks under the direction of the Japanese Ministry of Education. Therefore, this multi-ethnic campaign in support of Professor Ienaga's Textbook Screening Lawsuit has a special meaning in advocating freedom in education and peace for the children of Japan.

Release Japanese children from ignorance of history of aggression

Since Japanese children grow up without being informed through education of historical facts such as Japanese wars of aggression, the majority of Japanese people do not reflect adequately on wars of aggression and thus lack an adequate understanding of need for peace and international reconciliation. For example, according to a poll on the image of nations conducted jointly by newspapers in Japan and South Korea (1990), 41% of the Korean people associated Japan with the image of "colonial control", "aggression" and "war". Only 9% of the Japanese associated their own country with aggression and cruel acts. This distinct gap in perception impedes mutual understanding between peoples of the two nations and blocks genuine reconciliation.

In December 1996, the popular China Youth News and a Japanese organization in Beijing jointly co-sponsored an important readers' survey on youths' attitude towards Japan. The negative image of Chinese youths towards Japan is shocking. It was found that of the 15,000 qualified respondents, 96.6% associated the Japanese national flag with the crimes and atrocities committed by Japanese troops in China; 83.9% associated the word "Japan" with Nanking Massacre. Without knowing the historical facts, how can the younger generations of Japan understand the negative sentiments of other Asian peoples towards them? Without knowing the historical facts, how can they learn from the past and gain the courage to make efforts to reconcile with peoples of victimised countries.

A concrete step in reconciliation

ALPHA is pleased to see that this campaign has gained support from the Dutch, Korean, Filipino & Jewish communities. We find it especially meaningful to co-organize it with the Human Rights Committee of the National Association of Japanese Canadians. It is because firstly, our joint effort is a concrete step in the process of reconciliation between Japanese and other Asian peoples. Secondly, it helps people to differentiate Japanese people from the Japanese extreme rightists and their political clique who have been denying justice to the victims of Japanese militarism for over 50 years.

(Individuals who would like to support this campaign can get more information from ALPHA's website: or call (604)439-7738)