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Aso retracts remark on ‘learning from the Nazis’

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

After facing criticism both at home and abroad, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso on Thursday retracted his remark suggesting Japan should learn from the Nazis when it comes to revising the Constitution, saying it has led to a “misunderstanding.”

“It’s very regrettable that my remark on the Nazi administration caused misunderstanding,” Aso told reporters.

He said it was inappropriate to cite the Nazis’ techniques as an example and that he was retracting the remark.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga meanwhile emphasized that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “never have any affirmative opinions on the Nazi administration.”

Aso stressed that in the speech in which he made the Nazi reference he also drove home the point that any debate on revising the Constitution should be held in a quiet environment.

Aso was quoted as saying Monday during the speech in Tokyo that “the Weimar Constitution was changed almost before people realized it. Why don’t we learn from that method?”

In the same speech, Aso also reportedly said that “the Constitution should be revised based on public opinions that carefully examine the situation. . . . I don’t want (people) to discuss revising the Constitution in a frenzy.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a major international Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, strongly criticized Aso’s remark in a statement published Wednesday on its website.

“What ‘techniques’ from the Nazis’ governance are worth learning — how to stealthily cripple democracy?” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, asks in the press release. “Has Vice Prime Minister Aso forgotten that Nazi Germany’s ascendancy to power quickly brought the world to the abyss and engulfed humanity in the untold horrors of World War II?”

The center urged Aso to “clarify” his remark on the Nazis.

On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young blasted Aso, saying that “such remarks definitely hurt many people.”

“Japan has consistently kept building up a society that defends peace and human rights,” Suga told a news conference Thursday.

He said he spoke by phone with Aso on Wednesday to tell him his remark has caused “misunderstanding.” Aso said he would retract the remark, according to Suga.

  • Shadow

    How does this man still have a job?

    • Scott Newby

      Bribes.

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      Because he was re-elected 8 times.

      Maybe you should ask the electorate why they kept voting for him.

      Taro is being Taro. He’s just one man. The problem is the people.

      • Hitokiri 1989

        More like a low turnout and the ones that do are primarily LDP supporters

      • IndicaRed

        This default excuse has been used ad nauseam and quite frankly doesn’t hold water when these fools are consistently elected into office decade after decade. Sure the majority of Japan’s citizens may be apathetic to politics as is the case for many democracies including the US, but the glaring difference between Japan and everyone else is the fact that if a politician commits even ONE, single gaffe that is on par with what Taro, Ishihara, Abe, Hashimoto, Kawamura etc. have consistently stated COUNTLESS times, it is more often than not political suicide that results in resignations and at the very least, public shaming. The fact that these imbeciles are consistently re-elected and aren’t held accountable for gaffe after gaffe, year after year, the international community can only come the conclusion that either the majority of Japanese silently agree with them or that these outrageous statements are not egregious enough in their minds to force their politicians to reform their behavior by punishing them at the polls. Instead, the loudest responses seem to be from apologists who always proclaim that their leaders are misunderstood. taken out of context and are unfairly demonized by anti-Japanese scum. Either way it’s not a good look for Japan and is unbecoming of such a great nation. And yes I know that there are many Japanese people who are just as disgusted as anyone else by these offensive remarks and are committed to changing the political climate for the better, but its really getting harder and harder to believe that these people are still an overwhelming majority.

  • nanka

    Very revealing in two ways: Not only this is “just another case of unreflected history” which lately seem to cummulate around Abe’s, but this also shows a strange understanding of what democratic structures are for: Alone the thought of the constitution to be “changed almost before people realized” makes me horror of where Japan is about to go with this regime.

  • Tanzer

    The sad fact is that not only he, but most Japanese have amnesia when it comes to the events that contributed to WWII.

  • DiDi Wu

    This man still has a job as one of the leader of Japan because Japanese supported him. His opinion and philosophy are acceptable to most Japanese.

  • Harmel Guram

    The problem is that most people in Japan that have never even bothered to vote have no idea what kinds of tools are running their country because they are too busy watching and talking about the latest SMAP Special and Sanma Show or too busy using their brains to mimic the latest Johnny’s Idol dance moves. The low voter turnout in Japan reflects the overall societal decay that is occurring in Japan as the same families that ruled Japan before and during WW2 are the same families ruling Japan today.

    • 1derer

      Its not necessarily the problem of the Japanese people that a system was setup in 1955 that near-guaranteed those old-powers the ability to keep getting re-elected. There’s a reason that people have referred to Japan as a “false democracy”.

      Rather than anger at the Japanese people, we should sympathize with their longstanding democratic marginalization.

      • junia

        Let us remind that the constitution was written (originally in English) by SCAP MacArther and given to the people without further discussion among them! Isn’t it a scandal? Then followed a history of ignorance and indifference.

  • Hitokiri 1989

    I’m puzzled at what Aso is attempting here really. If he is suggesting that Japan should learn from how the Weimar constitution was “amended” then that can only be troubling. Everyone is aware that the Nazis used their underhanded methods to abolish democracy in Germany, so the reference to their methods suggests that there is something about how the Nazis usurped democracy that are worth emulating. If he was just giving examples of constitutional amendments, then references to other countries would have been better. By mentioning the Nazi’s “amendments” he dug his own grave.

    • Michael Craig

      More like signing his–and possibly the LDP’s death warrant!!

      • rayrega

        Death warrant? Those opposition politicians and media outlets who continue to distort Aso’s meaning and try to use it against him and the LDP will be digging their own graves. The Japanese people are getting frustrated with the bias and fabrications of the media.

  • Hara

    The Japanese media cannot understand, or intentionally misguided his comment. He said “we can learn from Nazi’s mistake”

  • rayrega

    The Japanese mass media is becoming more and more ridiculous! They’ve always been antagonistic towards Mr. Abe, and now they’re going out of their way in trying to make Mr. Aso sound as if he was holding the Nazis up as an example to follow in a talk he made last Monday. But the people listening to him understood his humor and irony and didn’t have a problem with what he said. Below is what Mr. Aso actually said, translated from the audio recording of his speech:

    “On April 28–I cannot forget it–April 28 in the 27th year of Showa, from that day, because it’s the day that Japan became independent–it was a Monday–I was taken to Yasukuni Shrine. It was the first time I visited Yasukuni Shrine as far as I can remember. From then until now when I’m old I make sure I go every year I think. And so it was like that and then you go there one day and suddenly–so much noise! When did they start making such a fuss about it? In the old days everybody went there in peace. Every Prime Minister went there. Since when did it become controversial? It’s the mass media, I tell you! Right? [Applause] It’s the same with the Constitution. Since when did they start making a fuss about it? And when they make a fuss, China too has to make a fuss, and Korea has to make a fuss! That’s why, I say, let’s do it calmly. And the Constitution, too, one day you notice, as I was saying about Germany, the Weimar Constitution, before you know it was changed and had become the Nazi Constitution. It had changed without anyone noticing it! How about we learn from their tricks, eh? [laughter from audience]. Without making a great noise, and everyone really saying ‘this is a good constitution’–it was with everyone’s agreement that that Constitution was changed, mind you! That’s why, in that sense, I don’t mean at all to deny democracy, but we should say again at this point that this thing should not be decided in the midst of hustle and bustle. That’s all I want to ask of you.”

  • Hanako Yamada

    The Yomiuri newspaper which reported the comment at first has changed the title.

    The new title is

    Amendment to the constitution ” Don’t change the constitution with the frantic and in the frenzy of emotion.”
    Yes. This title is very suitable for Mr. Aso’s comment.
    He said Natis as an exaple for a bad democracy.
    If you read all his statement, you can understand easily what he wanted to say.
    How stupid the mass medias of Japan are!