National / History

Monument to chief of WWI POW camp, known for humanitarian treatment of POWs, unveiled in Fukushima

JIJI, Kyodo

A monument commemorating the Japanese head of a World War I camp who was known for his humanitarian treatment of German prisoners of war was unveiled in his hometown of Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.

During his tenure as head of the Bando Furyo Shuyojo camp in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, Toyohisa Matsue (1872-1956) created opportunities for the POWs to interact with residents on Shikoku.

The POWs were also allowed to perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, believed to be the first performance of the symphony in Asia. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the performance.

“POWs are patriots, not criminals,” he had said.

After serving as the camp’s head, Matsue became mayor of Aizuwakamatsu and contributed to the development of the city. His achievements are inscribed in Japanese, German and English on the monument, which is about 2 meters tall.

Among those present at Saturday’s unveiling ceremony were his relatives: Aizuwakamatsu Mayor Shohei Muroi and Naruto Mayor Michihiko Izumi.

“I’d like to show my respect to Matsue, who laid the foundation of Aizuwakamatsu,” Muroi said. “We hope to further deepen our friendship with Naruto,” he added.

Izumi said Matsue created “strong bonds” between the two cities.

“I’m happy that my grandfather’s deeds are praised and remain in people’s minds,” said Yukihiko Matsue, 72, Matsue’s grandson.