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Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who died on Jan. 31 at the age of 94, faced up to Nazi Germany’s war crimes and crimes against humanity with honesty and sincerity. He embodied Germany’s moral conscience and influenced how Germans see their actions, past and present, as well as how they see themselves.

As Japan marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this summer, the call by Weizsaecker “to look truth straight in the eye — without embellishment and without distortion” carries all the more weight for the Japanese, especially political leaders including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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