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Only genuine historical retrospection paves the way to future

By Wang Haiqing (Xinhua)    19:54, January 27, 2015

BEIJING, Jan. 27 -- Almost 70 years have passed since the end of World War II and the wound it inflicted on the human society still hurts, especially in the face of attempts to overturn long-established facts about this part of history.

At a time when many Europeans offered flowers and lit candles to mark the 70th Holocaust Memorial Day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made remarks that exposed his lack of repentance for his country's wartime atrocities.

His declared intention to rephrase the 1995 Murayama Statement -- a landmark war-repentant statement made by post-war Japan -- possibly by replacing such words as "colonial rule" and "aggression", once again chafed the unhealed scar of its neighbors that have suffered greatly under Japanese intruders during the war.

Since taking office, the blunt-speaking Japanese leader, in a bid to boost his domestic popularity by catering to the country's rightist sentiment, has ruffled quite many feathers in Asia and beyond with inappropriate and insensitive comments on Japan's wartime history and related issues such as "comfort women", a Japanese euphemism for women forced into sex slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII.

To become a truly responsible politician, he may have to learn from his colleagues in Europe, where generations of political leaders from former Axis nations not only made repeated apologies to victims of their country's war crimes in the past, but also worked relentlessly to promote true reflections on that dark part of human history.

While shouting "Heil Hitler" in a public place has become a punishable crime in many European countries decades ago, some Japanese political figures, including Abe, as of today still do not even bother to conceal their zest for homage trips to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class A war criminals along with Japan's war dead.

Actions have their consequences. While honesty and humbleness of German politicians, for example, in regard to WWII history, have won respect for themselves and brought about reconciliation between nations on different side of the ravaging war, Japan finds itself increasingly alienated with neighboring countries.

The wreaths and cards laid at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp every year on Jan. 27 are not merely a sign of grief and sorrow for the victims of the "Nazi death factory", but more of a somber reminder that such inferno should never repeat itself in the future.

Most of us now live in the peaceful part of the world, and decades of peace sometimes gives us the illusion that the specter of war has gone for good. But we have to keep alert that war-peddling comes in tandem with attempts to whitewash or deny past wartime atrocities.

One has to earnestly reflect on its past in order to avoid repeating old mistakes in the future and the same is true for a country.

Japan will have a future only if its neighbors are well assured that it has no intention to repeat its wartime past.

To achieve that end, of all things, Abe and other headstrong Japanese politicians have to first embrace the truth concerning Japan's role during WWII and show sincere remorse, as leaders of modern-day Germany have done for decades.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Bianji)

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