A warm-hearted illusionOn Dec. 8, a new edition of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” or “My Struggle,” was republished in Germany 70 years after it went out of print. The book is an autobiographical political manifesto of the Nazi dictator, who was imprisoned for the Munich Beer Hall revolt in 1925 when he was 36.
After the fall of Nazi Germany, the state of Bavaria had the copyright and refused to publish it, making it virtually banned. The copyright expired at the end of last year - 70 years after the author’s death - and the Institute of Contemporary History republished the book to facilitate accurate understanding of Nazism to prevent extreme racism.
In Germany and the international community, banning the publication of “Mein Kampf” was described as a symbol of Germany’s conscience. Unlike unapologetic Japan, Germany was considered to be strict on further discussing Nazism by making the book inaccessible. As this notorious book was republished, the international media considers it a measure to properly condemn Nazism. Whether the book is banned or the ban is lifted, Germany is always treated as a model nation.
But is Germany really exemplary? Lift the cover of the hidden parts of the history, and the ugly face of Germany is exposed. In 1904, Germany massacred the Herero and Nama tribes to expand in German South West Africa, which is modern day Namibia. The German army poisoned wells in the area. In the first genocide of the 20th century, 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero and 10,000 of the 20,000 Nama people were killed.
Moreover, Germany put 2,000 survivors into concentration camps for medical experiments on race. Later, their corpses were brought to Germany for further experimentation, and 20 remains were returned to Namibia in 2011.
It is widely understood that Germans were too naive and were tricked into committing evil deeds by a mad man called Hitler. But before Hitler’s appearance, Germany had conducted the evil experiments on living bodies.
Nevertheless, Germany only acknowledged the genocide in 2004 after repeated demands from the Namibian government. Not the chancellor but the minister of economic development and cooperation recognized the racial extermination in a speech, and Germany still refuses financial compensation.
Perhaps, we have made an illusion of Germany as a good nation to emphasize Japan’s negative aspects and only look at what we like to see. Why would Germany be so apologetic to the victims of the Holocaust? Some experts say that Jewish Americans are very powerful and influential while Namibians are not. Sadly, that’s the inconvenient truth of how the international community works. If Korea wants a sincere apology from Japan, we have to become strong.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 11, Page 31
by NAM JEONG-HO