Japanese Prime Minister Abe visits Anne Frank house and says “lessons of history” teach about peace

Anne Frank wrote her diary while hiding with her family. When she was discovered she was sent to a concentration camp where she died. Their house is regarded as a memorial for Holocaust victims. Photo Source: Anne Frank Museum

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has constantly been the subject of criticism from neighboring Asian countries for his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

However, in a visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the leader, seemed to debunk accusations from China and South Korea saying that nations must face the facts of history. His spokesperson supported his statement saying that his visit to the historical house in Amsterdam and the Yasukuni Shrine are in no way contradictory.

The house is a renowned reminder of the social cost of World War II. It is now regarded as a memorial to the victims of Holocaust. The house was where a German-born Jewish girl hid during the war before being discovered and sent to a Nazi concentration camp where she died. Anne Frank, together with her family, hid in the house from 1942 to 1944. She kept a diary which recorded her life and experience during the war. The house reportedly hosts an average of a million visitors every year.

Prime Minister Abe is in the Netherlands for a summit of the Group of Seven and meeting on nuclear security. He took the opportunity of making trips and learning “lessons of history”.

“The 20th century was characterized by war and by the violation of basic human rights. I want to ensure the same things do not happen in the 21st century, and I share responsibility to realize this goal,” said the prime minister. 

December of last year, China and South Korea lashed at Prime Minister Abe for making a visit at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The countries claim that the shrine is a symbol of war. The shrine is also said to be the site that honors war criminals.

He further said that nations should look into historical facts to teach humility and “pass on the lessons of history to the next generation”. The lessons in history will eventually enjoin nation “to realize peace in the entire international community”. After the brief tour in the hidden annex where the Frank family hid, PM Abe left the site.

A Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said there is no contradiction to the experience of visiting a memorial of Japanese soldiers to visiting a memorial abroad. He said that the Yasukuni is a memorial for the 2.46 million people who died during conflicts since 1853. This include the soldiers who died in World War I and II. The spokesperson further revealed that the prime minister issued a statement that Japan must never again wage war during his visit at the shrine.

China and South Korea had repeatedly accused Japan for failing to atone for its war crimes and atrocities compared to Germany. Both countries were known to have been occupied by Japan. China’s ambassador to Germany was found quoted to have compared the visit of Prime Minister Abe to the Yasukuni shrine to a German chancellor laying flowers on Hitler’s bunker.

The two contending countries apparently wish to spill their unresolved issues to Europe. After the visit of the Japanese prime minister to the Anne Frank house, Chinese President Xi Jinping also expressed his desire to make a trip to Germany this month to World War II sites.

However, the Japan Times reports that the president’s plan to visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin has been refused. 

President Xi is also visiting the Netherlands for an official trip but skipped the Anne Frank house to visit a tulip show with his wife in the Keukenhof Castle.

In 2012, then China’s premier Wen Jiabao visited the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He then said that “only those who remember history can build  a good future”.

Prime Minister Abe who was toured through the narrow stairs and corridors by a Dutch guide was said to have been surprised at how small the Anne Frank hiding space is. He also expressed his amazement of the diary when he then read it as part of the readings at his school when he was a child. He also recalled seeing the film about the girl’s life story.

Last year, the Ann Frank house was visited by 33,000 Japanese tourists. The story is said to be popular in the country.


Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE