On December 3, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a panel discussion titled “Transcending Historical Legacies: From Post War Germany to Abe’s Japan”. The goal of the event was to broaden the discussion about whether Japan and its neighbors can transcend pre-1945 history by examining how Germany and Turkey have dealt with their own challenging historical legacies. Professor Naoyuki Agawa from Keio University was the guest speaker from Tokyo while GMF non-resident transatlantic fellow, Joshua Walker and Stephen Szabo, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy, provided comparative analysis on Turkey and Germany and what lessons Japan and its neighbors might distill. The discussion was moderated by Daniel Kliman, a senior advisor with the Asia Program at GMF.
Professor Agawa opened by detailing many of the measures taken by Japan in dealing with its historical legacy, but also conceded that the nation was still struggling to confront its past, as territorial disputes and conflicting interpretations of pre-1945 history continue to hamper relations between Japan and its neighbors and at times. Dr. Walker and Dr. Szabo followed Professor Agawa’s remarks by exploring the similarities, differences, and possible lessons for Japan and the Abe administration from the Turkish and German experiences.
After the opening remarks, the discussion was opened to the broader group, which included representatives from embassies, think tanks, academics, as well as US government officials. The discussion touched on possible steps Japan could take to mend the relationship with South Korea, the constructive role the private sector and civil society can play in bridging existing gaps between societies, and the importance of having a country’s history and knowledge of past mistakes taught in schools but also teaching the history of neighboring countries in order to foster a better understanding among citizens. Many agreed that historical legacies cannot be transcended but rather, countries like Japan, Germany and Turkey, must engage in the process of confronting their historical legacies.
Twitter users can access the #GMFAsia tweets to follow the conversation.