Recently an interesting discovery was made in Denver, the United States. According to the Japan Times: “letters arriving from Japanese-Americans internment camps during World War Two were discovered during renovations.” Internees sent letters and postcards to a Denver pharmacy owned by Japanese-Americans requesting them to send bath powder, cold creams or cough drops. About 110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during the war. The camps were overcrowded and provided poor living conditions. However the internees were able to correspond with the outside world requesting “luxuries”. The conditions in the Dutch camps during World War Two were far worse. In fact these were concentration camps run by the Japanese military in occupied Dutch East Indies. The Dutch people were held in these concentration camps with the sole purpose to destroy the Dutch influence in Dutch East Indies. They were terrorized, denied medicines and provided with poor food. Many died. The survivors were left with traumas, poor futures and as a result of the captivity lost but all.
The Japanese-Americans received a formal apology from President Reagan and a redress payment of US$ 20,000 each to the surviving internees in 1988. Similarly in the same year the Canadian government issued formal apologies to Japanese Canadian survivors, who were each paid CAN$ 19,000. The value of these individual payments nowadays would be around € 80,000. Very much like the Dutch situation when the Japanese Supreme Court dismissed the case for reparations to the Dutch held in concentrations camps, so did the Supreme Court of the United States rule in favour of the U.S. government. Crucially however, the U.S. Congress did subsequently pass legislation to award the formal payments. In fact, the American politicians accepted the moral obligation for an unjust internment.
The generous gesture by the U.S Congress to accept the moral obligation, to apologize and redress the sufferings of these Japanese-Americans puts again in question Japan’s position in denying her moral obligation to the Dutch. Japan should follow the American political example, accept its moral obligation and must reconsider its position.
We wish you and the people of Japan, in these testing times, all the best in the New Year.
On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts,
J.F. van Wagtendonk