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A Japanese Family Learns First Hand about Nazi Atrocities

~ a photo essay about truth at the Dachau Concentration Camp ~

Oct 30, 2008
Eiji Yoshikawa

Why is it that what happened to Anne Frank is so important to us?

Why did Charlie Chaplin make “The Great Dictator”, before the war in 1940?

Why do we keep making movies such as “Schindler’s List”, “Life is Beautiful” and “The Pianist”, after more than half a century has passed since the concentration camps are all gone?

When I talk about Anne Frank, in Japan and other countries, to school children who are seven to eight years old, why is it that she makes such a powerful impression on them, even though they haven’t yet traveled to any foreign lands?

It’s because what happened to Anne could happen to you. It is actually happening to a large number of innocent people in the world at this very moment.

Watch “The Great Dictator” again. We may laugh when Hitler (Chaplin) plays with the balloon globe. But that’s you who want to conquer the world. Everyone has selfishness and greed which we must control in ourselves… that’s what Chaplin wanted to say, I guess.

To understand something as a whole, you must see the shadow side even though we all tend to try to see the brighter side only. In the dark shadows, through the torch light, seeing things with your eyes, you will find the hidden facts. Only when you see everything, both in the light and the dark, will you understand the whole picture.

The favorite film of my family, including Hiroko, my seventy-five year old mother, is “The Sound of Music”. The movie is filled with the joy of living. Then, after all the joy, this “happiest family in the world” had to walk across the highest Alpine mountains, and cross the ocean, eventually arriving in America to start all over again. Why?

The shadow of the Nazi flag fell across their happiness in Salzburg, Austria -- that’s why.

I decided to take my whole family, including our two-year-old boy, to the world of “light and shadow”. On September 19, 2008, we all took the local train to Dachau, outside of Munich, Germany, after flying for twelve hours over the Siberian sky.

The Dachau Concentration Camp is the second camp that the Nazis built. It became the “text-book” model for the rest of the camps they established. Since it was made in the early stages, near the headquarters of the Nazis, many of the prisoners were very intelligent people, like writers, artists, philosophers and monks.

My family saw the darkness that remained in Dachau. We walked into the gas chamber. Then the next day, we all took the train to Salzburg, the pretty city of “The Sound of Music”. It’s only two hours away from the Nazi base. Now my family really, really understands something about their favorite movie, and they can see the depth of what’s behind the scenes.

In Japan where I live, the movie “The Great Dictator” was prohibited until 1960; twenty years after Chaplin made it. Now, my family - including Hiroko who was completely brainwashed by the Japanese government during the war just like everyone else - clearly knows why Japan didn’t want to show the movie.

I believe in the power of knowledge.

You may click on any of the photos to see a larger image.
 
Arrival
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Arrival in the Jewish camp. Many marched in. Not many walked out.
 
The first prisoners were hundreds of religious leaders, philosophers, writers, painters, artists and the intelligentsia, including Viktor Frankl.
 
The gate
The gate was an office, too.
The Gestapo was there.
Freedom through work
At the entrance to the Jewish camp, there is a phrase on the metal gate - “Arbeit Macht Frei” - that means “Work Brings Freedom”, which was a lie (for the prisoners).
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Roll Call
The roll call every day was held here. Many died here.
Monument in Dachau
This monument shows dead people who tried to escape and got tangled in the barbed wire.
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Barracks
in the camp site

The size of the Dachau Concentration Camp is tremendous. It's the size of 20-30 soccer fields. 200,000 people were imprisoned. In this field, there used to be a number of barracks side by side.
Cells

The buildings with the cells which were used for “punishment”.
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Torture room Many people endured the pain.
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Hard Beds  
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The Changing Room
They said that it was for a shower. You took off your clothes here for the last time in your life.
The Gas Chamber
The Dachau concentration camp and the gas chamber. Selfishness is the beginning of the worst crimes -- and we all have it.
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Sincere Apology In the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany,
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no where in the spacious site,can you find any sign whatsoever
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of empty words of apology.Revealing everything
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under the bright sunshows their deepest regret.
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Night, Shadow and Light

  Go See . . . with your eyes...
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Listen with your ears...Walk on your feet...
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Think...
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See the facts... ~ facts ~
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~ facts ~~ facts ~
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~ facts ~~ facts ~
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~ facts ~~ facts ~
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~ facts ~~ facts ~
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~ facts ~Find the truth.
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Talk...to understand their lies.
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We will all walk together andcross the river to the other side.
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We will never, ever want to see the tangled barbed wire and bodies again.
Never.
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We will walk together andLet true freedom ring.
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Learning at the camp
If I were a teacher, I would definitely take my students to one of the concentration camps to learn and grow together. I'm not a teacher, but I will do it. That's my duty for being alive.
Japanese go shopping
Not many Japanese participate in the tour of the camp. They go shopping, eating, partying and so on. They don't think that they have a lot to do with camps and war history.
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Facts and truth
Children need facts and truth. If adults don't show them the truth, children should fight back. Adults need to learn this.
 
Keep the place clean
I didn't see any staff at the camp except cleaning people. That makes you feel comfortable to see and learn. Many people. No sound. There were thousands of visitors at the camp, but there was total silence. No one said a word. When people are learning and growing, they are quiet. The power of truth.
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Teaching history
Japanese teachers teach history without visiting the places they are talking about. Not knowing is not a sin, not trying to find out is a sin. Many deny Japan's invasion of many countries in Asia.

Show the truth
Showing all truth is what we should learn from Germany.
 
Students in Dachau
Many young students come to Dachau. As long as we see that happening, we feel that the future is brighter. BUT we need to bring more people to Dachau and other places that show the truth about war.
After visiting the camp
One of the Americans who visited the Jewish Camp said, “I really didn’t like Germany, because of the Nazis.” After visiting the camp and meeting a number of German people, he said, “I not only love them, but also respect them.”
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30 years
The fact that Germany not only kept a number of Jewish camps, but is also showing it to everyone promises peace for at least 30 years, I hope.
Where eagles dare What is it?
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To get there, walk through the tunnel for 124 meters and take the golden elevator for 124 meters up.
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The “Eagle’s Nest / Kehlsteinhaus” was built on top of a mountain for Hitler. The smart German government did not let anyone visit this hideout of Hitler’s until May, 2002 because they didn’t want to encourage anything about the man, I guess.Zazie’s family
Zazie’s husband Jose was the truest “Man of Men”. Zazie is proud of Jose and is very happy to have met a true man like him. He fought as a “resistance fighter” in the mountains during World War II.
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Back then, a big part of Zazie’s family - her father, grandfather, two grandmothers, her uncle and aunt - were all sent to Auschwitz. Only one grandmother and her aunt came back alive. Her aunt was 20 years old when she returned and is now 84.
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For all those years, she could not talk about the camp. Nobody wanted to know about it in those days too. Now, Zazie would like to make some record of what her aunt remembers. But her aunt does not want to talk about it. Zazie told me that it was an intense emotional moment to see the photos I had taken at the camp I had recently visited. She also said that she cannot go to the camp, but it was good that I did and am talking about it to people around the world.

Eiji Yoshikawa is a retired Pro Boxer who majored inFrench literature and did his thesis on Jean Cocteau and Cinematography. He founded the "Peacemakers", Japan's first neighborhood watch, and spends much of his time visiting schools and communities teaching children about non-violence. In 2004, Japan Inc. Magazine called him the "Compassionate Pugilist". We are proud to offer "Letters from the Compassionate Pugilist" as our first guestcolumnist. Contact Eiji at www.eiji.tv or via email.

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