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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
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.
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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