Statement by Ambassador Kenzo Oshima
Permanent Representative of Japan
At the Special Session of the General Assembly
On the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps

24 January 2005

Mr. President,

Japan joins a large number of Member States in fully supporting the holding of this special session to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and we mourn the victims of the Holocaust. Humankind has long experience with the scourge of war, and twice in the first half of the 20th century the world again went through such horrors, and experienced untold suffering, misery and sorrow. This must not be repeated; we must remember past mistakes in our history and learn from them, and recommit ourselves, in our collective resolve, never to allow them to happen again. This special session of the General Assembly should serve as an important reminder of this solemn determination.

Mr. President,

As we look back upon the Nazi persecution that destroyed six million Jewish people, and many others, let me take this opportunity to touch upon one episode that has come to be widely known among Japanese and Jewish people today. In the early days following the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, a Japanese diplomat, while serving at the Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, issued more than one thousand travel visas to Jewish people who came banging on the door of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania in a desperate attempt to flee from the Nazi persecution. The travel visas allowed them to transit through Japan before going on to their eventual destinations.

What is remarkable about this story is that it took great courage for the diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, one of a few names referred to as "Shindlers" by the Secretary-General this morning, to carry out this task, because, while Japan had adopted a non-discrimination policy towards Jewish people at the time, many desperate Jewish people in Kaunas failed to fulfill certain prior conditions, such as having immigration authorization in their countries of final destination, under which Japanese consuls were authorized to issue transit visas.

Sugihara nevertheless issued these Jewish people transit visas, on his own responsibility and out of sheer humanitarian concern. He worked frantically, day in and day out, until the very last moment before his departure from a train station in Lithuania in September 1940.

This diplomat's courage and humanism helped save thousands of Jewish lives in those dark and difficult hours. Many people have remembered Sugihara and will probably remember him forever. I am one who feels very proud that there was such a person as Vice-Consul Sugihara among our predecessors. At the same time, I believe this story also contains a lesson for posterity: the importance of humanism and humanitarian considerations in the conduct of international affairs.

Mr. President,

The wisdom of the human being lies in his or her capacity to learn from the past. Our past history must be the mirror for the future. Many previous speakers have addressed this lesson, which we fully embrace.

In this connection, there have been some references made to the tragedies caused by the war in Asia. In regard to these references, I wish to state the following, recalling the position of the my government on the matter. Allow me to quote from the formal statement made, in 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war's end. Then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama of Japan, with the endorsement of the full Cabinet, stated:

Quote, "During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology." End of quote.

Repeated by all succeeding prime ministers and other leaders of our government, this remains Japan's position on the issue.

Mr. President,

I conclude by noting that this year the United Nations celebrates its 60th anniversary, and next year, 2006, Japan will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its entry into the United Nations. The UN has come a long, long way since its inception 60 years ago, and so has my country, Japan, over this period of time.

From one of the former enemy states at the time of the foundation of the organization, Japan has long since become one of its largest contributors, in terms of both supporting many of its activities and meeting its requirements. Japan has thus shown itself to be a Member State with an undivided commitment to and faith in the ideals and objectives of the United Nations.

Let me state that we are proud of this and, at the same time, in all humility, we pledge to make our utmost efforts to continue to promote international cooperation as a responsible member of the international community, and to work for world peace and development based on the principles and ideals of the Charter.

Thank you.

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