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We might forgive but not forget
Such are the horrors revealed about the Japanese army’s treatment of its Chinese enemies that passages of Antony Beevor’s superb new book The Second World War (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25) are very hard indeed to read.
Pushing aside the volume on Friday night, I turned to that day’s Daily Telegraph where I read the following letter: “During his visit to Japan this year David Cameron . . . said: ‘We do have very good relations between Britain and Japan. We are old friends.’ I realise that the consensus is that the past is the past. However, I am a 96-year-old former Far East Prisoner of War, captured by the Japanese in 1942 and forced to work for three-and-a-half years on the Thai-Burma railway. Intense cruelty was inflicted on me and my colleagues. Thousands perished at the hands of the Japanese. Many survivors suffered severe mental and physical problems for the rest of their lives. None of this can, nor should be forgotten.”
Next I turned to the Spectator and a letter there from Hiroshi Suzuki, the director of London’s Japan Cultural Centre.
He wrote: “I refer to the article ‘Failing Britain’ by James Delingpole. The author uses the word ‘Jap’ four times. Japanese people find this term offensive irrespective of the circumstances. This is precisely why this term should not be used. It is a derogatory term that was frequently used in anti-Japanese propaganda during the second world war. It is my strong hope that the word is never allowed to appear again in any future articles in your magazine.”