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War Responsibility Revisited: Auschwitz in Japan

July 12, 2007
Volume 5 | Issue 7
Article ID 2470

War Responsibility Revisited: Auschwitz in Japan

Miriam Silverberg


Miriam Silverberg

Introduction by Ann Sherif 

Japan Focus introduction: For more than five decades after the end of the World War II, Japan articulated an official identity as a pacifist, anti-nuclear nation both domestically and in the international arena (its formidable Self Defense Force notwithstanding). Since the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, however, the debate over revising Japan’s “Peace Constitution” intensified. In particular, Article 9 of the Constitution, by which Japan renounces offensive war, has been under attack by politicians proclaiming the goal of becoming “a normal nation”, and the present Abe administration has prioritized Constitutional revision. Along with politicians and the citizenry, many intellectuals and artists have spoken against the possibility of Japan identifying itself as a “nation that wages war”--thus rejecting its assumed role as advocate of peace and foe of nuclear arms. In June 2004, Nobel Prize winner Oe Kenzaburo, along with artists and intellectuals Inoue Hisashi, Komori Yoichi, and Kato Shuichi and others, formed the Article 9 Association, which advocates “protection” or preservation of the present Constitution.

Members of Article 9 Association

In her article, Miriam Silverberg urges us to consider two complex questions: How do intellectuals go to war? How do intellectuals revisit war? Although Silverberg frames these questions primarily in the context of the United States’ war on terror, she also certainly would want readers to reflect on the involvement of Japan’s Self Defense Forces in the Iraq war, as well as the debate over revision of the Constitution. The issues are intimately related to the raging controversy over Prime Ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where casualties of past wars are enshrined. While Prime Minister Abe has thus far refrained from making a high profile Yasukuni Shrine visit, discussion of the need for new sites of mourning persists. Some envision a new government memorial for the dead of past wars separate from the Shinto shrine, while others assert the need for places to lay to rest and mourn the dead in future Japanese wars, wars unimaginable under the present Constitution.

Silverberg reminds us of the extent to which Japan is haunted by its most recent major war, a war that ended over sixty years ago. Entangled with ongoing debates over atrocities and barbarisms committed in the course of battle are the inhumane acts “unrelated to war and committed mostly against innocent civilians,” that is, the former colonial subjects of the Japanese empire. We are reminded of the aborted process, in the early postwar, of “serious self-reflection” about war responsibility, complicity, and guilt by intellectuals such as Odagiri Hideo and others for whom the war and imperialism was lived experience. Silverberg demands that we shift our attention in revisiting “Japanese war-time behavior and post-war post-mortems” to the question of how intellectuals become complicit with or resist the road to war, rather than “why?” If we do not understand the how—process and practice—we risk missing the interaction between larger social forces and more intimate motives and ideas as part of history, whether in relation to Japan’s Asia-Pacific War or contemporary American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In discussing the sometimes problematic media representation of visits to Auschwitz by Japanese intellectuals such as Mori Tatsuya, Silverberg points out the conflicting demands between historicity and cultural specificity, on the one hand, and the necessity for appealing to universality and human empathy. Reluctantly, Silverberg critiques Mori’s glossy color images of Auschwitz as “giving style to the Holocaust,” of somehow aestheticizing (and thus commodifying) the horrifying pile of shoes belonging to those murdered in the concentration camps. Yet Mori is not alone in succumbing to the seduction of beautifying the suffering of others. Indeed the annual World Press Photo Exhibition makes the viewer squirm with guilt and pleasure at the gorgeous images by photojournalists, spectacular color photos of a slaughtered corpse in Darfur, or the pleading eyes of a starving child. But we must also pose the questions—is there only one proper mode of representation of atrocity? If the formal and aesthetic properties of the image or text serve to facilitate empathy, awareness, a desire to know more, and even action—is making it beautiful, appealing, compelling always wrong?

Finally, Silverberg makes the point that many intellectuals and artists in Japan, along with ordinary people, are far more aware of the world outside of Japan than are their American counterparts. This simple fact is one worth revisiting again and again. The imbalance of knowledge, translation, and information between the U.S. and other countries goes a long way in explaining America’s hubris and willingness to go to war with peoples in cultures it hardly knows and whose languages it has not bothered to learn. Whether American and Japanese intellectuals will find themselves allies in coming wars is another question. --Ann Sherif


How do intellectuals go to war? My first query emerged from the events that all too rapidly took form following what came to be known as “September 11.” It may be no accident that the only other day commemorated here in the United States by enunciating the date, is the “4th of July.” Even the historian suspicious of linearity must admit that all interpretations of cause-and-effect are rendered suspect by this form of dating. Without notation of a calendar year the referenced event is taken out of history and brought closer to the realm of myth, a realm much more hospitable to the cyclical rituals of patriotism.

Without the date in terms of month, day, and year my second question, “How do intellectuals revisit war?” is rendered almost unanswerable. Not only does one war merge into the next, pronouncements in the months preceding the declaration of and thereby the legalization of battle, are rendered invisible. How does the post September 11 War on Terrorism follow from the saber–rattling of the preceding weeks? What date was the Patriot Act passed in relationship to September 11? And how long after our government had begun to redefine the rights of citizenship, along with the privileges of the immigrant? We do not know; we were not paying attention; we were out buying flags.

There were the exceptions. Within days of September 11, Susan Sontag pointed to a “disconnect between the monstrous dose of reality and the self–righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators.”


Susan Sontag

The media chose to repeat her assessment of those responsible for the violence “Whatever may be said of the Perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.” Sontag was then ostracized for calling the enemy courageous. One year later, she was still trying to combat the mainstream press with her reference to a “pseudo-declaration of a “pseudo-war.” Her explanation, “…There are no endless wars; but there are declarations of the extension of power by a state that believes it cannot be challenged” was all but ignored. (cf. Arundhati Roy’s similar reference to “what President Bush rather biblically calls ‘the task that does not end.’” Roy’s response was also similar to Sontag’s indictment of Bush’s will to power: “I find myself thinking a great deal of the relationships between citizens and the state.”) And in a chilling reminder of the rampant excesses of McCarthy’s reign, comedian and talk-show host, Bill Maher, saw his program cancelled after a not dissimilar remark.[1]

Iconic image of Twin Towers in 9/11 attack

My second query, “How do Intellectuals Revisit War?” was prompted by the work of Japanese scholars, so many of whom looked toward the new millennium by looking back on the century as an era of warfare. Equally important in directing me to my second question was the repetition of the term jiko sekinin (self or personal responsibility) in the Japanese media after three young Japanese citizens were taken hostage in Iraq in the Spring of 2004, at a time when I was privileged to be affiliated with the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at Seikei University. The repeated use of the term appeared to me to coincide with an intensified attention to the question of senso sekinin, the literal translation for which is “war responsibility.” The meaning of both terms eluded me. While “self responsibility seemed somehow redundant, “war responsibility” was ambiguous. An article in the April 30, 2004 issue of Shukan Asahi placed “self responsibility” in its recent context for me: It was the twisted strategy of the Koizumi administration to discredit the hostages by publicly emphasizing their lack of “self –responsibility’” and by spreading innuendos accusing the three young citizens of staging the event. The Weekly Asahi showed how the Yomiuri Shimbun had picked up the refrain: The three had brought the situation on themselves and had greatly burdened the government by rushing irresponsibly into a dangerous region with no concern for self-responsibility [emphasis added]. They were to be held accountable to pay for their ransom because of “self-responsibility.” The Weekly Asahi article went on to cite a media expert who placed the term jiko sekinin within its place in the contemporary parole of late capitalist Japan. Over the past several years, the term had been adopted as one of accusation by those in power eager to abnegate responsibility. The media expert who contextualized the term, noted how industry had begun to talk in terms of the “’self responsibility’ of the consumer,” and that “even crime was now the ‘self-responsibility’ of the citizenry.” She explained that it had become the ­ means, not only of denying responsibility but also of claiming authority and legitimacy in taking the offense in order to ensure the elimination of anyone different.[2]

The term senso sekinin is not as easily defined as the mean-spirited jiko sekinin. Within contemporary Japanese popular and academic parlance it seems to imply war guilt as associated with war crimes, loosely defined. However, as German writer, Gitta Sereny, has shown in her memoir, The Healing Wound: Experiences and Reflections, Germany 1938-2001, the language attached to the revisitation of war has consequences for the interpretation and adjudication of wartime actions. She emphasizes the accomplishments of the Central Agency for Investigation in contrast with the work of the so-called ‘war crime trials’ conducted by the Allies. The Agency, whose determinations, based on the distinction between a war crime (committed in the course of war actions) and an ‘NS (Nationalist Socialist) crime’ (unrelated to war and committed mostly against innocent civilians) was able to conduct landmark trials of national Socialist acts, leading to the conviction of almost 6,500 individuals between 1958 and 1996. The Allies incorrectly considered crimes committed by the SS or the Wehrmacht in occupied countries and concentration and extermination camps outside of Germany to be war crimes, and thus out of the reach of the German courts which only had jurisdiction over crimes committed by Germans against Germans. When, by 1950, most of those tried for ‘war crimes’ were released, those guilty of what the German courts considered “NS crimes” were out of the reach of the court because of the ruling of the Allies that these individuals could only be tried once.[3]

While I am herein interested in most recent history, and will not address the premises, rulings, or institutional and psychological legacies of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, Serenyi’s discussion suggests the need for study of analogous developments, including the connections and distinction between war crimes and inhumane acts that must be associated with both war and the arrangements of Japanese colonialism.[4] Instead, I would like to briefly examine some uses of the term “wartime responsibility” before modifying my initial query, in order to ask how Japanese intellectuals have gone to war.

The preface to the inaugural issue of Senso Sekinin Kenkyu (Studies in War Responsibility), the journal of the Japan Resource Center for War Responsibility, confronted the ambiguity allowed for by the term war responsibility: In order to ensure that acknowledgment of and apologies for responsibility would go beyond lip service it was necessary to clarify “Who has what kind of responsibility to whom?’”[5] In 1998, the first issue of Dainiki Senso Sekinin traced the process whereby intellectuals in the literary world, most specifically those affiliated with Shin Nihon Bungaku, approached “tracking down war responsibility” as early as October of 1945. By December, Nakano Shigeharu was linking the necessity of “self-criticism” by “democratic’’ writers as part of his proposal to trace war responsibility, at the rally establishing the Shin Nihon Bungakukai (New Japan Literary Organization). Those who had willingly and eagerly supported “the war of invasion” as well as those who had been coerced were equally responsible for producing self-criticism that would show how their literature had contributed to the war effort.[6]

It was literary critic, Odagiri Hideo, who pointed to the question of the language being appropriated by intellectuals revisiting their actions in the June 1946 issue of Shin Nihon Bungaku (New Japanese Literature). Therein, he argued that in the case of literature the term “war responsibility” rather than “war crimes” was apposite. Odagiri’s rejection of the phrase ”ichi oku sozange” (one hundred million all penitent), the mea culpa of the period immediately following the end of the war, shows how the ambiguity surrounding war responsibility could place the blame in varied sites. Odagiri’s “war responsibility” entailed serious self-reflection on the part of authors. To talk in terms that placed the blame on the entire populace was “idiotic.” To place the blame on the Japanese people was to remove blame from those directly responsible. Putting the blame at the feet of the “one hundred million” most definitely shifted blame away from the guilty. Another contributing factor was the inability of the In the end, however, New Japan Literary Organization was unable to follow through on its promise to do more than name names: to conduct in-depth analysis of how exactly literature had helped the war effort. It was blocked from moving forward because a continuation in the naming of names (and literary works, etc.) would have meant that the culpability of authors on the left would become even more evident.[7]

Today, the specificity that the term “war responsibility” was supposed to give to the process of assigning guilt is largely absent, as is any reference to “war crimes.” The ‘one hundred million’ (the Japanese subjects) are no longer guilty, but then, nobody is guilty. Thus no one is obligated to discuss the grotesquerie of the violent acts and there is no subject attached to the term “war responsibility.” There appears to be a consensus that senso sekinin refers to some kind of War atrocity committed by some kind of group or individual. I am fully aware that this discussion can begin to sound much too literal. It can be argued that the term “war guilt” is commonly used when translating senso sekinin. But this both begs the question “guilty of what” and the question, “responsible to whom?” In fact when Prime Minister Higashikuni Naruhiko in fall 1945 called for mass contrition of the 100,000,000 he was proclaiming that the people were guilty of losing the war. He was asserting that the Japanese people had engaged in any kind of crime against humanity. According to this logic, the Japanese people were responsible for carrying out the Emperor’s wishes and were thus guilty of losing his war. This was in marked contrast to the approach of the Allies, who equated guilt with taking the initiative to go to war. If we accept the argument of Shukan Asahi that the Koizumi administration wielded the term “self responsibility” as a diversionary tactic deflecting the attention of the populace away from examining Koizumi’s dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq in the first place, a repetition reveals itself. Just as Koizumi blamed the young free-lance journalists and welfare worker for putting the Japanese nation at risk, Higashikuni had concealed the responsibility of the Japanese leadership -- going back almost two decades -- among the one hundred million guilty subjects. Shielded from view also, were the Japanese intellectuals who went to war.[8]

How Have Japanese Intellectuals Gone to War?

Nishikawa Nagao’s Senso no seiki wo koete, an example of Japanese scholarship revisiting the past century as a century marked by warfare, includes a compelling discussion of the “out of the ordinary moment” (iyo na shunkan) awaited by intellectuals. He quotes from literary works, diaries and poetry by such writers as Dazai Osamu, and Takamura Kotaro that responded to that out of the ordinary moment that arrived on December 8, 1941. Nishikawa wishes to make it clear that literary figures were flooded by the emotions and excitement felt by the populace at large. Writers actually embraced the moment “when words were not necessary.”[9] While Nishikawa refers to fascism and notes the similarities to reminiscent of Nazi rhetoric, he holds the modern nation-state responsible for similar responses to the onset of war both at other times in the history of the modern Japanese nation-state and in other nations. Nonetheless it is Japanese history that Nishikawa is discussing and the history of Japan that determined the nature of the emotional responses. How, then, I would like to ask, could the Japanese intellectual of the 1930s and 1940s go to war, as an intellectual?

My answer is that the options were fairly limited during the 1930s and 194Os. There were those, like the writers of Jinmin Bunko, who expressed their sentiments in a literary magazine with no overt claim to a political agenda. At a time when the journal Bungei Seiki was naming names for the Tokkotai (Secret Police) by pointing a finger at who was “Red” and who was “a leftist in disguise” in each if its issues, Jinmin Bunko editor Takami Jun and colleagues engaged in their own political activism by rushing to bookstores to flip through the pages of each new issue of Bungei Seiki before the authorities could study the names. The fictional pieces published in their journal carried on the heritage of the Proletarian literature movement in a more muted fashion. Similarly, the intellectuals among the Kibei (Japanese-American who received education in Japan) who were incarcerated in the United States during the Pacific War started their own literary magazines. To include these writers within Japanese literary history is not to deny them the rights of US citizens as was done to them by their own government. My point is that the cultural orientation of these young people was forged within the context of pre-Pacific War Japan, as is clear from the format of the literary magazines produced from within each concentration camp that was established for American citizens of Japanese descent and for their Japan-born parents.

The journals, such as Doto (Raging Waves) the magazine that was an outgrowth of the Tule Lake seinendan (youth corps) published from July 1944 through the June 22, 1945 issue, skirted censorship with such images as the Statue of Liberty in tears, and articles such as “On National History Education.” The date was October 7, 1944; the nation in question was Japan. The concern was consideration of ‘the Japanese spirit.’ These literary journals were a way for intellectuals who acted as intellectuals through the medium of the Japanese language to go to war after they had been deemed un-American and incarcerated.


Stockade at Tule Lake

Most recently the journal Zenya has taken up the political cause of expressing the urgent need to counter war, discrimination and colonialism through cultural commentary. I include it here, within the context of visiting, rather than revisiting, because of its concern with our current state of war. Its sense of urgency is expressed in its credo:

That the eve of catastrophe will become an eve of rebirth

The eve of war the eve of liberation

We will not abandon that hope; that desire.[10]

Other wartime intellectuals, less cautious in their opposition or less lucky, went to prison, where they continued to write. I would argue that the prison diaries and the letters written from prison by Proletarian writers along with such figures as Kawakami Hajime and Fukumoto Kazuo should be studied as a genre of prison literature alongside such post-war autobiographical writing as Yamashiro Tomoe’s multi-volume work.[11]

Finally there were those who collaborated with the state. In the Japanese context the words “cooperated” or tenko (political apostasy) have been used to refer to intellectuals who produced culture at the behest of the state. It is not my intent here to engage in an in depth discussion of the scholarship on tenko.[12] The topic is too important and complex to treat in a cursory fashion. For example there is the case of Sata Ineko. Since interviewing Sata Ineko three times during the 1980’s I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand, “why?” Why one of the leading figures of the Proletarian literature movement -- I will not qualify her place in Japanese literary history as “woman” Proletarian literature writer – abandoned her overt anti-imperialist position to champion Japan’s occupation of virtually all of Asia? Recently I have begun to think that the relevant question here, and in other interrogations of Japanese war-time behavior and post-war post-mortems cannot be why, but must be “how?”

How Have Japanese Intellectuals Revisited War?

The postwar Japanese discourse on war responsibility has been one form of revisiting, and I would include Sata Ineko’s attempts to explain her wartime collusion with the state in her postwar literature and essays as examples of revisiting. In the post-war era, the practice of starting new journals with political ramifications, which, as I have mentioned was one way of “going to war”, became a form of going back to (or revisiting) war. For example, the theme of the inaugural issue of Josei Senso Jinken (Women, War, Human Rights) was “What is war responsibility?” The prefatory comments to this first issue by philosopher Shimizu Kiyoko emphasized that neither in the pre-war years nor in the post-war moment had the Japanese people been able to consider themselves as autonomous citizens. Neither Unit 731 nor the Rape of Nanking nor even the “Comfort Woman” problem had been taught in the schools. The students had been taught that Japan’s role as victim nation was to act as a virtuous example by spreading an anti-war message. There was no room in this discourse for dissenting voices. It was the goal of the journal Women, War, Human Rights to foster debate on precisely these issues and make available documentation through research. Hannah Arendt scholar Okano Yayo took up the theme of senso sekinin by sharing the story of her awakening from the complacent position that the state as “subject” was responsible for bringing about the war and therefore those with no direct engagement were not guilty of any responsibility.[13]

More localized publications such as the booklet Our Inner Responsibility, published by high school administrator Nagao Yuzo, have concurred with Okano. This re-publication of the anti-war writing of Watanabe Kiyoshi, who had joined the navy in 1941,[14] held the Japanese people and the Emperor accountable for the atrocities on the Asian continent. In the preface the editor, Nagao, attributes war responsibility to the people, but his is a different position from the ideological call for “one hundred million in contrition:” War responsibility is not just a matter of the Emperor at the top of a leadership; it is also the responsibility of the people of the nation. His position regarding the call to contrition points to the speed with which those in power shifted their language in the immediate aftermath of the war without serious reflection. For example, “100 million in Contrition” was quickly displaced by “democracy” and “Building a cultured nation” (bunka kokka kensetsu).”[15]

These are but a small sample of the work of intellectuals who have revisited the Pacific War in order to take responsibility for it. But there is another form of revisiting which seems to have begun during the past decade. This is the Japanese pilgrimage to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz in Japan

Auschwitz may indeed be the most historiographically challenging topic for the historian of 20th century Europe and the most emotionally loaded for historian and reader alike. Auschwitz has become short-hand for the Holocaust, the term adopted in post World War Two parlance to refer to the mass murder of over eleven million Europeans, among them Jews, the disabled including the mentally ill, gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazi regime which ruled over Europe. It conjures up not only the question, “How can the historian find the language and the form to represent Auschwitz as history, in history?” but also the intense query “Can and should the intellectual write about Auschwitz?”[16]

Entrance to Auschwitz

Central issues, which historians of Auschwitz who have determined that the Holocaust can and must be written into history must confront, are the question of representation (how to write this history), the commodification of the Holocaust, and the question of how testimony of the survivor can be used as historical document. But perhaps the most daunting of the problems facing these historians is the question of how to communicate with survivors and survivors of survivors of this human experience of such tragic magnitude. The call from survivors has been “Never Again;” the mandate they have given to the historian is “give us the history so that it will not be forgotten and therefore not repeated.” Within this dialogue, emotion, which is always inseparable from memory, is even more daunting in its ability to hang on. In the words of Giorgio Agamben, “The aporia of Auschwitz is, indeed, the very aporia of historical knowledge: a non-coincidence between facts and truth, between verification and comprehension.”[17]

Auschwitz in today’s Poland 

The historian of Auschwitz recounts the nightmares of those who dreamt and continued to dream those nightmares. The question of universalizing must be faced head-on. In other words are these nightmares qualitatively different from the nightmares of others tortured and massacred en masse? By universalizing is one depriving the historical record of any iota of the horror that must be preserved? Does not the term “holocaust” apply equally to the genocide of the Armenians earlier in the century? And there is always Adorno’s haunting judgment -- poetry cannot be written after Auschwitz; this would be a barbarism.[18]

Leading historiographer and historian of medieval Europe, Gabrielle Spiegel argues that it is not the fear that the history will be forgotten that drives those who push for the documentation of the Holocaust, but the fear that it will become “normalized” as just another one of many historical events. It is, in other words, an exceptionalist stance.

What does it mean for the Japanese intellectual who would produce culture today? What purpose does such a revisiting presume to serve? What message is sent by the Japanese intellectual “going back” to Auschwitz? The case of the artist Nara Yoshitomo, transnational celebrity, known for his paintings and drawings of angry little girls, provides one set of answers.

Nara Yoshitomo at Auschwitz

Nara Yoshitomo (b. 1959), latch-key son of a petty bureaucrat and working mother, talented art student in Japan and Germany, expatriate in Cologne, and at UCLA, and now international cause-celebre. It would seem that the author of Slashed With a Knife, Who Snatched the Babies, Lullaby Supermarket, and I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me should belong in another study. Most Nara fans would indeed be surprised that I have placed this superstar in an essay about intellectuals going to war. The image of Nara which appears in the American and the Japanese press is not one of a politicized artist, yet a close reading of Nara’s writings – and I would argue, his imagery – reveals an intellectual who transgresses both conventional norms and political positions. Of course, this raises the question “can art be transgressive if nobody notices that it is?” and the question “how can we track the transgressive nature of trans-national art?” in other words, is it transgressive if it challenges the power of some of the national sites on which it lands and not all? Can one country’s kitsch be treacherous to the audience in a different country? If so does it deserve the sobriquet kitsch? And does kitsch have to be a pejorative term? Let me limit myself here to a focus on Nara Yoshitomo as anti-war intellectual.[19]

If we take Nara Yoshitomo at his word, in terms of what he has said about his art and his place in the world, we find a marked contrast between his positions and what has been attributed to him both in the U.S. and Japan. It is important to study Nara’s own language because as all scholars of Japan know, according to the unwritten law of cultural exchange between Japan and the west over the past two centuries, the Japanese intellectual, the Japanese artist, and the Japanese mass audience know western art, literature, and icons. Yet there is no reciprocity and little attempt at reciprocity. In other words, Japanese cultural producers and consumers are closely familiar with western culture and their western counterparts remain ignorant of the complexities of Japanese cultural transformations. In the case of Nara, the Western audience has access to a cultural phenomenon but it presumes that there is nothing there to be translated. Nara is seen merely as a cartoonist from a Japan-based, transnational anime culture. No critic in the West listens to the language of the beings he creates, although they are quite vocal in more than one tongue. His children, mostly little girls, express themselves in German, English, and Japanese. This is the inverse of the transnational phenomenon that Anne Allison has tracked. Just as her Pokemon loses national character, Nara is marked as Japanese because supposedly the figures he produces are cartoons (manga). No critic in any art review that I have read takes Nara’s art at more than face value. No critic imagines the need to analyze the nature of these so-called cartoons or to imagine the social implications of their polyglot, polymorphous presence. In Japan, Nara’s young girl fans are enamoured of the ostensible cuteness of the creatures he creates. But the fact is that Nara sends a clear anti-war message in his drawings, his diary and most recently, his photographs. Part of that anti-war message is aimed at World War Two, and most specifically, albeit briefly, at Auschwitz.

Nara Yoshitomo’s Light My Fire from 2001

The first entry in Nara’s published diary[20] is dated August 21, 1999. The afterword is dated May 24, 2001. It follows him from Japan to Germany and to the United States and back to Japan. The contradiction between the personal nature of the entries and their public status in a published work is but one example of the tension between the representation of Nara as the simple, lonely, reclusive artist and the phenomenal acclaim he has achieved internationally. There is also the contradiction between his dismissal of pure art and his privileged place in the highest of art magazines. The most direct political commentary in Nara’s illustrated picture books (most of which are exhibition catalogs) is the figure of a kamikaze pilot of indeterminate gender and attitude. Nor does the diary, which focuses on the artist’s adjustment to moving across borders and his self-conscious attempt at assessing his own work, appear to depart from such introspection. Therefore, the artist’s reference to Auschwitz is a sudden, jarring surprise to the historian:

After breakfast I take the 7:35 IC to Krakow 

It takes two hours and thirty minutes to get to Krakow 

I can see field after field of fog from the window of the train from Warsaw

The train station in Krakow had been remodeled

Was it six years ago that I came here with Drota?

Saving my sightseeing for Krakow I go to Auschwitz 

I tour Auschwitz and Birkenau

The scale of the land of the concentration camp when viewed from the tower is more real than the items on display

I saw the room where father Kolbe died

There’s too much to think about and all I can do is tremble; there is no way I can write …

Nara’s discussion of Auschwitz extends no further. The following year Nara as intellectual would go into the war zone in Afghanistan to take the photos that were to appear alongside photos by Kawauchi Rinko in the first issue of Foil. This was a special with the title of “no war.” These photographs, many of them of children, send an upbeat message through their composition: they contain a flash of pink – a child’s shoe; the cap on a plastic container of radiator coolant; a flower.[21] By the following year Nara’s drawings have gone to war as is evident in his exhibit “new works 2004” at the Blum & Poe Gallery in Los Angeles. Auschwitz also reappears, in the slide-show room of Nara’s Los Angeles exhibit. Over fifty slides rotate to be projected on one wall. Some are from the Afghanistan trip. Others are winsome pictures of children who are clearly the offspring of his personal friends, in Europe. The Auschwitz image, only one of many, goes by quickly, but the picture of the gate is unmistakable. Auschwitz has become an integral part of Nara’s narrative. It is history brought into the present, world history belonging to not only one place but to all places. In contrast, the pilgrimage taken to Auschwitz in 1996 by Suh Kyung-sik and Takahashi Tetsuya was more site-specific.

Suh Kyungsik and Takahashi Tetsuya: Meeting up with Auschwitz

Although I am treating the pilgrimage to Auschwitz by zainichi writer Suh Kyungsik and Japanese philosopher Takahashi Tetsuya out of historic chronology in as much as it occurred before Nara’s visit, I do so for reasons that will become clear. But first let me recapitulate how Auschwitz appears in Danzetsu no Seiki Shogen no Jidai: Senso no kioku o meguru taiwa (A Century of Breaks, an Era of Witnessing: Dialogues on Memories of War).[22] This book consists of transcriptions of a series of dialogues between the two intellectuals staged by Iwanami Publishers in 1998 and 1999 and published in Sekai in 1999. By the time Suh wrote the preface to the book, he had published his award-winning Travelling to Primo Levi and Takahashi had published both Auschwitz and Us and his book on Japan’s “post-war responsibility.”[23] Following the preface, the book opens with a section titled “Meeting up at Auschwitz” (Aushiwitzdu de no deai) recounting the visit to the site when the two traveled to Poland together in the summer of 1996. Takahashi recounts the reason for the visit: Suh was interested in the Auschwitz survivor, writer Primo Levi. When he had made his pilgrimage to the grave of Primo Levi, the sight of the number 174517 carved on Levi’s grave along with his name and dates had made a strong impact. Claude Lanzmann’s film, Shoah along with Takahashi’s studies in twentieth century European philosophy had led Takahashi to what Lanzmann had called “the non-places of memory” (non-lieux de la memoire).[24]

This experience of Auschwitz is shaped by the images and preconceptions both bring with them. A railroad crossing en route to the camp, from the station at Krakow, conjures forth for Suh an image of inmates from throughout Europe being transported to that spot in trains. When he visits the I.G. Farben factory the business as usual production being conducted in the factory is chilling because he can image the history left unrecounted by the words “Approximately 30,000 people were killed at this site”, on a small memorial monument. But Suh’s meeting up with Auschwitz is also occasion for him to insert his new knowledge of Auschwitz into his own personal witnessing of history. At Auschwitz, it is block 11, the place within the death camp where, he explains, those inmates who resisted were executed and tortured, that calls up the most intense horror for him. Here, as elsewhere Suh makes clear that he brings with him to Auschwitz his experience of the violence endured by his brothers who were imprisoned and tortured for two decades by the South Korean government.

Takahashi’s understanding of Suh’s responses to Auschwitz leads to elaboration regarding Suh Kyungsik’s place in Japan as a zainichi. (Korean in Japan). While the interpellation zainichi has come to be translated as “resident Korean,” I employ the more literal translation here, in an attempt to capture what I perceive to be a bluntness in categorizing those of Korean descent born and brought up in Japan, who are treated legally as foreigners and who live their lives as a type of foreign native. Takahashi calls Suh a survivor of colonial rule by Japanese imperialism and a living witness. He also calls Suh a survivor of the cold war system in East Asia because of the experiences of his brothers.

Takahashi elaborates on his own position, which as he explains is totally different from Suh’s because he was brought up like any other Japanese person. By this he refers to the version of war history as victims’ history that he was taught throughout childhood. Takahashi’s agenda at Auschwitz is the tracking of Japanese war responsibility (senso sekinin). He explains that members of his post-war generation of Japanese come into contact with memories of the war in three ways: First there are stories told by those in the war. Secondly, they can confront the issue of memory through contact with Koreans-in-Japan and Chinese-in-Japan. The third source is the testimony from Asian victims that began to appear in the early 1990s. It is the third avenue that most concerns Takahashi. Most specifically, the “Comfort Women” are the quintessential victim survivors for the two intellectuals visiting Auschwitz from Japan. And for Suh and Takahashi, the racism informing the Japanese colonial presence in Korea, which now allows contemporary Japanese critics to deny the veracity of the testimony of the “Comfort Women,” appears to be analogous to the racialism suffered by the Jews of the Holocaust.

Almost a decade later, and three years following the publication of the recollections of Takahashi and Suh, a second pairing of a Korean intellectual in Japan and a Japanese intellectual made the same pilgrimage to Auschwitz. To what extent this was an accident of history is not clear, but the book, Traversing a Century of War: There Are Memories of War Which Must be Spoken of at Those Places, casts history in a very different form.[25]

Kang Sang Jung and Mori Tatsuya: Auschwitz in Color

In 2003, the second pair of intellectuals, one Zainichi and one Japanese, traveled to Auschwitz in order to conduct a dialogue on site. This was one of four places of memory visited by Kang Sang Jung, Tokyo University professor and media personality, and Mori Tatsuya, writer and director of documentary films A and A2, about the Aum Shinrikyo sect. Their focus on place, as opposed to the non place in the dialogue on Auschwitz by Takahashi and Suh, was not the only difference in the two approaches. Although, like the first pair, they revisit war, they do so in order to return to war in the present. The road trip takes the two to Auschwitz and to such sites of war as Saxonhausen, the Ichigaya Kinenkan, site of the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, and to the war museum in Seoul, which is dedicated to colonial and war-time outrages. Suh and Takahashi have done their homework over the years; they know their Hannah Arendt, Adorno is quoted, and they admit to the influence of the stock imagery of the Holocaust. But it is their own use of imagery which sets this inquiry so apart from A Century of Breaks an Era of Witnessing.

Ichigaya Kinenkan in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Let us begin to follow the series of images of Auschwitz that open the book, starting with a two-page spread. On the left hand page, Tokyo professor, Kang, stands arms by his side, hands open. He is dressed in black jacket, white oxford shirt, and dark jeans; a picture of the worker-intellectual. On the page facing, Mori, director stands arms akimbo, in short sleeves, and baggy pants: the artist-intellectual. They face the camera; they are standing at that divide that is emblematic of our remembered history of that nightmare that was Auschwitz. In other words they stand where the tracks split and the caption is self-explanatory: “Auschwitz second concentration camp; the entrance to Birkenau. It is said (?) that when the freight trains carrying Jews arrived, this is where they were divided into laborers and non-laborers (those going to the gas chamber).” I have added the question mark.

The above is common knowledge; the image of the tracks omnipresent in our histories of Auschwitz as signifier of the Holocaust. What is so different here is the camera eye which foregrounds the two visitors. The tracks recede away from them and the gate is minimalized. The horror of that moment and place appears secondary, also because both men face away from the tracks. (Kang appears to be looking down; is Mori staring into the distance?) Nowhere do I recall having seen this space peopled in any published image. The central presence of the two men raises the question “why?” Perhaps the conceit of showing the shape of the tracks only has retained its hegemony because to place emptiness is to force the imagining of the dead and the living dead while at the same time granting them respect and dignity.

On to the second two-page spread whose caption refers to the oppressive air and smell of the underground prison of Auschwitz and to the despairing cries of the Jews. These photos glow with a golden light that works against the reference to despair. The following two pages are a revisiting, again, of one of the most repeated images of the Holocaust, the mountain of shoes. The caption asks, “What does the mountain of shoes taken from the incarcerated Jewish people say to us living in the present? To just be at a loss for words does not resolve anything.” Again, the perspective differs. The canonized image that has been repeated for half a century is a black and white picture of an undifferentiated mass of dulled leather, which the camera faces head on. In other words, the pile of shoes rises before the observer, just as it does for the spectator who would visit Auschwitz as museum, today. There, in person, the shoes appear as colorless up close as in the authoritative black and white version. But here we have an itemizing of Auschwitz in color. It is a pathway of shoes led by a red and gold sandal that is more appropriate to a festive occasion than as apparel worn into a death camp. This is at first glance an aestheticization of a gruesome theft. It gives style to the Holocaust. The picture will most likely not be unfamiliar to the consumer of the ubiquitous Japanese fashion magazine. One is tempted to confront the filmmaker of not one but two documentaries coming out of the Aum Shinrikyo incident wherein the technocratic youth trained to be the leaders of tomorrow’s Japan turned against their society by releasing gas into the public space of the subway. One is tempted to accuse Mori, the artist responsible for award-winning cinema, of willful blindness to the power of pretty pictures. The historian must ask the two men to place the colored imagery in relation to their conversations.

We here confront the question, “How to represent the Holocaust?” Related to this problem is the question of reception. For one, the image is much more clearly gendered. A man’s shoe lies discarded alongside a fashionable woman’s sandal from the 1940’s atop a more comfortable woman’s shoe, and one of a pair of boots. Because it is aestheticized and familiarized it will speak to the young Japanese consumer. Could the shock of this re-representation provide a form of distancing for those more jaded with the Holocaust narrative? These delineated objects were among those rejected by Nara as non-compelling and yet here is a photo that in some ways partakes of his style. (This is to say that a flash of color can remind the viewer of life even within devastation).[26]

Aestheticization can be seen as trivializing or as a re-imagining, and the exchanges between Kang and Mori speak to the latter. Although their ability to track down places of memory (Pierre Nora’s lieux de memoire?) contrasts with the emphasis on the Nazi desire to eliminate traces and the ensuing “non-places” foregrounded by Takahashi and Suh, it is the book that advertises through glossy photographs – photographs not unreminiscent of the staged images of the strange favored by retailer Parco in its advertisements at one time -- which more directly places Auschwitz more directly in the zone revisited in the writing of Primo Levi. This is the “gray zone” -- a zone where death (and life) take on unprecedented meaning with an unprecedented logic. This is a logic unfathomable to those not forced to live by its rules and its attendant morality, Primo Levi’s “gray zone.” Again, Agamben’s paraphrasing provides relevant elaboration. Agamben calls Levi’s gray zone “an area that is independent of every establishment of responsibility” and a “zone of responsibility”[27] This is an unimaginable place that must be imagined and Mori and Kang actively and openly struggle with this task. Before entering the space of Auschwitz, Mori tries to grasp the meaning of Auschwitz as cynical tourist site. Questions are posed: for the two of them is it a litmus test? Will it be a catalyst?[28]

Kang struggles to imagine the everyday of the SS in control of Auschwitz. The proximity of their dining quarters to the crematorium puzzles and horrifies him. How is his response tempered by his identity as zainichi? His answer is indirect. For it is Mori who brings up the parallel of the massacre of Koreans after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. (But it is Kang who names Akutagawa Ryunosuke as member of a vigilante group.) Kang also sends readers to Zainichi, his autobiography, for an account of former Korean Imperial soldiers’ drunken reminiscences. His approach to Auschwitz as the limit of experience is to consider ningen wo koeta ningen (The human who transcends the human). Through his search for understanding the “regular” (futsuu na) victimizer, he is able to introduce the topic of 731. (The SS man went home after work; the 731 unit staff conducted their human experiments before attending a field day - a family time for bento lunches and relaxed chitchat.) He is interested in the perverted logic informing the “rational” standardization of the process of mass murder that Auschwitz made possible.[29] It is Kang who connects racism, eugenics, and colonial rule. And it is also Kang who says that after much pondering, he has concluded that it is less important to ask ”why Auschwitz” than to examine how processes changed.[30] The distinction between zainichi and Japanese intellectual for Suh and Takahashi, is the difference between a survivor of colonialism and a “regular” Japanese citizen raised on post-war Japanese ideology. Kang is most overtly singled out as zainichi in a caption to one of the twenty-some photographs (with only a few exceptions these feature both Mori and Kang.) As if to explain their broad smiles as they pose in front of the Independence Memorial Hall in Seoul, the explanation reads: “The second generation zainichi, Kang, gently accepts Mori, who is prone to be nervous, and their conversation continues to expand.”

Why did these two intellectuals revisit war? Mori wants the Emperor accountable (responsible) for war. Kang wants to revisit the last century of war in order to be able to respond to this emerging century of war. The visit to Auschwitz is part of that process. Kang and Mori hope that by clarifying accountability in the last world war, including the accountability of the U.S., a sense of responsibility, in the best sense, can be fostered -- responsibility for the Other. And so we come full circle.

Susan Sontag’s insight of September 2002, that we Americans were in a war with no foreseeable end, and that this anti-terror war can never end, is rephrased by Kang Sang Jung: ‘We are now living in a wartime with no beginning and no end.”[31] The concluding pages to Traversing a Century of War describe the process whereby the war against terror has divided societies into the “normal” and the “out of the ordinary.” By the same token there is no acceptance of the Other. Here is an example of the environment wherein the term jiko sekinin prospered. And what about Auschwitz in Japan?

I introduced my three cases in relationship to three historiographical issues: representation, commodification, and testimony. Let me review in order to seek some preliminary connections: Nara Yoshitomo provides almost no detail, background, or context for his entry. Nor does he raise any of the three topics. Yet his simple reference to shivering while trying to shape his visit to Auschwitz into words, when paired with the malleable girl figures (of indeterminate race, nationality or class, for that matter) that he creates, implies an expression of the kind of empathy with the traumatized called for by Dominic LaCapra.[32] For LaCapra, such empathizing involves affect and may counter victimization or self-victimization. The scholarship historicizing traumatic events like the Holocaust must be premised on what LaCapra terms “empathetic unsettlement.” This is possible and preferable, even if, like LaCapra, the historian’s experiences do not include the traumatic event. Nara’s direct, seemingly unmediated response is thus an instance of empathetic unsettlement.

Suh Kyungsik and Takahashi Tetsuya use a language of witnessing, with brief reference to the two most well known intellectual-survivors, Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi. There is no discussion of testimony by Auschwitz survivors, nor of problems involving the use of testimony in terms of veracity and the legitimacy of equating individual to group experience. Yet the two intellectuals cannot be faulted. A close reading of their dialogues reveals an agenda at a specific historic juncture. The “Comfort Women” had come forth to testify. They were accused of lying by a newly powerful group of revisionist scholars who wished to “rectify” history teaching in the schools. Suh and Takahashi were recalling a past trip to Auschwitz, for present purposes. By the same token, the two were responding to the picture of world war given by Susan Sontag and Kang Sang Jung. Moving into the more recent past, if we follow Suh’s starting point for discussing Korea-Japan relations, in a recent collection of writings, he no longer seems to identify with Jewish–European survivors. The dyads are no longer Jew is to Nazi as Korean is to Japanese. The Palestinians have displaced Jews, as victims, and the Jewish survivors of victimization, as Kang notes, have bumped themselves into the position of victimizer.[33]

I have given the benefit of the doubt to the shiny photographs in Traversing a Century of War. However they do appear too close to the beautifully grotesque aesthetic of retailer Parco. At best they are fashion shots of public intellectuals. In the conclusion to the book of dialogues between Mori and Kang, Auschwitz appears as a cautionary tale: the trauma of the Holocaust is the source of the oppression of the Palestinians. None of the cases described briefly above as sites of Auschwitz published in Japan offers any detail of the everyday for inmates in Auschwitz. This is in part understandable in the case of Kang’s concern to come to terms with the SS mentality. But the predominance of Kang and Mori in their book, including the use of their inner thoughts, renders them almost a substitute for the Europeans brought in box cars, the more fortunate of whom survived with “camp esperanto” and a will to live that enabled them to fatefully alter their moral structure.

The revisiting of Auschwitz has become a way for Japanese intellectuals to claim responsibility for the nation’s past and future. A more pessimistic reading of these treatments of Auschwitz in Japan, is that unless they begin to be more peopled by inmates and survivors, they run the risk of recapitulating the rendering invisible of victims, just as the Japanese colonial discourse by intellectuals who had turned to embrace the state neglected to acknowledge the Asians already resident in Asia, before the intrusion of Japanese foreigners throughout Asia and the Pacific. Granted, fast and hard pronouncements are less than appropriate after the examination of a limited number of cases. Also, related topics bear examination. For example, Auschwitz in Japanese, in the vernacular language of Japanese mass culture has a different function in the Japanese hit drama, Shiroi Kyoto. Therein, documentary materials serve to encourage the forgetting of trauma. Auschwitz is used to humanize the self-centered hero, an ambitious young surgeon. He is especially shaken by the account of the Nazi medical experiments. But this history stops at Auschwitz; neither the doctor nor the Japanese audience is told that this is also the story of the Japanese in Asia. The responsibility of the intellectual going into war, the responsibility to reject the exceptional and the universal but to associate with specifics has been betrayed. One place of memory (or of non-place -- either will do) is being used to deny another. Not always, but here, talking about war is a means of forgetting war. It is still a form of silencing, one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal of war as we attempt to look into the future, knowing full well that the past cannot repeat itself, and that even repeated nightmares are reformulated compositions.

Miriam Silverberg is Professor of History, UCLA. Her most recent book is Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times. This article appeared in Review of Asia and Pacific Studies, 29, 2005. It was edited, and published with a new introduction at Japan Focus on July 11, 2007.

Ann Sherif is the director, East Asian Studies Program, Oberlin College and a Japan Focus associate. She is the translator most recently of Yoshimoto Banana’s N.P.

After a long bout with illness, Miriam Rom Silverberg passed away in the early hours of Sunday, March 16, 2008. Miriam spent her formative years in Tokyo where she graduated from the International School of the Sacred Heart before returning to the United States. With a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1984), she became one of the most self-consciously theoretical historians of modern Japan in the US and remained a relentless and original critic of Japanese Imperial history, popular culture, femininity, and social justice. As Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Women at UCLA, Miriam organized numerous groundbreaking workshops and conferences, including one entitled "Feminism Confronts Disability" in which she unfolded her own confrontation with Parkinson's into the academic-humanistic register of disability studies. While struggling with illness, Miriam Silverberg completed her masterful study of Japan's inter-war mass culture, Erotic Grotesque Nonsense (University of California Press, 2007) and until the last , she was a devoted teacher and mentor. Miriam Silverberg is deeply missed by colleagues and friends across Pacific and Atlantic. H-Japan carried fuller notes remembering Miriam Silverberg by James Fujii on March 18, 2008


[1] Susan Sontag, “A Mature Democracy,” The New Yorker September 24, 2001, p. 32; Susan Sontag, “Real Battles and Empty Metaphors,” The New York Times, op ed page, September 10, 2002. Maher’s statement was: "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building -- say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." Arundhati Roy, “Come September, ” in Roy War Talk (Cambridge: South End Press, 2003), 46-47. (Originally a talk given on September 18, 2002)

[2] “’Jiko sekinin’ iitateru Koizumi seiken no mujun,” Shukan Asahi, April 30, 2004, 27-29.

[3] Gitta Serenyi, The Healing Wound: Experiences and Reflections, Germany 1938-2001 (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co.2001), xix-xx.

[4] See, for example the curtailing of testimony by expert witness Fujime Yuki during the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery in Tokyo in December, 2000.

[5] Arai Shinichi, “Sokan no Ji,” writing on behalf of the Japan War Responsibility Resource Center, Senso Sekinin Kenkyu, sokango, 1993, 2.

[6] Taguchi Hiroshi, “Bungakusha no Senso Sekinin Tsuikyu,” in Ajia ni taisuru nihon no senso sekinin wo tou , Minshu hotei junbi kai, ed. Dainiki senso sekinin, vol. 1. 1998, 31.

[7] Odagiri Hideo, Watashi no mita Showa no shiso to bungaku no gojunen, vol I (Shueisha, 1988), 289-290.

[8] Suzuki Yuko traces the history of the slogan by carefully following press coverage. Suzuki Yuko, “Ianfu” mondai to senso sekinin (Miraisha, 1996),25-26.

[9] Nishikawa Nagao, Senso no seiki o koete: gurooobaruka jidai no kokka. rekishi. minzoku (Heibonsha, 2002).

[10] Hagiwara Takuya, “Kokush kyoiku e no ichi kosatsu,” Doto, October 7, 1944, 4-15. See the first issue of Zenya , on the theme of culture and resistance, Zenya, Sokango, Autumn, 2004. Zenya is carrying forth its pre-war legacy by continuing the tradition of the sponsoring lecture series and public forums. The sense of overlapping yet transitional time expressed in the credo is reflected the inclusion of an unusual combination of modernist and postmodern visual images.

[11] Yamashiro Tomoe, Toraware no onnatachi, (Komichi Sobo, 1986). See especially vol. 1. Muhyo no hana I I for vivid documentation of everyday life for an anti-war “thought crime offender” in what was intended to be “the number one woman’s prison in the Orient.” Ibid., p. 56.

[12] The collaborative work by Tsurumi Shunsuke et al, Tenko, still remains the best overview. See Shiso no Kagaku Kenyukai hen, Tenko, 3 vols. (Heibonsha, 1959-1962).

[13] Shimizu, Kiyoko, “Josei. Senso. Jinken” Gakkaishi sokango hakkan ni attate, Josei. Senso. Jinken, Sokango, May 1998, 3-4. See also Okano Yayo, “Jugun ianfu mondai ga terashidasu watashi” no shoso, Ibid. 62-92.

[14] Nagao Yuzo, Ed., Waga uchinaru senso sekinin : Ajia Taiheiyo senso. Watanabe Kiyoshi no kokuhatsu sekinin.

[15] Nagao, pp. 2, 111

[16] For a sophisticated discussion of such historiographical questions, see Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution, (Harvard University Press, 1992).

[17] Giogio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (New York: Zone Books, 2002) 12.

[18] Regarding Adorno’s famous pronouncement, see Klaus Hofman, “Poetry After Auschwitz –Adorno’s Dictum,” German Life and Letters 58:2 April 2005, 0016-877 (print); 1468-0483 (online).

[19] See Nara Yoshitomo, Slash With a Knife (Little More, 2003 ), Nara, Who Snatched the Babies (Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2002), Nara, Lullaby Supermarket (Last Gasp, 2003), Nara, I Don’t Mind if You Forget Me (Tankosha, 2001). Among the essayists for the catalog accompanying Nara’s 2003 show, Nothing Ever Happens, Deborah Harry best captures the sensibility of Nara’s little girls. Harry’s essay “Insist on Little Girls” stands apart from much of the English language commentary:: “…I knew this guy Nara had a keen insight. No cute, coy innocents these. No Keane paintings pleading for sympathy. / These girls had ideas, intentions. They knew the truth, like art does,…” See also Leonard Nimoy’s bold graphic, and cf. Ingrid Schaffner’s discussion of Yoshida Kenko’s Essays in Idleness in “Idle Reflections on Yoshitomo Nara’s Pop Art.” Nara Yoshitomo, Nothing Ever Happens (Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland: Perceval Press, 2003) pp. 81, 86. 57-61. Perhaps it is no surprise that Blondie, the rock singer, would be most simpatico with Nara, who thrives on rock music and works closely with the language of rock.

[20] Nara Yoshitomo, Nara Note (Chikuma Shobo, 2001).

[21] See Foil vol. I, “no war,” (Little More), April, 2003. According to the editor of Foil, when he called Nara to ask whether he wanted to join in the venture of going onsite to Afghanistan, for the anti-war issue of Foil, Nara replied “It’s not very persuasive to say one is anti-war from a far away safe country. We might not be able to do anything, but let’s go.”

[22] Suh Kyungsik and Takahashi Tetsuya, Danzetsu no seiki shogen no jidai: senso no kioku o meguru taiwa (Iwanami Shoten, 2000).

[23] See Suh Kyungsik, Purimo Reebui e no tabi (Asahi Shanbun, 1999) and Takahashi Testuya, Sengo sekininron (Kodansha, 1999).

[24] Suh and Takahashi, Danzetsu, pp.5-9.

[25] Mori Tatsuya and Kang Sang jung, Senso no seiki o koete: sono basho de katarareru beki senso no kioku ga aru (Kodansha, 2004)

[26] This reference to the use of color may bring to mind the red dress in the film Schindler’s List. However I am referring only to Nara here. Regarding American consumption and commodification of the Holocaust, see Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (New York: Houghton Mifflin: 1999).

[27] For a discussion of the moral universe of Primo Levi’s “Gray Zone” see Levi, “The Gray Zone,” in Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (Vintage International, 1988). See also Agamben, Remnants, pp.20-21

[28] Mori and Kang, Senso, p.31.

[29] Ibid., pp.56-7.

[30] Ibid., pp.74-75, 79-80.

[31] Ibid., p.285.

[32] LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). pp. 40-42.

[33] Suh Kyungsik, Hakari ni kakete wa naranai:Niccho mondai o kangaeru zahyojiku (Kage shobo, 2003).