cover image Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan

Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan

Ian Buruma. Farrar Straus Giroux, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28595-1

This thought-provoking inquiry has a powerful theme: people must be held accountable for the society in which they live. To learn why the collective German memory of WW II is so different from the Japanese, Buruma ( Playing the Game ) traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, visiting war museums, viewing films about the war and interviewing citizens from all walks of life. He discovered that most Japanese soldiers believed slaughtering ``inferior races'' such as the Chinese and Koreans not only accorded with the emperor's will but demonstrated loyalty. The Christian mayor of Nagasaki made the stunning observation to the author that because his compatriots worship nature only, the question of individual responsibility rarely arises in Japan. As for the Germans, it is Buruma's perception that they need to unburden their wartime guilt and receive forgiveness, whereas the Japanese prefer to remain silent and are puzzled by German preoccupation with the war. If the former Axis partners have anything in common, according to Buruma, it is the fear of their own resurgent militarism. (June)