Japan's Abe to visit Anne Frank house in gesture to Jews

Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:51pm EDT
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By Geert De Clercq

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam on Sunday to highlight Japan's friendship with the Jewish people and sees no contradiction with his recent controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine at home.

The Anne Frank House, where the German-born Jewish girl kept a diary of her life in hiding before she was discovered and died in a Nazi concentration camp, is now one of Europe's best-known memorials to the victims of the holocaust, drawing more than a million visitors per year.

Abe's planned visit comes less than three months after his controversial December 26 visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by Japan's Asian neighbors as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression, as it honors convicted war criminals as well as others who died in battle.

"On this visit (to the Anne Frank House), we would like to reiterate the lasting and profound friendship between Japan and the Jewish people around the world," a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Asked whether there was a difference between visiting a memorial to Japanese soldiers at home and a memorial to war victims abroad, the spokesman said "there is no contradiction".

He said Yasukuni enshrines 2.46 million souls who died for their country during conflicts since 1853, including both world wars, and that at the time of the visit, Abe issued a pledge that Japan must never wage a war again.

"Acknowledging historical issues in an open manner and passing down the lessons of history to future generations is the first step to pursuing peace," he said.

Yasukuni played a key role in the wartime state Shinto religion which mobilized the population to fight in the name of a divine emperor. China and South Korea, which both have been occupied by Japan, have repeatedly criticized visits by Japanese leaders to the shrine.   Continued...

Reflections of tourists and canal houses are seen in the window of the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Kooren