EDITORIAL: Aso’s Nazi remark shows ignorance of constitutional affairs

August 02, 2013

Finance Minister Taro Aso’s comment about the Nazis in connection with debate on constitutional revision has caused wide repercussions.

On Aug. 1, Aso retracted his remark, saying “(it) has caused misunderstanding of my real intentions.” But he has not made a clear apology and continues to avoid explaining the essence of his remark.

In Europe and the United States, if Cabinet ministers make remarks that can be construed as being positive about the Nazis, their jobs would be immediately put on the line. Aso, who served as prime minister and foreign minister and currently doubles as deputy prime minister, is a heavyweight in the administration of Shinzo Abe.

Aso’s remark not only hurt people who can never forget the Holocaust and are trying to overcome that history of aggression, but it also caused great misunderstanding about Japanese attitudes toward history in the international community. His responsibility is grave.

At a symposium on July 29, Aso said he doesn’t want debate on Japan’s constitutional revision to be held “amid a frenzy.” He stated: “One day, (the Germans) found that the Weimar Constitution was changed to the Nazi Constitution. It was changed without being noticed by anyone. Why don’t we learn from that technique?”

If we take his remark at face value, we have no choice but to think he wants Japan to learn from the Nazi example. There is also a problem with his recognition of facts.

Adolf Hitler used his charismatic oratory to incite the German people and rose to power amid a frenzy. Once he became chancellor, he enacted the Enabling Act that gave the government the power to create laws without the consent of the parliament. As a result, the Weimar Constitution effectively ceased. But that does not mean a “Nazi Constitution” was established.

Either way, such a thing as changing the Constitution without anyone noticing must never be tolerated. Moreover, Aso’s comment about Hitler and the implication that his example should be followed are utterly unacceptable. The remark is not something that Aso can get away with by simply retracting it.

In Germany at the time, frequent issuance of emergency presidential directives caused the emasculation of the parliament and gave rise to Nazi dictatorship, which led to numerous calamities. There is no way anyone who understands the history of how constitutionalism was rendered toothless can thoughtlessly make reference to the Nazis in discussing constitutional affairs.

Having put together its draft for constitutional revision, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is preparing to put it to practice. But in discussing the issue, it is a given that the debate is based on a correct understanding of history and constitutionalism.

How is Prime Minister Abe going to deal with Aso’s remark that practically urged lawmakers to “learn from Nazi techniques”? Instead of trying to end the problem by having Aso take back his remark, Abe should draw a clear line. Otherwise, we do not think proper constitutional debate can move forward.

This is a problem in which Abe’s understanding is put to the test.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 2

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Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Aug. 1 retracts his remark about the Nazis and the Constitution. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Aug. 1 retracts his remark about the Nazis and the Constitution. (The Asahi Shimbun)

  • Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Aug. 1 retracts his remark about the Nazis and the Constitution. (The Asahi Shimbun)

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