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Antisemitism and Policies towards Jews in Japanese History

13.03.2002 | 18.30

Gerhard Krebs (Guest Professor, FU Berlin)

Abriss

It is a curiosity that in Japan, a country with virtually no Jewish inhabitants, there should exist a kind of antisemitism. With the advent of Western culture since the Meiji Restoration of 1868, however, all conceivable intellectual traditions arrived, including antisemitism. Yet in 1905, contacts with Jews proved very favourable for the Japanese, when they ran into financial difficulties in the war against Russia, but were able to get loans due to the efforts made by Jewish bankers.

During the Siberian intervention 1918-22, many Japanese officers were influenced by the antisemitic thoughts of anti-bolshevist Russians, with whom they were in close contact over many years. Another influx arrived from Nazi Germany, a country which maintained close relations with Japan finally resulting in a military alliance and in World War II. A considerable number of Jews resided within the Japanese sphere of influence: in Manchuria, most of them of Russian origin, and in Shanghai. The influx into Shanghai, where no visa was necessary, was increasing since 1938 because of growing Nazi pressure on Jews. Their number finally reached over 20,000 persons. Soon after the outbreak of the Pacific War, the Jews of Shanghai were restricted to live in a special zone and were subject to strict Japanese control. They were, however, able to survive World War II and to emigrate to different countries of the world.

Professor Krebs studied History, German linguistics and Japanese language in Hamburg, Freiburg, Bonn and Tokyo. He held teaching positions at Waseda University and Freiburg University, was research fellow at the German Institute for Japanese Studies and at the Institute for Military History in Potsdam. Since 2000 he has been guest professor at FU Berlin. Among numerous publications are Japans Deutschlandpolitik 1935-41 (Japanese Policy towards Germany 1935-41). He has co-edited 1945 in Europe and Asia (1997) and is editor of Japan und Preussen (Japan and Preussen, forthcoming 2002).

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