The Holocaust Historiography Project

Dr. Nishioka’s Activism

What One Man Can Accomplish

Dr. Nishioka is no stranger to controversy.

For several years prior to the recent publication of his controversial Marco Polo article, his thoughtful letters in one of Japan’s leading English-language daily papers generated thoughtful, spirited debate about key chapters of twentieth century history.

Armed with a few books from the IHR catalog and some back issues of the Journal, in 1989 he began contesting the prevailing view of Second World War history, and especially the background to the US-Japan East Asia conflict. (At the same time, Nishioka has been very critical of Japanese wartime treatment of American and other Allied prisoners of war. With a keen concern for environmental issues, he has also been critical of Japanese environmental policies, including nuclear power plant construction.)

'Drastic Revision Needed'

In a letter of some 15 column inches published in the “Reader’s Forum” section of the Mainichi Daily News, Aug. 23, 1989, Nishioka cited Hitler’s Dec. 11, 1941, speech as an example of suppressed history. As Nishioka pointed out, the German leader on that occasion spoke at length about the origins of the global conflict, and gave a detailed justification for his decision to declare war against the United States. “Reading this complete text must convince you that the history of WWII needs drastic revision,” wrote Nishioka.

He went on to point out that the first publication anywhere of a complete and accurate text in English of this critically important historic document was in the Winter 1988-89 Journal of Historical Review. He urged MDN readers to write to the IHR for the text, and he provided the IHR’s address.

Reaction was swift and predictable. In a letter published four days later, Michael Les Benedict, identified as a professor of history at the Kobe branch of Ohio State University, attacked the “Institute for Historical Studies” as a “neo-Nazi organization which has been formally condemned by the American Historical Association, for falsifying history and violating the ethics of the profession.”

In a lengthy letter of response (August 31), Nishioka calmly restated his earlier position and cited further evidence for his views. For example, he mentioned the work of American Pulitzer-prize winning historian John Toland (who addressed the 1990 IHR Conference), as well as David Hoggan’s book, The Forced War, noting that it is published by the IHR.

Nishioka also quoted extensively from the IHR leaflet, “The Holocaust: Let’s Hear Both Sides,” and once again gave the IHR’s address. Comparing professional historians such as Benedict to the “Ministry of Truth” of George Orwell’s 1984, Nishioka explained “this is why I listen to the voices of revisionists such as the IHR.”

In a shorter letter that appeared Oct. 8, 1989, and citing information obtained in the meantime from the IHR, Nishioka informed MDN readers that the IHR is “most certainly not a 'neo-Nazi' organization,” and that the claim that the IHR has been “formally condemned by the American Historical Association is a fabrication.”

Chris Lock of Osaka joined the discussion with a pro-revisionist letter published Sept. 12, 1989, in which he wrote: “The IHR is not anti-Semitic. It is a peaceful, non-militant organization that merely tries to get to the truth in historical matters.” Following another attack on the IHR by Robert Pon of Hong Kong, Lock responded on Oct. 13, 1989.

“Reading the literature of the IHR,” wrote Lock, “one soon sees there is nothing pro-Nazi, pro-Hitler or anti-Semitic about it. Their aim is to try to find the causes of war so that having found the causes, war can be eliminated.”

Further letters denouncing or defending the IHR followed. Although Nishioka’s main interest is in contemporary Japanese history, letters by Nishioka have dealt with topics as diverse as the origins of the Second World War, censorship and control of the media, the role of the US Central Intelligence Agency, and the Holocaust story. Including those written by Nishioka himself, well over 60 letters have been published on these and other historical topics.

'Neo-Nazi Materials'

More than three years later, Anthony Schaeffer reminded MDN readers, in a letter about an entirely different subject that appeared December 18, 1992, of Nishioka’s “past use of neo-Nazi materials,” a reference to IHR Journal articles and books. This false charge was echoed by Doug Blumbren in a letter published March 23, 1993, in which he parenthetically referred to Nishioka’s “use of neo-Nazi material from the Institute of Historical Research.”

Chris Lock joined in again (MDN, April 2, 1993). While expressing disagreement with some books published by the IHR, he forthrightly defended the Institute against the tired “neo-Nazi” charge. He mentioned the IHR’s stunning September 1991 courtroom victory over Mel Mermelstein, who “was soundly defeated in a long-standing case against the IHR.” Concluding his letter, Lock wrote: “I just don’t like nasty neo-Nazi libel hurled around, especially in this Forum by professors and academics who should know better.” A week later (MDN, April 9), Lock wrote in another letter: “Anyone can prove the IHR is not neo-Nazi by contacting them and checking out their literature.” He also once again provided the IHR address.

Another lengthy letter by Nishioka (MDN, April 10, 1993), was based on the presentation by former CIA officer Victor Marchetti at the 1989 IHR Conference, as published (Nishioka specifically noted) in the Fall 1989 IHR Journal. O. J. Cohen of Osaka joined the discussion with a letter (April 15) denouncing the views of IHR editor Weber on the Holocaust issue. Other MDN readers, such as Tokyo’s Rudolf Voll (MDN, May 4), supported Nishioka. While refraining from completely endorsing the IHR, Voll affirmed the importance of keeping an open mind on historical questions, and of revising the record in accord with the facts. Alex Shishin of Kobe (MDN, May 14) took an ignorant slap at “new age racists like the Institute for Historical Review, a major David Duke connection.”

Closely following this entire exchange, IHR associate editor Greg Raven added his voice in a cogent letter published April 18, 1993. The MDN subsequently published three further letters from Raven replying to responses to this first letter (May 19, June 2, June 11). With Nishioka’s help, a letter from Raven appeared in The Daily Yomiuri (June 18) in response to a column about anti-Semitism in Japan. A measure of the Japanese English-languages press' openness to “politically incorrect” opinions can be seen in the fact that 20 letters about the Holocaust appeared in print between mid-April and the end of June 1993.

More Than a Match

Throughout this sometimes heated flurry of correspondence, Nishioka and Lock proved more than a match for their adversaries, capably fending off attacks against revisionism, their personal integrity, and the IHR. In each unhurried and methodical expression of his opinion, Nishioka carefully avoided stooping to the attacks against character and motive that characterized several of the anti-revisionist letters. Such lively, open-minded and protracted exchange in a major daily paper would be all but unthinkable in America.

While any balanced discussion of important historical issues, and every favorable mention of the revisionist viewpoint, is certainly welcome, the numerous specific mentions of the Institute in the pages of this influential daily paper, often with the IHR address, have been especially gratifying. As a result, several MDN readers in Japan have written to the IHR requesting further information.

It seems that Marco Polo’s grim fate has had a sobering, “Americanizing” effect on the Japanese press. Along with other papers, the Mainichi Daily News has refused to publish any of the letters by Dr. Robert Faurisson, Mark Weber, Greg Raven, and others responding to recent MDN items about the Marco Polo affair, Holocaust revisionism and the IHR.