For decades, official state-sanctioned apologies have been the preferred tool to help rebuild broken international bonds, but their effectiveness in fostering national reconciliation is debatable. What has become clear, though, is the role civil society has played in facilitating people’s reflection upon the most rending aspects of their own past. From survivors, teachers to museum curators, ordinary people in Japan, Germany, and Italy are stepping into the vacuum and helping to bring formerly warring countries closer together.
The documentary has been produced to confirm, one more time, that lasting reconciliation with former enemies after a war is a difficult and often distressful process. Peace is not a top-down practice and the entire civil society must be involved to make it successful. Public discussion of Second World War crimes in West Germany, Italy and Japan in the post-war period was extremely sparse. By contrast, the Allies believed that they could free Europe and the Far East from “Nationalism and Militarism” by means of war crimes trials, de-fascistization and denazification. In fact, Germany and Italy had to wait until the 1960s to create, with the support of media and civil society, a lasting awareness on a shared national narrative of the Second World War. As a consequence, this documentary shows that only by establishing a mutually supportive connection between history and memory it becomes possible to spread new positive values and perspectives in civil society, triggering a virtuous and inclusive reconciliation process.
Claudia Astarita is assistant professor at Sciences Po Lyon, researcher at the Lyon’s Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO). She is also an associate Fellow at the Asia Institute, the University of Melbourne, and International Relations Analyst for South Asia at CeMiSS, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, in Rome. She obtained her Ph.D. in Asian Studies from Hong Kong University in early 2010. Her main research interests include China’s political and economic development, Chinese and Indian Foreign policies, East Asian regionalism and regional economic integration, Asian Civil Society, and the role of media and memory (both official and unofficial) in reshaping historical narratives in Asia.