The Japan Association of Forced Internees have been consistently condemning the unlawfulness of the internment in the Soviet Union and ask for the apology from the Soviet government, and at the same time asking for the compensation (payment of the wages) for the forced labor.
In the sixth section of the joint declaration of Japan and the Soviet Union which was issued in 1956 (See reference at p.255), there is a statement that states both countries abandon the rights to claim. Old Soviet and now Russia use that as their shield for not considering the demand of compensation from us at all.
We have been continuously demanding the return of the four Northern lands regardless of the 9th section of this declaration (See reference p.255). The declaration should not be the Peace Treaty between Japan and Russia. Therefore, we have requested to the foreign ministry to reconsider demanding the rights to claim and other areas to the former Soviet Union, now Russia many times, but they are indifferent to that.
Prime minister’s conference between Japan and Russia have taken place several times, and many conferences at the level of foreign ministers have happened, but none of these conferences adopted the topic of internment in the Soviet Union as a focused topic except for the method of how to send the internees home.
It was during the Koizumi administration. In 2003, after I read in the newspaper that prime minister Koizumi was going to visit Moscow for the Japan-Russia prime minister conference on January 9th, I requested the meeting with the prime minister at his public office on December 30th. During the meeting, I requested that the topic of internees in Russia would be adopted because it has never been discussed.
Prime minister Koizumi listened to me seriously. At that time, I explained how cruel the life in Soviet was in terms of cold weather, hunger and illness. However, I emphasized the point of how inhumane it was that we were called captives and were not treated as humans.
We did not abandon our fight showing the white flag during our war. We all learned that the war ended by listening to the emperor’s order on August 15th. Therefore, there was no reason for us to be called “captives” after the war was over. Also, I stated the need of the Soviet’s apology for their unlawful action and the demand of the wages while we were kept as internees.
The following month, in January, prime minister Koizumi mentioned the matter of the formerly interned Japanese people during the conference with president Putin. At the same time, he paid respect at the Japanese cemetery in Khabarovsk. I am grateful about what happened, but it is not clear if prime minister Koizumi spent enough time for the apology and the demand of repatriation. I would like to ask him personally sometime.
Regarding apology, when president Yeltsin came in 2003, in Geihinkan in Akasaka, he said, “Izvini”to me as an representative of the association of the formerly interned in Soviet. That means “Sorry” and that one single word was not satisfactory as his word to me. It was also reported that he stated a formal apology during the dinner party in the palace, but I was not there and was not informed fully about how it was stated.
The fact is that the Soviet Union broke the Non-aggression pact between Japan and Soviet, and attacked Japanese army on September 6th in 1945. Additionally, they took 600,000 Japanese military men to deep inside Siberia going against the Potsdam Declaration, but it seems there is no intention of apology. In terms of how they treated the internees, the fact 60,000 lost their lives there, they probably think it was just too bad. Therefore, even though I heard president Yeltsin give an apology, I don’t accept it as a real apology.
I am planning to write a book about how the Japan Association of Forced Internees, our association for the internees in the Soviet Union have been working for the past decades.
Even though there were many difficulties, we were able to witness two payments for their services from the government. We still have to work on the construction of the central memorial monument and the museum. More than anything, we have to keep going on the task to demand for the compensation from the Russian government.
However, the average age of the former internees are now older than eighty years old, and they are decreasing day by day.
I am hoping I will be able to complete the remaining task in a few years, but I have to confess my regret that there is a long way to go.