Taro Aso later retracts statement which seemed to suggest Hitler’s motives were right.
Taro Aso, former Japanese prime minister and current finance minister and Deputy Prime Minister in Shinzo Abe’s government, has landed himself in trouble after seeming to condone or excuse Adolf Hitler’s actions, including the killing of millions in a speech.
Addressing his faction of the ruling Liberal Democrat Party, Aso is recorded as having said:
“[In politics] results are most important. However correct his motivations, what Hitler, who murdered millions of people, did was no good,”
The statement provoked outrage from a number of sources, led by the main political opposition party, the Democratic Party, which forced Aso to formally retract his statement.
“It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that…It is clear from my overall remarks that I regard Hitler in extremely negative terms, and it’s clear that his motives were also wrong.”
Some supporters have argued that Aso’s words have been misinterpreted, that Hitler was just an extreme example to support the argument that people aren’t judged on motives but on the results of their actions, and that the correct interpretation of his words was more akin to:
“Whatever your motivations, if the result is like that [the killing of millions] then it’s no good.”
Known for his assorted gaffes, reading mistakes and things better left unsaid, Aso has managed to remain at the centre of Japanese politics for decades. This isn’t the first time that he has been in hot water for referencing the Nazis, either. During a 2013 speech regarding the opposition of older Japanese to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, Aso suggested that it could be stealthily changed by emulating the way the Nazis were able to take advantage of the Weimar Constitution, another statement which was widely condemned but for which Aso refused to resign. The opposition Democratic Party have called for his resignation again and questioned his simultaneously holding two of the most important positions in the Japanese government, as both deputy prime minister and finance minister.
While many Japanese social media users agreed with Aso’s defence that his words had been twisted by political opponents and the mass media to make a story out of nothing, here’s some friendly advice for politicians and people of all stripes: maybe lay off the Hitler and Nazi references.