August 27, 2010

Wiesenthal Center: Japanese firms must meet same standards demanded of European firms

The Simon Wiesenthal Center praised the passage of AB619, The Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, in the California Legislature requiring companies submitting bids for the state’s high-speed rail project to disclose any direct involvement in transporting prisoners to Nazi Germany’s extermination camps, work camps, concentration camps, prisoner of war camps, or any similar camps during WWII.

While supporting the bill, written in anticipation of a bid by SNCF, the French rail company that had direct involvement in transporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, stressed that the people of California would expect similar disclosures by Japanese companies. Bids for the projects are expected from a Japanese consortium that includes companies like Hitachi, Kawasaki, and Nippon Sharyo. “These important Japanese firms used American POWs for slave labor during WWII and tragically more than 1,000 American POWs perished while in Japan as forced laborers,” he said. “We urge these companies to publicly delineate and acknowledge that part of their corporate and national history and to directly apologize to the few remaining aging ex-GIs who survived those horrors,” Cooper added.

“Our call is not connected to any legal actions but to longstanding unfulfilled moral responsibilities of these firms. We would hope that Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders will join us in emphasizing the importance of these actions by the Japanese companies,” he concluded.

Rabbi Cooper, a frequent visitor to Japan, has for decades pressed the Japanese government to acknowledge and apologize for WWII era abuses, will travel to Japan in the early fall in connection with this and other human rights issues.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

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