An insidious sort of censorship is taking place in Japan: Someone has vandalized hundreds of copies of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl at public libraries throughout Tokyo.
The vandalism began early last year, with a copy The Diary of a Young Girl, but it has since expanded to include other books about the Holocaust. The vandal tears pages out of the books and places them back on library shelves. In all, some 300 books in 38 Tokyo-area libraries have been damaged.
No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the defacement, but many suspect the vandal supports a revisionist view of Japan’s role in World War II. Kirk Spitzer with Time reports:
“Twenty-first century Japan is in the throes of a culture war led by right-wing reactionaries who feel emboldened under Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe,” says Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian studies at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. “The vandalism might be a colossal coincidence, coming so close to the uproar over the kamikaze letters — but I doubt it.”
Many in Japan have decried the vandalism. Police are investigating, and the Israeli Embassy in Japan has donated 300 copies of The Diary of a Young Girl to Tokyo libraries. Library officials have also moved undamaged copies to areas where they can be better guarded. Julian Ryall with Deutshe Welle spoke with a local scholar regarding his suspicions:
“It’s really odd,” Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told DW. “I understand that the incidents all took place in a relatively small geographical area and that the police are probably looking for a single person acting alone, but I think they will eventually find some sort of mental illness or obsession behind this incident.
“This really does not have any broader significance in relation to Japanese society or attitudes towards Jewish people,” he said.
The Diary of a Young Girl is no stranger to attempts to remove it from public libraries. In the United States, it remains one of the most challenged books in libraries and schools. CBLDF helped defend it against a challenge just last year. But most attempts to ban the book are not as nefarious as what has happened in Tokyo. The Tokyo vandal isn’t just damaging books; he or she is committing an act of censorship.
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