"Der verwundete und zu Boden gefallene Mensch, ist das nicht Jesus selbst?" (Pfr. SEKI, Kyoto, 2002)
"Anerkennung verweigern nicht zuletzt viele Christinnen und Christen" (M. Sonntag)
"Ich bin doch ein Mensch" (Kalligraphie aus der Befreiungsbewegung der Buraku)
1933: Ein Dokument der Suiheisha - in Heidelberg
- Das Dokument - Fasimile
- Das Dokument - eine englische Übersetzung
- Die historische Bedeutung
Protest Document From Suiheisha Found in Heidelberg
Recently, a 1933 letter of protest from the Suiheisha (Leveler's Association) was discovered in Germany and is now displayed in the museum of the “Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma” in Heidelberg. The English translation and its significance are detailed below.
Protest Against the Fascist Government of Germany
For the past 11 years, our National Leveler's Association has been involved in the bold struggle to free the 3 million oppressed Japanese people from 6000 buraku, and we have protested against all forms of irrational racial/class prejudice in Japan. Together with the "National Committee for the Fight against Discrimination and Unfair Trials", we strongly protest all forms of reactionary, imperialistic fascism, especially the extremely barbaric and disgraceful German fascist dictatorship.
In reaction to the resistance of radicalized workers, which was the natural result of the depression brought on by capitalism, the bourgeoisie of Germany ascended to a reactionary pinnacle and became like a savage beast in a feeding frenzy at the smell of blood.
Ever since the (Nazi inspired) coup d’état in Prussia, beginning with setting fire to the parliament building, they brought on an atmosphere of genocide against the workers through spreading false rumors, deceit, slander and libel, and they have barely maintained their government by fanning the 'f1ames of fear among the lower middle class so as to cause numerous terrorist acts against the masses.
In order to protect the privileges of a handful of powerful bankers, industrialists, nobility, landlords, generals, etc, 50,000 workers have been imprisoned and even given death sentences, and Nazi thugs have shamelessly sought out Jews to torture, kill, and persecute, taking not only their property but their lives as well. They have barbarically burned books with liberal ideas, disbanded trade unions, banned publications, taken over worker's offices and meeting halls, confiscating these hard-earned gains of many years, and in this process, they have trampled upon the freedoms of the people to an extreme degree.
The savage thugs that are doing all of this under the guise of patriotism are doing so under the direction of the German government, and because of this, millions of workers are being exploited, as the noose of de facto slavery is further tightened.
We, the "National Leveler's Association," together with the "National Committee For The Fight Against Discrimination and Unfair Trials," have been fighting against all forms of racial and class discrimination and prejudice, as the history of our glorious struggle clearly shows. It is with this in mind that we, the 3 million members of the Leveler's Association, protest in the strongest possible terms the persecution of Jews by the German fascist government and all of the barbaric actions they have taken to roll back human progress.
Therefore, we will continue to resolutely fight on against the terrorism, provocations, massacres, arrests and torture mentioned above. We pledge ourselves to wholeheartedly join together with the German anti-fascist forces in their resistance to the Nazis so that we can serve as the vanguard of the German proletariat, made up of farmers, factory workers and other laborers, in their valiant struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisies government of large land owners, nobility and military cliques.
* Down with every feudal prejudice!
* Rise up against the persecution and racial discrimination of Jewish people!
* Stop the execution of workers!
29 August 1933
Suiheisha (Leveler's Association)
National Committee For The Fight Against Discrimination and Unfair Trials
Aus: Crowned With Thorns Nr. 48, March 31, 2008
Historical Significance of the Document
Martin Niemöller, a German Pastor resisted Hitler's regime, wrote a famous poem in which he listed a variety of groups that the Nazis had attacked, beginning with the Communists, and after each group, he added the words, "And we did nothing about it." There were, however, same people on the other side of the world who raised their angry voices against Nazi oppression. They wrote out their voice of protest and submitted it to the German Embassy in Japan. The date on that letter was August 29, 1933, which was just 7 months after Hitler came to power. This was about a week before Niemöller, Bonhoeffer and others in Germany organized the "Pastors' Emergency League." Who were they?
The "Zenkoku Suiheisha" (National Leveler's Association) and the "National Committee For The Fight Against Discrimination and Unfair Trials." The National Leveler's Association was established in Kyoto in 1922 to fight against buraku discrimination and for the liberation of the buraku people, and the "National Committee For The Fight Against Discrimination and Unfair Trials" was an organization dedicated to overturning the discriminatory trial that occurred in Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku in 19321.
This document is now displayed in the museum of the "Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma" in Heidelberg. I was able to read the vehement language of this protest by looking at a picture sent to us from the German church. I was really surprised by how accurately the writers of this document were able to gather information and portray the things the Nazis were doing in Germany at that time. For instance, the "coup d’état in Prussia" referred to in the sentence, "Ever since the (Nazi inspired) coup d’état in Prussia, beginning with setting fire to the parliament building," was a reference to the July 20, 1932 coup pulled off by the Nazi "rear guard" led by Franz von Papen for the purpose of dismantling the last stronghold of the opposition social democrats. The arson of the parliament building was claimed to be the work of a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe2, but it was widely rumored that it was the work of the Nazis themselves. This letter of protest clearly assumes that it was indeed a Nazi arsonist who was the perpetrator.
While this document shows a good understanding of what was happened on the other side of the world, it also shows the limitations of its 1933 understanding of the roots of buraku discrimination. I can see this in the expression, "we have protested against all forms of irrational racial/class prejudice in Japan." By joining together "racial/class prejudice," they were hinting at a common misperception of that time. According to Rev. Kazuhiro Tanimoto, who heads up the BLC Activities Committee, some within the discriminated-against buraku communities believed that that buraku discrimination was a kind of "racial discrimination." Present-day researchers no longer give any credence to the belief that there were any racial origins to buraku discrimination. Instead, it is seen as an artificially developed tool used by the feudal rulers to maintain their power3.
While the concepts expressed here are clearly influenced by communist ideas, what I sensed as I read these words was the deep desire of the authors, whose own lives and culture had long been despised by the power structure they faced, to show solidarity to those in Germany facing a similar situation. Irrespective of the cultural differences between East and West, we see the same anger being expressed at those in power who discriminate against other human beings and even take their lives. The declaration closes with these words: 'Therefore, we will continue to resolutely fight on against the terrorism, provocations, massacres, arrests and torture mentioned above. We pledge ourselves to wholeheartedly join together with the German anti-fascist forces in their resistance to the Nazis so that we can serve as the vanguard of the German proletariat, made up of farmers, factory workers and other laborers, in their valiant struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisies government of large land owners, nobility and military cliques."
Having gone on the attack against fascism, the National Leveler's Association was itself extinguished in 1942 by the Japanese fascist government. Nevertheless their anti-fascist declaration and its historical meaning were not extinguished, and they serve as a powerful witness to the liberation movement today as we continue to seek human freedom and struggle against the buraku discrimination that still exists.
1. In 1932, a man from a discriminated-against buraku in Kagawa Prefecture married a non-buraku woman, but her parents discovered his background and filed charges against him, accusing him of abducting her and seeking to annul the marriage. The police took the case to court on the grounds that such a marriage should not be allowed, and the judge ruled that he had hidden his buraku background and viewed that as a criminal act, handing down a guilty verdict. The Leveler's Association then formed this organization to push for a reversal of the verdict. (From the website of the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute)
2. The. identity of arsonist has long been debated, but the Dutch citizen the Nazis executed as the culprit, Marinus van der Lubbe, was officially exonerated in 1981 by a West German court.
3. Buraku people or "Burakumin" (min = people) are the largest discriminated-against population in Japan. They are not a racial or a national minority, but a caste-like minority among the ethnic Japanese. They are generally recognized as descendants of outcaste populations in the feudal days. Outcastes were assigned such social functions as slaughtering animals and executing criminals, and the general public perceived these functions as 'polluting acts' under Buddhist and Shintoist beliefs. When the social status system was established in the 17th century (early Edo era) in the form of three classes (warrior, peasant, townsfolk), those outcastes, origin of the present Buraku people, were placed at the bottom of the society as Eta (extreme filth) and Hinin (non-human) classes. In 1871, the Meiji government promulgated the 'Emancipation Edict', declaring the abolition of the lowest social rank. Nevertheless, this has never gone further than a simple statement, without any effective measures. (From the website of the Buraku Liberation League)
Aus: Crowned With Thorns Nr. 48, March 31, 2008