A major Japanese magazine has been shut down and its editors fired after publishing an article denying that Jews were systematically killed in Auschwitz.
The publishers of Marco Polo, a monthly news and commentary magazine with a circulation of about 250,000, terminated the publication within one weeks of receiving a barrage of protests from American Jewish organizations and the Israeli government.
The protests were given considerable muscle by the decision of major international advertisers to suspend their dealings with the magazine.
The 10 page article ran in the magazines’ February issue, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
An editorial preamble to the piece expressed “major doubts regarding the ‘Holocaust’ and the massacre of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.” The preamble characterized the article itself, titled “The Greatest Taboo of Postwar History: There Were No Nazi ‘Gas Chambers’,” as “the new historic truth”.
Bungei Shunju, Japan’s leading conservation publishing house of prestigious weekly and monthly magazines, pulled all unsold copies of Marco Polo from newsstands.
The radical crackdown by the publisher surprised protesting representatives from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League, who had mainly asked for an apology and retraction from the editors.
Even a few days before the abrupt closure of the magazine, a top editor brusquely rejected a modest request by the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo that he exercise more caution in the future.
The decision to close down Marco Polo was first conveyed privately Friday by Ko Shioya, Bungei Shunju’s chief representative in North America, who flew from New York to Los Angeles to inform Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
Cooper flew to Tokyo on Tuesday to meet with Kengo Tanaka, president of Bungei shunju. A formal announcement, in English and Japanese, was expected Thursday.
Cooper said he could not divulge its content, but called it a “remarkable document” that will include an apology to the Jewish people.
Word of the crackdown on Marco Polo has caused a considerable stir in Tokyo, where NHK, the country’s largest television network, taped an interview with Israeli Ambassador Amos Ganor.
The magazine was only 3 years old and not yet profitable, according to news reports.
As part of its protest, the Wiesenthal Center had asked the magazine’s major advertisers, including Microsoft, Philip Morris, Cartier, Philips Electronics, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, to cancel future ads in the magazine.
Volkswagen and Mitsubishi complied almost immediately with the request, and some of the other companies were expected to follow suit
Neil Sandberg, director of the AJCommittee’s Pacific Rim Institute, was in Tokyo when the article appeared and expressed his dismay to Japanese leaders in person.
Sandberg hailed the publisher’s decision and noted that “the Japanese are developing a clearer understanding that publishing entails a sense of responsibility”.
Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL, had also demanded that Marco Polo’s editor “reject historically inaccurate and incendiary articles”.
During his stay in Tokyo, Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center was expected to discuss the continuing publication in Japan of virulently anti-Semitic books and articles, linked to the country’s economic problems and trade conflict with the United States.
Leading Japanese newspapers regularly carry prominent ads for best-selling books, which allege that Jewish conspiracies triggered the Tokyo stock market crash and were out to destroy Japan as the last obstacle to Jewish world domination.
The author of the gas chamber article is Masanori Nishioka, a young physician, who, Cooper said, “never traveled to the sites of the death camps and never interviewed any reputable historians.
“He merely took quotes from professional bigots and Holocaust deniers”, Cooper said.