The Decade of Atonement

National apology is all the rage

| March-April 1999


The fashion for “apologies” is growing. For offenders, they draw a line under the past. But reparations are seldom discussed.

1988 United States The Civil Liberties Act “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States” for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

1993 United States Public Law 103-150 “acknowledge[s] the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and offer[s] an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.”

1995 Japan In June, the Japanese government apologizes to the 200,000 “comfort women” forced into military-run brothels during WWII and starts a compensation fund as “an expression of atonement on the part of the people of Japan to these women.”



1996 Germany/Czech Republic German officials apologize for the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and establish a fund for the reparation of Czech victims of Nazi abuses.

1997 United States President Bill Clinton issues an official apology to the survivors of a government experiment that caused 400 black men with syphilis to go untreated without their knowledge. The White House spokesperson says that “the president feels we have a moral obligation.”