Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
14 February 2000 2000: Austria-Hitler's employment policies

Austrian politician Joerg Haider apologizes for giving offense by praising Hitler's employment policies and former members of the Waffen SS.

Time. February 14, 2000.
17 February 2000 2000: German-Israel The Holocaust

German President Johannes Rau apologizes before the Israeli parliament for the Holocaust.

Sontag, Deborah. “Israel: Germany apology.” New York Times. February 17, 2000.
28 February 2000 2000: Lebanese Hezbollah-French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin apology

 A leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah demands that French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin apologize for calling guerrilla attacks against Israeli occupation troops "terrorist" acts.

“Hezbollah Leader Demands Apology from French PM.” Xinhua News Agency. February 28, 2000.
7 November 2000 2000: Finland apologizes to the Jewish community

 Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen of Finland apologizes to the Jewish community for the extradition of eight Jews to Germany in 1942.

“Finland: Apology To Jews.” New York Times. November 7, 2000.
6 November 2000 2000: China -Cambodia the Khmer Rouge

China issues a statement saying it will not apologize to Cambodia for supporting the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

China Says It Won’t Apologize For Supporting the Khmer Rouge.” New York Times. November 7, 2000.
15 October 2000 2000: Chinese- Japan war atrocities

At a meeting in Tokyo, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji says China still feels that Japan has never properly apologized for its war atrocities but says it is Japan’s problem to decide whether and how to atone for its past.

French, Howard W. “China’s Premier, on Japan visit, Wears a Friendly Face.” New York Times. October 16, 2000.
17 March 2000 2000: USA- Iran Reconciliation

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announces steps to reconcile with Iran and to encourage modernization there.  Stopping short of an apology, she acknowledged past American meddling in Iran and expressed regrets for supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Lancaster, John. “U.S. Plans Major Gesture To Iran.” Washington Post. March 17, 2000.
22 March 2000 2000: The Netherlands- Jews, Gypsies and Indonesians

The Netherlands apologizes to Jews, Gypsies and Indonesians for a “chilly” official response in the past to their claims to property seized during and after World War II.  Prime Minister Wim Kok offers $180 million, in addition to past restitutions, to the Central Jewish Congress, while Gypsies receive an extra $13 million, and Indonesians who sided with the Dutch during Indonesia's fight for independence in 1949 are offered $110 million.

Simons, Marlise. “Netherlands: 3 apologies.” New York Times. March 22, 2000.
March 2000 2000: Aetna Inc.- profits from slavery

Aetna Inc. apologizes for profiting from slavery by issuing insurance policies on slaves in the 1850s.

Zielbauer, Paul. “A Newspaper Apologizes for Salve-Era Ads.” New York Times. July 6, 2000.
6 April 2000 2000: North Korea-Japan Japanese Rule

At the start of the first talks between North Korea and Japan in eight years, North Korea says that negotiations will fail unless Japan agrees to an apology and compensation for its decades of rule.

“North Korea Firm on Apology From Japan.” New York Times. April 6, 2000.
7 April 2000 2000: Austria-political haven to former Nazis

 The Austrian government apologizes for having provided a political haven to former Nazis after World War II.

Cohen, Roger. “Austria: apology over ex-Nazis.” New York Times. April 7, 2000.
8 April 2000 2000: Belgium asks forgiveness for the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda

Belgium asks forgiveness for the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

“Rwanda: Belgian Apology.” New York Times. April 8, 2000.
15 April 2000 2000: Diocese of Oakland - victims of clergy sexual abuse

Bishop John S. Cummins and other leaders of the Diocese of Oakland publicly apologize to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

“Oakland Diocesan Service Offers Apology for Clergy Sex Abuse.” America. April 15, 2000.
18 April 2000 2000: Catholic Church rejects a call by gay-rights activists for an apology from the Catholic Church

The official Vatican newspaper rejects a call by gay-rights activists for an apology from the Catholic Church.

“Vatican Publication Rejects Apology For Homosexuals.” Africa News Service. April 18, 2000.
18 May 2000 2000: Japan secularism

 Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori apologizes for controversial remarks that undermined the country’s constitutional guarantee of secularism, when he told a Shinto religious group that Japan was a “divine country with an emperor at its core.”



French, Howard W. “Japan: Premier’s Apology.” New York Times. May 18, 2000.
2000 2000: Thousands of Chinese men sue Japanese companies

Thousands of Chinese men sue Japanese companies for using them as forced laborers during World War II and demand an apology.

Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “Wartime Slaves Use U.S. Law to Sue Japanese.” New York Times. October 2, 2000.
5 June 2000 2000: Chicago’s City Council -reparations for slavery

Chicago’s City Council votes to urge Congress to consider reparations for slavery.

“Chicago City Council Votes to Urge Congress to Consider Slavery Reparations.” Jet. June 5, 2000.
25 June 2000 2000: Montenegro - Croatia shelling Dubrovnik

Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic asks Croatia to forgive his countrymen for shelling Dubrovnik during the Croatian struggle for independence in 1991.

“Montenegro Asking Forgiveness From Croatia.” New York Times. June 25, 2000.
14 July 2000 2000: USA-Japan crimes committed by U.S. military personnel

Thomas Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and Lt.- Gen. Earl Hailston, the highest ranking American officer in Japan, apologize to Okinawa Governor Inamine Keiichi for crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Japan.


"Apology Made.” AsiaWeek. July 14, 2000.
19 July 2000 2000: Italy-The Savoys

Italy’s potential crown prince, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, offers to apologize for the wrongs committed by the Savoys, in an effort to circumvent a 1946 law banning male members from Italy’s former royal family from entering the country.

“Italy: Princely Offer.” New York Times. July 19, 2000.