The Mayor of Hiroshima Remembers Hiroshima

Roundup: Talking About History

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba delivered this address (published in Japan Focus,to the inaugural conference of the Asia office of UNITAR in Hiroshima on November 17, 2003:

We have long continued our effort to raise public awareness of the need to abolish nuclear weapons by conveying to the world the facts of the atomic bombing and the message born out of the suffering and struggles of the hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings. Our hope and wish is to create a 21st century of peace and humanity free from nuclear weapons and violence and free from all hatred and terror.

The theme of my presentation today is ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. According to Ernst Heinrich Haeckel and Sigmund Freud, it means that the development of the individual is a short and quick recapitulation of the development of the entire human race. I am interpreting this rather loosely to mean that the rebuilding of Hiroshima recapitulated the essence of human history by recapturing the wisdom and legacy of the entire human race. Actually I am saying more. In order for evolution to occur, the arrow should also be directed the other way as well. The rebirth and re-creation of Hiroshima should become a model for building the future for all of us.

A-bomb Damage

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a single atomic bomb on the center of Hiroshima. At the time, approximately 350 thousand people were living in the city and by the end of December 1945 about 140 thousand of them were dead.

The combined effects of heat, blast, and radiation instantaneously slaughtered a hundred thousand human beings and reduced Hiroshima to rubble -- an experience that was, to those who witnessed it, the"end of the world." Conditions in the city immediately after the bombing are impossible to convey adequately in words. People became ghosts or demons, their skin charred and dangling from their bodies, their flesh and even bones exposed. Mothers tried desperately to nurse charred babies. Babies clung desperately to the breasts of dead or dying mothers. Those who managed to survive had lost everything, even hope. Many who survived sincerely envied the dead. In fact, we know from eyewitness accounts that many victims took their own lives as soon as they were fully conscious of having survived.

To make matters worse, uninjured survivors and even relief workers or relatives who entered Hiroshima after the explosion fell ill and died of what was then called A-bomb disease. We know it now as radiation poisoning.

Including these"entry survivors," 85 thousand official A-bomb survivors were living in Hiroshima City at the end of March 2003. Even now, a half-century later, thousands still suffer the physical and emotional aftereffects. A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, know in their bones the devastating inhumanity of the atomic bomb. What they saw of"the end of the world" was enough to convince them that nuclear weapons are an"absolute evil." They are determined"never to allow anyone else to experience such horror." Having seen the end of the world, they have worked for five decades to prevent it....

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