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Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Victims of the Second World War, 8th – 9th May

By resolution 59/26 of 22 November 2004, the UN General Assembly declared 8–9 May as a time of remembrance and reconciliation and, while recognizing that Member States may have individual days of victory, liberation and commemoration, invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations System, non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe annually either one or both of these days in an appropriate manner to pay tribute to all victims of the Second World War.

The Assembly stressed that this historic event established the conditions for the creation of the United Nations, designed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and called upon the Member States of the United Nations to unite their efforts in dealing with new challenges and threats, with the United Nations playing a central role, and to make every effort to settle all disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and in such a manner that international peace and security are not endangered.

– The United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/events/remembranceday/

Hiroshima is like any modern Japanese city with trendy cafés and shopping centers crowded with young people meeting their friends after school. Hiroshima though has a past not many cities have ever experienced. Well, except for Nagasaki.

 

Evening in Hiroshima

 

It was a wintry Friday, and the air was a tad milder than what I had gotten used to already. There was often this certain cold nip in the air in Japan that felt like it would freeze you to the core, which I was surprised to discover since the day temperatures were mostly somewhere around five degrees.

Heading towards the Hiroshima Peace Museum the realization of where I was, and what the city had experienced on a clear August morning in 1945, started to slowly sink in.

 

Peace Memorial Park

 

I have seen many documentaries about the bombing, but to actually be there at the scene was a special experience. Hiroshima and its people around me kept on living their day-to-day lives, which gave me a realization of the strange mundaneness and commonplaceness of such an unusual and terrible event; how anyone’s life could change in an instant just like that, in a sudden flash.

Visitors would first walk through a corridor designed to resemble the ruins of Hiroshima after the nuclear explosion, which then lead to the first exhibition room. Before entering the actual exhibition I could hear people chatting with each other, but in the first room there was only silence. The sorrofwul atmosphere in the musem was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

The exhibition first showcased the science behind the explosion itself. Quickly it descended into darker waters with descriptions and photographs of the effects on the people and the city. Several accounts on the experiences of victims were written down, and I was a little taken aback by some of the items exhibited, among them were torn clothing worn by the people at the time of the explosion.

 

Kitchen ware and other items melted together into chunks by the heat of the explosion

 

Charred statues, deformed glass bottles, and other objects

The number of casualties has been estimated to be around 135 000. Most of the deaths occurred immediately from the explosion, mostly resulting from the unbearable heat or from falling debris.
The radiation from the bomb had long lasting effects, some people slowly recovered, some died months after the explosion. Even today doctors encounter medical cases on people who survived and are still to this day dealing with consequences of the explosion.
It is no wonder why strong objection against nuclear power plants are heard in Japan, especially after the earthquake resulting in Fukushima’s power plant disaster in 2011.

The only building close to ground zero surviving the explosion, Genbaku Dome

The Memorial Cenotaph in the Peace Park surrounding the museum

 

World War II was a human tragedy, which showcased the atrocities men are capable of. The disaster befalling Hiroshima is only one of the countless acts of mindless violence committed in war, by all sides participating in it, but Hiroshima’s atomic bombing was undoubtedly the most deadliest as a single act, caused by a single bomb.

Almost a year ago in May in 2016, President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima to address his symphathies to the victims. On the same year in December, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likewise payed a visit to Pearl Harbor. Even though highly political, in these turbulent times these mutual visits are an important message to the rest of the world that reconciliation and forgiveness is possible. Most of all it is an important message that efforts to strive for peace should be set before any other national or political interests, when it’s above all and essentially a question of compassion towards other human beings.

 

“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.” (President Barack Obama’s message, next to a paper crane folded by him)

  –   Meri Monto, secretary 2017



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