Hiroshima survivors: haunted 70 years on, determined to remember

Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:22am EDT
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By Kiyoshi Takenaka

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - Hiroshi Harada remembers how his leg sank into one of the bodies blocking a narrow Hiroshima street 70 years ago, as he fled the spreading fire ignited by the atomic bomb.

"My leg slid deep into one of them. Then it was very hard to pull my leg out ... To escape, I had no choice," said Harada, the 75-year-old former head of an atomic bomb museum.

Later that day, a woman grabbed Harada, then just 6 years old, by the leg and asked for water. He stepped back in horror to find a chunk of flesh from her hand sticking to his leg.

As the 70th anniversary of the world's first nuclear attack approaches, many survivors still find it too painful to talk about. But with their ranks dwindling, others are determined to pass on their experiences to younger generations.

"The number of survivors will be shrinking and their voices getting smaller," Harada said. "But Hiroshima needs to keep on sending a message to the world that things like this should never happen again."

Hiroshima survivors often refrain from talking about their experiences even with their own children, some from a feeling that the past is too horrific and others from fear of discrimination against themselves and their offspring.

This year's anniversary comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to ease the constraints of Japan's postwar, pacifist constitution on the military.

Critics fear that could lead the nation again down a mistaken path to war, while proponents argue the change is needed to deter growing regional threats.   Continued...

Visitors stand in front of a photograph showing Hiroshima city after the 1945 atomic bombing as they look at artifacts from the destruction caused by the bomb, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, western Japan, March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato