All children wish for a world without nuclear war

by Nicole Duprat, associate of "Horizons et débats"

Dedicated to those
who survived the bomb attack,
only to be living in permanent fear
because of the risks
emanating from the radiation.

May the souls of the deceased
rest in peace.

May those still alive
and still suffering the pain
become beacons of the brightest light
and enable humanity
to understand
the evil nature of nuclear weapons.

The article dealing with the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing in Current Concerns must be given the credit to show us that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not an affair of the past. At the time being, nuclear weapons are in the centre of current goings-on, on a national as well as on an international scale. This prevalence underlines the fact that nuclear weapons are still the power instruments developed by some states in spite of the growing significance of the worldwide anti-nuclear movements and their ever-increasing demands for a nuclear-free world.
   Hiroshima and Nagasaki have implanted in our memories the cruelty of employment of the atomic bomb. Those places pulverised by the atomic fire will for ever be the witnesses of the deadly and deliberate policy of President Truman and his consultancy who tried to win the war by employing the atomic bomb.
   These two nuclear bombs were terrifying weapons causing tremendous destructions of dimensions unknown until this day. Acute syndroms caused by the radiation would result in death – or not.
   75 years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the shadow of a nuclear war still hovers above us in spite of the horror suffered by those two cities. Even today there is no city geared up to carry the consequences of a nuclear explosion and there is no nation that would be able to cope with such an event.
   In a sense Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the symbols of the blind spot of the international criminal law that was created by the great Nuremberg Trials. In armed conflict the crimes of war and crimes against humanity committed by the victors will still go unpunished.
The Start Treaty between the USA and Russia about the reduction of nucelar weapons is expiring in 2021, if the two powers will not come to an agreement about its renovation.
   Let us welcome activities of the “Mayors for Peace”, a group of mayors from all the world whose programme was brought into being on 24 July 1982 at the UN Special Session about disarmament by the Mayor of Hiroshima Takeshi Araki and his colleague Mayor of Nagasaki Yoshitake Morotani in order to promote the solidarity among the cities of the world on their path to eliminate the atomic weapons.
   There is no such thing as a just war, in all wars it is the innocent who pay the bill.
   The Japanese Ministry for Health counted 134,700 “Hibakusha”, a term which means people still suffering fom the bomb, i.e. people who were contaminated. The average age of the still living victims is about 83. And many of them were new-borns or even still in the womb at the time of the bombing. The physical and mental torture of many Hibakusha continues through all their lives. Many of them have suffeed for a long time and were discriminated, in particular with respect to marriage. “For us, who survived, marriage or child birth are not pleasant events but an ever lasting source of fear. We are still afraid of the bombings’ aftermath affecting our children and grand children.” Hibakusha! We should meet their commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons and achievement of world peace with great respect and an open heart.
   The photos in the archives of Hiroshima’s Peace Museum picture the extend of the detoriations caused by the nuclear bombs as well as the price, which the civilian population – the main victims of this murderous killing frenzy – had and have to pay. The Kenotaph, the form of which reminds us of the old Japanese mud houses, was built to protect the victims’ souls from wind and rain. It contains the names of all victims of the bomb attack and was created by the architect Tange Kenzo; there is a “peace flame” which is to keep burning as long as nuclear weapons still exist, with the epigraph “Rest in Peace. We are not going to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past”, the word “We” referring to all of mankind.
   In the course of my career as a teacher I received – in the context of my cooperation with Alliance Française de Tokyo – a young Japanese woman, Yoriko, who had come to learn about French schools. We agreed to talk with the students about this tragic event within a origami workshop, speaking in words adequate to their age and capacity of understanding. In an origami workshop we produce paper cranes (Orizuru), a symbol of longevity. The origami technique is a folding technique known to all Japanese children. With great diligence, precision and with a lot of feeling my students engaged in the folding art. We showed them a poster with a statue of the children who had been affected by the bomb and in particular Sadako Sasaki. This little girl died from Leukaemia caused by her exposion to the bombing’s radiation. Thanks to the many paper cranes which she created during her illness, she has become a symbol of peace. In fact there is a Japanese legend saying: “Everyone who folds 1000 paper cranes which are connected to each other by one link, will be rewarded by the fullfillment of his profoundest wish for health, a long life, love and happiness.” Sadako wanted to live. As long as she was able to she folded paper cranes. She died on 25 October 1955 at the age of twelve. She was buried with a festoon of 1000 paper cranes.
   Sadakos story had a profound influence on her friends and her class. In the children’s book, Sadako folded 644 cranes before she died and as a tribute to young Sadako who believed she could get well again her class mates folded the 356 lacking cranes1. Her story made a symbol of peace of the paper crane. Her story is narrated in the book “Sadako and the thousend paper cranes” by Eleanor Coerr, published in 1977 which was translated into several languages. The friends produced another origami in order to collect money for Japanese schools and to have a statue erected in honour of Sadako and all children who had suffered from the bomb. It is a statue of a small girl, holding a huge golden crane in the form of an origami in her upheld arms. The consecration took place on 5 May 1958 at a children’s festivity. There is an inscription on the pedetrial reading “This is our calling. This is our prayer. For the building of peace in the world.”
   Since then this statue has been decorated with thousands of paper crane festoons, created by children of the whole world, (including the 30 students of my class, whose festoon Yoriko brought back to her homeland.) All children have the same wish: A world without a nuclear war.     •


1  Even if the number of cranes folded by Sadako in the children’s andyoung people’s books remains below 1,000 in the sense of the legend, although she folded well over 1,000, it was actually Sadako’s classmates who initiated a peace memorial and a collection. It was inaugurated in 1958.

(Translation Zeit-Fragen)

Paper cranes ( A mother’s memories)

The more the illness advanced and the more she lost her mobility, the smaller became the cranes that Sakado was folding. Although her whole body was swollen, swollen up to her finger tips, although her eyes must have failed her more and more, she diligently folded her little cranes – supporting her hands with a needle – like somebody drowning clutching at a straw.

 

(Sasaki, Masahiro. Meine kleine Schwester Sadako, p. 96)

(Translation Current Concerns)

Her brother’s memories

My sister had threaded all her thousand cranes on a long thread, in order to keep her thread of life from breaking. Her wish was not fullfilled.
   Oh, you thousand cranes. Why did you not sing? Why did you not fly? I said to one of these cranes: Stay with my sister and protect her. Care for her in our place and if she is happy, raise your wings into the wide sky.
   When the number of her cranes reached one thousnd and six hundred, her body had become visibly weak.

 

(Sasaki, Masahiro. Meine kleine Schwester Sadako, p. 98)

(Translation Current Concerns)

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