Commemorations in Hiroshima, 75 years after the first atomic bomb in history


A woman came to pay tribute to the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima, August 5, 2020. – Taketo Oishi/AP/SIPA

Just 75 years ago, one of the greatest dramas in Japanese history occurred. In a particular context of pandemic, the country commemorates this Thursday the nuclear attack of August 6, 1945 on the city of Hiroshima, explosion which had made more than 140,000 victims.

Atomic bomb survivors, descendants of victims, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a few foreign officials attended the main remembrance ceremony early in the morning in Hiroshima (western Japan), most wearing masks.

Silent prayer for painful past

The general public, on the other hand, had not been invited to the event because of the Covid-19, and had to content themselves with following the ceremony online. Other events have been completely canceled, including the Hiroshima Floating Lantern Ceremony, laid at nightfall every August 6 in memory of the victims.

A silent prayer was held at 8:15 am sharp local time, marking the precise moment the atomic bomb exploded in the sky over Hiroshima 75 years ago. “We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself,” city mayor Kazumi Matsui said in a speech, calling on civil society to reject the “inward-looking” of nationalisms.

“I pledge to do my best for the advent of a world without nuclear weapons and lasting peace,” promised Shinzo Abe, often criticized for his intention to revise the pacifist Japanese constitution.

A second bomb three days later

The “Little Boy” bomb killed around 140,000 people in Hiroshima. Many victims were killed instantly, and many more also died from their injuries or from radiation in the weeks and months that followed. Three days later, a second American A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki (southwest), causing an additional 74,000 deaths.

These two bombs of a destructive power unprecedented at the time brought Japan to its knees: on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced to his subjects the surrender to the Allies, thus signing the end of World War II. . The United States has never officially apologized. But in 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, where he paid tribute to the victims and called for a world without nuclear weapons.

Who to take over from the “hibakusha”?

Some 136,700 survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, called hibakusha in Japan still live today. But with a little over 83 years of average age, their strength is diminishing and they seek to pass the baton of witnessing to new generations.

With the help of other activists against atomic weapons, hibakusha have created archives of their memory, whether in the form of recorded testimonies, poems or drawings. Despite these initiatives, many fear a loss of interest in their legacy when they are no longer there, although the nuclear threat still remains.

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