Pope Francis visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on November 24, 2019, and delivered a strong condemnation of nuclear weapons.
At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 945, the first wartime atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, destroying it completely. More than 70,000 people died instantly. Another 70,000 died later from radiation burns.
Two of the victims offered the Pope a floral tribute that he placed in front of the Memorial. Then the Pope lit a candle and, after the ringing of the bell and a moment of silent prayer, he heard the testimonies of the victims.
We publish their testimonies below as provided by the Vatican:
Testimony of Yoshiko Kajimoto, survivor of the atomic bomb
My name is Yoshiko Kajimoto. When we were bombed, I was 14 years old and a third-year middle school student. At the time, I was 2.3 km north of the hypocenter, making parts for airplane propellers.
The moment a blue light flowed through the window, I thought it was a bomb. Then the factory collapsed with a loud sound, and I fainted. I became aware of my friends’ screams, but it was dark, and I couldn’t move because I was buried under timber and tiles. I realized that a friend was under me, so I called out to see if she was alive. I tried to escape, but my right foot was stuck in the timber. When I finally pulled it out, my shin was torn and bleeding badly. When I went outside, all the surrounding buildings were destroyed. It was as dark as evening and smelled like rotten fish.
Soon a fire broke out in the neighborhood, and friends who could not walk were evacuated on stretchers. I also helped carry one. Along the way, there were people walking side by side like ghosts, people whose whole body was so burnt that I could not tell the difference between men and women, their hair standing on end, their faces swollen to double size, their lips hanging loose, with both hands held out with burnt skin hanging from them. No one in this world can imagine such a scene of hell.
In the following days, white smoke was everywhere: Hiroshima had become a crematorium. For a long time, I could not remove the bad smell of cremated people from my body and clothes. Three days later, on the way home, I accidentally met my father. He had searched for me for three days, assuming I was dead. I was really happy. However, my father had been exposed to radiation, and after a year and a half, he vomited blood and died. When I got home, I had a high fever and a lot of bleeding from my gums.
My mother died of atomic bomb disease after suffering for 20 years. Two-thirds of my stomach was removed in 1999 because of cancer. Most of my friends have died of cancer. In addition, due to radiation, 74 years later I suffer from leukemia and cancer. I work hard to bear witness that we must not use such terrible atomic bombs again nor let anyone in the world endure such suffering.
Testimony by Kojí Hosokawa, survivor of the atomic bomb
Towards the end of the war, on August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb dropped on the center of Hiroshima. It destroyed the entire city in an instant and took about 140,000 lives out of the 350,000 people in the city.
I was 17 years old at the time and was on the 4th floor of a building 1.3 km from the hypocenter when the bomb was dropped, but I miraculously survived. Of the dozens who were exposed in the same place, I am the only one who is still alive.
The next day, when I returned to my home in Miyajima, the evacuation destination, I learned that my 13-year-old younger sister who had been doing work as a mobilized student was only 700m away and died on August 6.
Even though they survived, many people suffered from keloids throughout their lives as well as from aftereffects and prejudice. I have always lived in fear of a recurrence of atomic bomb disease. I think everyone should realize that the atomic bombs were dropped, not on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but on all humanity.
War makes people crazy, and the ultimate craziness is the atomic bomb that negated human existence.
Although there is little time left for me, I believe that passing on the experience of Hiroshima to the next generation is the final mission assigned to us A-bomb survivors.