Hiroshima: horrific and harrowing testimonies

First published in 1946, Hiroshima by John Hersey tells the stories of six survivors; their everyday lives before the bomb and vivid accounts of what they experienced and witnessed in the aftermath of that terrible day.

Republished in 1986 with an extra chapter detailing their lives in the intervening forty years, this book became a powerful record of the long-lasting human costs of the atomic bomb.

I visited Hiroshima in 2002 when I was living in Japan. It is, of course, impossible to mention the name Hiroshima without immediately thinking of the bomb and the devastation it caused. People may be genuinely surprised to see that Hiroshima rose from the ashes to become a modern, vibrant city.

Indeed, I remember feeling somewhat disturbed to think that the modern streets and shopping areas that I was walking through had once been the site of so much suffering and devastation. The same rivers are still there, where thousands of people died when they went into the water in a futile attempt to sooth their burns.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is one of the most powerfully emotive places I have ever been, second only to the Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel.

This book is emotive in a similar way, presenting to the world these personal stories of six people who miraculously survived the horror of the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Not an easy book to read, but essential.

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