Shizuko Abe

An A-bomb Survivor as a Living Testifier

11. To Europe and the Soviet Union

We visited New York and Washington D.C. on the East Coast and each of us talked about our A-bomb experiences in different places as we had done. In New York, I overheard that Barbara ran out of money while only going through the U.S. However, she was determined to continue the peace pilgrimage in Europe. We didn’t know how she managed to raise funds, but later we learned that she used the money she had inherited from her parents.

We left the U.S. on June 12th and went to England. We made our presentations in two or three places in England, then the group moved on to France. While in France, I stayed with one host family, and from there I set out to a few meeting places. I was surprised that one of them was the stage at a corner of a racetrack. We left France for West Germany and then East Germany. In East Germany, we were shown around to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, in the suburb of Berlin, where Jewish people had been held during the war. More than 200,000 had been held there, and among them 118,000 died. We were shown a gas chamber, a gallows, a dissecting room where prisoners were dissected alive, a crematory and a watch tower. We saw piles of hair and shoes of the victims. Dropping the A-bombs was of course cruel, but I wondered how humans could do such horrible things to other humans. There were no words I could say about this cruelty.

We entered the Soviet from East Germany. In the Soviet Union, we always presented together. When we were telling our A-bomb experiences one after another, we were asked why only male members gave their presentation and females didn’t. It was a natural custom for Japanese people to prioritize men rather than women, but it might have looked strange for people in a communist country. People listened to us intently in Europe and the Soviet Union. However, wherever we went, people said,“We understand that nuclear weapons are horrible, but as long as Western countries continue to develop them, we can’t stop.” People in the Western countries also said the same thing. In the middle of the Cold War, both East and West believed that the present peace was kept by holding nuclear weapons. If a nuclear war started, our earth would no longer exist. Only a single nuclear bomb will claim hundreds of thousands of human lives, and, even if only one person survived, a nuclear bomb would affect not only him but also his offspring. Retaliation calls for another retaliation, which leads to a world like hell contaminated forever by radiation. I felt very sad.

We flew from Moscow to Khabarovsk and there changed to the Siberian Railway for Nakhodka. Then we returned to Yokohama by ship. About three hours before reaching Yokohama, the color of the sea suddenly changed. I was wondering why, but later we heard that the Japanese coastal water was affected by pollution.