Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Soh Horie, 73, a survivor of the
atomic bomb blast of August 6, 1945 over Hiroshima, Japan.
Paul Ingles: Soh Horie is almost 73. He looks healthy enough sitting in our studios, but he says that in 2010 he was diagnosed with a blood cancer. He expects this to be his last trip to the United States to tell the story of surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima the morning of August 6, 1945.
Soh Horie: [I remember] Gigantic fire and a deafening sound.
Ingles: He primarily speaks through a translator, but Horie also prepared an English script that he reads a little bit from. He says he was walking through his Hiroshima neighborhood with his sister that morning. He was just five years old and they were just a little more than three miles from the center of the blast.
Horie: It made a very, very big sound.
Ingles: His sister shielded him from the force and they both survived. His detail memories are few, but vivid, of returning to their badly damaged home and his mother caring for victims whose skin was blow off by the firestorm.
Horie: I remember many badly burned people with hands hanging down came to our house seeking shelter. Soon our entire house was filled with seriously injured people. One was a junior high school student. He was burnt all over his face and his nostrils were closed with peeled skin. My mother had to remove the skin from his nostrils although with tweezers. It looked very painful. He must have worn a cap. His hair remained in the part covered by the cap.
Ingles: Horie’s written account goes on to tell of his father who was a navy officer and was exposed to the A-bomb in an office near the center of the blast. He died six days later. A few days afterwards, Horie recalls that two soldiers carried a white urn to their house and that his mother broke down after the two soldiers saluted and left. At that time, he did not know what had happened to his father.
Horie: Of course I was only only five years old at that time.
Ingles: Soh Horie says he was 10 or 11 when he began to hear enough about the “how” and “why” of the bombing to begin to understand what it was all about and the politics that may have led to it.
Ingles: As an American not born at that time myself, I try to imagine what it would be like to be you; to grow up having lived through that and how I would feel about the world, how I would feel about Americans as a young man, as an adult. Did you grow up being angry with Americans because of the blast in this history?
Horie: I don’t feel so strong anger so much, however we Japanese knew that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was all just to throw the Japanese into the end of the war, but also a strategy to Russia.
Ingles: Historians have said that one of the reasons for the bomb was as much to show the Russians that Americans had the bomb for many political reasons. Many people who go through trauma have nightmares, very strong feelings. Have you had to do anything internally to deal with the emotions?
Horie: I don’t suffer so much, but many Japanese think that the bomb was useless, not necessary. Not necessary.
Ingles: Not necessary. Military scholars debate whether the use of the bomb was necessary. They claim that many more Japanese, many more allied forces may have died in a protracted invasion. How do you feel about that discussion, that argument?
Horie: Well, I think that that discussion is quite wrong because the Japanese government asked the United States government to mediate to make a treaty with Russia. The American government could have recognized the power of the nuclear bomb, in the experimental stage at Los Alamos. Therefore dropping a bomb lost some precious lives at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ingles: What do you most want to say to Americans that feel badly about the use the bombs?
Horie: I want to tell them of the nuclear atomic bombings and tell of the threat of nuclear reactors. They should be abolished as soon as possible.
Ingles: It’s one thing to say “be aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons, be aware of the dangers of nuclear power,” but do you cross over to any level of forgiveness, sympathy, empathy with Americans who feel conflicted, upset, sad? Do you say anything that addresses how they feel about what happened?
Horie: I don’t say anything to them.
Ingles: My father fought in Europe during WWII. I’m sure he is one of the Americans who still believes that it was necessary to use the bomb to avoid more killing. I’m wondering if, in your travels, if there is anything special that you say to them.
Horie: I’d have to tell them to come over to Hiroshima to look at what happened to Hiroshima in 1945 with their own eyes and their mind and their heart.
Ingles: Estimates that of the numbers of Hiroshima civilians who died in the four months after the bombing from its effects range from 90,000 to 166,000. As many as 90,000 were killed as a result of the second atomic bomb blast of August 9, 1945 over Nagasaki. Hiroshima was proclaimed a city of peace by the Japanese parliament in 1949. The city government has since advocated consistently for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. The mayor of Hiroshima is leading an International Mayor’s for Peace Organization calling for the abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2020.
An excerpt from a lecture given by Miep Gies in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the late 1990’s. Recorded by
KUNM Producer Audrey Hoehne. Miep Gies was the Austrian woman whose family protected the Frank’s and
who found Anne’s diary scattered on the floor of their attic hiding place after the family had been arrested.
Ms. Gies dies in 2010 at the age of 100.
Gies: People often ask where I have found the courage to help the Frank’s. Yes, it certainly requires some courage, some discipline and also some sacrifice to do your human duty, but that is true for so many things in life therefore this question always surprises me because I simply could not think of doing anything else, so why this question?
Step by step I started to understand that many people wonder why they should assist people who are in trouble because when we are young, we are told by our parents that if we behave alright, everything in life will work out fine for us, so people who have a problem must have made a serious mistake. Why should we then help them? Those people should receive what they deserve. An important reason that I helped was because I do not believe that people who are in trouble have done something wrong. I knew that from my own life. When I was very young I discovered that you can be in trouble without being blamed for that. I felt the same to be true for the Jews.
I feel very strongly that we should not wait for our leaders to make this world a better place. No! We should make this happen now in our own homes and in the schools.
We should never forget the victims of the Holocaust. What struck me most about Anne was her curiosity. She asked me always about everything that went on outside. Anne was also an extremely charming girl. I say “girl,” but talking to her gave the surprising impression of speaking to a much older person because the special condition in the hiding place made her change very quickly from a child to a young adult. I did not pay much attention to this because there were always other things like the danger and my daily care for 11 people; me and my husband, eight in the attic and also a student. Especially for the children in hiding, it was a hard situation. They missed so much. They could not play. They could hardly move. We helpers did what was possible, but freedom we could not give them. That was one of the most painful things for us.
Every year on the fourth of August, I close the curtains of my home and do not answer the doorbell and the telephone. It’s the day that my dear friends, my Jewish friends were taken away. I have never overcome that shock. I loved and admired them so much. Two years they had to live with eight people in a small place. They had little food and were not allowed to go out. They could not speak to their friends and family. On top of that came the fear, every hour of the day. I have no word to describe these people who were still always friendly and grateful. Yes, I do have a word, heroes. True heroes they were. People sometimes call me a hero. I don’t this because people should never think that you have to be a very special person to help those who need you. I myself am just fairly ordinary. I simply had no choice. I could foresee many, many sleepless nights and a miserable life if I had refused to help the friends. Yes, I have wept countless times when I think of my dear friends, but still, I’m happy that those are not years of remorse for refusing to assist those who were in trouble. If help might fail, it is better to try than to do nothing.
I’m grateful that I could save Anne’s diary. When I found it scattered all over the floor, I decided to store it away in order to give it back to Anne when she would return. I wanted to see her smile and hear her say, “Oh Miep, my diary!” but after a terrible time of waiting and hoping, word came that Anne had died. At that moment I went to Otto Frank, Anne’s father, the only one of the family who had survived, and gave him Anne’s diary. “This is what Anne has left” I said to him. “These are her words.” Can you see how this man looked at me? He lost his wife, he lost his two children, he had Anne’s diary. It was a very moving moment.
Otto urged me to read the diary. In the beginning I refused because I was afraid. I had not the courage that it would give me more pain, but when I finally started to read it, all my dear friends came back to life. I heard their voices, their laughs, their arguments. It was really wonderful. Of course I wept a lot while reading, but basically I felt happy. Anne and all the other people were with me again. “Thank you, Anne,” I say to myself, “You gave me one of the finest things life ever gave me.”
For a long time I was deeply ashamed of my home country. My biggest joy was on the day that I became a Dutch citizen. Then I felt free to hate all Germans and Austrians because of what they had done to my Jewish friends. I could not see anything wrong with that, but one day fate caught me when I suddenly discovered that I faced Germans I jumped at them calling them everything I could think of. I was furious. The visitors were clearly afraid and backed off to the wall. Yes. I also saw that their wives were taking positions in front of their husbands trying to protect them from violent outbursts. I really had my go at them. But then, I was told that these German people had spent many years in concentration camps themselves for opposing Hitler. I did not know where to look and to make good of it. At that moment, I began to understand the wisdom of Otto Frank who always said that we should never lump people together. We should not make the same mistakes that millions of Germans once made. Hitler had a movie shown of very selfish Jews. As a result, most Germans believed that all Jews were that way and so Hitler got the help he needed to kill six million innocent Jews. Otto insisted that we should stop talking about “the” Germans, “the” Jews, “the” Arabs, “the” Asians or whatever. “Lumping people together is racism” Otto said. It led to the Holocaust and still destroys countless lives today. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you will all my heart for spending your time with me. Once again, thank you all. It was really wonderful. Thank you.
Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Jamie Drummond who along with Bono of U2, co-founded the advocacy organizations DATA and ONE. The two entities merged in 2008 under the name ONE.
Ingles: Among other initiatives, ONE has been instrumental in getting support from U.S. leaders and other countries to provide support for AIDS programs in Africa, anti-malaria programs, debt relief and other programs to support African growth and opportunity.
He’s on the line with me right now from New York. Jamie Drummond, welcome to Peace Talks Radio.
Drummond: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be here.
Ingles: One of ONE’s major roles I know is to keep the world’s hearts and purse strings open to help in Africa and other impoverished countries. There is still a lingering misconception about how much foreign assistance is offered from richer nations of the world to the poor, is there not?
Drummond: There is, yeah. If you go to the great American public or to the Europeans for example and ask them how much their government gives in aid, they’ll often say 15% or 20% of the budget. In fact, it’s more like 1%. So when you ask people, “What do you think it should be?” they often say, “If it isn’t 15% or 20%, it probably should be 5% or 10%.” In fact, it’s currently at around 1%. There is certain information that needs to be better understood in the general public.
Secondly, the important thing however is not the level of aid, it is how effective it is. A lot of aid these is highly effective, much more so than it used to be, especially with the advent of mobile telephony. Its helping target aid much more effectively than in the past, even into more sensitive and fragile regions.
Ingles: What is the argument for increasing aid that appeals most of the head and the practical side of Americans? I feel like my faith in Americans and people of the world frankly is that their hearts can open up quickly, but then when I watched some of the One videos, they go out and they do interviews with people, the first time they ask about aid they say, “I think we have enough problems here in our own country. We shouldn’t be giving aid out to other countries and then they hear how little it is and they kind of open up a little bit, but I think they still want to hear more about how opening up their purse strings means that the life is somehow more peaceful on their side of the ocean or in their country. Talk about that a little bit.
Drummond: I think the best argument always in the long run is a combination of it being the right thing to do and appealing to people’s values to help another human, but at the same time do that in a way that makes the most sense in the long run which means getting rid of the structural causes of extreme poverty that people find themselves in.
On the one hand you will need to give aid in the short to medium term, but in the long run, you want to stop the causes of extreme poverty and often that is about developing markets, access to markets, ensuring rule of law, getting the basic infrastructure of government in place and holding it accountable with a free media and elections. Those institutions are what’s required and America, if it’s supporting the development of those institutions, will be helping catalyze long-term solutions. I’m not talking about nation-building here. That is the job of these countries and each one is going to do it uniquely and with their own specific historical and cultural circumstances, but there are things we can do to be relatively more helpful to them in this evolution and this process.
Certainly what we should is not hurt by fostering networks of companies that help people steal money from these countries and hopefully we can help rather than not hurt by smart, intelligent policies and smart, intelligent aid.
In the long run, for example Africa, the region, will be a major trading partner. It is already a growing trading partner, but it will be a major trading partner for the United States and Europe and it is extremely in our interest in our lives and in the long-term interests, properly understood, that Africa is a region that is stable, prosperous and a reliable trading partner in the international community.
Ingles: Has the history of some of these programs been mired in not listening enough to what the locals need and want to do? I watched the panel with Bono and President Clinton and Mo Ibrahim was on there who promotes good governance in sub-Saharan Africa. Then, in a kind of heated moment, he said, “Keep your aid money because it’s causing more problems with corruption than it ever would if it never came.” He sort of backed off that a little bit later much to the chagrin of President Clinton who was moderating I think, but this is still a work in progress very much isn’t it?
Drummond: I would say that that view is something of an anachronism at this point. It was certainly true in the past, especially of aid during the Cold War when it really wasn’t about helping these countries fight poverty. It was about helping the West fight Communism.
I think especially since 2000, and the advent of the Millennium Development Goals which we work on with Mo Ibrahim and President Clinton and many others, there has been a tremendous amount of progress and a significant improvement in the quality of aid with incredible results; particularly with anti-virals, malaria bed nets, vaccinations saving tens of millions of lives with the support of the American taxpayer and people. There has been incredible progress and results. I think there are very many reasons to be optimistic today. It’s smart, it is effective, it is sustainable and in fact, in the long run, it can do itself out of a job because it will help the economy and these people end extreme poverty and with it end the need for an aid relationship so that we can enter and properly and fully enter an investment kind of relationship, and that’s what Mo wants and what we all want.
We know there are always anecdotes of specific aid projects that were designed by very smart young people who didn’t really understand the realities that befell that country. You will still hear about those stories regularly and it’s not surprising it still sometimes happens, but increasingly it’s weeded out and those kinds of practices are mainly in the past.
Ingles: Jamie, as we wrap up, could you talk a little bit about your personal motivation to move toward this work? What got you started in this direction and what keeps you in it?
Drummond: It would be a long story, but I used to work in India with lower caste people in communities there in Southern India who often suffered from issues like polio or really were bonded slave laborers in an essentially feudal system so it could make you very angry. It did make me angry about injustice and I guess I kept that anger ever since, but fueled now increasingly by positive results. Polio, for example, which I worked on as a younger person is now almost eradicated. Anti-retroviral to fight HIV AIDS are much more widespread. I fought hard against the debt crisis in the late 1990s and we cancelled most of the debts of the poorest countries.
My experience is that when people get organized and focused and politically smart, you get results and that is something that One, the organization, founded with Bono and others is all about. And increasingly we’ve got a strong network across the continent in Africa and around the world that is spreading this idea of evidence-based activism or “factivism” and what keeps me motivated is not just the original fire about injustice, but the knowledge that we can get results along the way that keeps me going.