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Testimony from Toshiko Saeki on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima

In 1986, the International Year of Peace, the Hiroshima Peace Cultural Center decided to record the reports of 100 Hibakusha. We have in the House of life-Website already published some of these witnesses' reports translated into German by Hibakusha. These texts with the statements of surviving victims of the atomic bombing must be brought to the knowledge of every person. Nobody should be able to say that they did not know what terrible things happened to the people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Hiroshima Memorial Day 2008 we are publishing another testimony from a survivor of the Hiroshima crime of August 6, 1945: Toshiko Saeki's testimony.

Ms. Toshiko Saeki was 26 years old when the bomb was dropped. She was with her children at her parents' house in Yasufuruichi. After she returned to Hiroshima on the afternoon of August 6th, she searched for her other relatives for many days, but could not find them. Ms. Saeki lost 13 family members in the atomic bombing.

Saeki: I remember an airplane that appeared behind the mountains on my left. I still thought it was strange to see an airplane all by itself. I took a closer look and it was a B-29. It was very strange because anti-aircraft weapons were shooting at the plane. I watched it go for a while, then it disappeared. As soon as it was gone, another plane appeared from the same direction. It was very, very unusual. I was still wondering what was going to happen. Then suddenly there was a flash of light. I cannot describe how it was exactly. And then I felt like all of a sudden some kind of hot pressure was thrown at me. I was very hot. I was lying flat on the floor trying to escape the heat. For a moment I completely forgot about my children. Then there was a loud noise and wooden sliding doors and windows were blown into the air. I turned to see what had happened to the house, and part of the ceiling was just hanging in the air. In other places the ceiling had collapsed and buried my sister's child and my child as well. When I saw what the shock wave had done to my house, which was far from Hiroshima, I thought that Hiroshima must also have been hit very badly. I begged my sister to let me go back to Hiroshima to save my family. But at that point, objects and fire fell from the sky. I was scared because I thought the rubbish would catch fire in mountains. By now I had managed to get take-away lunch ready. It had started to rain, but I was happy about it. I went to the main street, about five or six people came from Hiroshima. You were in terrible shape. They looked a lot worse than the current exhibits in the Peace Memorial Museum. They helped each other, but they made little headway. I shouted, "What part of Hiroshima was attacked?" But they all just mumbled, "Hiroshima has been attacked. Hiroshima has been badly hit." I ran as fast as I could towards Hiroshima. As I ran, I saw an insane naked man coming from the opposite direction. This man held a piece of iron in front of his head to hide his face because he was wearing nothing, and I was embarrassed about it. I turned my back to him. The man ran past me and then, I don't know why, but I ran after him and asked him to stop. I asked him, "What part of Hiroshima was hit?" Then the man lowered the piece of iron and looked at me. He said, "You are Toshiko, aren't you?" He said, "Toshiko!"

Interviewer: Who was the man

Saeki: Oh, I didn't recognize him right away. His face was swollen so much that I couldn't even tell if his eyes were open. He called out to me, he said: "It's me! It's me, Toshiko! Don't you recognize me?" Then I recognized him. He was my second oldest brother. He was badly wounded.

Interviewer: His body was covered in burns?

Saeki: Yeah, and he looked terrible. He told me that he had been engulfed in the flames and that it was very difficult to escape. He said that mother woke him up that morning and that he was doing the dishes when it happened. He said that Mother was on the third floor and was probably thrown away by the blast. He told me that he thought she died. I finally reached Hiroshima, I think it was in the afternoon.

Interviewer: What was it like in Hiroshima?

Saeki: The whole Hiroshima metropolitan area was total chaos. People tried to find refuge, in the primary school building, everywhere. When I got to the local elementary school, people were already jammed in the corridors. Everywhere one could hear complaints, sighs, sobs and weeping. Those of us who could move did not treat the injured, but we carried the dead bodies out of the building. I couldn't find any of my family so I went out to the playground. There the dead were piled up in four piles and I was standing right in front of them. I just didn't know what to do. How could I find the bodies of my loved ones? As I walked through the classrooms I could look at everyone, but these were hills. If I wanted to try to find loved ones, I would have had to put away one body at a time. It was just impossible. I was so sad. All kinds of bodies were lying on top of the pile. Not only human bodies, but also bodies of birds, cats, dogs even that of a cow. It looked terrible. They were burned like the human corpses and some of them were half burned. There was even a bloated horse lying there. Everything was there, everything.

Interviewer: Ms. Saeki, how long did you look for your relatives?

Saeki: I went to Hiroshima to look for it on the 6th and 7th, but on the 8th they told me there was going to be an air raid, so I didn't go that day. And on the 15th I didn't go either, but otherwise I was probably looking every day. I looked for mother for a long time, but I couldn't find her. I just couldn't find it. And finally on September 6th, my oldest brother called us together in the living room. He gathered all family members there. He had something with him that was wrapped in clothes. He put it on the table where we usually ate our food. My brother said, "Toshiko, you unwrap mother. You looked for her every day." So I did as he told me, removing the clothes, expecting to find bits of her bones. But it was half of my mother's burned head. No eyes, no teeth, just a small piece of meat with some hair on the back. And her glasses were still there. The glasses are on display today at the Peace Memorial Museum near the exit to tell people their story.

Interviewer: Did your older brother die too?

Saeki: Yes, after seeing our mother's half-burned head, my brother started saying strange things. He asked us to bandage him well and cover all the pores of his skin with white cloth. I asked him why we should do this and he said he wanted to do an experiment to remove the radioactivity that had built up in his body. He said we should bandage him thoroughly everywhere except the mouth and eyes. So his nose was covered too. Before starting the experiment, he drank a large amount of water. In fact, he drank more than he could hold, causing the water to drain from his nose and mouth. Then he said he was ready. He asked us to leave him alone and not to re-enter the room until he called for help. He told us to go and stay away from him. After a while, I peeked into the room. My brother was completely naked. He had torn all the bandages off his body. He was lying motionless in a corner. I didn't know what was wrong with him. I thought he was dead. I pounded on the door and yelled, "Brother! Brother, please don't die!" He woke up and sat down. He told me that the experiment failed. He wept pitifully. He looked sane, but he was going crazy. He said, "I've grown bigger. Make an opening in the ceiling. This room is too small and I can't stand up in it." After the terrible bombing raid on Hiroshima, my brother's ghost was broken to pieces. War not only destroys things and kills people, it also destroys people's hearts. This is war. And I've learned that through many events during my life. I know that now.

Interviewer: Ms. Saeki, have you had any health problems?

Saeki: Yes I have. Towards the end of August, maybe it was the 28th or so, my hair was falling out, I was spitting blood. My teeth fell out. And I had a fever of about 40 degrees. There is absolutely no good about nuclear war! Whether you win or lose, the only thing that remains is the feeling of uselessness, only the anger and fear of the consequential damage caused by radioactivity. The survivors have to live with this fear. Sometimes I thought that I should have died and it would have been better. But I have to live for the sake of the people who lost their lives. So I share my experience and hope that these words prevent other people from making war. Our experiences must not be forgotten. What we believed in during the war had no value. We didn't know who to turn our anger against. I went through hell on earth and what happened in Hiroshima must not be repeated. That's why I tell this story over and over again. And I will continue to do so.

German translation: Caroline Unger. English version: Testimony of Akihiro Takahashi.

See also:

More witness reports on the Life house-Website at: