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60 Years: Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Exhibition

60 Years: Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Exhibition

By Sonia Nettnin

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'Peace 2005 & Beyond Peace Crane Installation' created by artist Michel Alfonso '...intended to unite citizens of the world in a wish for peace.' "

(Chicago) – “60 Years Later The Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Exhibition,” is on display at The Peace Museum.

August 6 and 9 mark the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over 200,000 people died immediately or soon after the 1945 bombings – thousands of Hibakusha (radiation victims) died of leukemia and cancer in the years following.

The Nagasaki and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Halls hosted the exhibit in Chicago, which has survivor accounts, photographic panels, artifacts, video presentations, paper cranes, and messages of peace.

On a photographic panel, Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall’s Director Toru Maruta shares his message:

“Now our two memorial halls are pleased to present, this “Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Exhibition in the United States of America, one of the world’s nuclear powers,” he explains. “As representatives of the people of Japan, the only country ever to suffer from atomic bombings, we feel that this is a deeply significant event, and hope that it leads to the elimination of nuclear weapons at the earliest possible date.”

The memorial exhibition contains an art installation called, “Peace 2005 & Beyond Peace Crane Installation,” created by artist Michel Alfonso, “…intended to unite citizens of the world in a wish for peace.” Surrounded by lights, hundreds of colorful peace cranes hang above water.

Based on a Japanese legend, whoever folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish; the installation seeks 1,000 honorees to support the paper crane exhibit. Upon attainment, the Peace Museum will send the 1,000 cranes to an Iraqi hospital or school, where Iraqis can make a wish for peace.

Near the installation, text on a hanging, photographic panel explains that in 1955, Sadako Sasaki suffered from leukemia. When the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Sasaki was two years-old. In hopes of curing her illness, she folded peace cranes in her hospital bed, so she could make her wish. After eight months of treatment, she died.

“Sadako’s classmates, shocked by her death and the story of her paper cranes, started collecting money for a monument that would console her soul and the souls of the many other children killed by A-bomb…” which resulted in the Children’s Peace Monument, erected in Hiroshima Memorial Park in 1958. The monument depicts “…a young girl lifting a paper crane high over her head.”

The exhibition weaves personal stories, information and images to communicate the depth of these atrocities and the people victimized by the A-bombings.

For example, panels have diagrams that explain the different categories of damage to human beings. When the bombs dropped, victims suffered from acute symptoms, such as burns from heat rays and fire. The damage from the blast caused contusions, lacerations and broken bones.

In the years following, Hibakusha suffered aftereffects that resulted in malignant tumors, leukemia and keloids. Photographs of people with keloids, which are “abnormally thick scar tissue,” illustrate victims’ physical scars. The panel gives a history about Hibakusha who had keloids.

“Beginning in early 1946, the skin and flesh over burns considered healed began to swell. Skin puckered and thickened into keloids, causing extreme physical and emotional pain.”
A photograph shows a woman’s back covered with keloids. Another photograph shows a man who suffered from keloids on his face and neck – most of his ear cartilage is gone.

Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, researchers investigated aftereffects in victims with malignant neoplasms. Their findings showed significant increases in thyroid, breast, lung, gastric, and colon cancers, as well as multiple myelomas. “Radiation is a proven causal factor,” they concluded. The information panel explains:

“In some cases, researchers have reported a direct correlation between distance from the hypocenter or probable radiation absorbed and malignancy rate.”

How many people suffered from aftereffects?

According to December 1945 population estimates, 40 per cent of Hiroshima’s population died. As a result, approximately 210,000 survivors could have suffered from these symptoms.

In Nagasaki, approximately 31 percent of the city’s population perished from the A-bomb and approximately 166,000 victims survived. In total, 370,000 – 376,000 Hibakusha survived the explosions and were exposed to radiation also.

Burns caused by heat rays and fire caused acute symptoms in Hibakusha. Videography shows a boy on his stomach, because the entire back of his body had bloody burns and lacerations. At the time of the blast, he was 1.8 km from the hypocenter. Afterwards he spent one year and nine months lying on his stomach.

He told caretakers: “Please kill me.”

A photograph shows a victim whose kimono patterns burned onto her skin, which may have resulted in permanent scars.

In the video presentation, a human shadow remains on stone steps. The wall behind the shadow is white. The stone etching of this person was 260 meters from the hypocenter.

In the video presentation one woman confessed that her life was never the same after the A-bomb. She spent years going to the doctor for her pain. The bomb impacted her emotionally also.

“I was filled with despair,” she said. “I was ruined, my youth gone forever.”

Although Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving cities today, many Hibakusha live with haunted memories and trauma. In the video, several survivors concluded that war should never repeat itself – people should not endure these atrocities again.

Across the world, the citizens for peace shall overcome.


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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