Junior Writers Reporting

Session on “Hiroshima and the Holocaust” appeals for young people to take action for peace

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

On May 31, a reporting session on the Holocaust study tour to Europe took place at the International Conference Center Hiroshima in Naka Ward. The title of the session was “Hiroshima and the Holocaust.” Participants of the study tour, which was sponsored by the Hiroshima Peace Creation Fund, presented the things they observed and learned during the tour to an audience of about 200. They also made an appeal for young people in Hiroshima to take action, saying, “Every one of us has a role to play in building peace.”

Two high school students, who also serve as junior writers for the Chugoku Shimbun, and six university students took part in the tour to Europe. Showing photos of the site of the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, which was once an “extermination camp” during the war, and Anne Frank’s secret annex in the Netherlands, the tour participants recounted their travels to the sites of Holocaust tragedy. They then discussed the background behind the genocide and the differences between the Holocaust and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

In addition, two other junior writers, both high school students, described their reporting activities in the United States, including an interview with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. They traveled to New York to cover news involving the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), held at United Nations headquarters.

The “Hiroshima Youth Appeal 2015,” developed by 10 youth, was also announced in the session. To create a world free of war and nuclear weapons, the appeal recommends seven concrete actions, including the mutual acceptance of differences, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or nationality; the use of imagination to recognize how one’s words or deeds will affect others; and visits to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and other A-bomb-related locations to gain a deeper understanding of nuclear weapons in the past and present.

(Originally published on June 1, 2015)

Hiroshima Youth Appeal 2015: Every person has a role to play in building peace

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

As time advances from a day we must never forget, the A-bomb survivors continue to grow older and their numbers are declining. People alive today still have the chance to hear the survivors’ stories first-hand, but there will come a time, in the not too distant future, when this will no longer be possible. Hiroshima, our hometown, continually voices a call to the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons so that this goal can be realized while the survivors are still alive. At the same time, the Japanese government takes the contradictory stance of virtually accepting nuclear arms by clinging to the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

To ensure that we convey the horror of war and nuclear weapons, and the importance of peace, to coming generations, we should all take conscious action. Currently, there are volunteers serving as guides at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. While those with high aspirations are energetically pursuing this volunteer activity, young working people and students find it more difficult to become involved in such activities because of their circumstances.

Meanwhile, Hiroshima provides its students with more opportunities in peace education than in other parts of Japan, but this education still centers on the damage that Japan suffered during the war and does not go far enough in explaining Japan’s aggression at that time in history.

Moreover, when it comes to members of the younger generation, like us, some are actively involved in peace activities but many others aren’t or have no interest in peace issues and politics. When we plumb the depths of our minds, we often find the fact that people hold irrational prejudices or biases toward others they don’t know well, and aren’t willing to accept our differences, which can lead to inappropriate remarks or deeds, like discrimination or bullying.

When we visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, at the site of the former Auschwitz concentration camp, Tsuyoshi Nakatani, the museum’s only official Japanese guide, led our group, replacing an audio guide. We became aware that personal guides play an important role in helping visitors handle emotions that may arise from seeing exhibitions and answering questions. While exchanging views with junior high and high school students in Amsterdam, one junior high student asked, “Doesn’t Japan have responsibility for becoming a victim of the atomic bombings?” We thought we had understood that Japan was also an aggressor during the war, but we felt personally blamed and were unable to find an appropriate response. We became painfully aware of our ignorance.

Also, at the NPT Review Conference, the NGO session was an official U.N. event. Seeing this session, where citizens and representatives of governments can hold discussions on an equal footing, we were surprised to find that NGOs and the voices of citizens have a powerful influence.

Based on these factors, we would like to appeal for the following efforts:

- Accept others’ differences: Don’t become blinkered by a single culture, ethnicity, or nationality.
- Use imagination: Recognize how our words and deeds affect others.
- Be the first to speak up: Don’t hesitate to ask questions or make comments in classes, discussions, or talks.
- Learn about history from various perspectives: Read books and newspapers, listen to others, and think for yourself.
- Try volunteering: It will lead to engaging socially with others.
- Learn more about nuclear weapons in the past and present: Find ways to engage the attention of young people in this area.
- Develop a diversity of people who speak about the Hiroshima A-bombing: Foster an environment where young working people and students can carry on this work as well as human resources to serve as guides on A-bomb issues in multiple languages.

Every person has a role to play in building peace in the world. We hope you will join us in this effort.