Hiroshima Voices: “No Nukes, No War” Akio Yoshida, 53, director general, Holocaust Education Center, resident of Fukuyama City

People created nuclear weapons; people must put a halt to them.

Since 1996, Akio Yoshida has worked for the Holocaust Education Center (located in Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture), the first such facility of its kind in Japan. Mr. Yoshida has spent time visiting numerous countries to listen to the stories of survivors and collect related materials. Since taking the post as director general of the center last year, he has communicated the tragedy and lessons of the Holocaust to students that visit the facility from throughout Japan.

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The Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II took the lives of about six million Jews. One-quarter of that total, or 1.5 million, were children. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, visitors to the center have mentioned that they see similarities in what happened during the Holocaust and the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

To Ukrainians, Russians are the same Slavic “brothers.” At the same time, however, many civilians, including children, have been brutally murdered. I shuddered when I witnessed the images and photographs of the slaughter taking place. The attitude that allows the cruel treatment of people and the casual taking of human life is reminiscent of that evident in the Holocaust at a fundamental level. Now, the possibility exists that nuclear weapons will be used by Russia. As the invasion persists, no one can predict when the nuclear button will be pressed.

Hannah Goslar, a Holocaust survivor and a friend of Anne Frank, the author of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, recently passed away at the age of 93. When Ms. Goslar visited the Holocaust Education Center at its opening in 1995, she repeated the idea that both the atomic bombings and the Holocaust were created by people, and that only people could put a halt to such acts. That idea is firmly fixed in my memory.

As people who experienced the Holocaust and the war die with the passage of time, the importance of learning history and passing on their ideas and thoughts only grows. Now, junior high and senior high school students around the world not in Ukraine or Russia are experiencing this period of time through media reports. It is important for them to hold on to the emotions they’re experiencing now and consider what they can accomplish as human beings.

One of the lessons from the Holocaust is the existence of bystanders. When Jews were being taken away in front of their eyes, a majority of people kept quiet and looked away, thinking it had nothing to do with them. As a result, an even greater number of people fell victim. The invasion of Ukraine is a global issue. We should not be bystanders. (Interviewed by Mio Hara)