German youths learn about Hiroshima

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

The Japan-Germany Peace Forum was held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima from February 19-23. This forum was designed for conscientious objectors from Germany who are involved in volunteer activities in lieu of mandatory military service. The participants of the forum visited Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Memorial Park, listened to the testimony of an A-bomb survivor, and learned about the spirit of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which renounces war.

The ten young Germans in the group are about 20 years old. Since last September, they have been engaged in volunteer activities at a variety of locations in Japan, including Sapporo, Osaka, and Nagasaki. They are working at such entities as a nursing care facility, an environmental organization, and a peace museum.

On the first day, Professor Eugen Eichhorn, Chairman of the German-Japanese Peace Forum Berlin, which coordinates the participants’ stay in Japan, explained the history of Hiroshima and the present state of nuclear weapons in the world. After this, the group offered flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and met with Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.

David Beuit, 19, who works at a care facility for the disabled in Sapporo, said, “I have learned about wartime responsibility in regard to the Holocaust. This forum now gives me the chance to study peace from Hiroshima’s point-of-view, including the opportunity to listen to an A-bomb survivor’s testimony.”

In Germany, men between the ages of 18 and 23 are required to engage in military service for nine months. However, if they submit their belief of pacifism in writing, they have the right to refuse service in the military. Instead of military service, they are then obliged to work as a volunteer in Germany or overseas.