Ex-British airman to auction A-bombed roof tile from Hiroshima

A broken piece of roofing tile from a temple in Hiroshima, heavily burned in the 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city, will be auctioned on July 11 in Lincoln by a former British airman, a local auction company said Thursday.

Atomic-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, expressed displeasure at hearing the news, saying that selling an atomic-bomb artifact is inappropriate.

Thos. Mawer & Son Ltd., an auction company located in the central British city, said the tile fragment is a rare item difficult to set a price for, and it is expected to draw attention from World War II memorabilia collectors and historians worldwide.

Sakue Shimohira, a 74-year-old atomic-bomb survivor and adviser to a group of bereaved family members of bombing victims in Nagasaki, said, ''An atomic-bomb artifact holds agony and messages of tens of thousands of victims who were indiscriminately murdered. I think it should be exhibited in a museum to be seen by lots of people even if it is to be auctioned.''

Kazushi Kaneko, 83, director general of the Hiroshima Council of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, also criticized the bidding plan, saying, ''It's a valuable asset for atomic-bomb survivors and cannot be priced.''

The 81-year-old former Royal Air Force serviceman said he decided to sell the tile, which has been sitting in his closet for many years, because he thought someone would be interested in it and due to his age.

He said that in 1952 he visited Sairenji temple close to ground zero in Hiroshima while he was stationed in Hong Kong and received the tile from the chief priest.

The certificate for the tile handwritten by the priest says, ''This roof tile, found in the property of the Sairenji temple, was exposed to 6,000 C heat ray for about one-tenth of a second when the atomic bomb exploded and its surface was deformed by the heat.''

However, a person linked to the Hiroshima temple said he has never heard that the then chief priest of the temple in 1952 gave such a tile to anyone.

The tile fragment will be auctioned along with a picture postcard that shows a bombed portion of Hiroshima and other items.

Akihiro Takahashi, 77, former head of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, said that such a tile ''is not something you should sell or buy.''

''If you want to give it to someone, you should do so for free, especially if it's something you didn't pay for,'' he added.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on July 3, 2009)