Testimony of Toshiko Saeki

Ms. Toshiko Saeki was 26 at the time of the bombing. She was at her parents home in Yasufuruichi with her children. Returning to Hiroshima on the afternoon of August 6th, she searched for her other relatives for many days, but wasn't able to find them. Ms. Saeki lost thirteen members of her family in the A-bomb attack.

SAEKI: I remember an airplane appeared from behind the mountains on my left. I thought it was strange to see an airplane flying that time all by itself. I looked at it and it was a B-29. It seemed very strange since there were on anti aircraft guns firing at it. I watched it for a while, then it disappeared. As soon as it disappeared, another airplane appeared from the same direction. It seemed very, very strange. I was still wondering what would happen. Then, suddenly there came a flash of light. I can't describe what it was like. And then, I felt some hot mask attacking me all of a sudden. I felt hot. I lay flat on the ground, trying to escape from the heat. I forgot all about my children for a moment. Then, there came a big sound, sliding wooden doors and window were blown off into the air. I turned around to see what had happened to the house, and at one part of the ceiling, it was hanging in the air. At some parts, the ceiling was caved in, burying my sister's child and my child as well. When I saw what the blast had done to my house which was far away from Hiroshima, I thought that Hiroshima too must have been hit very hard. I begged my sister to let me go back to Hiroshima to rescue my family. But by that time, things and flames were falling from the sky. I was scared because I thought that the debris might start fires in the mountains. By the time, I managed to prepare lunch to take along. It has started to rain, but I was glad to have some rain. I went out to the main road, about five or six people were coming the direction of Hiroshima. And they were in a horrible condition. They looked much worse than the actual exhibits today at the Peace Memorial Museum. They were helping each other. But they were barely making their way. I cried, ``Which part of Hiroshima attacked?'' Everyone of them was only muttering, ``Hiroshima was attacked. Hiroshima was badly hit.'' I began to run towards Hiroshima at full speed. As I was running, I saw a mad naked man running from the opposite direction. This man held a piece of iron over his head as if to hide his face since he had nothing on his body, I felt embarrassed. And I turned my back to him. The man was passing by me, then, I don't know why, But I ran after him and I asked him to stop for a moment. I asked him, ``Which part of Hiroshima was attacked?'' Then the man put down the piece of iron and he started at me. He said, ``You're Toshiko, aren't you?'' He said, ``Toshiko!''

INTERVIEWER: Who was this man?

SAEKI: Oh, I couldn't tell who he was right away. His face was so swollen I couldn't even tell whether his eyes were open. He called me, he said, ``It's me! It's me, Toshiko! You can't tell?'' Then I recognized him. He was my second eldest brother. He was heavily wounded.

INTERVIEWER: His body was covered with burns?

SAEKI: Yes, and he looked awful. He told me he'd been engulfed by flames and barely made his way out. He said that mother had woken him up in that morning, and that he was washing up when it happened. He told me that mother was on the third floor, and might have been blown away with the blast. He told me he thought that she must have died. I finally reached Hiroshima, well, afternoon I supposed.

INTERVIEWER: What was it like then in Hiroshima?

SAEKI: The whole town of Hiroshima was just in a mess. People were trying to find shelter, shelter elementary school building, anywhere. When I reached the local elementary school, people were even jammed in the hallways. Everywhere was filled with mourns and groans and sobs and cries. Those of us who could move around were not treated the injured, but we were carrying dead bodies out of the building. I couldn't identify people by their faces. Trying to find my family, I had to take a look at their clothing, the clothes of the people who were still in the building. I couldn't find any of my family, so I went out to the playground. There were four piles of bodies and I stood in front of them. I just didn't know what to do. How could I find the bodies of my beloved ones. When I was going through the classrooms, I could take a look at each person, but these were mounds. If I tried to find my beloved ones, I would have to remove the bodies one by one. It just wasn't possible. I really felt sad. There were all kinds of bodies in the mounds. Not only human bodies but bodies of birds, cats and dogs and even that of a cow. It looked horrible. I can't find words to describe it. They were burned, just like human bodies, and some of them were half burnt. There was even a swollen horse. Just everything was there, everything.

INTERVIEWER: Ms. Saeki, how long did you search for your kin?

SAEKI: I went to Hiroshima to search on the 6th and the 7th, but on the 8th, they told me that there would be a big air-raid, so I didn't go on the 8th. And I didn't go on the 15th, but I went out almost everyday. I searched for mother for a long time. But I couldn't find her. I just couldn't find her. And finally on September 6th, my elder brother told us together in a living room. He called all the family members there together. He put something wrapped in a cloth. And he put it on the table which we used to take meals. My brother said, ``Toshiko, unwrap Mother yourself. You've been out there looking for her everyday.'' So, I did as he told me and undid the wrapping expecting to find pieces of her bones. But it was the half of the burnt head of my mother. No eyes, no teeth, only a small portion of flesh was left on the back with some hair. And there were also her glasses. The glasses are exhibited near the exit of the Peace Memorial Museum as if to tell something to the people now.

INTERVIEWER: Your older brother, he also passed away?

SAEKI: Yes, after seeing the half burned head of our mother, my brother started to say funny things. He told us to bandage him well to cover the pores of his skin with white cloths. I asked what for and he said he was going to try to do some experiment to extract the radioactivity built up in his body. He told us to bandage him well, except for his eyes and his mouth. So even his nose was covered. Before he started the experiment, he drank a lot of water. He drank more than he could actually take, so, water was dripping from his nose and from his mouth. Then he said he was ready. He told us just to leave him alone and not to enter the room unless he cried out for help. He told us to go away and to keep away from him. And after a while, I peeped in the room. My brother was completely naked. He had stripped all the bandage cloths away. He was just lying still in the corner. I didn't know what was wrong with him. I thought he was dead. I banged at the door and I cried, ``Brother! Brother, don't die!'' He woke up and sat on the floor. He told me that the experiment had failed. He cried that it was a pity.'' He looked all right, but he was going crazy. He said, ``I've grown bigger. Make an opening in the ceiling. This room is too small and I can't even stand up.'' After the horrible bomb hit Hiroshima, my brother's mind was shattered into pieces. War does not only destroy things, killing people, but shatters the hearts of people as well. This is war. And during the course of my life, I learned this on many various occasions. I know this now.

INTERVIEWER: Ms.Saeki, have you experienced any trouble concerning your health?

SAEKI: Yes, I have . By the end of August, maybe around, oh, the 28th or so, my hair started to fall out, I vomited blood. My teeth were coming out. And I had a fever of about 40 degrees. Nuclear war has nothing good. Whether you win or lose, it leaves your feeling futile with only your rage and with fear about the aftereffects of a radioactivity. The survivors have to live with this fear. At times I have thought I should have died then, it would have been better. But I must live for the sake of the people, all the people who lost their lives then. So I relate my experiences hoping that my talk would discourage people from making war. Our experience must not forgotten. What we believed in during the war turned out to be worth nothing. We don't know to whom we should turn our rage. I went through hell on earth of Hiroshima should not be repeated again. That is why I keep telling the same old story over and over again. And I'll keep repeating it.

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