Nagasaki Remembered

13 10 2008

Photos: Kazuo Soda speaking at the Peace Pagoda in Vienna, August 9, 2008. Copyright: Matthias Wurz

Even after more than half a century, Kazuo Soda can still hear the screams, the agonized cries of people in the last throes of death.

“I still see a lot of black-scorched bodies lying on the roads and in the ruins,” Soda told the crowd at the Buddhist Peace Pagoda in Vienna on Aug. 9, the anniversary of the day the atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Nagasaki at the close of World War II. “At 11.02 am,” he said at the moving candlelight ceremony along the Danube River near Freudenau Harbor, “the city was instantly changed into a pandemonium.”

Soda was fifteen years old when the bomb fell, and is one of the 243,692 officially registered Japanese Hibakusha, ‘explosion-affected people,’ the survivors of the two atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The ceremony, which began at sunset, was opened by Rev. Gyosei Msunaga, the monk entrusted with care of the Pagoda and the adjunct Buddhist temple. The audience of about 100 had come to witness the outdoor event, held in front of the steps. Candles were set in wooden paper lanterns with beautiful handmade decorations and placed on the steps of the building. As the fragile, white haired 77-year-old entered the carpeted stage area, the sun had almost completely set, setting off his profile in the warm candle light behind him.

“I was exposed to A-bomb radiation at my home 2.5 kilometers away from the blast enter,” Soda said in a soft voice over a loudspeaker. “If I had been outdoors, I would have burnt to death by the heat wave.” Thousands of school children died on the playgrounds. Soda, like almost all boys and girls older than thirteen, had been forced to leave school to work in the munitions industry, and was off-duty at the time. His brother died five months afterwards from the effects of radiation, and his parents five years later.

A former Secondary School teacher and peace activist, Soda was awarded the prestigious Aachen Peace Prize in 2001. He has a longstanding connection to Vienna, having attended earlier commemorative ceremonies here as well.

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Discussing the “European Dilemma” – Interview with Erhard Busek

1 10 2008
Courtesy of Erhard Busek

Copyright: Courtesy of Erhard Busek

In April 1994, after the negotiations for Austria to join the EU were successfully completed, the campaign for the enabling referendum on June 12, began to heat up. At the height of the debate, Brigitte Ederer, the then Social Democrats State Secretary for EU Affairs and now CEO of Siemens Österreich, projected that joining the European Union, every Austrian family would save about 1,000 Schillings a month (about €75) in living expenses through more competitive pricing.

Despite the ongoing political campaign for the general election Sept. 28, 2008, and a busy schedule as a leader of political dialogue, Erhard Busek, former Conservative ÖVP party leader, took time for a discussion about fundamental European issues.

Ederer’s ‘Tausender’ is a promise that has been criticized by political allies and opponents alike, even earning it a Wikipedia entry. Among those critics – then as today – was Busek, at the time Austria’s Vice Chancellor.

“No one can sensually experience this ‘Tausender’,” Busek argued assertively. He is still in disbelief that anyone could seriously make such an argument.

“Everyone expected that they would be handed 1,000 Schillings when leaving a supermarket,” he said incredulously. Not without irony, he points to the current general election campaign, and the “nonsense” – this time, that the Social Democrats could propose to cut the 10% VAT rate on groceries by half – is being repeated almost exactly.

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