Saturday, 17 August 2019

Týden: Few know Czech links to Hiroshima bomb attack 70 years ago

ČTK |
4 August 2015

Prague, Aug 3 (CTK) - In early August 1945, when the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, thrown by the U.S. Air Force at the close of World War Two, only few Czechs realised that there were several links between the fatal event and their homeland, weekly Tyden writes yesterday.
The bomb, dubbed Little Boy, hit Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m., when clocks in Czechoslovakia showed 1:15 a.m. CEST. It killed 70,000 people and the same number died of the effects of radiation exposure by the end of the year alone, Tyden writes.
The Czechs learnt details about the horrible consequences of the explosion only on August 8, from a CTK report which actually translated the information from the U.S. United Press agency.
Only few Czechs could uncover Czech traces in the story that brought information about the estimated number of victims and about the complete destruction of Hiroshima except for a few ferroconcrete skeletons.
The only distinguished construction that survived the explosion was the art nouveau Industrial Palace with a ferroconcrete dome, which was built in Hiroshima by Czech architect Jan Letzel (1880-1925) in 1915 and whose debris, known as the Atomic Dome, is the best known memorial to the first ever nuclear attack in the world, Tyden writes.
Through Letzel, as the "Atomic Dome's" architect, the Czechs are among the symbolic victims of the attack, the weekly says.
By the way, the Japanese were fans of Letzel, a native from Nachod, east Bohemia, because in the early 20th century, the Letzel and Hora company imported the Laurin&Klement cars to Japan, where they were immensely popular with the local elite, including the Imperial Court, Tyden writes.
Another Czech link to the Hiroshima disaster can be found in Brno, the native town of Georg Placzek (1905-1955), a world-significant physicist and a member of the scientific team that developed the atomic bomb within the Manhattan project.
Placzek's superior Robert Oppenheimer was also his close friend, and the two jointly watched the first test of the bomb explosion in an American desert on July 16, 1945.
At the time, Placzek, a Jew, learnt details about the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps where most of his relatives died. This trauma, too, definitely encouraged him to seek the quickest possible completion of the atomic bomb, Tyden writes.
Placzek died under suspicious circumstances in 1955, which some spoke of as a suicide. He reportedly reproached himself for failing to bring his relatives in Brno to exile in time, before the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands. He also reportedly regretted the destroyed lives of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the target of the atomic bomb attack on August 9, Tyden writes.
Another Czech link with the first bomb is Joe Stiborik (1914-1984), one of the twelve cautiously selected and screened members of the crew of the Engola Gay plane that threw the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tyden continues.
Stiborik, a sergeant and shooter, was of Czech origin. His parents came to the USA from Zdar nad Sazavou, south Moravia. He spoke Czech, because his father worked in the USA as an editor of a Czech-language newspaper.
Seventy years ago, Stiborik was among those aboard the U.S. plane who heard the co-pilot, Robert Lewis, pronouncing the well-known words after the bomb attack on Hiroshima: "My god, what have we done?" Tyden writes.

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