Stillman, Sarah: Hiroshima and the inheritance of trauma

Sarah Stillman

Hiroshima and the inheritance of trauma‘, New Yorker, 12 August 2014

In recent years, a public-health hypothesis has emerged that one of the world’s most poorly understood pandemics isn’t a conventional virus—like H1N1, say, or some hemorrhagic fever. This hypothesis suggests that untended wartime trauma can move vertically and horizontally through individuals and families, morphing across years, decades, or even centuries …


For all those who perished in the bombing, many more survived, day by day. Only later would some, like Shoji, come to discover that the most devastating aftereffects were like ghosts: coming and going on a whim, wreaking forms of havoc often incomprehensible to outsiders and, sometimes, even to those who suffered it.

Looks at the experience of an individual and at the growing body of evidence about traumatic effects across generations. The article is included in this resource to make the point that war has effects wider and more lasting than those suffered by Australian service personnel and their immediate families during the actual years of war. This point may have been missed by some in a week in August 2014 where the centenary of the start of the Great War coincided with the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

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