Hiroshima

by: John Hersey

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge

Characters Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge

A German Jesuit priest living in Hiroshima, Father Kleinsorge selflessly comforts many of the dying and wounded in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, as well as in the years following. While he is not seriously injured by the bombing, he falls prey to radiation sickness and becomes weak and tired, often requiring lengthy -hospital stays.

Father Kleinsorge is the only non-Japanese person profiled in the narrative. Although before the bombing he often felt that he was under suspicion as a foreigner living in Japan, his experiences afterward are not very different from those of the other victims. His experiences demonstrate how the bomb served as an equalizer: all people affected by it suffered and came together to help, regardless of their background. At the same time, Father Kleinsorge gives the readers a distinct, non-Japanese view of some significant events, such as his amazement at how the majority of Japanese victims suffer silently and with dignity.

Father Kleinsorge’s life does not drastically change after the bombing—when we first meet him, he is already physically weak from the wartime diet—but he does become so enamored with the Japanese that he decides to become a citizen himself, taking the name Father Makoto Takakura. This unexpected gesture reflects positively on the Japanese people, and also symbolizes the community strength and dedication that came about in response to the bombing.