Hubert Schiffer

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Schiffer (left) with Enola Gay co-pilot and aircraft commander Robert A. Lewis in 1951

Father Hubert Friedrich Heinrich Schiffer, S.J. (July 15, 1915 in Gütersloh, Province of Westphalia, Prussia, German Empire – March 27, 1982 in Frankfurt, West Germany)[1] was a German Jesuit who survived the atomic bomb "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima.

Hiroshima bombing[edit]

Schiffer was one of several Jesuit priests who were at their mission compound, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) from ground zero when the explosion occurred. Schiffer gave his account of the Miracle of Hiroshima by the Apparition of Mary in Fatima.[2]

Jesuits and their location

Many retellings of the event state there were eight Jesuit priests (or missionaries), who were eight blocks from ground zero.[3][4] John Hersey, in his contemporary 1946 account Hiroshima, lists four Jesuit priests (Father Superior LaSalle [sic], Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, Father Cieslik, and Father Schiffer) and places them 1,400 yards (1,300 m) "from the center."[5] Schiffer himself states there were four Jesuit priests — "Father Hugo Lassalle, Superior of the whole Jesuit Mission in Japan, and Fathers Kleinsorge, Cieslik, and Schiffer" — and describes his own location as "within the most deadly one-mile radius."[6] Schiffer also notes the name of their church — "the Jesuit Church of Our Lady's Assumption."[6]


According to the 1946 account of Jesuit priest Father John Siemes, who had been on the outskirts of the city:

They were in their rooms at the Parish House—it was a quarter after eight, exactly the time when we had heard the explosion in Nagatsuke—when came the intense light and immediately thereafter the sound of breaking windows, walls and furniture. They were showered with glass splinters and fragments of wreckage. Father Schiffer was buried beneath a portion of a wall and suffered a severe head injury. The Father Superior received most of the splinters in his back and lower extremity from which he bled copiously. Everything was thrown about in the rooms themselves, but the wooden framework of the house remained intact.[7]

Schiffer's own account describes the explosion:

Suddenly, a terrific explosion filled the air with one bursting thunderstroke. An invisible force lifted me from the chair, hurled me through the air, shook me, battered me, whirled me 'round and 'round like a leaf in a gust of autumn wind.[6]


All four Jesuit priests survived the explosion.[6] Quoted in 1950, Schiffer said, "Of 14 clergy and laymen we lost only one, a Japanese."[8] The Jesuits were in a building stronger than most surrounding buildings, as noted by Hersey and Siemes, respectively:

[Father Kleinsorge saw] that all the buildings round about had fallen down except the Jesuits’ mission house, which had long before been braced and double-braced by a priest named Gropper, who was terrified of earthquakes[5]

The solidity of the structure which was the work of Brother Gropper again shone forth.[7]

They were not the only survivors close to ground zero; an estimated 14% of people within 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of ground zero survived the explosion.[9] Other survivors included ten people in a streetcar 750 metres (820 yd) from ground zero, and a woman in a bank 260 metres (280 yd) away from the blast.[10] One person survived at a distance of just 170 metres (190 yd), protected in the basement of a building while looking for documents.[11]

Religious aspects

The survival of the priests has sometimes been referred to as a miracle.[3][4] In 1951, Schiffer said:

I won't call it a miracle exactly, but I think we were under the special protection of God.[12]

Similarities with Nagasaki are sometimes highlighted, where a Franciscan friary established by St. Maximilian Kolbe was "unaffected by the bomb which fell there",[13] as "the friary was protected from the force of the bomb by an intervening mountain".[13]

Later life[edit]

Schiffer met both the pilot and co-pilot of the B-29 that bombed Hiroshima, the Enola Gay. In New York City in 1951, Schiffer met co-pilot Robert A. Lewis.[14] Schiffer invited Lewis to visit Hiroshima in August 1952 for the dedication of a "palace of prayer", which Lewis accepted;[14] however, there is no record of Lewis actually making such a visit. The two also appeared together at Fordham University in 1957, on the twelfth anniversary of the bombing, with Schiffer noting that they had become "very fast friends."[15] Schiffer later met pilot Paul Tibbets in Dallas in 1975.[1]

Schiffer, who had received a bachelor's degree in Japan, received a master's degree from Fordham University in 1952, and a doctorate there in 1958.[16] In the 1960s, Schiffer worked as an associate professor of economics at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia,[17][18] and wrote a book on the Japanese banking system.

See also[edit]


  • Schiffer, Hubert F. (1953). "The Rosary Of Hiroshima". Sacred Heart University.
  • Schiffer, Hubert F. (1962). The Modern Japanese Banking System. New York: University Publishers. OCLC 3099323.


  1. ^ a b Myers, Donald P. (August 6, 1982). "Miamian who dropped bomb". The Miami News. Retrieved July 14, 2017 – via
  2. ^ "How Fables Become "Facts"".
  3. ^ a b "Rosary Miracle at Hiroshima (advertisement)". The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware. March 19, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2017 – via
  4. ^ a b Rinehart, Stephen (February 2000). "Rosary Miracle - Safe in the Midst of Hiroshima Nuclear Blast !!". Archived from the original on 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2005-11-07.
  5. ^ a b Hersey, John (August 31, 1946). "Hiroshima". The New Yorker.
  6. ^ a b c d Schiffer, Hubert F. (1953). "The Rosary Of Hiroshima". Sacred Heart University.
  7. ^ a b Siemes, John (May 15, 1946). "Hiroshima—August 6, 1945". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 1 (11): 2–6. Bibcode:1946BuAtS...1k...2S. doi:10.1080/00963402.1946.12102538 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Hiroshima Victim Here, Describes Atom Horrors". The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 8, 1950. Retrieved July 15, 2017 – via
  9. ^ "Atomic Bomb Damage of Hiroshima". Hiroshima & Nagasaki Remembered.
  10. ^ "The Story of Hiroshima, Hibakusha Stories".
  11. ^ "Hiroshima Testimony: Special Exhibit 3". Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Special Exhibition. Archived from the original on 2018-04-19. Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  12. ^ "A-Bombed Priest Final Forum Speaker Tuesday". The Loyola Maroon. New Orleans. May 11, 1951. pp. 1, 6. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Foley, Donal Anthony (August 9, 2015). "The priests who survived the atomic bomb". The Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  14. ^ a b "'Enola Gay' Pilot Hears Bomb's Amazing Effect". The Catholic Advance. Wichita, Kansas. January 19, 1951. Retrieved July 13, 2017 – via
  15. ^ "Old Pals Differ On Using Bomb". Arizona Daily Star. Tucson, Arizona. AP. August 7, 1957. Retrieved July 13, 2017 – via
  16. ^ "General Information Bulletin". New Orleans: Loyola University. December 1958. Retrieved July 15, 2017 – via
  17. ^ "Sodality to Hear Talk By Survivor of A-Bomb". Delaware County Daily Times. Chester, Pennsylvania. September 29, 1961. Retrieved July 15, 2017 – via
  18. ^ "Speaker". The Bristol Daily Courier. Bristol, Pennsylvania. December 5, 1961. Retrieved July 15, 2017 – via

Further reading[edit]

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