View Full Version : Internment of German-Americans in the United States During WWII

Fraxinus Excelsior
Tuesday, October 12th, 2004, 09:03 PM
I don't know if this (or something similar) has already been posted, so:

The Freedom of Information Times (http://www.foitimes.com/)

World War II - The internment of German American civilians

This is the homepage of Arthur D. Jacobs, Major, USAF Retired; Researcher: Internment in the United States during World War II, December 7, 1941 - July 1948
e-mail: adjacobs@cox.net

This web site contains research materials on the wartime treatment of U.S. and Latin Americans of German ancestry for serious researchers, students and persons seeking general information

The World War II experience of thousands of German Americans, to most, is an unknown. During World War II, the U.S. government and many Americans viewed German Americans and others of "enemy ancestry" as potentially dangerous, particularly immigrants. The government used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable methods to control persons of German ancestry, including internment, individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges, deportation, repatriation, "alien enemy" registration, travel restrictions and property confiscation.

The human cost of these civil liberties violations was high. Families were disrupted, if not destroyed, reputations ruined, homes and belongings lost. By the end of the war, 11,000 persons of German ancestry, including many American-born children, were interned.

Pressured by the United States, Latin American governments collectively arrested at least 4,050 German Latin Americans. Most were shipped in dark boat holds to the United States and interned. At least 2,000 Germans, German Americans and Latin American internees were later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held by the Third Reich in Germany.

The mission of this web site is to tell the story of thousands whose lives were forever changed because the United States suspected them of disloyalty. Government suspicion was based upon national origin and led to great hardship. Their story must not be forgotten. It deserves to be told. To date, it remains shrouded in history.

Summary of German American Wartime Experience (http://www.foitimes.com/internment/gasummary.htm). Click here for more details.

Please visit other areas of this web site, including the sections containing Personal Stories, Images, Media Coverage and Congressional Action, by clicking on the Site Links on the left side of your computer screen.

Internment/Internee eGroup: This moderated eGroup was created because certain internees and/or their families/friends expressed the desire for an internet site where they could make contact with other internees to discuss internment-related issues, such as internment history, the psychological effects of internment and to network. So many who have been touched by internment or exclusion have lived in isolation, fear, guilt and silence. It is time to kick open the door. Those affected need to know that they are not alone. If those of you whose families suffered will communicate with each other and benefit even in some small way from that communication, then the goal of this eGroup will be achieved. Perhaps a crack will appear in the wall of silence which has surrounded the saga of internment for so long. Then one day the wall will fall completely and the government will acknowledge what it did. If you would like to become a member of this moderated eGroup, please click here eGroup GermanAmerican (http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/GermanAmerican). [November 2, 2000]

Monday, March 27th, 2006, 12:38 PM
I encourage everyone to check out all the info in these links. Georgia


German-American Internees in the United States during WWII.

PS: This actually belongs in the WWII Thread. My mistake.

Monday, March 27th, 2006, 12:48 PM

On this, the 60th anniversary of Adolph Hitler's declaration of war against the United States, which he was not bound by Germany's strictly defensive military treaty with Japan to declare, I bring you "the story behind the story" of how the Roosevelt Administration was able to persuade the Nazis to send back some of those Americans who were caught behind German lines on this day, six decades ago. This story is not in the textbooks, nor is it likely to be anytime soon.

America's World War II Prison Camps

by Gary North
Most Americans have never heard of the prisoner of war camps in the United States during World War II. Hans Sennholz, a Luftwaffe pilot (http://academic.bellevue.edu/~jpatton/hans.html) and later a Misesian economist, worked on a prisoner-run farm in Arkansas after he had been shot down by British anti-aircraft fire in North Africa. They sent him from Britain through Canada to the West Coast and then to Arkansas.
Most estimates that I have seen place the number of prisoners of war in the U.S. in the range of 50,000 to 70,000, but one reputable and detailed Website says it was 425,000 (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/GG/qug1.html).

More than 150,000 men arrived after the surrender of Gen. Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in April 1943, followed by an average of 20,000 new POWs a month. From the Normandy invasion in June 1944 through December 30,000 prisoners a month arrived; for the last few months of the war 60,000 were arriving each month. When the war was over, there were 425,000 enemy prisoners in 511 main and branch camps throughout the United States.

This is a good example of history that never gets to the general public. This is a little-known and long-forgotten story, but it is not shocking.
What follows is shocking. I begin with low-level shock.
The Japanese Camps
Most Americans know about the concentration camp system that the United States created for Japanese residents of the West Coast. There were 120,000 of these internees in a dozen camps, mostly in the mountain states, but with two camps in eastern Arkansas. A few Americans know that the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover had opposed these mass arrests. Fewer still know of the forced sale of everything these people owned at substantial discounts. They were only allowed to bring into the camps what they could carry in their arms in one trip. But until this year, only a handful of Japanese-Americans knew that in 1944, the U.S. government drafted the young men housed in these camps, and about 300 refused to be inducted. They said they were prisoners who were not being treated as citizens, which they were. So, some of them were put in jail for draft resistance, and the others became pariahs in the camps. The other Japanese internees regarded them as traitors. This story became public knowledge only this year, in law professor Eric Muller's book, Free to Die for Their Country (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226548228/lewrockwell/) (University of Chicago Press, 2001). You can get chapter one (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/548228.html) on the Web.
The Western Hemisphere Kidnap Camps
The following story would be a great case study for Memory Hole 101 (second semester). I stumbled onto it about three years ago. It was on the Website of a local affiliate of NBC television. That Web page is long gone, but because of www.google.com (http://www.google.com), I was able to track down other pages in a few minutes. I used these search terms: Japanese, Germans, Peru, World War II, Texas, camps. Of course, had I not found that NBC affiliate site three years ago, I never would have known which search terms to use. I never would have known about this story. Prepare yourself for a shock. This is from the Handbook of Texas Website. Its title is "World War II Internment Camps." (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/WW/quwby.html) And what remarkable camps they were! You will find no reference to these camps in any textbook on U.S. history, I guarantee you.

Although many Americans are aware of the World War II imprisonment of West Coast Japanese Americans in relocation centers, few know of the smaller internment camps operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Under the authority of the Department of Justice, the INS directed about twenty such facilities. Texas had three of them, located at Seagoville, Kenedy, and Crystal City. Prisoners included Japanese Americans arrested by the FBI, members of Axis nationalities residing in Latin-American countries, and Axis sailors arrested in American ports after the attack on Pearl Harbor. About 3,000 Japanese, Germans, and Italians from Latin America were deported to the United States, and most of them were placed in the Texas internment camps. Twelve Latin-American countries gave the United States Department of State custody of the Axis nationals. Eighty percent of the prisoners were from Peru, and about 70 percent were Japanese. The official reasons for the deportations were to secure the Western Hemisphere from internal sabotage and to provide bartering pawns for exchange of American citizens captured by Japan. However, the Axis nationals were often deported arbitrarily as a result of racial prejudice and because they provided economic competition for the other Latin Americans, not because they were a security threat. Eventually, very few Japanese ever saw Latin America again, although some Germans and Italians were returned to their Latin American homes. The majority of Texas internment-camp prisoners were Axis nationals from Latin America. . . .
In addition, prisoners were taken to Crystal City from other INS internment camps in Hawaii and Alaska (not states at the time), the United States, Puerto Rico, the West Indies, and South and Central American countries. . . .

As we shall see, there is some debate about the numbers of these victims of American-supervised international kidnapping. Was it 3,000, total? Or were there more? I think there were far more, for reasons that you will soon see. In any case, what you have read so far is a whitewashed version of the story. It gets worse much, much worse.
Add one word to the Google search list: "exchanged." Again, had I not found that NBC affiliate site, I would not have known to use this term. This brought me to a site run by the Freedom of Information Times. This revealing site specializes in World War II internment of German American civilians (http://www.foitimes.com/internment/).
Here, we read the grim reality regarding what other use these kidnapped Latin Americans had for the American government. I will bet that nothing that you have ever read mentioned this legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal (http://www.foitimes.com/internment/latina.htm).

Facts: During the hearings before the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Edward J. Ennis, the Director of the Alien Enemy Control during World War II, on November 3, 1981 testified:

Mr. Macbeth [a member of the Commission]: Did you have any experience with the internment of enemy aliens who were outside of the United States.
Mr. Ennis: Oh yes, we had two programs...Now the other program was taking alien enemies from other countries in South America...If we couldn't get the [Latin American] countries to intern them we had to transmit them to the United States for internment...It was an aborted program, I don't think it accomplished anything. It had a security purpose to do in these countries [Latin America] what we were doing in the United States, about 5,000 German aliens were interned, and a few hundred German aliens in Cuba and in other countries in South America. But it didn't work very well. [Source: pp.157-159, Testimony of Edward J. Ennis before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians on November 3, 1981, R.G. 220. . . .

The Latin Americans of German ancestry who [about 5,000] were brought to this country by the United States were incarcerated in several camps, most were in either of the following camps: Crystal City, Texas; Seagoville, Texas; Camp Kenedy, Texas; Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota; and Ellis Island, New York Harbor, New York.
Hundreds of the interned Latin Americans, many of whom were, by birthright, citizens of one of the republics, were exchanged for persons of the Americas held by the Third Reich, i.e., they were deported to Germany.
Stephen Fox, "The Deportation of Latin American Germans, 1941-47: Fresh Legs for Mr. Monroe's Doctrine," Yearbook of German-American Studies 32 (1997): 117-42.
Prior to the exchange, lists of internees in the U.S., including the names of German-Jews, were provided to the authorities of the Third Reich.
The State Department citations herein are included in their entirety in Volume IV, The World War Two Experience of German-Americans of German-Americans in the World Wars, Edited by: Don Heinrich Tolzmann, K.G. Saur, Munich, 1995, pp. 1671-1674.

Got that, folks? The U.S. government went to the trouble of identifying the kidnapped victims of Jewish German background, sent their names to Hitler's bureaucrats, knowing that these were "high priority items," and then shipped them off to Germany in exchange for Americans who had been inside the Third Reich when Hitler declared War on December 11.
The only other explanation is that American bureaucrats deliberately identified the captive Jews in order that the Germans might be able to keep out those Germans whom they really didn't want. That's the "favorable interpretation."
"My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty," etc., etc.
Franklin Roosevelt's Administration did many horrible things. This is just one more example. Most of these things were covered up then, and professional historians still do their best to cover them up today, 56 years after FDR's death.
For the New Deal-justifying liberals who write all of the American history textbooks, seeing just isn't believing. Facts like these are dropped down the memory hole, where they are thought to belong.
Why don't Jews know about this neglected aspect of American history? Because they haven't been told. Why not? Because most academic Jews are political liberals, and their commitment to the Roosevelt Administration has been greater than their commitment to historical accuracy. So, politically conservative Jews don't know the story.
Anyone who points out this sort of thing is dismissed by the Establishment press and the Establishment academic community (guild) as a "conspiracy nut." I confess: guilty as charged.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 06:32 AM
Despite some statements in this article which may be considered "controversial" by some, it still is well worth reading. Click on the link, there are some good pictures. Georgia


German Prisoners of War in Mississippi, 1943-1946

by John Ray Skates
World War II was truly a world war. All of the major countries and a large number of small nations were drawn into the fight. Even countries that tried to remain neutral found themselves in the conflict either by conquest or by being in the path of the campaigns of the major powers. For example, in 1940, more than a year before the United States entered the war, the major powers Britain, Italy, and Germany fought important battles in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya in North Africa.

Not until November 1942, almost a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did American forces enter the fight in North Africa. U.S. forces made amphibious landings at the North African cities of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. German and Italian forces in Libya were then caught in a vise Americans advanced from the west along the North African coast to Tunisia while British troops advanced from the east out of Egypt. The Germans and Italians had to defend on two fronts the British front on the east and the American front on the west. See maps (http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/features/feature20/algeriamap.html).

Afrika Korps becomes POWs

The famous "Afrika Korps," under German General Erwin Rommel, made up of German and Italian tanks and trucks, was besieged in Tunisia and fought on until May 1943. In March, Rommel flew to Germany to plead with Hitler for reinforcements. Instead, Hitler retired Rommel.
Two months later, the Afrika Korps became prisoners of war of the United States and Great Britain. General Jurgen Von Arnim, Rommel's replacement, went into captivity as a prisoner of war along with 275,000 German and Italian soldiers. They were housed in tents surrounded by barbed wire. Food, water and other essentials had to be transported to the German and Italian prisoner-of-war compounds. A shipping shortage plagued the allies. How could they feed and house the German and Italian prisoners in Africa while the United States and Great Britain needed all ships to bring troops and equipment from America for the Normandy invasion? After unloading their cargoes in Great Britain, many of these ships returned empty to the United States.

To help alleviate the shipping problems, a decision was made by the U.S. government to bring the German and Italian prisoners of war from North Africa to prisons in the United States. It would be less burdensome and less costly to house and feed the captured men in the United States. Additionally, the prisoners of war (POWs) could be put to work in non-military jobs. In the last four months of 1943, German and Italian prisoners of war began arriving in the United States from their compounds in North Africa.

A German soldier, who fought in North Africa, kept a diary from his surrender on May 13, 1943, to his arrival some months later at Camp Clinton, just outside Jackson, Mississippi. He and his fellow veterans of the now defeated Afrika Korps were marched and trucked to the city of Algiers in Algeria, North Africa, where they were put on ships that carried them to the Algerian port of Oran. They were then marched to a POW compound in the desert where they were housed in a "cage" (the name used by American soldiers for a barbed wire enclosure).
POWs arrive in Mississippi

Four weeks later the POWs were trucked from the cage back to Oran on the North African coast. There they boarded ships for the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. After two weeks at sea, the ship docked at the Port of Norfolk, Virginia, on August 4, 1943. At Norfolk the prisoners who were assigned to Camp Clinton expected a slow freight train to carry them to their destination. Instead, they boarded a sleek, comfortable passenger train. Two days later they arrived at Camp Clinton.
Camp Clinton, one of four major POW base camps established in Mississippi, was unique among the other camps because it housed the highest ranking German officers. Twenty-five generals were housed there along with several colonels, majors, and captains. The high ranking generals had special housing. Lower ranking officers had to content themselves with small apartments. General Von Arnim, Rommel's replacement, lived in a house and was furnished a car and driver. Some people swore that General Von Arnim attended movies in Jackson because the movie theater was the only air-conditioned place in town.
Other major POW camps in Mississippi were established at Camp McCain near Grenada, Camp Como in the northern Delta, and Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg. The four base camps were large compounds designed to house large numbers of POWs. Camp McCain housed 7,700, Camp Clinton 3,400, and Camp Shelby housed 5,300. Camp Como originally held 3,800 Italian soldiers, but the Italians were soon moved out of Mississippi and replaced by a smaller number of Germans.
U.S. adheres to Geneva Conventions

These base camps had most of the facilities and services that could be found in a small town dentists, doctors, libraries, movies, educational facilities (English language was the most popular course) and athletics (soccer was the most popular sport). POWs were guaranteed by an international treaty called the Geneva Conventions (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/geneva02.htm) to get food, clothing, and medical care equal to that of their captors.

POWs were housed in barracks that held up to fifty men. Each five barracks had a mess hall with cooks, waiters, silverware, and by all accounts very good food. Food was not a complaint for the prisoners. In fact, most of the food was prepared by German cooks with ingredients furnished by the U.S. Army. A sample breakfast was cereal, toast, corn flakes, jam, coffee, milk, and sugar. A typical lunch was roast pork, potato salad, carrots, and ice water. Supper might be meat loaf, scrambled eggs, coffee, milk, and bread. Beer could be bought in the canteen.

Individual barracks fielded teams for sports as diverse as horseshoes, volleyball, and soccer. Athletic contests among the barracks were highly competitive, and tournaments were arranged to select the winners. Prisoners at Camp Shelby reported the outcome of athletic events in the camp's newspaper, the Mississippi Post.

POWs were allowed to keep their uniforms for ceremonial occasions such as funerals and holidays. These uniforms, however, had already seen much wear. For everyday wear, POWs wore black or khaki shirts and pants with the letters "PW" stenciled in paint on each leg. Winter clothes were wool jackets and pants. Athletic shorts and shirts were issued for games.
Under the Geneva Conventions, officers could not be forced to work. However, soldiers could be required to work if the tasks did not aid their captor's war efforts. If the POWs worked outside the compound, they received a payment of 80 cents a day. This was enough money to buy cigarettes and other items that were available in the prison canteen. Most chose to work. The kinds of work done by these POWs depended on the region in Mississippi where they were housed.

POWs pick cotton, plant trees

In 1944, the four base camps Camp McCain, Camp Como, Camp Clinton, and Camp Shelby developed fifteen branch camps. Ten of these camps were in the Delta. They were located at Greenville, Belzoni, Leland, Indianola, Clarksdale, Drew, Greenwood, Lake Washington, Merigold, and Rosedale. These camps furnished POWs to work in the cotton fields where in the spring under a hot sun, they chopped the weeds away from the young cotton plants with a hoe. In the fall they picked the cotton a job they disliked. Mechanical cotton pickers had not yet been perfected, so cotton had to be picked by hand. The prisoners dragged heavy canvas bags, and as they filled the bag with cotton, the sack became heavier. As they pulled the cotton from the bolls, the pointed bolls scratched and punctured their hands. The summer heat of the Delta was much like that of the North African desert.

The other five branch camps were located in south Mississippi in the pine lands. They were at Brookhaven, Picayune, Richton, Saucier, and Gulfport. Much of the POW's work was in forestry. They planted seedlings, cut timber and pulpwood, and cleared lands for various purposes. They worked to complete Lake Shelby, a small lake a few miles from Camp Shelby.
Perhaps the most intricate and useful work that was done by German POWs in Mississippi was the Mississippi River Basin Model. The U.S. Corps of Engineers was in charge of major waterways, and they had long wanted to build a one-square-mile model of the entire Mississippi River basin. Such a model could be of great value in predicting floods and in assessing the water flow of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Chief of the United States Corps of Engineers, Major General Eugene Reybold saw an opportunity to build the model. He would use German POWs from Camp Clinton to clear a one-square-mile area near Jackson. Using hundreds of wheelbarrows and shovels, the POWs prepared the site. They dug drainage ditches, they constructed miniature streets and bridges, and they formed the one-square-mile landscape into a miniature Mississippi River basin.

Most German POWs were not dedicated Nazis. Yet small numbers of fanatical Nazis frequently intimidated the other prisoners. At Camp Clinton a German soldier was killed by these fanatical Nazis. The bitterness between the Nazis and the other prisoners threatened to become a major problem. The American authorities intervened and shipped the Nazis to special camps in Oklahoma.
Attempts at the great escape

Captured soldiers often feel they have a duty to escape, but the possibilities of successful escapes were remote in Mississippi. Most POWs in the state were content to wait out the end of the war. Nonetheless, some POWs tried to escape. Escapees found it relatively easy to get out of the prison camps. They could walk off from a cotton field or slip off into the woods. They were hardly ever successful. Their German accents, their POW clothes, or their lack of money gave them away. Despite their failures, some POWs kept trying.

At Camp Clinton the prisoners dug a tunnel 100 feet long. They hoped to tunnel under the fence. They concealed in their pants legs the dirt that they had dug out for the tunnel and then scattered the dirt around the prison grounds. They even installed light bulbs to light the tunnel. The tunnelers were caught 10 feet from the fence.

At Grenada, near Camp McCain, four prisoners were discovered eating lunch in a Grenada restaurant. More than thirty POWs walked away from a camp at Belzoni. The local police, FBI, state highway patrol, and volunteers searched the surrounding area. The missing POWS were soon found walking the streets of Belzoni looking into the store windows. They explained that they had become bored in the camp.

Perhaps the strangest escape of all involved a German pilot and the wife of a Delta planter. The wife fell in love with Helmut Von der Aue during the several months that he worked on the plantation. The German POW and the planter's wife were arrested in Nashville, Tennessee. The pilot explained that they were on their way to the east coast to steal an airplane and fly to Greenland.
POWs return home

The war in Europe ended in May 1945, but the POWs remained in the compounds and continued to work some for almost a year after the war ended. American soldiers were mustered out of the military quickly and efficiently, but President Harry Truman decided that a labor shortage existed in the United States and that the POWs should remain in this country until the labor shortage was over. Some POWs did not get home to Germany until mid-1946. They had been in the Mississippi camps almost three years.

Over the years since 1946, German veterans have come back to Mississippi to see the camps that they lived in as young men. They are sad to learn that the camps were torn down after the war. The German POWs in Mississippi were probably aged 18 to 20 when they were captured in North Africa in 1943. The survivors of the Mississippi prisoner-of-war camps are now very old. But many of those who are alive still come back to Mississippi to remember their experience. In a strange way the camps saved their lives. Unlike many other German soldiers who were killed in the war, these POWs survived. When they entered the Mississippi camps, their war was over.
Posted September 2001

John Ray Skates, Jr., Ph.D., emeritus professor of history, University of Southern Mississippi, is editor-in-chief of this publication and the author of The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb, University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Sources and Further Readings

Merrill R. Prichett and William L. Shea, "The Enemy in Mississippi (1943-1946)," The Journal of Mississippi History, November 1979.
Barry W. Fowler, Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II, Office of History, United States Corps of Engineers, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, 1992.
Forrest Lamar Cooper, "The Prisoners of War: Grenada's Camp McCain was more than a training base, it was a World War II prison," Mississippi, July/August 1989, pp. 71-73.
Maxwell S. McKnight, "The Employment of Prisoners of War in the United States," International Labor Review, July 1944.
Walter Rundell, Jr., "Paying the POW in World War II," Military Affairs, Fall 1958.
Diary of a German soldier, captured in North Africa and transported to Camp Clinton, near Jackson, Mississippi. Typescript in Camp Shelby Archives.
Report, Headquarters, Prisoner of War Camp, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 23 October 1943.
Report, Army Services Forces, Fourth Service Command, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 1 March 1945.