Europeans Were Sent to U.S. Internment Camps During WW II, too

Roundup: Talking About History

Michelle Malkin, author of the new book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror; at frontpagemag.com (Aug. 12, 2004):

I recently spoke with a group of bright, young law students and undergrads from the best schools in the country, including Yale, Georgetown, the University of Chicago and William and Mary. We discussed my new book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror.

When I mentioned that a large number of those interned in U.S. Department of Justice camps were of European descent, the students showed surprise. "I didn't know that," someone said aloud.

Thanks to a left-wing monopoly on the teaching of World War II history, not many other Americans know about these long-forgotten internees, either.

Generations of schoolchildren have been taught to believe that our government threw only ethnic Japanese into camps because of wartime hysteria and anti-Asian bigotry. It's a convenient myth that allows today's civil liberties absolutists to guilt-trip America into opposing any use of racial, nationality or religious profiling to protect the homeland.

In fact, enemy aliens from all Axis nations -- not just Japan -- were subjected to curfews, registration, censorship, exclusion from sensitive areas and internment during World War II. Enemy aliens from Europe and their family members (many of whom were U.S.-born) made up nearly half of the total internee population.

Among them was Arthur D. Jacobs, an American-born son of German immigrants. Jacobs' father was rounded up in Brooklyn and sent to a temporary internment camp on Ellis Island in late 1944 after his name inexplicably showed up on a Nazi Party list. Though Jacobs later learned that the case against his father was weak, the entire family was resettled at the Crystal City, Texas, internment camp, where he and other ethnic German internees lived side-by-side with ethnic Japanese internees. In January 1946, Jacobs and his family were repatriated to Germany. Just 12 years old, Jacobs was separated from his parents and brother and briefly confined in a German prison called Hohenasperg.

After a harrowing bureaucratic nightmare, he and an older brother, both U.S. citizens, were returned to the United States more than a year later without their parents. Jacobs enlisted in the Air Force and served honorably until 1973, when he left the military to embark on a distinguished business and academic career. He now resides in Tempe, Ariz.

Jacobs has dedicated his retirement years to dispelling politically correct myths about the World War II internment. After President Reagan signed a reparations law in August 1988 that awarded nearly $1.65 billion in restitution to ethnic Japanese interned or evacuated from the West Coast, Jacobs went to court. Motivated not by financial gain but by the drive for historical accuracy, Jacobs argued pointedly that the reparations law unconstitutionally discriminated against internees of European descent in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Jacobs' lawsuit was fiercely opposed by every major Japanese-American leader and group in the country. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against him, and in October 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment to hear Jacobs' appeal.

The apology and reparations for ethnic Japanese (including those born in the camps, those who resisted the draft, those who renounced their U.S. citizenship and those who had gathered intelligence for Japan) perpetuated anger and frustration among European internees and their families, none of whom received an apology or compensation. Even worse, the law created a historical blind spot about the World War II internment episode in the courts and classrooms that persists today.

"Hopefully, history will overcome our nation's current obsession with the alleged victimization of racial minorities to the extent that the wartime suffering of non-minority citizens such as Arthur D. Jacobs and the thousands of others like him will finally be recognized," wrote World War II veteran and retired U.S. Naval commander William Hopwood in the afterword to Jacobs' autobiography. "Fairness and common decency call for it, and our nation owes them no less."

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Vernon Clayson - 6/22/2009

Feel free to insult Ms. Malkin, Walter Kamphoefner, that's in reference to your uncalled for remark about putting a white face on her column. If she were actually African-American you wouldn't dare utter your contemptible remark. If you have a column with a picture, add a black moustache and a pronounced forelock to that picture.

Maria Rosario Kummerfeldt - 8/23/2005

My cousins' grandfather while residing in Guatemala since the early 1930 was extradited to the USA and interned with other Germans in a camp, I believe my cousins mentioned in TX.
His camp was side by side with a Japanese camp. He would trade with the Japanese his rice for potatos.

As far as I know all Germans in Guatemala were extraditable including my own grandfather. Through his contacts, he and his sons were able to avoid such outcome.

Michael Charles Benson - 9/17/2004

Not only is the thesis that the supposed lack of attention to German and Itallians reflects a leftist bias totally unsubstantiated, your premise is incorrect. t may not be remembered as well, but that’s not because it doesn’t make it into textbooks or lectures. For example I’m currently studying for my field exam. Along with reading monographs, I picked up a fairly well regarded textbook to help me keep the big picture in view. The textbook is _A People & A Nation_ compiled by seven historians (I won’t list them all here). I’m using the sixth edition, published in 2001. In the opening paragraph on internment they say:

After Pearl Harbor, the government drew upon this authority [provided by the Alien Registration Act of 1940] to take into custody thousands of Germans, Italians, and other Europeans as suspected spies and potential traitors. During the war, the government interned 14,426 Europeans in Enemy Alien Camps. Fearing subversion from aliens born in enemy countries, the government also prohibited ten thousand Italian American from living or working in restricted zones along the California coast, including San Francisco and Monterey Bay.

Walter D. Kamphoefner - 8/13/2004

To add to the important perspective supplied by Jonathan Dresner: The only German- or Italian-Americans forcibly interned were people who, unlike Japanese immigrants, had the option of becoming naturalized and did not exercise it. Even Japanese-Americans who were citizens by birth were rounded up indiscriminately, based simply on race. Arthur Jacobs was voluntarily interned as a 12-year-old in 1944 along with his mother and brother after his father had been incarcerated some months earlier. Now I don't think that J. Edgar Hoover was any less paranoid dealing with German Americans than with any other unpopular group, but the contrasts with Japanese Americans were nevertheless not just differences in degree but in kind. As shabby as Mr. Jacobs' treatment may have been (he did mention in the lecture I heard that his father had been rooting for the Germans), he and his parents would not have been running around free till 1944 if they had been Japanese-Americans, regardless of how harmless. Nor would his immigrant father even have had the option of naturalization, which the elder Jacobs declined to exercise.

And seriously, Ms. Malkin, if national security rather than racism were the motive force in rounding up Japanese-Americans, where would the threat have been greatest? California, where they made up at most 3% of the population, or Hawaii, the staging area for the whole Pacific campaign, where one-third of the population was of Japanese descent? What distinguished Hawaii was not its lack of security concerns, which were greater than on the mainland, but rather a more tolerant racial climate.

This may border on the ad hominem, but apropos the of reverse racism against which Ms. Malkin rails: truth be told, her career as a columnist is built mainly on the shock of juxtaposing right-wing ravings with a face that could be taken for African-American. Put a white face at the head of her column and it would be remanded to the lunatic fringe–as it should be regardless of the race or ethnic origin of its author.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/13/2004

Yes, German and Italian-descended Americans were interned during WWII. A few thousand German-Americans and Italian-Americans out of a population of millions, based on intelligence, political activities and other specific (if sometimes flawed) information.

Contrast that with the Japanese concentration camps, which warehoused over 1/3 of the Japanese-descended population of the United States and territories, not to mention thousands of Japanese-descended Canadians and Peruvians rounded up and shipped to the US at our request. The only reason the number wasn't higher is that the Hawai'i Japanese were such a large portion of the population that they couldn't possibly be separated out without bringing life in Hawai'i (an important military base, if you remember) to a screeching halt. In Hawai'i, Japanese were treated more like the German and Italian communities (though much more intensely): monitored, with selective arrests/internments (still almost 2K out of a population of 160K, which is several orders of magnitude higher than the comparable German/Italian figures).

Oh, and German and Italian Americans weren't segregated out of other military units and kept out of the European theater, either. So let's keep this in perspective, shall we?