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World War II Violations of the Civil Liberties of German Americans and German Latin Americans
by the US Government
German Americans constitute the largest ethnic group in the US. Approximately 60 million Americans claim German ancestry. German American loyalty to America's promise of freedom traces back to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, during World War II, the US government and many Americans viewed ethnic Germans and others of "enemy ancestry" as potentially dangerous, particularly recent immigrants. The Japanese American World War II experience is well known. Few, however, know of the European American World War II experience, particularly that of the German Americans and Latin Americans. We also have much to learn about the Japanese and Italian Latin American programs. The focus of this overview is the US resident German experience, however, the programs were applied to all of “enemy ancestry” with varying ramifications. For more information regarding the internment of Germans from Latin America, click here. For more information regarding the related legal framework, click here.
The US government used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable methods to control those of enemy ancestry, including internment, individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges for Americans held in Germany, deportation, "alien enemy" registration requirements, travel restrictions and property confiscation. The human cost of these civil liberties violations was high. Families were disrupted, reputations destroyed, homes and belongings lost. Meanwhile, untold numbers of German Americans fought for freedom around the world, including their ancestral homelands. Some were the immediate relatives of those subject to oppressive restrictions on the home front. Pressured by the US, Latin American governments arrested at least 8500 German Latin Americans. An unknown number were sent directly to Germany, while 4050 were shipped in dark boat holds to the United States and interned. At least 2,650 US and Latin American resident immigrants of German ethnicity and their native-born children were later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held in Germany. Some allege that internees were captured to use as exchange bait.

During World War II, our government had to do its utmost to ensure domestic security against dangerous elements in its midst. But it could have exercised greater vigilance to protect the liberties of those most vulnerable because of their ethnic ties to enemy nations. Some were dangerous, but too many were assumed guilty and never able to prove their innocence. Admittedly, US wartime governmental actions are difficult to assess decades later. To prevent possible future erosion of our civil liberties, however, the federal government must fully review and acknowledge its wartime civil liberties violations. A comprehensive federal review of the European American experience has never been done. On August 3, 2001, Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced The Wartime Treatment Study Act in the US Senate for the first time. This bill would create a independent commission to review US government policies directed against European "enemy" ethnic groups during World War II in the US and Latin America. This commission would also review the US government's denial of asylum to European (primarily Jewish) refugees seeking refuge in the US from persecution in Europe. The bill was most recently reintroduced in March 2009. Read More on Legislative Efforts.

The following summarizes two methods of control: internment and exclusion. A timeline of relevant events follows.

Selective Internment:

Pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 (50 USC 21-24), which remains in effect today, the US may apprehend, intern and otherwise restrict the freedom of "alien enemies" upon declaration of war or actual, attempted or threatened invasion by a foreign nation. During World War II, the US Government interned at least 11,000 persons of German ancestry. By law, only "enemy aliens" could be interned. However, with governmental approval, their family members frequently joined them in the camps. Many such "voluntarily" interned spouses and children were American citizens. Internment was frequently based upon uncorroborated, hearsay evidence gathered by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Homes were raided and many ransacked. Fathers, mothers and sometimes both were arrested and disappeared. Sometimes children left after the arrests had to fend for themselves. Some were placed in orphanages. Read More Real Stories.

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) instituted very limited due process protections for those arrested. Potential internees were held in custody for weeks in temporary detention centers, such as jails and hospitals, prior to their hearings. Frequently, their families had no idea where they were for weeks. The hearings took place before DOJ-constituted civilian hearing boards. Those arrested were subject to hostile questioning by the local prosecuting US Attorney, who was assisted by the investigating FBI agents. The intimidated, frequently semi-fluent accused had no right to counsel, could not contest the proceedings or question their accusers. Hearing board recommendations were forwarded to the DOJ’s Alien Enemy Control Unit (“AECU”) for a final determination that could take weeks or months.

Internees remained in custody nervously awaiting DOJ's order--unconditional release, parole or internment. Policy dictated that the AECU resolve what it deemed to be questionable hearing board recommendations in favor of internment. Based on AECU recommendations, the Attorney General issued internment orders for the duration of the war. Internees were shipped off to distant camps. Families were torn apart and lives disrupted, many irreparably. Family members left at home were shunned due to fear of the FBI and spite. Newspapers published stories and incriminating lists. Eventually destitute, many families lost their homes and had to apply to the government to join spouses in family camps, apply for welfare and/or rely on other family members who could afford to support them. Eventually, under such duress, hundreds of internees agreed to repatriate to war-torn Germany to be exchanged with their children for Americans. Once there, food was scarce, Allied bombs were falling and their German families could do little to help them. Many regretted their decision. Considering the spurious allegations, which led to the internment of a majority of internees, their treatment by our government was harsh indeed. Their experience provides ample evidence of why our civil liberties are so precious.
In cooperation with the War Department, pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act, DOJ created a network of prohibited zones and restricted areas. Enemy aliens were forbidden to enter or remain in certain areas and their movements severely restricted in others. The restrictions imposed great hardship on those living or working in these areas. Pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 9066, the military could restrict the liberties of citizens and aliens, as it deemed necessary. This led to the exclusion of individuals and groups from extensive "military zones" comprising over a third of the US. The most well known group exclusion was the massive relocation US citizens and aliens of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and their subsequent incarceration overseen by the War Relocation Authority. Several hundred individual exclusion orders were issued.
The government was particularly suspicious of naturalized citizens of enemy ethnicity. Citizens could not be interned, so the military threatened those it deemed dangerous with exclusion. Many felt contesting exclusion orders was futile and moved before an order was actually issued. Unlike West Coast Japanese group exclusion pursuant to Executive Order 9066, hearings were required for individual exclusions. Resembling enemy alien internment hearings, these hearings were subject to very limited due process protections, clearly violating the rights of American citizens. If an exclusion order was issued following a hearing, excludees were given little time to depart. Homes were abandoned. Some excludees left their families behind. FBI agents followed them to their new communities. The government often advised police and employers how "dangerous" excludees were, so finding and keeping jobs was difficult. Little or government resettlement assistance was given to excludees. Some contested their exclusion orders in court, protesting the government's violation of their due process rights. After several federal courts found the military's actions of questionable constitutionality, the individual exclusion program decreased in popularity. Although more unusual, in lieu of exclusion the government also sought to denaturalize citizens, so they could be interned as enemy aliens or deported.

Thanks to federal legislation and effective activism by their ethnic group, US government mistreatment of Japanese Americans is well known. After almost 60 years, the German American and Latin American experiences remains buried. The few surviving, aged internees remember their experiences well, despite years of trying to forget. Their memories haunt them. Mostly, because they are Americans who revere freedom, they want the dreadful saga of their wartime mistreatment told so it will never happen again.

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History of Wartime Treatment of Germans from the United States and Latin America by Karen E. Ebel (2006)

1917 · 1939 · Dec 7,1941 · Dec 11,1941 · Oct 1942 · May 7,1945 · 1980's to present

1917-1918 The Passport Acts of February 5, 1917 and May 22, 1918 make entering the US without a passport or other travel documentation illegal.

1918 Codification of Alien Enemies Act of 1798, 50 U.S.C 21-24, permitting apprehension and internment of aliens of “enemy ancestry” by U.S. government upon declaration of war or threat of invasion. The President is given blanket authority as to “enemy alien” treatment. Civil liberties may be completely ignored because enemy aliens have no protection under this 200+-year-old law. Government oppression is likely during wartime.

1939-1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes creation of new secret intelligence agency to be deployed for espionage and counterespionage in the Latin America. Federal Bureau of Information (“FBI”) chief, J. Edgar Hoover, creates the Secret Intelligence Service in July 1940.

1936-1941 Various governmental bodies, such as the FBI, special intelligence agencies of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Army’s Military Intelligence Division compile lists of dangerous “enemy aliens” and citizens, including the FBI’s Custodial Detention Index (the “CDI”).

1940 The US census data includes specific listings and location of persons based on their ethnicity, which may have assisted the U.S. Government in later identification of “suspect” individuals of “enemy ancestry.”

1940 Alien Registration Act of 1940 passed requiring all aliens 14 and older to register with the U.S. government.

1941 Roosevelt issues Presidential Proclamation 2497 setting forth the Proclaimed List of Certain Blocked Nationals following Britain’s example. The proclamation lists Axis citizens and businesses with which the US could no longer deal.

Dec. 7, 1941 Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. Pursuant to the Alien Enemy Act, Roosevelt issues identical Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 branding German, Italian and Japanese nationals as enemy aliens, authorizing internment and travel and property ownership restrictions. A blanket presidential warrant authorizes U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle to have the FBI arrest a large number of “dangerous enemy aliens” based on the CDI. Hundreds of German aliens are arrested by the end of the day. The FBI raids many homes and detains many hundreds before war even declared on Germany. Martial law declared in Hawaii and hundreds of US citizens and aliens of German ancestry interned, as well as those of Italian and Japanese ancestry. By Dec. 10, 449 Japanese, German and Italian aliens were interned, as well as 43 German, Japanese and Italian American citizens.
Dec. 11, 1941 U.S. declares war on Germany and Italy.

Jan. 1942 Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 2525-2527 and 2537 (issued Jan.14, 1942), the Attorney General issues regulations requiring application for and issuance of certificates of identification to all “enemy aliens” aged 14 and older and outlining restrictions on their movement and property ownership rights. Approximately one million enemy aliens reregister, including 300,000 German-born aliens, the 2nd largest immigrant group at that time. Applications are forwarded to the DOJ’s Alien Registration Division and the FBI. Any change of address, employment or name must be reported to the FBI. Enemy aliens may not enter federally designated restricted areas. If enemy aliens violate these or other applicable regulations, they are subject to “arrest, detention and internment for the duration of the war.” U.S. Government seeks cancellation of citizenship in federal courts for “suspicious” naturalized citizens of “enemy ancestry.” Individuals frequently accused of fraudulently taking oath of citizenship which requires pledge of sole allegiance to the U.S. and renunciation of allegiance to all other countries. Once citizenship is cancelled, individuals can be interned or deported as “enemy aliens.”
Jan.-Feb. 1942 In cooperation with the military, the DOJ establishes numerous, small prohibited zones strictly forbidden to all enemy aliens. DOJ also establishes extensive “restricted areas” in which enemy aliens are subject to stringent curfew and travel restrictions, particularly on the West Coast.

Jan. 1942 Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense created at conference of Western Hemisphere countries in Rio de Janeiro to monitor “enemy aliens” in Latin America. Laws established similar to enemy alien laws in the US requiring aliens from Axis nations to register with their local authorities, restricting travel and personal property rights and subjecting the aliens to increased surveillance. Naturalization procedures slowed. Detention of “suspicious” enemy aliens urged. Cancellation of citizenship recommended for “suspicious” native-born or naturalized citizens from Axis nations. Once citizenship cancelled, detention as enemy alien possible.

Feb. 19, 1942 Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Secretary of War to define military areas in which “the right of any person to enter, remain in or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions” are deemed necessary or desirable. This order applies to all “enemy” nationalities.

March 11, 1942 Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9095 establishing the Office of the Alien Property Custodian pursuant to authority granted under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. Pursuant to the order, the property interests of all foreign countries and their citizens vested in the Alien Property Custodian at his discretion until such time as he relinquished control of those interests. This Order created havoc in the lives of many internees and their families, particularly when the heads of households were arrested.

October 1942 Wartime restrictions on Italian Americans terminated.

1942 – 1943 The US Army and the DOJ establish and administer internment camps throughout the country. The Immigration and Naturalization Service operates the DOJ camps. The largest DOJ camps holding ethnic Germans are in Crystal City and Seagoville, Texas and Ft. Lincoln, ND. At least 50 temporary detention and long-term internment facilities are used throughout the US. Internees are transferred from camp to camp under armed guard, further disrupting their lives and making it even more difficult for their families to find them. Read More on Internment Camps

1942 U.S. Government initiates exchanges of approximately 2,650 internees for Americans held in Germany. Six exchange voyages carry many families to Germany, including American-born children and U.S. citizen spouses of German alien internees. LINK to Gripsholm Tickets DOCUMENT As the war progresses, travel across the Atlantic is increasingly hazardous. Upon arrival in war-ravaged Germany, exchangees are unexpected and unwanted by their families. Many are suspected of being spies. Families with young children, some even born during the trip to Germany, have to make their own way to family homes through hazardous countryside, frequently in winter, carrying all their worldly belongings. Some men are beaten and arrested by the Gestapo as spies and put in camps, leaving families destitute again.

1942 The U.S. initiates a cooperative program whereby Latin American countries at U.S. direction capture German Latin Americans, including German and Austrian Jews who had fled persecution. Under U.S. military guard, most prisoners are shipped to the U.S. in the dark, dank holds of boats and rarely permitted on deck. Open bucket latrines are placed among the prisoners. No one informs them why or where they are going. They are interned and many are forcibly shipped to Germany. General George Marshall states in a 12/12/42 memo to the Caribbean Defense Command: “These interned nationals are to be used for exchange with interned American civilian nationals.” By the end of the war, over 4,050 German Latin Americans are brought to American internment camps.

Click here for full text of George Marshall Memo

Click here for full text of LaFoon Memo

1942 – 1945 Thousands of German aliens and German Americans are arrested, interned, excluded, paroled, exchanged and generally harassed by a suspicious country. Few know why they are interned or for how long. Internees try to make lives in camps, attempting to ignore the psychological and physical upheaval to which they have been subjected. Mental anguish, anger, guilt and shame are common. Armed guards and guard dogs watch over internees living in huts or dorms in barren parts of the country surrounded by barbed wire, observed from guard towers. All mail is censored. Contact with the outside world is severely limited. Many continually appeal their internment orders. DOJ generally ignores their requests, requiring unobtainable “new evidence” for consideration of appeals. Some are granted rehearings, pursuant to which an even smaller number are released. Released internees do not know why or ever learn why they were interned. Those released are generally subject to parole restrictions. Many internees are pressured to repatriate. Hopeless and bitter, many agree and are readily used for exchange. Some are exchanged against their will. There were six exchanges with Germany, primarily of civilians, but also of POWs. One trip of the SS Gripsholm in January 1945 involves 1,000 exchangees. The government arranges for “trustworthy” able-bodied men to work outside camps. One group works on the Northern Pacific Railroad in North Dakota repairing the railroad tracks and living in boxcars with coal stoves throughout the winter. Others work for the Forest Service and 3M.

May 7, 1945 Germany surrenders.

July 1945 Truman issues Presidential Proclamation 2655 authorizing the U.S. to deport all enemy aliens deemed “to be dangerous to the public peace and safety of the United States.” This affects hundreds, if not thousands, of internees who remain imprisoned indefinitely.

Aug. 14, 1945 Japan surrenders.

Sept. 8, 1945 President Harry S Truman issues Presidential Proclamation 2662 authorizing the U.S. Secretary of State to order the repatriation of dangerous enemy aliens deported from Latin American countries during the war. Latin American Program.

November 1945 Many internees are released from camps and parole limitations for most persons are terminated. Internment camps are progressively closed and remaining internees are eventually consolidated at Crystal City and Ellis Island.

April 10, 1946 President Harry S Truman issues Presidential Proclamation 2685, superseding Presidential Proclamation 2662, reauthorizing the U.S. Secretary of State to order the repatriation of dangerous enemy aliens deported from Latin American countries during the war and deemed 30 days as a sufficient period for deportees to get their affairs in order for deportation. Latin American Program.

Late 1947 Crystal City family camp closes. Those still imprisoned, exclusively German internees and their families, are transferred to cramped Ellis Island where others are held. Virtually all are of German ancestry. Over the next year, many additional persons are returned to Germany. Others are paroled or unconditionally released to return to their homes. The barbed wire exercise areas overlook the Statute of Liberty. The captives contest repatriation and deportation by pooling their limited funds to finance appeals in court.

July 1947 S. 1749 introduced by Sen. William Langer of North Dakota for “the release of all persons detained as enemy aliens.” The bill did not pass, but the internees got a voice in Congress and the legislation gave them hope. Langer Bill

June 21, 1948. In its 5-4 Ludecke v. Watkins decision, the Supreme Court tacitly upholds the Alien Enemies Act by denying the writ of habeas corpus for release from detention sought by German internee, Karl Ludecke, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 2655. Mr. Ludecke had been interned since December 1941 and was resisting deportation. Ludecke v. Watkins.

August 1948 Due in large part to Senator Langer’s efforts, among others, the last person, a German internee, is finally released from Ellis Island, almost three and a half years after cessation of hostilities with Germany. No internee was ever convicted of a war-related crime against the United States. Upon release, most adult internees sign secrecy oaths; many are threatened with deportation with no prospect of return if they speak of their ordeal. Most internees, always fearful, take the secret to their graves. Camp employees also sign oath of secrecy. The secret is well kept. Few today know of selective internment.

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Internees and excludees return home to suspicious communities, some have been interned 6-7 years. Children do not remember life without barbed wire. Homes and livelihoods are lost. Reputations destroyed. No safety net protects them. They confront feelings of confusion, anger, resentment, bitterness, guilt and shame. They try to understand what happened and repair broken lives. The experience scarred families forever. Those exchanged to Germany struggled to survive in the extremely difficult postwar years. Some exchangees returned to the U.S. years later. Frequently, American-born children left their families behind in Germany in order to do so. Many never were allowed to return. Others, embittered by what they perceived as America’s betrayal, never wanted to come back. Some repatriates had been returned to Soviet-occupied eastern Germany or died directly due to deportation.

1980 Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (“CWRIC”) created. Focused primarily on the relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans, the CWRIC did not allow German Americans or other European Americans to testify or offer written testimony on their wartime experiences. The final report, Personal Justice Denied, focuses primarily on German American individual and group exclusion issues under Executive Order 9066. It identifies only 4 DOJ internment camps. The tribulations of German internment are barely reviewed. The CWRIC asserts that the minimal hearing process afforded by the DOJ to enemy aliens is sufficient “rough fairness” under the circumstances. The CWRIC is wrong. Lacking sufficient due process protections, this “rough fairness” frequently resulted in unjustified, painful years of captivity, exchange and property loss for thousands.

1988-present Civil Liberties Act of 1988 passed solely giving redress to and acknowledging injustices to Japanese Americans and Aleuts. No German American or other affected European American allowed to give oral or written testimony on their wartime experience during congressional hearings. Civil Liberties Education Fund established to fund projects relating to public education regarding the Japanese American experience. National Park Service study funded to designate Japanese relocation camps administered by the WRA as national historic landmarks. In January 1999, the U.S. settles Mochizuki class action agreeing to monetary redress of $5,000 and a presidential apology for Japanese Latin Americans. In November 2000, the Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act signed into law recognizing only the government’s wrongful denial of Italian American civil liberties. In February 2005, Wartime Parity and Justice Act introduced for third time to provide for the inclusion of Japanese Latin Americans in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, among other things.

March 4, 2004 U.S. House of Representatives passes HR 56, originally introduced by Michael Honda (D-CA) supporting the goals of the Japanese American, German American, and Italian American communities in recognizing a National Day of Remembrance to increase public awareness of the events surrounding the restriction, exclusion, and internment of individuals and families during World War II. Companion Senate Resolution did not come to a vote. Only adopted federal legislation to date acknowledging German American WWII internment experience.

November 16, 2005 U.S. House of Representatives passes HR 1492 to provide for the preservation of historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II and setting aside $38 million for this purpose. German and Italian Americans and Latin Americans and Japanese Latin Americans who were detained at many of the same DOJ internment facilities as Japanese Americans are not included in bill. The companion bill, S. 1719, is pending before U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

June 30, 2005- present The Wartime Treatment Study Act (“WSTA”) is introduced in Congress for a third time. Two previous attempts at passage fail to clear procedural hurdles. The legislation would establish a long overdue commission to study the wartime treatment of Germans and Italians during World War II. Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the legislation in Senate as S. 1354 and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced measure in House as HR 3198. On Nov. 17, 2005, the WSTA was voted favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If passed, the Act will give German American internees and their families hope that perhaps one day the public will know of their experience and the US government will formally acknowledge their internment, as it has for the Japanese and Italians.

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Related Laws

Alien Enemies Act and Related World War II Presidential Proclamations

In 1798, the US government passed the Alien Enemies and Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act was eventually overturned, but the Alien Enemies Act ( AEA) was recodified in 1918 and is part of the US war and national defense statutes. (50 USC 21-24). The AEA provides that the President, pursuant to proclamation, may deem all aliens of a hostile nation within the United States alien enemies and determine the manner in which they may be "apprehended, restrained, secured and removed." (50 USC 21). See below for a discussion of the Presidential Proclamations, as well as links to the full text of each Proclamation and related documents.

Click here for the full text of the Alien Enemies Act

The Alien Enemies Act Presidential Proclamations

The Alien Enemies Act ("AEA"), set forth above, provides that the President, pursuant to proclamation, may deem all aliens of a "hostile nation" within the United States alien enemies and determine the manner in which they may be "apprehended, restrained, secured and removed." (50 USC 21) Following Pearl Harbor, FDR did exactly that. Presidential Proclamations 2525-2527 which follow are virtually identical, except for the nation specified. Proclamation 2525 (applicable to Japanese aliens) also sets forth the regulatory restrictions on alien enemies which were incorporated by reference into Proclamation 2526 (Germans) and Proclamation 2527 (Italians), so that all nationalities were treated identically under the AEA.

The proclamations deemed Japanese, German and Italian aliens to be "alien enemies," and: 1) delegated authority to control alien enemies in the US, Alaska to the Department of Justice and those in Hawaii, the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone to the Secretary of War, 2) required them to register with the US government as alien enemies, 3) set forth general regulations to restrict their actions (which permitted establishment of zones from which they could be evacuated) and 4) specifically authorized summary apprehension and internment for the duration of the war if an alien enemy was "deemed potentially dangerous to the peace and security of the US." (Presidential Proclamations 2525 (Japanese), 2526 (Germans) and 2527 (Italian) Dec. 1941).

Presidential Proclamations 2525-2527 noted above were issued by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act as the war began. As the war ended, President Harry S Truman, rather than risk releasing the dangerous internees from the camps, decided to require deportation in accordance with regulations to be created by the Attorney General, and, with respect to Latin American internees, in accordance with US agreements with those countries from which the internees originated and the US Secretary of State. See Presidential Proclamations 2655, 2662 and 2685.

Post-War Presidential Proclamations and Supreme Court Decision--Ludecke v. Watkins

Presidential Proclamations. In March 1945, Latin American countries which participated in the US-Latin American program pursuant to which at least 4,050 German Latin Americans and over 2000 Japanese Latin Americans were interned in the US, granted authority to President Truman to deport internees originating from those countries to nations outside the Western Hemisphere. In July 1945, as hostilities with Germany ended, President Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2655, requiring all US resident internees who the Attorney General deemed still to be a threat to the United States to be deported. In September 1945, President Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2662 authorizing the deportation of Latin American internees in accordance with agreements the US had with those countries. Presidential Proclamation 2662 was superseded by Presidential Proclamation 2685 issued in April 1946. This provided, among other things, that if an internee was to be deported, thirty days was declared a reasonable time for the "alien enemy to effect the recovery, disposal, and removal of his goods and effects, and for his departure.

Ludecke v. Watkins, District Director of the Immigration. 335 US 160 (1948) Presidential Proclamation 2655 was contested in court by Kurt G. W. Ludecke, a German enemy alien arrested on December 8, 1941. He was interned for the duration of the war and ordered deported by the Attorney General in January 1946. After making its way through federal court system, Mr. Ludecke's write of habeas corpus for release from detention under the deportation order was finally affirmed in June 1948 by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. In the majority opinion written by Justice Felix Frankfurter, the Court did not agree with Ludecke's position that the Alien Enemies Act only permitted internment and deportation until hostilities ceased with a nation with which the US was at war, in this case, Germany. The court determined that under the Alien Enemies Act, an alien enemy could be restricted as provided in that act until a treaty was signed with the foreign government. At the time the Supreme Court reached this conclusion, hostilities with Germany had been over for three years and Mr. Ludecke had been interned for seven. It is not known if he was deported or released. What is known is that hundreds of ethnic German enemy aliens and their families remained interned in Ellis Island fighting deportation for up to three years after the cessation of hostilities with Germany. Many others were deported.

Click here for the full text of Ludecke v. Watkins

The William Langer Bill, S. 1749

Known to many at the time as a defender of the "underdog," Sen. William Langer of North Dakota, home of the large Ft. Lincoln internment camp, tried to come to the rescue of those remaining in the internment camps pursuant to President Truman's post-war Presidential Proclamations 2655, 2662 & 2685. In July 1947, two years after the cessation of hostilities, Sen. Langer introduced S. 1749 "for the relief of all persons detained as enemy aliens." At that time, hundreds of ethnic Germans remained incarcerated at Ellis Island. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee but never passed. It directed the Attorney General to cancel the "outstanding warrants of arrest, removal, or deportation" of many German alien enemies who remained interned. Many internees were listed by name, but included all other persons detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the DOJ as enemy aliens.

The legislation also directed the INS not to issue additional warrants or orders if they were based on any act or status which served as a basis for the original warrants of arrest, removal or deportation being canceled by the bill, if passed. Sen. Langer tried to make sure the internees would not be accosted again by the INS. The bill continues: "Such persons shall not again be subject to removal or deportation by reason of the same facts upon which such removal or deportation proceedings were commenced or such warrants have been issued." Although it never passed, S. 1749 and Sen. Langer's interest gave the languishing internees hope. At this time, no one knows conclusively what finally led the US government and its then-Attorney General to relinquish their plenary jurisdiction over the internees. Many internees believe that the mere fact that Sen. Langer's introduced the bill heightened awareness of the internees plight, and that, along with the passage of time, finally led to their release. The last internee left Ellis Island in late 1948.

Click here for full text of Langer Bill

Executive Order 9066

Executive Order 9066, issued pursuant to the President's war powers, set the stage for the military oversight of Japanese, German and Italian aliens and citizens. The order clearly had the greatest impact on West Coast Japanese and Japanese Americans of whom over 100,000 were evacuated and incarcerated for much of the war. The US government has since apologized for this highly controversial and regrettable action. It has also paid reparations to many Japanese and Japanese Americans pursuant to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

German and Italian Americans were not incarcerated in this way for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that it was inexpedient to evacuate and incarcerate millions. The executive order was used by the military, however, to exclude naturalized German and Italian Americans and aliens on an individual basis based on the same sort of "evidence" and hearing procedure used by the Attorney General to intern alien enemies. There was much collaboration between the Department of Justice and the War Department regarding the various excludees. The program was not of long duration, however, and some brave federal judges helped put an end to it. Not in time, though, for hundreds who were forced to leave their homes, or left in fear of being ordered to do so.

Click here for the full text of Executive Order 9066

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