During World War II, America had to act decisively to protect itself from dangerous individuals in its midst. To achieve this legitimate goal, our government ignored civil liberties to an unacceptable degree and trampled far too many innocent lives. The human cost was unconscionable. Rather than protecting potential American-born and foreign-born victims of mounting hysteria, our government used these security concerns to justify oppression. Ethnic Germans, Japanese and Italians suffered greatly for their “enemy” ethnicity.
Selected personal stories are briefly summarized in The Human Cost of Civil Liberties Violations. The experiences of these individuals clearly show that personal freedoms must be protected most when they are most under assault. The stories were selected because they illustrate the typical forms of wartime mistreatment by the US government: raids, ransacking of homes, selective internment, exchanges, repatriation and exclusion. In each case, the reader should assess the extreme consequences resulting from abrupt governmental action driven by hysteria.
Other stories have been shared with the German American Internee Coalition by former German American and Latin American internees and their families. The stories are broken up into three main categories: US Resident Internees, Latin American Resident Internees and Seamen. For many, it was a difficult decision to go public with their traumatic personal internment experiences.
All have shared their stories because they believe it is time these stories were told, to educate the public on the full story of internment during World War and so that others may know the value of the freedom that is too easily lost during times of crisis. We thank the contributors for so generously agreeing to write down their difficult memories and for sharing them with all of us. If you or a family member are interested in sharing your story, please contact us.