St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas, hosted “Day of Remembrance” for German American WWII internment

On Friday, October 25, 2018, “Day of Remembrance” events were held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of internment of German Americans during WW II in Chicago and around the country. Organized by student groups from St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio, students, supporters, and former internees attended. They call for Congress to officially recognize German American internment, as it did for Japanese Americans in 1988 and Italian Americans in 2000. For more information see the press release below. A report from the actual event is available through WBBM radio.

St. Mary’s University News Release, Oct. 23, 2018

St. Mary’s University, based in San Antonio, Texas, is hosting a “Day of Remembrance” in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 26, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of internment of German Americans during World War II. Three child-internees are featured in this Chicago commemoration: Frances Ott Allen, Jo Anna Wartemann Terwege Howell, and Eberhard Fuhr.

In October 1943, then eight-year old Frances was sent under armed guard from Chicago to Texas to internment for nearly two years. Jo Anna was interned in Texas at the age of 9 months. This American-born baby was then expatriated in February 1944 to an active war zone in Germany where she suffered bombardment and deprivation.  Jo Anna was one of 1117 German Americans and German Latin Americans, mostly interned in Texas, aboard the MS Gripsholm bound for Nazi Germany.

Chicago had the second-highest detention rate of German Americans, interning civilians from the Midwest region.

“American-born children throughout the United States, notably Chicago, the Midwest, and greater New York, were sent with their parents to live behind a barbed-wire fence in an internment camp in south Texas 75 years ago. Some of these children were then shipped to war-torn Germany, including to the prison at Hohenasperg. Most have since died. The last survivors, including Frances and Jo Anna, urge the public to know this history and to remember,” said Dr. Teresa Van Hoy, Professor of History at St. Mary’s University and faculty advisor for the event. She and St. Mary’s students, Priscila Reyes and John Cadena, will accompany the former child internees during their commemoration in Chicago.

85 Public History students from St. Mary’s have organized the 75thcommemoration in Chicago, including a re-enactment of internees’ forced march across the Loop, and a candlelight vigil at their internment site. They and student-leader, Nicole Johnson, have also organized “Satellite Remembrance Rallies” from San Antonio all the way to Berlin, Germany. Among the 800 supporters committed thus far, are senior citizens and students in Texas Hill Country towns, Classical Magnet high school in Connecticut, the London Business School, and the Bard School in Berlin. These sites will link in to join the former internees in Chicago as they commemorate this 75thanniversary of their internment.

The 75thcommemoration event at Classical Magnet high school in Hartford, Connecticut is led by teacher Jeff Hoberman and student body president, Payge Boyd. Ms. Boyd traveled to the National Archives this summer to research this internment history where she discovered the manifest of passengers on the MS Gripsholm. Organizing the historical commemoration at the Bard School in Berlin is Cayetana Roca de Togares, descendant of the Dukes of Bexar, after whom Bexar County is named.

The former internees, their families, and their supporters are calling for Congress to pass a bill officially recognizing German American internment. Congress recognized Japanese American internment in 1988 and Italian American internment in 2000. German American internment has not yet been officially recognized.

The public in San Antonio is invited to join the Remembrance Rally hosted at St. Mary’s University this Friday, Oct. 26, 2:30-3:15 pm, in front of St. Louis Hall. Organized by Public History graduate student, Geremy Landin, this rally will be linked by live feed to the internees in Chicago. Participants will produce haikus and “internment fact sheets” on this little-known history of German American internment. St. Mary’s history alumnus, Charlie Lopez, will unveil for the public and the internees the interactive global map of internment history that he is producing entitled, “Following Internees’ Footsteps.” The event concludes by surrounding participants with a rope to suggest internment in Texas 75 years ago as participants hold aloft yellow pinwheels, the symbol of prevention of child abuse.

Simultaneously in Chicago, Frances Ott Allen and Jo Anna Wartemann Terwege Howell will share memories from the day they and their families were taken from their homes and sent to detention centers in Chicago and Crystal City, Texas.

Representing the late Eberhard  Fuhr and his wife, Barbara Minner, also formerly interned in Crystal City, are their children, Anna Skoda, Rob Fuhr, and John Fuhr and their grandchildren. The Fuhr-Minner family will call for a historical marker to be placed at 4800 S. Ellis Ave., the site where their father, uncle, Mr. Ott and many others from Chicago and the Midwest were interned for months.

The public is invited to three events during the “Day of Remembrance” in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 26:

  • Noon-1 pm: Re-enactment of the internees’ forced march across the Loop 75 years ago. The march starts from Great Hall at Chicago Union Station, 225 S. Canal St., to the corner of Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road — the original site of Central Station, from which internees were shipped to a camp in Texas
  • 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Rally from Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Avenue, which will include internees’ offering a public preview of artifacts from their personal collection that will go on display at the Bullock Texas State History museum in November for a year-long exhibit.
  • 4:30-5:00 p.m.: Candlelight remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony at the internment site, 4800 S. Ellis Ave.

This “Day of Remembrance” is the second in a three-part “Year of Remembrance.” The Bullock Texas State History museum produced a film on the first event, featuring Nicole Johnson and former child-internee Lt. Col. Adolf “Wes” Wesselhoeft, who was also born in Chicago. St. Mary’s “Year of Remembrance” project concludes with a final gathering in New York on February 15, 2019. On that day, the MS Gripsholm sailed away with baby Jo Anna, her four siblings, her parents and 1110 other German Americans and German Latin Americans interned in the United States during WWII.

Contact: Jennifer Lloyd

210-431-4374

jlloyd@stmarytx.edu

 

St. Mary’s University, founded in 1852, is the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest. It offers 75 programs, including doctoral and law programs, and has a diverse student population of about 3,650 of all faiths and backgrounds. Its vision, as a Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution, is to become one of the finest private universities in the region, a gateway for graduates to professional lives as ethical leaders in Texas, the nation and the world.