Three inspection reports for the Ellis Island, NY, Internment Camp

Internment camps in the U.S. were periodically inspected by representatives of neutral nations or organizations, to see that facilities were adequate and internees were treated appropriately. In 3 December 1943, Alfred Cardinaux, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited the facilities at Ellis Island, following up on a prior visit of 12 April 1943.

Again in 30 May 1945, he and M. Zehnder inspected the camp, on the eve of a repatriation voyage for a group of Italians, mostly seamen. Describing the haste with which many of these internees were rounded up from other facilities around the country and the lack of uniform rules regarding possessions allowed, they suggest that “it would have been important to inform the repatriates in good time…of United States export regulations, to prevent them from incurring unnecessary losses.” (While the latter report is only about the Italians, the haste and confusion surrounding deportation were evident on many occasions.)

The third report, from 29 March 1946, was conducted by Dr. Werner Bubb, delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Van Arsdale Turner, of the Department of State. They note extreme overcrowding and low morale and suggest the facilities were never intended for indefinite detention. RG 59, Dept of State, Special War Problems Division, entry 1352, Inspection Reports, 1942-1946.

The Reports