The Special War Problems Division

Latin American Resident Internees

During WW II, the United States State Department, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, developed policies to rid Latin America of civilians of enemy ethnicity deemed undesirable by either the U.S. or Latin American governments. The plan became known as the Special War Problems Division and was also used to some extent in other countries around the world. Civilians were arrested, their property and belongings expropriated, and in some cases, they were expelled from the countries of their residence. Many were sent directly to Japan, Germany, or Italy. Many others were brought to the U.S. for internment and exchange for U.S. civilians and military held in Axis countries. Below are a few of the families’ stories. (more on the history of the Special War Problems Division)



Joachim F. Rehbock

Joachim Rehbock's Story

A brief history of Joachim Rehbock My paternal uncle Joachim F. Rehbock was born in Karlsruhe, Land of Baden-Wuertenberg, Germany […]

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diplomatic internees in a large group, with many children in the first 3 rows

the Mantel Family Story

My father’s name was Herbert Erich Mantel. He was a diesel mechanic, born in Hamburg, Germany on August 17, 1898. […]

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the Welckers

the Welcker Family Story

The Welcker Family Story by Rosita Welcker My name is Rosita Welcker. I am German citizen and live in Bogota, […]

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Costa Rica

separate photos of Veronica and Ewald

the von Schemm Family Story

The Von Schemm Story Ewald and Veronica vom Schemm were friends of my parents, brought together by the hardships both […]

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family mug shot, 1943

the Gurcke Family Story

The Gurcke Family Story © 2006 By Heidi Gurcke Donald Our family was one of thousands in Latin America, caught […]

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the Harten Family Story

By Gertrud Harten – 1939 to 1948, and Karin Harten Schramm – 2019 My parents were both from Hamburg, Germany. My […]

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El Salvador

The Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War II exhibit to open Oct. 1, 2022

An updated version of the “The Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War II” exhibit begins its tour at […]

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snow drifts and icicles along buildings and barbed wire fence

the Sapper Family Story

Helmuth Sapper Family Story by his daughter, Maya Sapper I am a 2nd generation Guatemalan with roots from Europe. My grandfather […]

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Joseph Leber, 1952

Joseph Leber's Story

The Joseph Leber Story On the sunny morning of January 6, 1942, Joseph “Joe” Leber was arrested at the Guatemala […]

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left: two men, one woman, seated and smiling. right: Hugo and small daughter

Hugo Droege's Story

The Hugo Droege Story Hugo Droege emigrated from Germany to the Guatemalan highlands to find a better life. He married […]

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Carl Otto Schütt

Carl Otto Schütt's Story

Carl Otto Schütt Story by Christina Schütt, his granddaughter “Suche sie ein”… “Choose one” my grandfather’s father answered to his […]

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Left: Albert Eckardt, with Ted -- 1936 Right: Ted, in lederhosen

the Eckardt Family Story

The Eckardt Story A part of my story, by Theodore A. Eckardt, 1997 German-Latin Americans also were imprisoned in the U.S. […]

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Adolf Hamann & Wife

the Hamann Family Story

My father, Adolf Hamann, was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1884. His father was pastor of a Lutheran church, and […]

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