American Tragedy | Letters | Chicago Reader

American Tragedy 

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To the editors:

Thank you for publishing "Dangerous Enemy Alien" by Kitry Krause [September 3]. It was an excellent article! Superb investigative journalism! It dramatically told the story of the internment of thousands of European Americans by the U.S. government between 1941 and 1948 through the eyes of one victim, Mr. Eberhard Fuhr.

Well-written and well-documented, this article informed your readers of an American tragedy, of a gross travesty of justice, never acknowledged in history textbooks, government publications, or PBS television specials.

I would like, however, to clarify six points.

(1) Internment and relocation were two legally separate and distinct policies.

(2) 16,849, not 110,000, Japanese Americans were interned. 5,620 of these 16,849 were "renunciants," i.e., Japanese Americans who publicly renounced their allegiance to the U.S.

(3) Fifty-six percent of all "nonrenunciant" internees (14,426 of 25,655) were European Americans.

(4) The internment of German Americans and Italian Americans began on December 7, 1941. But the U.S. was not at war with either Germany or Italy until December 11, 1941.

(5) Even earlier, in April 1941, the U.S. government began interning German and Italian seamen.

(6) Congress enacted laws in 1948 (Public Law 886), 1951 (Public Law 116), 1956 (Public Law 673), 1988 (Public Law 100-383), and 1992 (Public Law 102-371) providing financial compensation only to Japanese American former internees.

Again, thank you for publishing such an important and timely article as "Dangerous Enemy Alien."

Joseph E. Fallon

Rye, New York

Kitry Krause replies:

It is important to recognize that different executive orders were used to put people in detention camps. However, to suggest that the 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans who were "relocated" into these camps were somehow not interned is semantic niggling if not dangerous revisionism. Also, your figures on the number of Japanese renunciants may be accurate, but they don't take into account the understandable reasons many of these individuals failed the loyalty tests they were forced to take.

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