Dare to Ask: German-Americans sometimes viewed as
enemy in U.S. during WWII
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
We know how the Japanese-Americans were treated during World War II, but I've
never heard how German-Americans were viewed and treated. Unfortunately my
grandparents are dead, as they would be a perfect source. -- D., 52, female,
From what I've heard, many German-Americans were indeed looked down upon
during World War II. I recently heard that some were treated similarly to the
Japanese-Americans. -- John S., 23, Lake Charles, La.
German- and Italian-Americans were not treated differently than anyone else,
even after some proved to be Nazi sympathizers/stooges. There may have been some
name-calling and bottle-throwing, but no one advocated they all be herded into
concentration camps. -- A., 39, female, Missouri
Not to burst any rose-colored bubbles or anything, but many German-Americans
actually were herded into camps during the war.
A brief history: Using the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts, three proclamations
and United States Executive Order 9066, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered
detainment and internment of Japanese-, German- and Italian-Americans during
World War II - people deemed of "Foreign Enemy Ancestry."
Result: About 11,000 German-Americans/German Latin Americans, 3,000
Italian-Americans and 10,000 Japanese-Americans were interned under the alien
acts and the proclamations. Another 110,000 or so Japanese-Americans were
detained in separate West Coast camps under Order 9066.
"It's wrong to categorize individuals by nationality or race and assume
they're the enemy," said Karen Ebel, president of the German American Internee
Coalition. The group raises awareness of lesser-known U.S. World War II policies
that "led to internment, repatriation and exchange of civilians of German
ethnicity, both in the United States and Latin America," according to its Web
site at www.gaic.info.
"These people happened to be from countries we were at war with," she said.
"Many were immigrants who'd left Germany because of the Nazis. They come here
and are treated as the enemy. Even German Jews who weren't U.S. citizens were
subject to alien enemy laws!"
For Germans, FBI agents might swoop in, turn a house upside down, take the
father to a camp in an inhospitable locale and leave the family teetering on
financial ruin and homelessness, Ebel said. Single mothers left behind to
struggle raising their families were often ostracized by their communities.
Beginning in 1942, Ebel's father, Max, spent nearly two years in camps,
starting at age 22. While he was not physically abused, his life was sent into
upheaval, and he never spoke of the ordeal again until in his 80s.
"It was always hard for him to accept he left Germany because of Hitler, then
was thrown in a camp because he was German," she said. "He was made to feel
guilty for something he didn't do. There are so many stories, and we don't talk
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
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