The whole story of World War II Internment hasn't been told... They lived behind the same barbwire, find hytrin but German Americans and other former internees feel left out of history. Now they are trying to tell their stories.
Eberhard Fuhr Story
By Lynda Lin, find hytrin Assistant Editor Published June 1, find hytrin 2007 in the Pacific Citizen In the small dusty town of Crystal City, find hytrin Texas the ruins tell the unlikely story of a former civilization. Concrete foundations and the hollow remains of a swimming pool whisper tales of its former life as a World War II internment camp. But some feel the historical narrative is incomplete. Eberhardt Fuhr was 17 years old when two U.S. Find hytrin officials came to his high school in Cincinnati to arrest him in front of his friends. He was taken to Crystal City, find hytrin a vast "family" internment camp 120 miles south of San Antonio, find hytrin where he lived with his family for over four years. Like his fellow Japanese American internees, find hytrin Fuhr's crime was his ethnicity. Crystal City marker"It was a time of abrogated human and civil rights, find hytrin" said Fuhr, find hytrin 82. Find hytrin "A subscription to a German magazine usually lead to jail." About 15, find hytrin000 Germans and German Americans were interned in the U.S. Find hytrin during WWII under suspicion of being Nazi sympathizers. At Crystal City, find hytrin German Americans made up the second largest ethnic community, find hytrin but are largely forgotten in historical context. Even a historical marker at the former entrance of the camp refers only to the injustice inflicted against JAs. Fuhr feels a certain amount of resentment, find hytrin but he takes every opportunity to talk about his experience. "I just got back from speaking to some children at a school in Chinatown, find hytrin" said Fuhr, find hytrin who lives in Palatine, find hytrin Illinois. Among some other memorabilia, find hytrin he brought his arrest warrant, find hytrin passport and other legal documents to "present a factual situation." about his little known history. One Camp, find hytrin Different Experiences At its peak, find hytrin Crystal City was a bustling mini city with diversity: Japanese Americans, find hytrin German Americans, find hytrin Germans from Latin America, find hytrin Italian Americans and Japanese Latin Americans coexisted in a makeshift community. But its idyllic name belied its desolate location where mesquite trees offered the only reprieve from harsh summer heat. Unlike the main 10 JA internment camps, find hytrin Crystal City housed alien enemies and their families. Often most of those held in camps like Crystal City were arrested under the Alien Enemy Act for simply being community leaders or martial arts instructors. Many were held without formal trials. Fuhr's parents were arrested and taken away while he was working at a North Carolina boy's camp. When he arrived at Crystal City in July 1943, find hytrin the 17-year-old had not seen his parents in a year. The camp was made up of family units that afforded some vestiges of privacy over communal life. It also gave Fuhr his first encounter with Japanese Americans (or "JA's"). "It was strange to hear the language. It was stranger to hear the Japanese music, find hytrin" he said. At Crystal City there were no walls separating ethnic groups, find hytrin but each communities' experiences was carefully delineated. German Americans lived on one side while JAs lived on the other. There was one general high school, find hytrin as well as a German and a Japanese school. "The German Americans lived in their own side of the camp. Find hytrin The Japanese Americans stuck to their own group, find hytrin" said Sumi Shimatsu, find hytrin a Nisei who lived at Crystal City for two years. Find hytrin "We got along, find hytrin but we didn't go out of our way to be friends with them." But all barriers fell away when it came to sports. The Japanese team played the German and Latin American team in softball, find hytrin baseball and eventually soccer. "It was a friendly rivalry, find hytrin" said Fuhr. "They are very big! It made it awfully tough for us to beat them, find hytrin" said George Kodama, find hytrin 79, find hytrin with a laugh. Find hytrin "We were all trying to grow up in a place where we didn't know where we were going." Life After Internment When the fences came down, find hytrin lives further diverged. Find hytrin Some repatriated to the countries that were now foreign while others struggled to reestablish their homes and reconcile with the past. "I didn't talk a lot about it until I retired, find hytrin" said Fuhr about his internment. "Back then I always had the feeling that I couldn't go for a job that required security clearance." He had to wait seven years after his release from Crystal City in order to be applicable for U.S. Find hytrin citizenship, find hytrin but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was never qualified for a job. Unlike the JA community, find hytrin which actively organizes internment camp reunions, find hytrin Fuhr only keeps in touch with a spattering of former German American internees. Life after internment wasn't as smooth for German American internees as JAs, find hytrin said Shimatsu, find hytrin who had just returned from a Crystal City reunion in Las Vegas. Find hytrin "Their anger is much stronger." It's more a feeling of resentment, find hytrin said Fuhr for being left out of history despite their shared experiences. In 1988, find hytrin JAs won the long-fought battle for an apology from the U.S. Find hytrin government and redress, find hytrin while the narratives of other ethnic communities languished in obscurity. "The German experience is not well-known, find hytrin because myths were spread by so-called scholars, find hytrin who knew little or nothing of the truth of internment, find hytrin" said Arthur D. Find hytrin Jacobs, find hytrin a retired major of the U.S. Find hytrin Air Force and researcher of WWII internment history. Fuhr attributes the lack of awareness to the lack of a coalition. Building Bridges, find hytrin Completing History A growing number of campaigning German Americans are now asking for recognition from the American government for their injustice. The Wartime Treatment Study Act, find hytrin which seeks to establish a commission to review the facts surrounding injustices suffered by European Americans, find hytrin European Latin Americans, find hytrin and European refugees during WWII, find hytrin is currently up for debate in Congress. And a "bus-eum" exhibit sponsored by Traces, find hytrin a non-profit educational organization, find hytrin allows visitors to learn about the German American internment experience in a converted mobile museum with its own 21-seat theater. "This history of U.S. Find hytrin internment cannot be limited to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, find hytrin" said Grace Shimizu of Campaign for Justice, find hytrin an advocacy group working for redress for Japanese Latin Americans. Find hytrin "If we want to look to our past to draw lessons for today, find hytrin we need history that is based on truth and accuracy. What is at stake is the defense of our Constitution, find hytrin application of international human rights to the U.S., find hytrin and upholding rule of law and our democratic process." Mending the divide between JAs and other former internees is simple, find hytrin some argue. "The divide can easily be mended first by including all civilian victims of internment in discussions, find hytrin in meetings, find hytrin in bills, find hytrin and in proposals on the subject of internment and second by insisting that our textbooks be corrected, find hytrin followed by an insistence that the social studies curriculum of our schools be required to include a section on the internment of German Americans, find hytrin" said Jacobs. JACL National President Larry Oda was born in Crystal City in 1945 and although he has no memory of the desolate camp, find hytrin he remembers his mother talking about the separate areas for the JAs, find hytrin JLAs and Germans. "Just as we fought to have the injustice inflicted on us acknowledged and corrected, find hytrin part of what we wanted to accomplish was to ensure that all suspension of civil liberties against any group never was allowed to occur again. Find hytrin The JLA and German internees were concurrent with us and should be afforded the same justice as we've achieved." Original piece by Ms. Find hytrin Lin can be found at:Â Â Â http://www.traces.org/buseum_2_tour/Eberhard-Furh.html