Holocaust vs. Japanese Internment
Readings for Graphic Organizer
America and the Jewish Holocaust
Terms: Concentration camp: Concentration camps were prisons used without regard to accepted norms of arrest and detention. They were an essential part of Nazi systematic oppression. Initially (1933-36), they were used primarily for political prisoners. Later (1936-42), concentration camps were expanded and non-political prisoners--Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and Poles--were also incarcerated. In the last period of the Nazi regime (1942-45), prisoners of concentration camps were forced to work in the armament industry, as more and more Germans were fighting in the war. Living conditions varied considerably from camp to camp and over time. The worst conditions took place from 1936-42, especially after the war broke out. Death, disease, starvation, crowded and unsanitary conditions, and torture were a daily part of concentration camps.
Genocide: The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, cultural, or religious group.
America Before the Holocaust: America immigration policies and attitudes towards European immigrants shifted greatly in the years leading up to World War II. The years prior to 1920 had seen the first “Red Scare,” communist influence and the Palmer Raids shape fears over Europeans immigrating to the United States and what they might be bringing to the United States. During World War I the United States had sought to implement an isolationist policy and separate itself from the troubles of Europe before being brought into the War. The 1920’s saw a continued mindset of the United States limiting European immigration by instating quotas limiting the amount of Europeans. The 1930’s and the Great Depression and economic hardship (and the insecurity it inspired) it brought had a profound impact upon Americans. It instilled a profound fear in the hearts of the average person: a fear that he or she would not be able to provide for their family. As a result, Americans became in inward-looking people, a people concerned first and foremost with their own economic well-being and concerned very little with the plight of the Jews (or the Poles, etc.) in Europe. It was precisely during this time of economic hardship in the United States that the Jews of Europe sought an avenue of escape from the Nazis. The visa (an official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country) became, quite literally, a ticket to survival. In order to protect American jobs, quotas had been placed on European immigration. Eventually with the outbreak of war between the U. S. and Germany in 1941 effectively closed the doors to U. S. immigration entirely. U. S. officials argued that the threat of spies smuggling themselves into the country under the immigration process was too great.
The Camps: Camps were an essential part of the Nazis' systematic oppression and mass murder of Jews, political adversaries, and others considered socially and racially undesirable. There were concentration camps, forced labor camps, extermination or death camps, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps. The living conditions of all camps were brutal. Dachau one of the first Nazi concentration camps, opened in March 1933, and at first interned only known political opponents of the Nazis: Communists, Social Democrats, and others who had been condemned in a court of law. Gradually, a more diverse group was imprisoned, including Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies, dissenting clergy, homosexuals, as well as others who were denounced for making critical remarks about the Nazis. Six death or extermination camps were constructed in Poland. These so-called death factories were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec , Sobibór, Lublin (also called Majdanek), and Chelmno . The primary purpose of these camps was the methodical killing of millions of innocent people. The first, Chelmno, began operating in late 1941. The others began their operations in 1942.
The Beginning: In the beginning of the systematic mass murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen consisted of four units of between 500 and 900 men each which followed the invading German troops into the Soviet Union. By the time Himmler ordered a halt to the shooting in the fall of 1942, they had murdered approximately 1,500,000 Jews. The death camps proved to be a better, faster, less personal method for killing Jews, one that would spare the shooters, not the victims, emotional anguish. In September 1941, the Nazis began using gassing vans--trucks loaded with groups of people who were locked in and asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. These vans were used until the completion of the first death camp, Chelmno, which began operations in late 1941. In January 1942, SS official Reinhard Heydrich held a meeting of Nazi government officials to present the Final Solution. At this meeting, known as the Wannsee Conference , the Nazi officials agreed to SS plans for the transport and destruction of all 11 million Jews of Europe. The Nazis would use the latest in twentieth century technology, cost efficient engineering and mass production techniques for the sole purpose of killing off the following racial groups: Jews, Russian prisoners of war, and Gypsies (Sinti-Roma). Their long-range plans, unrealized, included targeting some 30 million Slavs for death. Starting early in 1942, the Jewish genocide (sometimes called the Judeocide) went into full operation. Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau), Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibór began operations as death camps. There was no selection process; Jews were destroyed upon arrival.
Deportation: In response to this new "resettlement" policy, the first death camps were designed. Chelmno was the site of the first gassing of Jews, which occurred on December 8, 1941. The Nazi war machine had limited resources, including slave labor, much of it Jewish. Even so, the Nazis made a decision that the annihilation of the Jews of Europe was a more important achievement than
the value of their labor. Similarly, the Nazis made a decision not to let the need for transport for the war effort interfere with the need for trucks and rail cars to carry the Jews to concentration camps and death centers. It was Adolf Eichmann who masterminded the logistics of the deportation of Jews. Deportation was the first step in the "Final Solution." Typically, the Jews were informed that they were going to be resettled for work. Each was told to take some clothing, blankets, shoes, eating utensils (but no knife), a bowl, and some money. Rounded up, they were herded into trucks for the trip to the rail station, or were forced to walk. The rail cars were often strategically located at a distance from the passenger terminals, so that this scene would not arouse the ire of the local populace. Many who did see chose not to protest. The deportees were forced into rail cars, most of which were windowless, unheated cattle cars, and squeezed in so tightly that most were forced to stand. The doors were then sealed shut from the outside. Neither drinking water nor sanitary facilities were available. Each car held more than 120 people, and many froze or suffocated to death or succumbed to disease during the trip to the camps. The dead were not removed from the cars during the journey because the Nazi bureaucracy insisted that each body entering a car be accounted for at the destination.
Concentration Camps: The Nazi concentration camps were established beginning in 1933 for the purpose of imprisoning political opponents. After the "Night of the Long Knives" (see Chapter 8, page 65), authority and management of the concentration camps was turned over to the S.S. The S.S. expanded the concentration camp system, and used these facilities to warehouse other "undesirables," including hundreds of thousands of Jews. Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were among the first concentration camps built by the Nazis near Munich, Weimar, and Berlin respectively. Upon arrival at a camp, the inmates were usually stripped of all their valuables and clothes. They were then shorn of body hair, disinfected, given a shower, and issued a striped prison uniform without regard to size. Each step of the process was designed to dehumanize the prisoners, both physically and emotionally. Each prisoner was given a number. At Auschwitz, for example, the number was tattooed on the arm, but some camps did not tattoo their inmates.
Life in the camps was a living hell. As described by Judah Pilch in "Years of the Holocaust: The Factual Story," which appears in The Jewish Catastrophe in Europe, a typical day in the life of a concentration camp inmate began at dawn, when they were roused from their barracks which housed 300-800 inmates each. Their "beds" were bunks of slatted wood two and three tiers high. Frequently three to four prisoners shared each bunk, not permitting space enough for them to stretch out for normal sleep. The inmates were organized into groups to go to the toilets, marched to a distribution center for a breakfast consisting of some bread and a liquid substitute for tea or coffee, and then sent out to work for 10-14 hours in mines, factories, and road or airfield building, often in sub-zero weather or the severe heat of summer. The Jews "lived" on starvation rations. A daily ration was: a piece of black bread, about as thick as your thumb; some margarine about the size of three sticks of chewing gum; and a small cup of something that was supposed to be soup. They were subjected to constant physical and emotional harassment and beating. The inmates' food rations did not permit survival for very long. Those who resisted orders of the guards were shot on the spot. Numerous roll calls were held to assure that no prisoners had escaped. If one did attempt an escape, all of the inmates suffered for it.
Within the camps, the Nazis established a hierarchical identification system and prisoners were organized based on nationality and grounds for incarceration. Prisoners with a higher social status within the camp were often rewarded with more desirable work assignments such as administrative positions indoors. Some, such as the kapos (work supervisors) or camp elders held the power of life and death over other prisoners. Those lower on the social ladder had more physically demanding tasks such as factory work, mining, and construction, and suffered a much higher mortality rate from the combined effects of physical exhaustion, meager rations, and extremely harsh treatment from guards and some kapos. Prisoners also staffed infirmaries, kitchens, and served various other functions within the camp. Living conditions were harsh and extreme but varied greatly from camp to camp and also changed over time.
Death Camps: The German skill in adapting the 20th century techniques of mass production was applied in engineering the "Final Solution." In 1941, the engineers of the "Final Solution" utilized these same principles to cheaply and efficiently murder millions of Jews and other "undesirables." The plants established to carry out this mass murder were the death camps. Unlike concentration camps, death camps had no barracks to house prisoners, other than those for workers at the camps. In order to process the murder of thousands of people, great pains were taken to deceive the victims concerning their fate. Jews deported from ghettos and concentration camps to the death camps were unaware of what they were facing. The Nazi planners of the operation told the victims that they were being resettled for labor, issued them work permits, told them to bring along their tools and to exchange their German marks for foreign currency. Food was also used to coax starving Jews onto the trains. Once the trains arrived at the death camps, trucks were available to transport those who were too weak to walk directly to the gas chambers. The others were told that they would have to be deloused and enter the baths. The victims were separated by sex and told to remove their clothes. The baths were in reality the gas chambers. The shower heads in the baths were actually the inlets for poison gas. At Auschwitz, the gas chambers held 2,000 people at a time. With the introduction of a cyanide-based gas called Zyklon B, all 2,000 occupants could be killed in five minutes. As a result of this technological "advancement," Auschwitz was able to "process" the death of 12,000 victims daily. Before the bodies were removed by workers with gas masks and burned in crematoria, the teeth of the victims were stripped
for gold, which was melted down and shipped back to Germany. Innocent victims were exploited and desecrated to a degree unknown in human history. Unlike the death camps of Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, and Belzec, which were built and operated solely to kill Jews, the two death camps of Maidanek and Auschwitz also had a work camp attached. Upon arrival at these two camps, a selection was made at the train station concerning which Jews (about 10 percent of the arrivals) would be permitted to live and escape immediate gassing in the gas chambers. These "lucky" survivors were permitted to live only to the extent that they endured the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon them. They were given a food ration that permitted them to survive for only three months. As they died from exhaustion, beatings, and starvation, they were replaced with newly arrived victims. Auschwitz was also used as the site for medical experimentation. Many of these experiments had little scientific value but were only exercises to discover how much torture a victim could endure until death. By the end of 1944, an estimated two-and-a-half million Jews had died at Auschwitz. More than a quarter of a million Gypsies also died there.
Results: Ultimately, the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of some 2.7 million Jews in the death camps. These murders were done secretly under the ruse of resettlement. The Germans hid their true plans from citizens and inhabitants of the ghettos by claiming that Jews were being resettled in the East. They went so far as to charge Jews for a one-way train fare and often, just prior to their murder, had the unknowing victims send reassuring postcards back to the ghettos. Thus did millions of Jews go unwittingly to their deaths with little or no resistance. The total figure for the Jewish genocide, including shootings and the camps, was between 5.2 and 5.8 million, roughly half of Europe's Jewish population, the highest percentage of loss of any people in the war. About 5 million other victims perished at the hands of Nazi Germany.
US & the Holocaust:
During World War II, rescue of Jews and other victims of the Nazis was not a priority for the United States government. Nor was it always clear to Allied policy makers how they could pursue large-scale rescue actions behind German lines. Due in part to antisemitism (prejudice against or hatred of Jews), isolationism, the economic Depression, and xenophobia (prejudice against or fear of foreigners), the refugee policy of the U.S. State Department (led by Secretary of State Cordell Hull) made it difficult for refugees to obtain entry visas to the United States. The U.S. State Department also delayed publicizing reports of genocide. In August 1942, the State Department received a cable revealing Nazi plans for the murder of Europe's Jews. However, the report, sent by Gerhart Riegner (the World Jewish Congress [WJC] representative in Geneva) was not passed on to its intended recipient, American Jewish leader and WJC president Stephen Wise. The State Department asked Wise, who had almost simultaneously received the report via British channels, to refrain from announcing it. The United States failed to act decisively to rescue victims of the Holocaust. On April 19, 1943, U.S. and British representatives met in Bermuda to find solutions to wartime refugee problems. No significant proposals emerged from the conference. In 1943, Polish underground courier Jan Karski informed President Franklin D. Roosevelt of reports of mass murder received from Jewish leaders in the Warsaw ghetto. U.S. authorities did not, however, initiate any action aimed at rescuing refugees until 1944, when Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board (WRB). That year the WRB set up the Fort Ontario Refugee Center in Oswego, NY, to facilitate rescue of imperiled refugees. By the time the War Refugee Board was established, however, four fifths of the Jews who would die in the Holocaust were already dead.
Japanese Internment Camps
Japanese Internment Camps
Internment Camp: define: a camp for prisoners of war
On February 19, 1942, soon after the beginning of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The evacuation order commenced the round-up of 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage to one of 10 internment camps—officially called "relocation centers"—in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas.
Why Were the Camps Established? Over 127,000 United States citizens were imprisoned during World War II. Their crime? Being of Japanese ancestry. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Japanese Americans were suspected of remaining loyal to their ancestral land. anti-Japanese paranoia increased because of a large Japanese presence on the West Coast. In the event of a Japanese invasion of the American mainland, Japanese Americans were feared as a security risk. Giving in to bad advice and popular opinion, President Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 ordering the relocation of all Americans of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps in the interior of the United States.
Roosevelt's executive order was fueled by anti-Japanese sentiment among farmers who competed against Japanese labor, politicians who sided with anti-Japanese constituencies, and the general public, whose frenzy was heightened by the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. More than two-thirds of the Japanese who were interned in the spring of 1942 were citizens of the United States.
Evacuation Orders: Evacuation orders were posted in Japanese-American communities giving instructions on how to comply with the executive order. Many families sold their homes, their stores, and most of their assets. They could not be certain their homes and livelihoods would still be there upon their return. Because of the mad rush to sell, properties and inventories were often sold at a fraction of their true value.
Until the camps were completed, many of the evacuees were held in temporary centers, such as stables at local racetracks. Almost two-thirds of the interns were Nisei, or Japanese Americans born in the United States. It made no difference that many had never even been to Japan. Even Japanese-American veterans of World War I were forced to leave their homes.
Conditions in the U.S.: Camps Ten camps were finally completed in remote areas of seven western states. Housing consisted mainly of tarpaper barracks. Families dined together at communal mess halls, and children were expected to attend school. Adults had the option of working for a salary of $5 per day. The United States government hoped that the interns could make the camps self-sufficient by farming to produce food. But cultivation on arid soil was quite a challenge.
The U.S. internment camps were overcrowded and provided poor living conditions. According to a 1943 report published by the War Relocation Authority (the administering agency), Japanese Americans were housed in "tarpaper -covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Coal was hard to come by, and internees slept under as many blankets as they were allotted. Food was rationed out at an expense of 48 cents per internee, and served by fellow internees in a mess hall of 250-300 people. Leadership positions within the camps were only offered to the Nisei, or American- born, Japanese. The older generation, or the Issei, were forced to watch as the government promoted their children and ignored them. Eventually the government allowed internees to leave the concentration camps if they enlisted in the U.S. Army. This offer was not well received. Only 1,200 internees chose to do so.
On the whole, however, life in the relocation centers was not easy. The camps were often too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The food was mass produced army-style grub. And the interns knew that if they tried to flee, armed sentries who stood watch around the clock, would shoot them.
Legal Challenges to Internment: Two important legal cases were brought against the United States concerning the internment. The landmark cases were Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), and Korematsu v. United States (1944). The defendants argued their fifth amendment rights were violated by the U.S. government because of their ancestry. In both cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the U.S. government
Other Groups in the Camps: While Japanese-Americans comprised the overwhelming majority of those in the camps, thousands of Americans of German, Italian, and other European descent were also forced to relocate there. Many more were classified as "enemy aliens" and subject to increased restrictions.
US Reactions: The Japanese attack propelled the United States into World War II. The Americans were unified by the attack to fight against the Empire of Japan and its allies, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
The unannounced attack at Pearl Harbor prior to a declaration of war was presented to the American populace as an act of treachery and cowardice LIFE magazine published an article on how to tell a Japanese from a Chinese person by the shape of the nose and the stature of the body. Japanese conduct during the war did little to quell anti-Japanese sentiment. Fanning the flames of outrage were the treatment of American and other prisoners of war. Military-related outrages included the murder of POWs, the use of POWs as slave labor for Japanese industries, the Bataan Death March, the Kamikaze attacks on Allied ships, and atrocities committed on Wake Island and elsewhere.
U. S. historian James J. Weingartner attributes the very low number of Japanese in U.S. POW compounds to two key factors: a Japanese reluctance to surrender and a widespread American "conviction that the Japanese were 'animals' or 'subhuman' and unworthy of the normal treatment accorded to POWs.”
An estimated 120,000 Japanese migrants and Japanese Americans from the West Coast were interned regardless of their attitude to the US or Japan. They were held for the duration of the war in the inner US. The large Japanese population of Hawaii was not massively relocated in spite of their proximity to vital military areas. A 1944 opinion poll found that 13% of the U.S. public were in favor of the extermination of all Japanese.
Closure of the Camps: In 1944, two and a half years after signing Executive Order 9066, fourth-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt rescinded the order. The last internment camp was closed by the end of 1945.
Government Apologies and Reparations: Forced into confinement by the United States, 5,766 Nisei ultimately renounced their American citizenship. In 1968, nearly two dozen years after the camps were closed, the government began reparations to Japanese Americans for property they had lost.
In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed legislation which awarded formal payments of $20,000 each to the surviving internees—60,000 in all. While the American concentration camps never reached the levels of Nazi death camps as far as atrocities are concerned, they remain a dark mark on the nation's record of respecting civil liberties and cultural differences.