Japanese Camps vs German Camps

By: Jacob Floyd


  • Over 127,000 United States citizens were imprisoned during World War II. Their crime? Being of Japanese ancestry.
  • Yonekazu Satoda was confined at an assembly center in Fresno awaiting transfer to the Jerome Relocation Center, a swampy and barren internment camp in Arkansas, when he noted he missed his college graduation.
  • May 13, 1942. He and his family had been yanked from their San Francisco home and funneled into the system of World War II prison camps for Japanese Americans.
  • Satoda, now 94, had left behind and long forgotten the diary of day-to-day life he wrote in the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas as a young man of 22. It resurfaced recently, and is part of an exhibit of Japanese internment materials that just opened at Yale. The exhibit and Satoda’s story were written up this week in the New York Times.
  • Unlike german camps, which had the Jews packed in a railroad carts. After the authorites would get them in the railroad carts they threw a bucket in for human waste, then locked the door so the prizoners could not escape.

  • Rozia Grynbaum was a jewish woman living in Poland with a husband and two daughters. One day in October 1942 the German authorites gathered all the Jews in the marketplace and sorted them into two lines (First one was for people who could do labor, Second was for children and elderly). Rozia decided to not be parted from her children and went in the second line and were sent to the gas chambers

What was it like in both of the camps?

  • Japanese Americans' religious freedoms were violated with respect to the practice of Eastern religious beliefs. The practice of the Shinto religion was prohibited in the camps. Christianity was officially encouraged by camp administrators. At the same time, Buddhism was severely restricted by the ban on written materials in Japanese and the placement of Buddhist clergy in separate Department of Justice internment camps.

  • "We saw all these people behind the fence, looking out, hanging onto the wire, and looking out because they were anxious to know who was coming in. But I will never forget the shocking feeling that human beings were behind this fence like animals [crying]. And we were going to also lose our freedom and walk inside of that gate and find ourselves…cooped up there…when the gates were shut, we knew that we had lost something that was very precious; that we were no longer free." Mary Tsukamoto.

  • Housing conditions for Japanese Americans in internment camps were very different from the regular houses. Japanese were housed in barracks; sometimes entire families live in one room cells. Internment camps were sometimes located in remote areas where weather conditions was hard to live in, such as Manzanar and Tulelake in California . Japanese also had to use communal areas for washing, laundry, and eating . Mine Okubo talksthe conditions of the camps, “The camps represented a prison: no freedom, no privacy ( no ‘America’). Internment camps were also guarded by US military personnel , and a barb wire perimeter.

  • “Hot as hell today,” Yonekazu Satoda reported the following evening. “Ptomaine poisoning in mess hall,” he added. “3 or 4 hundred sick.”

  • On the other hand on arrival The Jews had all there clothing taken away unlike the Japanese-Americans who were allowed to wear there clothing. They Germans had them put on a striped uniform. Men would wear hats, vests, and trousers. Women would be supplied a smock dress. On their feet they wore wooden or leather clogs.
  • During the first several months, the prisoners rooms didn't have any beds or furniture. They slept on straw-stuffed and laid on the floor. After reveille in the morning, they piled the mattresses in a corner of the room. The rooms were so overcrowded that prisoners could sleep only on their sides. Three-tiered bunks began appearing gradually in the rooms from February 1941. Theoretically designed for three prisoners, they in fact accommodated more. Aside from the beds, the furniture in each block included a dozen or more wooden wardrobes, several tables, and several score stools. Coal-fired tile stoves provided the heating.
  • In the first months, the prisoners drew water from two wells. After the rebuilding of the camp, each building had lavatories, usually on the ground floor, containing 22 toilets, urinals, and washbasins with trough-type drains and 42 spigots installed above them. The fact that prisoners from the upstairs and downstairs had to use a single lavatory meant that access was strictly limited.

How were the Jewish and Japanese-Americans treated?

  • "Venomous words, but actually mild in comparison to others that were being publicly uttered ' A good solution to the Jap problem in Idaho-and the nation-would be to send them all back to Japan, then sink the island...,' Idaho's governor Chase Clark proposed to a large auidence." (From the book IMPRISONED by Martin W. Sandler.
  • For the Japanese-Americans their was no proof that the Japanese-Americans were spies, everyone was just afraid that they were.
  • But for the Jews German authorities demanded that Jews relinquish property such as radios, cameras, bicycles, electrical appliances, and other valuables, to local officials. In September 1941, a decree prohibited Jews from using public transportation. In the same month came the notorious edict requiring Jews over the age of six to wear the yellow Jewish Star on their clothes. While ghettos were generally not established in Germany, strict residence regulations forced Jews to live in designated areas of German cities, concentrating them in Jewish houses. German authorities issued ordinances requiring Jews fit for work to perform compulsory forced labor.

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What happened to the Japanese and Jews after the war?

  • The war ended, the Japanese internees were freed and left to rebuild their lives as best they could. Two disadvantages they faced were poverty many had lost their businesses, occupations and property and lingering prejudice. The latter was poisonous but irregular. The difficulty of generalizing is highlighted by two recollections Robinson cites concerning New York. One Nisei found the postwar air there so bracing she could say, “I became a free person for the first time.”
  • Acting to redress what many Americans now regard as a historic injustice, the Senate today voted overwhelmingly to give $20,000 and an apology to each of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into relocation camps, this was passed in 1988! 43 years after they were freed!
  • For the Jews after the liberation, many Jewish survivors feared to return to their former homes because of the hatred of Jews that persisted in parts of Europe and the trauma they had suffered. Some who returned home feared for their lives. In postwar Poland, for example, there were a number of violent anti-Jewish riots. The largest of these occurred in the town of Kielce in 1946 when Polish rioters killed at least 42 Jews and beat many others.
  • A considerable number and variety of Jewish agencies worked to assist the Jewish displaced persons. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provided Holocaust survivors with food and clothing, while the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT) offered vocational training. Refugees also formed their own organizations, and many labored for the establishment of an independent Jewish state in Palestine.