New photographs of San José, Costa Rican Penitentiary
Ingrid Cutler and her sister, Heidi Donald, recently visited the penitentiary where their father and uncle, Werner and Karl Oskar Gurcke, were held for six months before they and their families were deported to the U.S. The prison, built in 1909, was vacated in 1979. It sustained major damage in a series of earthquakes, before being remodeled as a children's museum. One wing of the structure contains original cells and a history of the prison, although the imprisoning of enemy aliens in WWII was not included.
Stringtown Internment Camp Map now Online
Thanks to Bill Streifer, an author of articles on intelligence and the history of nuclear weapons, who found the map of the Stringtown Internment Camp in the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas. He is currently working on The Flight of the Hog Wild, co-authored with a Russian journalist, about Fritz Hansgirg, an Austrian-born German national who was interned at Stringtown, and the history of the Japanese and North Korean nuclear weapons program.
"Children of Internment" — a Documentary in the Making
Kristina Wagner and Joe Crump, documentary film makers, recently completed the trailer for "Children of Internment." Their documentary examines the history of the Alien Enemy Control Program and features interviews with historians, authors, former internees, and staff members of the Crystal City, Texas internment camp, where families of German, Italian, and Japanese ethnicity were held during WW II. Their website has biographies of those interviewed, information about the film makers, the trailer for viewing, and a place to share internment stories. Please visit the site and sign up for updates on their project. Your support can help Kristina and Joe convince backers that this little-known piece of WW II history should be presented to a wider audience. And if you have relevant photographs or documents, they would appreciate copies.
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis Hosted Internment Presentation January 26, 2013
On January 26, 2013, Eb Fuhr (Palatine IL), Frances Ott Allen (Cinncinnati, OH), Alfred Wohlpart (Oak Ridge, TN), and Anneliese Krauter (McCordsville, IN) told a rapt audience at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, about the experiences they and their families had as declared enemy aliens in WW II. An audience of around 150 people attended the event, hosted by the director of the library, Julia Whitehead, and her staff.
Additionally, Kristina Wagner, a documentary film maker and long-term actor on "General Hospital," and her videographer, Joe Crump, (who is also her brother and lives in Indianapolis) videotaped the event. They are working on a documentary called Children of Internment. (See above article.)
Anneliese Wiegand Krauter, her parents, and older brother were interned during World War II and were then sent to Germany on the Gripsholm in 1944. She was asked by Dr. Ruth Reichman, the editor-in-chief of the "Indiana German Heritage Society," to write about their wartime experiences. The winter issue in which the article appears was recently issued.
Hilde Mantel Gordon has shared her memories of her Colombian family's experiences during WW II with us. Her family was brought to the U.S. with a group of German diplomats in 1942. Until diplomatic and non-diplomatic families were sorted out, all were interned in a series of elegant resort hotels, treated as guests rather than prisoners. As a child of seven, she remembers a time of games and good food, before her family was sent to Crystal City and then back to Germany. (If you or family members were interned by the U.S. during WW II, we urge you to contact us. Your memories, photographs, and letters are important to document the full story of internment.)
Werner Ulrich recently discovered the following oral histories, done in 1979, available on-line through the University of Texas, San Antonio. All deal with being employed at the Crystal City Internment Camp during the war years. (choice of audio or transcript on the right)
When William McWhorter, Texas Historical Commission military historian, spoke at the Fall 2011 ceremony dedicating eight new interpretive panels at the site of the former family internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, the event was filmed by the Texas Country Reporter. Mr. McWhorter also gave a brief history of the camp, and various former internees talk about their time behind the barbed wire fences during WW II.
Karen Ebel, President of GAIC, recently recorded an oral history for the Story Preservation Initiative. The group's mission "is to create and make available to the general public a diverse collection of oral histories of people who have exhibited a talent, passion, commitment, or way of living that has served to enrich the human experience. The sole function of the collection is to serve as an educational, historical, and cultural resource, available to the general public." Karen's oral history, as well as many others, is available on-line.
Priscilla Wegars, author of Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp, writes that Kooskia had two internee physicians at different times, one Italian, the other German, caring for the Japanese internees. Her book about Kooskia, published in 2010, is distributed by the University of Nebraska Press. She is currently writing another book about the site; it will include more information about the internment camp, as well as the site's history as a CCC Camp and a federal prison camp. See U.S. Department of Justice internment Facilities for more information about Kooskia's camp doctors.
Ursula Potter, daughter of a former internee, retired educator, and an active member of GAIC, wrote an editorial published on January 29 in the TriCity Herald, a newspaper based in the mid-Columbia area of the state of Washington. In it she focuses on the National Defense Authorization Act, with its provision effectively suspending the writ of habeas corpus for U.S. citizens and legal residents, and expresses the concern that our country is repeating the same behavior that led to so many innocent civilians being interned in WW II. Click here to read the article.
Interpretive panels have been placed at the site of the Crystal City, Texas Internment Camp, commemorating the WWII camp and the people held there. More information about the dedication can be found in the Current Events section, (view the panels' content.)
Werner Ulrich, a former internee, just sent us his completed map and drawings of the Crystal City, Texas Internment Camp. There are descriptions and measurements of the overall facility, detailed plans of the various buildings, and a page listing the homes of some of the families interned there. Hospital and teaching staff lists are included, as well as partial lists of births, deaths, and marriages. The map is prominently pictured on many of the interpretive signs to be dedicated at the site this November (see below). Werner's worked on this project for a number of years. He's done a terrific job, and we thank him.
Thanks to John A. Schmitz, we now have the 1944 and 1945 censuses of German American and Latin Americans held at the Crystal City, TX Family Internment Camp in our document archive. John, a former internee, spent a great deal of time at the National Archives, helping his son, John Eric Schmitz, research materials for his 2007 dissertation, so he has a wealth of materials. The dissertation is called "Enemies Among Us: The Relocation and Repatriation of German, Italian and Japanese Americans During the Second World War." (See Resources: Books for details.) (1944 census) (1945 census)
William McWhorter, Military Sites Program Coordinator for the Texas Historical Commission, reports that they have received a second National Park Service grant, which will be used to research the remaining camps and sites in Texas where enemy aliens were held. The sites include Fort Bliss (El Paso), Seagoville, Kenedy, and Dodd Field, Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio). The first grant is being used to produce interpretive signage and a brochure about Crystal City, Texas.
California State University, Fullerton has posted some oral history interviews of administrators of WWII camps holding civilians. Amy N. Stannard was the first woman to oversee an internment facility. She worked at Seagoville, Texas, where the first civilian prisoners were women and children brought up from Panama. Abner Schreiber first worked at Ft. Howard, near Baltimore, Maryland. Later he became second in command of the Immigration and Naturalization Service internment camp at Santa Fe, New Mexico.