War II Violations of the Civil Liberties of German Americans and German
by the US Government
constitute the largest ethnic group in the US. Approximately 60 million
Americans claim German ancestry. German American loyalty to America's
promise of freedom traces back to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless,
during World War II, the US government and many Americans viewed ethnic
Germans and others of "enemy ancestry" as potentially dangerous,
particularly recent immigrants. The Japanese American World War II
experience is well known. Few, however, know of the European American
World War II experience, particularly that of the German Americans and
Latin Americans. We also have much to learn about the Japanese and
Italian Latin American programs. The focus of this overview is the US
resident German experience, however, the programs were applied to all
of “enemy ancestry” with varying ramifications. For more information
regarding the internment of Germans from Latin America, click here. For more
information regarding the related legal framework, click here.
government used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable
methods to control those of enemy ancestry, including internment,
individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges
for Americans held in Germany, deportation, "alien enemy" registration
requirements, travel restrictions and property confiscation. The human
cost of these civil liberties violations was high. Families were
disrupted, reputations destroyed, homes and belongings lost. Meanwhile,
untold numbers of German Americans fought for freedom around the world,
including their ancestral homelands. Some were the immediate relatives
of those subject to oppressive restrictions on the home front.
Pressured by the US, Latin American governments arrested at least 8500
German Latin Americans. An unknown number were sent directly to
Germany, while 4050 were shipped in dark boat holds to the United
States and interned. At least 2,650 US and Latin American resident
immigrants of German ethnicity and their native-born children were
later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held in Germany. Some
allege that internees were captured to use as exchange bait.
During World War II, our government had to do its utmost
to ensure domestic security against dangerous elements in its midst.
But it could have exercised greater vigilance to protect the liberties
of those most vulnerable because of their ethnic ties to enemy nations.
Some were dangerous, but too many were assumed guilty and never able to
prove their innocence. Admittedly, US wartime governmental actions are
difficult to assess decades later. To prevent possible future erosion
of our civil liberties, however, the federal government must fully
review and acknowledge its wartime civil liberties violations. A
comprehensive federal review of the European American experience has
never been done. On August 3, 2001, Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI)
and Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced The Wartime Treatment Study Act
in the US Senate for the first time. This bill would create a
independent commission to review US government policies directed
against European "enemy" ethnic groups during World War II in the US
and Latin America. This commission would also review the US
government's denial of asylum to European (primarily Jewish) refugees
seeking refuge in the US from persecution in Europe. The bill was most recently reintroduced in March 2009. Read
More on Legislative Efforts.
The following summarizes two methods of control: internment
and exclusion. A
timeline of relevant events follows.
Pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 (50 USC
21-24), which remains in effect today, the US may apprehend, intern and
otherwise restrict the freedom of "alien enemies" upon declaration of
war or actual, attempted or threatened invasion by a foreign nation.
During World War II, the US Government interned at least 11,000 persons
of German ancestry. By law, only "enemy aliens" could be interned.
However, with governmental approval, their family members frequently
joined them in the camps. Many such "voluntarily" interned spouses and
children were American citizens. Internment was frequently based upon
uncorroborated, hearsay evidence gathered by the FBI and other
intelligence agencies. Homes were raided and many ransacked. Fathers,
mothers and sometimes both were arrested and disappeared. Sometimes
children left after the arrests had to fend for themselves. Some were
placed in orphanages. Read More Real
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) instituted very
limited due process protections for those arrested. Potential internees
were held in custody for weeks in temporary detention centers, such as
jails and hospitals, prior to their hearings. Frequently, their
families had no idea where they were for weeks. The hearings took place
before DOJ-constituted civilian hearing boards. Those arrested were
subject to hostile questioning by the local prosecuting US Attorney,
who was assisted by the investigating FBI agents. The intimidated,
frequently semi-fluent accused had no right to counsel, could not
contest the proceedings or question their accusers. Hearing board
recommendations were forwarded to the DOJ’s Alien Enemy Control Unit
(“AECU”) for a final determination that could take weeks or months.
remained in custody nervously awaiting DOJ's order--unconditional
release, parole or internment. Policy dictated that the AECU resolve
what it deemed to be questionable hearing board recommendations in
favor of internment. Based on AECU recommendations, the Attorney
General issued internment orders for the duration of the war. Internees
were shipped off to distant camps.
Families were torn apart and lives disrupted, many irreparably. Family
members left at home were shunned due to fear of the FBI and spite.
Newspapers published stories and incriminating lists. Eventually
destitute, many families lost their homes and had to apply to the
government to join spouses in family camps, apply for welfare and/or
rely on other family members who could afford to support them.
Eventually, under such duress, hundreds of internees agreed to
repatriate to war-torn Germany to be exchanged with their children for
Americans. Once there, food was scarce, Allied bombs were falling and
their German families could do little to help them. Many regretted
their decision. Considering the spurious allegations, which led to the
internment of a majority of internees, their treatment by our
government was harsh indeed. Their experience provides ample evidence
of why our civil liberties are so precious.
with the War Department, pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act, DOJ created
a network of prohibited zones and restricted areas. Enemy aliens were
forbidden to enter or remain in certain areas and their movements
severely restricted in others. The restrictions imposed great hardship
on those living or working in these areas. Pursuant to Presidential
Executive Order 9066, the military could restrict the liberties of
citizens and aliens, as it deemed necessary. This led to the exclusion
of individuals and groups from extensive "military zones" comprising
over a third of the US. The most well known group exclusion was the
massive relocation US citizens and aliens of Japanese ancestry from the
West Coast and their subsequent incarceration overseen by the War
Relocation Authority. Several hundred individual exclusion orders were
was particularly suspicious of naturalized citizens of enemy ethnicity.
Citizens could not be interned, so the military threatened those it
deemed dangerous with exclusion. Many felt contesting exclusion orders
was futile and moved before an order was actually issued. Unlike West
Coast Japanese group exclusion pursuant to Executive Order 9066,
hearings were required for individual exclusions. Resembling enemy
alien internment hearings, these hearings were subject to very limited
due process protections, clearly violating the rights of American
citizens. If an exclusion order was issued following a hearing,
excludees were given little time to depart. Homes were abandoned. Some
excludees left their families behind. FBI agents followed them to their
new communities. The government often advised police and employers how
"dangerous" excludees were, so finding and keeping jobs was difficult.
Little or government resettlement assistance was given to excludees.
Some contested their exclusion orders in court, protesting the
government's violation of their due process rights. After several
federal courts found the military's actions of questionable
constitutionality, the individual exclusion program decreased in
popularity. Although more unusual, in lieu of exclusion the government
also sought to denaturalize citizens, so they could be interned as
enemy aliens or deported.
federal legislation and effective activism by their ethnic group, US
government mistreatment of Japanese Americans is well known. After
almost 60 years, the German American and Latin American experiences
remains buried. The few surviving, aged internees remember their
experiences well, despite years of trying to forget. Their memories
haunt them. Mostly, because they are Americans who revere freedom, they
want the dreadful saga of their wartime mistreatment told so it will
never happen again.
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History of Wartime Treatment of Germans from the United
States and Latin America by Karen E. Ebel (2006)
1917 · 1939 ·
Dec 7,1941 · Dec 11,1941
· Oct 1942 · May 7,1945 · 1980's to present
The Passport Acts of February 5, 1917 and May 22, 1918 make entering
the US without a passport or other travel documentation illegal.
1918 Codification of Alien Enemies Act of 1798, 50 U.S.C
21-24, permitting apprehension and internment of aliens of “enemy
ancestry” by U.S. government upon declaration of war or threat of
invasion. The President is given blanket authority as to “enemy alien”
treatment. Civil liberties may be completely ignored because enemy
aliens have no protection under this 200+-year-old law. Government
oppression is likely during wartime.
Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes creation of new secret intelligence
agency to be deployed for espionage and counterespionage in the Latin
America. Federal Bureau of Information (“FBI”) chief, J. Edgar Hoover,
creates the Secret Intelligence Service in July 1940.
governmental bodies, such as the FBI, special intelligence agencies of
the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Office of Naval Intelligence,
and the Army’s Military Intelligence Division compile lists of
dangerous “enemy aliens” and citizens, including the FBI’s Custodial
Detention Index (the “CDI”).
1940 The US census data includes specific
listings and location of persons based on their ethnicity, which may
have assisted the U.S. Government in later identification of “suspect”
individuals of “enemy ancestry.”
1940 Alien Registration Act of 1940 passed
requiring all aliens 14 and older to register with the U.S. government.
1941 Roosevelt issues Presidential
Proclamation 2497 setting forth the Proclaimed List of Certain Blocked
Nationals following Britain’s example. The proclamation lists Axis
citizens and businesses with which the US could no longer deal.
|Dec. 7, 1941 Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.
Pursuant to the Alien Enemy Act, Roosevelt issues identical
Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 branding German, Italian and Japanese
nationals as enemy aliens, authorizing internment and travel and
property ownership restrictions. A blanket presidential warrant
authorizes U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle to have the FBI arrest
a large number of “dangerous enemy aliens” based on the CDI. Hundreds
of German aliens are arrested by the end of the day. The FBI raids many
homes and detains many hundreds before war even declared on Germany.
Martial law declared in Hawaii and hundreds of US citizens and aliens
of German ancestry interned, as well as those of Italian and Japanese
ancestry. By Dec. 10, 449 Japanese, German and Italian aliens were
interned, as well as 43 German, Japanese and Italian American citizens.
|Dec. 11, 1941 U.S. declares war on Germany
Jan. 1942 Pursuant to Presidential
Proclamation 2525-2527 and 2537 (issued Jan.14, 1942), the Attorney
General issues regulations requiring application for and issuance of
certificates of identification to all “enemy aliens” aged 14 and older
and outlining restrictions on their movement and property ownership
rights. Approximately one million enemy aliens reregister, including
300,000 German-born aliens, the 2nd largest immigrant group at that
time. Applications are forwarded to the DOJ’s Alien Registration
Division and the FBI. Any change of address, employment or name must be
reported to the FBI. Enemy aliens may not enter federally designated
restricted areas. If enemy aliens violate these or other applicable
regulations, they are subject to “arrest, detention and internment for
the duration of the war.” U.S. Government seeks cancellation of
citizenship in federal courts for “suspicious” naturalized citizens of
“enemy ancestry.” Individuals frequently accused of fraudulently taking
oath of citizenship which requires pledge of sole allegiance to the
U.S. and renunciation of allegiance to all other countries. Once
citizenship is cancelled, individuals can be interned or deported as
1942 In cooperation with the military, the DOJ establishes
numerous, small prohibited zones strictly forbidden to all enemy
aliens. DOJ also establishes extensive “restricted areas” in which
enemy aliens are subject to stringent curfew and travel restrictions,
particularly on the West Coast.
Jan. 1942 Emergency Advisory Committee
for Political Defense created at conference of Western Hemisphere
countries in Rio de Janeiro to monitor “enemy aliens” in Latin America.
Laws established similar to enemy alien laws in the US requiring aliens
from Axis nations to register with their local authorities, restricting
travel and personal property rights and subjecting the aliens to
increased surveillance. Naturalization procedures slowed. Detention of
“suspicious” enemy aliens urged. Cancellation of citizenship
recommended for “suspicious” native-born or naturalized citizens from
Axis nations. Once citizenship cancelled, detention as enemy alien
Feb. 19, 1942 Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066
authorizing the Secretary of War to define military areas in which “the
right of any person to enter, remain in or leave shall be subject to
whatever restrictions” are deemed necessary or desirable. This order
applies to all “enemy” nationalities.
March 11, 1942 Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9095 establishing
the Office of the Alien Property Custodian pursuant to authority
granted under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. Pursuant to the
order, the property interests of all foreign countries and their
citizens vested in the Alien Property Custodian at his discretion until
such time as he relinquished control of those interests. This Order
created havoc in the lives of many internees and their families,
particularly when the heads of households were arrested.
October 1942 Wartime
restrictions on Italian Americans terminated.
1942 – 1943 The US Army and the DOJ
establish and administer internment camps throughout the country. The
Immigration and Naturalization Service operates the DOJ camps. The
largest DOJ camps holding ethnic Germans are in Crystal City and
Seagoville, Texas and Ft. Lincoln, ND. At least 50 temporary detention
and long-term internment facilities are used throughout the US.
Internees are transferred from camp to camp under armed guard, further
disrupting their lives and making it even more difficult for their
families to find them. Read More on
1942 U.S. Government initiates exchanges
of approximately 2,650 internees for Americans held in Germany. Six
exchange voyages carry many families to Germany, including
American-born children and U.S. citizen spouses of German alien
internees. LINK to Gripsholm Tickets DOCUMENT As the war progresses,
travel across the Atlantic is increasingly hazardous. Upon arrival in
war-ravaged Germany, exchangees are unexpected and unwanted by their
families. Many are suspected of being spies. Families with young
children, some even born during the trip to Germany, have to make their
own way to family homes through hazardous countryside, frequently in
winter, carrying all their worldly belongings. Some men are beaten and
arrested by the Gestapo as spies and put in camps, leaving families
1942 The U.S. initiates a cooperative
program whereby Latin American countries at U.S. direction capture
German Latin Americans, including German and Austrian Jews who had fled
persecution. Under U.S. military guard, most prisoners are shipped to
the U.S. in the dark, dank holds of boats and rarely permitted on deck.
Open bucket latrines are placed among the prisoners. No one informs
them why or where they are going. They are interned and many are
forcibly shipped to Germany. General George Marshall states in a
12/12/42 memo to the Caribbean Defense Command: “These interned
nationals are to be used for exchange with interned American civilian
nationals.” By the end of the war, over 4,050 German Latin Americans
are brought to American internment camps.
Click here for full text of George Marshall Memo
Click here for full text of LaFoon Memo
1942 – 1945 Thousands of German aliens
and German Americans are arrested, interned, excluded, paroled,
exchanged and generally harassed by a suspicious country. Few know why
they are interned or for how long. Internees try to make lives in
camps, attempting to ignore the psychological and physical upheaval to
which they have been subjected. Mental anguish, anger, guilt and shame
are common. Armed guards and guard dogs watch over internees living in
huts or dorms in barren parts of the country surrounded by barbed wire,
observed from guard towers. All mail is censored. Contact with the
outside world is severely limited. Many continually appeal their
internment orders. DOJ generally ignores their requests, requiring
unobtainable “new evidence” for consideration of appeals. Some are
granted rehearings, pursuant to which an even smaller number are
released. Released internees do not know why or ever learn why they
were interned. Those released are generally subject to parole
restrictions. Many internees are pressured to repatriate. Hopeless and
bitter, many agree and are readily used for exchange. Some are
exchanged against their will. There were six exchanges with Germany,
primarily of civilians, but also of POWs. One trip of the SS Gripsholm
in January 1945 involves 1,000 exchangees. The government arranges for
“trustworthy” able-bodied men to work outside camps. One group works on
the Northern Pacific Railroad in North Dakota repairing the railroad
tracks and living in boxcars with coal stoves throughout the winter.
Others work for the Forest Service and 3M.
May 7, 1945 Germany
July 1945 Truman issues Presidential
Proclamation 2655 authorizing the U.S. to deport all enemy aliens
deemed “to be dangerous to the public peace and safety of the United
States.” This affects hundreds, if not thousands, of internees who
remain imprisoned indefinitely.
Aug. 14, 1945 Japan surrenders.
Sept. 8, 1945 President
Harry S Truman issues Presidential Proclamation 2662 authorizing the
U.S. Secretary of State to order the repatriation of dangerous enemy
aliens deported from Latin American countries during the war. Latin American Program.
November 1945 Many
internees are released from camps and parole limitations for most
persons are terminated. Internment camps are progressively closed and
remaining internees are eventually consolidated at Crystal City and
April 10, 1946 President
Harry S Truman issues Presidential
Proclamation 2685, superseding Presidential Proclamation 2662,
reauthorizing the U.S. Secretary of State to order the repatriation of
dangerous enemy aliens deported from Latin American countries during
the war and deemed 30 days as a sufficient period for deportees to get
their affairs in order for deportation. Latin American Program.
Late 1947 Crystal City family camp
closes. Those still imprisoned, exclusively German internees and their
families, are transferred to cramped Ellis Island where others are
held. Virtually all are of German ancestry. Over the next year, many
additional persons are returned to Germany. Others are paroled or
unconditionally released to return to their homes. The barbed wire
exercise areas overlook the Statute of Liberty. The captives contest
repatriation and deportation by pooling their limited funds to finance
appeals in court.
July 1947 S. 1749
introduced by Sen. William Langer of North Dakota for “the release of
all persons detained as enemy aliens.” The bill did not pass, but the
internees got a voice in Congress and the legislation gave them hope. Langer Bill
June 21, 1948. In its
5-4 Ludecke v. Watkins decision, the Supreme Court tacitly upholds the
Alien Enemies Act by denying the writ of habeas corpus for release from
detention sought by German internee, Karl Ludecke, pursuant to
Presidential Proclamation 2655. Mr. Ludecke had been interned since
December 1941 and was resisting deportation. Ludecke
August 1948 Due in large part to Senator
Langer’s efforts, among others, the last person, a German internee, is
finally released from Ellis Island, almost three and a half years after
cessation of hostilities with Germany. No internee was ever convicted
of a war-related crime against the United States. Upon release, most
adult internees sign secrecy oaths; many are threatened with
deportation with no prospect of return if they speak of their ordeal.
Most internees, always fearful, take the secret to their graves. Camp
employees also sign oath of secrecy. The secret is well kept. Few today
know of selective internment.
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| Internees and
excludees return home to suspicious communities, some have been
interned 6-7 years. Children do not remember life without barbed wire.
Homes and livelihoods are lost. Reputations destroyed. No safety net
protects them. They confront feelings of confusion, anger, resentment,
bitterness, guilt and shame. They try to understand what happened and
repair broken lives. The experience scarred families forever. Those
exchanged to Germany struggled to survive in the extremely difficult
postwar years. Some exchangees returned to the U.S. years later.
Frequently, American-born children left their families behind in
Germany in order to do so. Many never were allowed to return. Others,
embittered by what they perceived as America’s betrayal, never wanted
to come back. Some repatriates had been returned to Soviet-occupied
eastern Germany or died directly due to deportation.
1980 Commission on
Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (“CWRIC”) created.
Focused primarily on the relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans,
the CWRIC did not allow German Americans or other European Americans to
testify or offer written testimony on their wartime experiences. The
final report, Personal Justice Denied, focuses primarily on German
American individual and group exclusion issues under Executive Order
9066. It identifies only 4 DOJ internment camps. The tribulations of
German internment are barely reviewed. The CWRIC asserts that the
minimal hearing process afforded by the DOJ to enemy aliens is
sufficient “rough fairness” under the circumstances. The CWRIC is
wrong. Lacking sufficient due process protections, this “rough
fairness” frequently resulted in unjustified, painful years of
captivity, exchange and property loss for thousands.
1988-present Civil Liberties Act of 1988
passed solely giving redress to and acknowledging injustices to
Japanese Americans and Aleuts. No German American or other affected
European American allowed to give oral or written testimony on their
wartime experience during congressional hearings. Civil Liberties
Education Fund established to fund projects relating to public
education regarding the Japanese American experience. National Park
Service study funded to designate Japanese relocation camps
administered by the WRA as national historic landmarks. In January
1999, the U.S. settles Mochizuki class action agreeing to monetary
redress of $5,000 and a presidential apology for Japanese Latin
Americans. In November 2000, the Wartime Violations of Italian American
Civil Liberties Act signed into law recognizing only the government’s
wrongful denial of Italian American civil liberties. In February 2005,
Wartime Parity and Justice Act introduced for third time to provide for
the inclusion of Japanese Latin Americans in the Civil Liberties Act of
1988, among other things.
March 4, 2004 U.S. House of
Representatives passes HR 56, originally introduced by Michael Honda
(D-CA) supporting the goals of the Japanese American, German American,
and Italian American communities in recognizing a National Day of
Remembrance to increase public awareness of the events surrounding the
restriction, exclusion, and internment of individuals and families
during World War II. Companion Senate Resolution did not come to a
vote. Only adopted federal legislation to date acknowledging German
American WWII internment experience.
November 16, 2005 U.S. House of
Representatives passes HR 1492 to provide for the preservation of
historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained
during World War II and setting aside $38 million for this purpose.
German and Italian Americans and Latin Americans and Japanese Latin
Americans who were detained at many of the same DOJ internment
facilities as Japanese Americans are not included in bill. The
companion bill, S. 1719, is pending before U.S. Senate Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources.
June 30, 2005- present The Wartime
Treatment Study Act (“WSTA”) is introduced in Congress for a third
time. Two previous attempts at passage fail to clear procedural
hurdles. The legislation would establish a long overdue commission to
study the wartime treatment of Germans and Italians during World War
II. Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Charles Grassley (R-IA)
introduced the legislation in Senate as S. 1354 and Rep. Robert Wexler
(D-FL) introduced measure in House as HR 3198. On Nov. 17, 2005, the
WSTA was voted favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If
passed, the Act will give German American internees and their families
hope that perhaps one day the public will know of their experience and
the US government will formally acknowledge their internment, as it has
for the Japanese and Italians.
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Alien Enemies Act and Related World War II Presidential
In 1798, the US government passed the Alien Enemies and
Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act was eventually overturned, but the
Alien Enemies Act ( AEA) was recodified in 1918 and is part of the US
war and national defense statutes. (50 USC 21-24). The AEA provides
that the President, pursuant to proclamation, may deem all aliens of a
hostile nation within the United States alien enemies and determine the
manner in which they may be "apprehended, restrained, secured and
removed." (50 USC 21). See below for a discussion of the Presidential
Proclamations, as well as links to the full text of each Proclamation
and related documents.
for the full text of the Alien Enemies Act
The Alien Enemies Act Presidential Proclamations
The Alien Enemies Act ("AEA"), set forth above, provides
that the President, pursuant to proclamation, may deem all aliens of a
"hostile nation" within the United States alien enemies and determine
the manner in which they may be "apprehended, restrained, secured and
removed." (50 USC 21) Following Pearl Harbor, FDR did exactly that.
Presidential Proclamations 2525-2527 which follow are virtually
identical, except for the nation specified. Proclamation 2525
(applicable to Japanese aliens) also sets forth the regulatory
restrictions on alien enemies which were incorporated by reference into
2526 (Germans) and Proclamation 2527 (Italians), so that all
nationalities were treated identically under the AEA.
The proclamations deemed Japanese, German and Italian
aliens to be "alien enemies," and: 1) delegated authority to control
alien enemies in the US, Alaska to the Department of Justice and those
in Hawaii, the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone to the Secretary
of War, 2) required them to register with the US government as alien
enemies, 3) set forth general regulations to restrict their actions
(which permitted establishment of zones from which they could be
evacuated) and 4) specifically authorized summary apprehension and
internment for the duration of the war if an alien enemy was "deemed
potentially dangerous to the peace and security of the US."
(Presidential Proclamations 2525 (Japanese), 2526 (Germans)
(Italian) Dec. 1941).
Presidential Proclamations 2525-2527 noted above were
issued by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pursuant to the Alien
Enemies Act as the war began. As the war ended, President Harry S
Truman, rather than risk releasing the dangerous internees from the
camps, decided to require deportation in accordance with regulations to
be created by the Attorney General, and, with respect to Latin American
internees, in accordance with US agreements with those countries from
which the internees originated and the US Secretary of State. See
Presidential Proclamations 2655, 2662 and 2685.
Post-War Presidential Proclamations and Supreme Court
Decision--Ludecke v. Watkins
Presidential Proclamations. In March 1945, Latin
American countries which participated in the US-Latin American program
pursuant to which at least 4,050 German Latin Americans and over 2000
Japanese Latin Americans were interned in the US, granted authority to
President Truman to deport internees originating from those countries
to nations outside the Western Hemisphere. In July 1945, as hostilities
with Germany ended, President Truman issued Presidential
Proclamation 2655, requiring all US resident internees who the
Attorney General deemed still to be a threat to the United States to be
deported. In September 1945, President Truman issued Presidential
Proclamation 2662 authorizing the deportation of Latin American
internees in accordance with agreements the US had with those
countries. Presidential Proclamation 2662 was superseded by Presidential
Proclamation 2685 issued in April 1946. This provided, among other
things, that if an internee was to be deported, thirty days was
declared a reasonable time for the "alien enemy to effect the recovery,
disposal, and removal of his goods and effects, and for his departure.
Ludecke v. Watkins, District
Director of the Immigration. 335 US 160 (1948) Presidential
Proclamation 2655 was contested in court by Kurt G. W. Ludecke, a
German enemy alien arrested on December 8, 1941. He was interned for
the duration of the war and ordered deported by the Attorney General in
January 1946. After making its way through federal court system, Mr.
Ludecke's write of habeas corpus for release from detention under the
deportation order was finally affirmed in June 1948 by the Supreme
Court in a 5-4 decision. In the majority opinion written by Justice
Felix Frankfurter, the Court did not agree with Ludecke's position that
the Alien Enemies Act only permitted internment and deportation until
hostilities ceased with a nation with which the US was at war, in this
case, Germany. The court determined that under the Alien Enemies Act,
an alien enemy could be restricted as provided in that act until a
treaty was signed with the foreign government. At the time the Supreme
Court reached this conclusion, hostilities with Germany had been over
for three years and Mr. Ludecke had been interned for seven. It is not
known if he was deported or released. What is known is that hundreds of
ethnic German enemy aliens and their families remained interned in
Ellis Island fighting deportation for up to three years after the
cessation of hostilities with Germany. Many others were deported.
here for the full text of Ludecke v. Watkins
The William Langer Bill, S. 1749
Known to many at the time as a defender of the
"underdog," Sen. William Langer of North Dakota, home of the large Ft.
Lincoln internment camp, tried to come to the rescue of those remaining
in the internment camps pursuant to President Truman's post-war
Presidential Proclamations 2655, 2662 & 2685. In July 1947, two years after the cessation
of hostilities, Sen. Langer introduced S. 1749 "for the relief of all
persons detained as enemy aliens." At that time, hundreds of ethnic
Germans remained incarcerated at Ellis Island. The bill was referred to
the Senate Judiciary Committee but never passed. It directed the
Attorney General to cancel the "outstanding warrants of arrest,
removal, or deportation" of many German alien enemies who remained
interned. Many internees were listed by name, but included all other
persons detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the
DOJ as enemy aliens.
The legislation also directed the INS not to issue
additional warrants or orders if they were based on any act or status
which served as a basis for the original warrants of arrest, removal or
deportation being canceled by the bill, if passed. Sen. Langer tried to
make sure the internees would not be accosted again by the INS. The
bill continues: "Such persons shall not again be subject to removal or
deportation by reason of the same facts upon which such removal or
deportation proceedings were commenced or such warrants have been
issued." Although it never passed, S. 1749 and Sen. Langer's interest
gave the languishing internees hope. At this time, no one knows
conclusively what finally led the US government and its then-Attorney
General to relinquish their plenary jurisdiction over the internees.
Many internees believe that the mere fact that Sen. Langer's introduced
the bill heightened awareness of the internees plight, and that, along
with the passage of time, finally led to their release. The last
internee left Ellis Island in late 1948.
here for full text of Langer Bill
Executive Order 9066
Executive Order 9066, issued pursuant to the President's
war powers, set the stage for the military oversight of Japanese,
German and Italian aliens and citizens. The order clearly had the
greatest impact on West Coast Japanese and Japanese Americans of whom
over 100,000 were evacuated and incarcerated for much of the war. The
US government has since apologized for this highly controversial and
regrettable action. It has also paid reparations to many Japanese and
Japanese Americans pursuant to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
German and Italian Americans were not incarcerated in
this way for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that it
was inexpedient to evacuate and incarcerate millions. The executive
order was used by the military, however, to exclude naturalized German
and Italian Americans and aliens on an individual basis based on the
same sort of "evidence" and hearing procedure used by the Attorney
General to intern alien enemies. There was much collaboration between
the Department of Justice and the War Department regarding the various
excludees. The program was not of long duration, however, and some
brave federal judges helped put an end to it. Not in time, though, for
hundreds who were forced to leave their homes, or left in fear of being
ordered to do so.
Click here for the full text of Executive Order 9066
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