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VANISHED: German-American Civilian Internees, 1941-48

Guiding Questions regarding this unknown legacy include:

—Are ethnic background or ideology justifiable grounds for internment (in other words, imprisoning suspects for who they are or what they believe, as opposed to their actions)?

—Does a given society owe due process only to its citizens, or also to legal non-citizen residents?

—During WWII the U.S. Government forcibly removed 4,058 Latin American Germans from South America—some of whom were German or Austrian Jews who had recently fled Nazi persecution—to camps in Texas, at Ellis Island and elsewhere [just as 2,200 Peruvian Japanese also were interned alongside indigenous Japanese Americans]: what are some of this action’s legal and moral implications? Was this action effective in making the U.S. more secure?

—“Enemy-alien” internment was a multi-million-dollar, seven-year U.S. Government project: was it effective (i.e., did it reach its intended aims) or not? What other actions might have been taken, rather than to intern some 140,000 Japanese, Italian and German Americans?

— Both camp staff and many of those interned were sworn to secrecy. In 1988 the U.S. Government acknowledged that it had interned Japanese Americans during WWII, and in 2000 it admitted that it also had imprisoned Italian Americans; as of this writing, however, it has never acknowledged having interned German Americans. To what extent, and for how long, is a government accountable for its actions? Does it “owe” reparations to those wrongfully harmed? If so, in what form?

BEHIND BARBED WIRE: Midwest POWs in Nazi Germany , 1943-45


Beyond Barbed Wire explores the human context of the POW experiences. Implicitly, it addresses five primary questions:


Why did some Midwest POWs survive certain conditions or experiences, while others did not?


What roles did art, free-time and religion play in helping those men who did survive imprisonment by the Nazi regime?


Why did some Germans or Austrians assist U.S. POWs, while others did not?


How did the liberated POWs later come to terms with their own experiences?


How do nations and the individuals who constitute a nation come to a point of reconciliation for collective acts or experiences?

CAPTIVE EYE: German-POW Art and Artifacts from Camp Algona/Iowa, 1943-46

Guiding Questions to this story include:

—Were German POWs generally treated well or poorly while held captive in the United States ? How has the treatment accorded to enemy POWs during the Second World War impacted the standing of the United States both in Europe and in the world at large?

—In which contexts and settings did they encounter Midwesterners? Were those encounters generally positive or negative? For which side—and what were the lasting impacts of those encounters?

—What role did art play in the POWs’ experience?

—How did the POWs’ perceptions of the United States , of Americans and of democracy evolve from the point of their arrival in the U.S. (generally from 1943-45) till their departure from the U.S. (in summer 1946), as well as once they returned to Germany (or Austria )?

—How did the German POW experience affect German-American relations, both immediately after the war and for the half century thereafter?

MIDWEST MAIN STREET : Biography as History (Part I)

Guiding Questions to this story include:

—By the time Herman Stern began assisting other Jews wanting to leave Germany , to what degree had he successfully assimilated with or integrated into American society? At one point does an immigrant become an “American”?

—Why or how were some Midwesterners so fascinated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement he spawned, while others were skeptical and disdainful from the beginning?

—How great was German-language newspapers’ influence in creating pro-Nazi sympathies among Midwesterners in specific, and among Americans in general?

—How did the rise of Nazism affect Germans immigrating to the Midwest ? What sort of conflicts did they experience, as a consequence?

—How did teenage Midwest girls perceive life abroad and those who lived it? How were their worldviews altered by what they learned via correspondence?

BERLINER OPERNPLATZ: Biography as History (Part II)

Guiding Questions to this story include:

—What took Midwest Americans to Germany between 1933 and 1941?

—“Should” they have boycotted the Nazi regime or was there a genuine potential to influence Germans and their worldviews through outside contact?

—What challenges did Midwest reporters face in covering the news from Nazi Germany, or diplomatic staff in representing the United States Government?

—How might the U.S. Government have handled the internment of its nationals differently, once it joined the war? Did it respond well or poorly in this case?

—Was Mildred Fish Harnack naďve or heroic—or a combination of both?

SCATTERGOOD HOSTEL and QUAKER HILL: Centers for European Refugees, 1939-43

Guiding Questions to this story include:

—What motivated Quakers to take in refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe ?

—Did they generally accept their “guests” (as they called the refugees) as the newcomers were, or did they attempt (covertly or overtly) to change the Europeans’ behaviors or characters? If the latter, did the refugees mostly welcome or resist such moves; why, or how?

—In what ways did the refugees ultimately assimilate to or integrate in U.S. culture?

—How did the refugees contribute to or alter the host culture?

—In what ways and to what extent are Scattergood Hostel and Quaker Hill positive role models for refugee assimilation or integration programs today, and in what ways inadequate or inappropriate?


Guiding Questions to this story include:

—What did Midwest soldiers find at Dachau or other Nazi camps?

—How did they react to those findings?

—How do you think they “should” have reacted? How do you think you would have reacted?

—What were some of the basic, under-lying causes of the Holocaust?

—What “lessons” from the Holocaust can be applied today?


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