| Home |

a traveling TRACES exhibit

German-American Civilian Internment, 1941-48

  Tour Schedule | resources for hosts | tour poster | slide show

  teaching materials  | National Archives linkexhibit texts texto en espanol

Recomendations from the State Historical Societies of: South Dakota | North Dakota

to order exhibit guide  | recommended reading  | German-Jewish internees

internment sites | German-seamen internees  | www.gaic.info

1945 U.S. Government film of Camp Crystal City, Texasla película en espanol

English/Spanish Transcript of NBC Dateline about WWII-Era Civilian Internment

BBC News' The Lost Voices of Crystal City Hidden Piece of History

During WWII the U.S. Government interned 15,000 German-American civilians. Using ten narrative panels, an NBC “Dateline” documentary and a 1945 U.S. Government color film about this unknown history, TRACES traveling exhibit will tour Texas and New Mexico from December 2008 until December 2010, with showings in about 35 communities. Guest speakers and related programs will complement the educational value and impact of this unique mobile exhibit.


German-American deportees being
shipped from Ellis Island, circa 1945

This project’s main goals include presenting an unknown history to a wide audience, stimulating penetrating questions on the part of visitors to the exhibit and then leading them to subsequent discussions, guided by local host communities. It explores a virtually unknown yet significant historical event—possibly one of the U.S. ’s least-known WWII sub-chapters. Especially relevant as some Texas communities had a disproportionate number of German-American civilian residents interned, communities across the region will have an opportunity—in most cases for the first time—to discuss the implications as well as legacy of the U.S. Government’s WWII “enemy alien” internment program.

Each host is invited to organize a Community Conversation in conjunction with each exhibit showing: in addition to welcoming community members to view the ten narrative panels, and view two films about this internment, each town will hold a panel-led open discussion about this topic. Through this exhibit and the subsequent discussions, Texans and New Mexicans will see WWII history in a new way, and “re-visit” an event and a period too often misunderstood and obscured by facile clichés. The discussion itself is meant to support healthy democratic involvement and processes.

Each host iwill be asked to invite local community leaders (educators, clergy, journalists, public officials, military officials, students, business people, etc.) to sit on a panel of three, five or seven panelists (one as moderator), to discuss issues like the following Guiding Questions:

—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’d 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?

  —“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 150,000 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 confessed to 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?

For more information, to book a showing or to make a donation towards this project, contact:

Michael Luick-Thrams, Executive Director

admin@TRACES.orgPlease also visit www.TRACES.org.

1729 Hague Avenue, Suite 2 , Saint Paul /MN 55104

651.646.0400 fax .8070

All organizations and individuals who invest $500 or more (in cash or in-kind) in this special project will be cited prominently on this web site. TRACES is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit educational organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.


sample exhibit panels:

Home | top