|Camp Algiers in Louisiana|
FDR kidnapped Jews from Latin America and put them in Concentration Camps with Nazis
(WWNO.org) - Marilyn Miller stands outside the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Algiers. The entire Gulf Coast arm of the U.S. Border Patrol is managed out of the site. Marilyn’s an Associate Professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at Tulane University. She’s interested in how this U.S. Border Patrol facility, right on the Mississippi River in Algiers, was used during World War II, when it was Camp Algiers.
When people think of WWII internment camps they think of the Japanese Americans detained after Pearl Harbor. Over 100,000 people of Japanese descent were detained after that attack, the majority of them U.S. citizens. The Camp Algiers story is part of a much smaller government internment program, often overlooked, but now the subject of research by Miller
“All these buildings would have been part of a facility that was used in the 1940s,” she says, looking at the facility from the facing levee, “to house enemy aliens who arrived to New Orleans from Latin America.”
Let’s start on Dec 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor attack. The FDR administration had become increasingly concerned that in addition to Western Europe and Japan, there might be a third Axis front: Latin America.
More than a million and half Germans lived in Latin America, says Max Paul Friedman, a history professor at American University and an expert on the Latin American deportation operation during WWII.
The Roosevelt administration asked FBI agents to go and find dangerous Nazis in Latin America. But they weren’t sending the best people, Friedman says, “because the best people were busy where the war really was, or security at home. So they sent people without Spanish or German or a lot of talent, and they were supposed to find Nazis in Latin America.”
|A "Family" Camp|
The Graber family in 1943 on their way to the Crystal City,
Texas "Family" Concentration Camp.
They'd “open wallets and offer to pay for information for anybody who would announce a Nazi. And that created a system that was riven with corruption where some of the Latin American dictators would say ‘oh you want Nazis? Well this guy who owns a farm next to my farm, he’s a Nazi.’ and they would deport some of their own residents to seize their property.”
It sounds crazy. The U.S. government sending D-string FBI agents to find Nazis in Latin America, kidnap them, and bring them to America? But it’s true. Just days after Pearl Harbor, thousands of Europeans who had moved to Latin America were rounded up and eventually deported to New Orleans.
“When they came to the U.S. they were stripped of their documents, they were stripped of their clothing,” says Miller. “So they were treated in a way as if they were prisoners even though they had done nothing.”
The secretive program, called the Enemy Alien Control Program, was run by the State Department, and was in many ways illegal. It was against the law at that time for the U.S. to seize individuals outside the U.S.
So, the State Department decided they would get around this by refusing to issue entry visas for the Latin American deportees. When the Latin American residents arrived to the port of New Orleans without papers, they were denied visas. Then, they were arrested on the grounds that they had attempted to enter the country illegally, and were then subject to internment.
Nancy Cortés Reinbold lives in Honduras. As she was researching her family history, she came across these camps. Her grandfather came up on the list: Mr. Fritz Reinbold.
Nancy's grandpa Fritz was born in Germany, but left before the war to live in Honduras, where he met and married her grandma.
“He said that it was probably because he was rich!" she says, noting the reason someone would falsely identify him as a Nazi. "That was his only mistake.”
Fritz worked at the German Embassy. He’s one example of someone who was framed as a Nazi, so that he would be forced to give up his property and assets to the Honduran government. He and his family were put on a ship to New Orleans in 1943.
Most Latin American internees first arrived in New Orleans, and was then shipped off to one of the other camps. Her family was put on a train to Crystal City, Texas.
“My grandfather never in his life talked about this," Nancy says. "This is unforgivable, I cannot imagine how they felt. They took away everything.”
She knew her mom spent a few years in Texas, but never knew why. She discovered her family’s experience on the German American Internee Coalition website. And saw that they were amongst 5,000 Europeans with a similar story.
Not only were many of these people rounded up between 1941 and 1943 innocent, they were the victims, says Harvey Strum, a faculty member at the Sage College of Albany. Approximately 81 Jews in various countries were rounded up, he says.
So, in the search for Nazis, the United States deported and interned Jews?
Correct, says Strum.
|As a 17 year old boy Eb Fuhr was arrested by the FBI at his Ohio high school and sent to the Crystal City, Texas Concentration Camp. No right to a trial. No right to an attorney.|
Marilyn Miller continues. “The great irony is that many of these ‘aliens’, some small percentage of them were European Jews who had gone to Latin America when they were denied a visa to enter the U.S. for refuge. At least five had already been in concentration camps in Europe.”
Imagine you amazingly manage escape from a concentration camp, try to enter the United States, are denied entry, so you go to Latin America instead, and are then kidnapped and sent to the U.S., only to once again live behind barbed wire, and face harassment and even beatings “at the hands of real Nazis in the [U.S.] camps” says Max Paul Friedman.
Because of the faulty accusations of so many deportees, a majority had no affiliation with the Nazi party. But there were still a good number of Nazi sympathizers who were also sent to the camps. And they were pretty much allowed to do whatever they wanted, says Miller.
“Because the United States wanted to protect the health and welfare of their own prisoners of war in Europe," she says, "they were very careful to provide good treatment to German prisoners of war here. And so they were allowed to fly the swastika flag or they were allowed to sing Nazi songs.”
Which led to severe discrimination, and beatings of Jews in the camps. The Jewish detainees in various camps across Oklahoma, Texas, and Georgia demanded they have their own camp, a safe space where they wouldn’t need to share a bunk bed with a Nazi. Literally.
There was additional pressure on the camps to do something, because the National Refugee Service, and various Jewish organizations got wind of what was happening, and supported the demand that the Jews be moved.
Max Paul Friedman says it also helped that camp administrators were starting to see the absurdity of the situation. “Camp commanders started writing to Washington saying I thought we were going to be housing and guarding dangerous Nazis but you’re sending us whole families and old men and Spanish speakers and children, and we don’t understand,” he says.
So officials decided that one of the camps would be used specifically to house those who opposed the Nazis. This is where Camp Algiers comes in, what’s now the U.S. Border Patrol facility on the West Bank. Miller explains.
“When there were problems in other camps, we have news stories from the Jewish Telegraphic Service that says ‘Nazis and Jews fight in Camp X...’ and as a result of that, many times the Jews were sent to the Algiers facility as a refuge from this fighting. So Camp Algiers became known as the camp for the innocents.”
Starting in 1942, most of the 81 Jews and other innocent prisoners held in camps from Texas to Oklahoma were relocated to New Orleans.
New Orleans Public Radio
An American Concentration Camp
WWII German American Internment
Lost story of German Latin Americans interned during second world war
(The Guardian) - With the Statue of Liberty looming overhead, an 11-year-old boy named Jurgen sat huddled in his coat, alongside his family and few pieces of luggage, as a cold wind blew off the Hudson River.
Ellis Island is best known as the former gateway for millions of immigrants entering the US, but in the winter of 1944, the boy – Jurgen – and his family were about to be deported to Germany.
“We were processed on Ellis Island as illegal immigrants,” said Jurgen, now 82. “In reality, we were kidnapped by the US government.”
Jurgen and his family were among thousands of Latin Americans of German origin who were rounded up by their respective governments on orders from the US following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
They were detained in accordance with a little-known US state department program. The Special War Problems Division would orchestrate the detention of more than 4,000 Latin Americans from Germany, Japan and Italy in internment camps in Texas and elsewhere, as well as localized detention centers in Latin America.
In all, 15 Latin American countries would deport residents and citizens of German ancestry to detention centers in the United States, often without legal recourse, according to a statement from the National Archives.
The internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps has been recognized by the US Congress, but the story of Latin Americans with origins in axis countries has been largely lost to history.
As the 73rd anniversary of the US entry into the second world war approaches, fewer and fewer people remain who experienced firsthand the Immigration and Naturalization Service internment camps in the US.
The second world war arrived swiftly for Jurgen’s family and other Germans living in Costa Rica. Less than a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jurgen’s father was arrested by Costa Rican police on 2 January 1942.
By the late 1930s,the FBI had begun to identify possible Nazi sympathizers, fearing Axis forces would establish a foothold in Latin America. In the case of Costa Rica, the US Embassy in San José submitted a list of names to be deported to the government, a move acknowledged in a State Department memo dated 15 November 1943.
Larger countries like Mexico, Chile and Argentina resisted the demand to deport their citizens, but that was not an option for the small Central American nation. In 1942, the US state department announced that it would boycott all Costa Rican products from German-owned companies. Coffee accounted for more than half of the country’s exports between 1938 and 1945 – and the coffee business was dominated by German firms, according to Gertrud Peters, an economic historian at the National University of Costa Rica.
Unable to ship goods to Germany because of the allied blockade, Costa Rica – among many other Latin American nations – was forced to comply.
Two weeks after Jurgen’s father was detained, a letter arrived from the police informing his family that he had been deported to the US, where he was being held in the country’s largest internment camp, in Crystal City, Texas.
The dusty Texas town could not have been more different from the mild climate and green mountains of San José.
The 500-acre internment camp, which at its peak would house nearly 3,400 detainees, was still largely under construction when Jurgen arrived in late 1943.
“The camp was built on an old spinach field,” Jurgen said. “There was a statue of Popeye in the town.” The statue still stands in Crystal City today.
After rain the unpaved roads would become thick with mud, and Jurgen and the other children took to walking to the latrines on short stilts to protect their shoes.
Jurgen said that the camp provided all the basics for his family, including simple accommodation in three-unit row houses, communal latrines and food. His father, a businessman, found work laying asphalt for the camp’s roads and, briefly, plucking feathers off turkeys.
Jurgen and his younger brother cut beet greens with a knife to earn $1 an hour, which the family could use to order goods from the Montgomery Ward Catalog. The family was already saving up to buy coats for the next leg of their journey back to Germany.
Besides keeping axis nationals from supposedly impeding the US war effort at home, Crystal City served an important role for the US abroad: providing the country with a grab-bag of prisoners who could be traded for Americans held by the Third Reich.
Faced with the prospect of spending the remaining years of the war in detention, Jurgen’s family volunteered for deportation.
The family traveled by train to Ellis Island before they boarded a Red Cross ship and sailed back to Europe. Allied and Russian forces were beginning to close in on Germany. As Jurgen and his family filed off the boat in Lisbon, a line of American prisoners waited to board, bound back to the United States.
Jurgen’s family eventually returned to Costa Rica in 1948. They were able to recover their properties, but the same could not be said for many German families, whose businesses and land were seized by the government and sold to pay down the national debt and subsidize populist land reforms.
After years in war-torn Germany, what they found in Costa Rica was yet more conflict: following a disputed election in 1948, the country fell into a brief civil war. That war brought about the rise of President José Figueres, the leader who abolished Costa Rica’s army in 1948. The following year, Costa Rica declared its political neutrality.Read More . . . .