During major wars in the 20th century, many countries rounded up and interned residents whose background, beliefs or ethnicity made the authorities suspect they were likely to side with the enemy.
Australia was no exception. In the interests of national security, the Australian Government interned thousands of men, women and children during World War I and World War II. Most of those interned were classed as “enemy aliens”, that is, nationals of countries at war with Australia. Internees were accommodated in camps around Australia, often in remote locations.
The same was done in the US and in many other countries. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were interned by the US government following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
The US has now announced 20 grants totalling more than USD 2.8 million to help preserve and interpret the World War II internment sites of Japanese Americans.
“As stewards of our nation’s history, the National Park Service recognises the importance of preserving these confinement sites,” US National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said.
“They are poignant reminders – today and for future generations – that we must be always vigilant in upholding civil liberties for all. These grants help us share valuable lessons on the fragility of our constitutional rights and ensure the experiences of those who were incarcerated are not forgotten.”
The Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, now in its seventh year, will support projects throughout the US. A total of USD 38 million in grant funds has been authorized for the life of the program.
More than 40 confinement sites exist and tourists, if so inclined, can visit them.
Confinement in wartime (also known as internment – the two are the same) is no longer fashionable in western countries.
The goal of the US program: “To teach present and future generations about the injustice of the World War II confinement history and inspire a commitment to equal justice under the law.”
Edited by Peter Needham