28 November 2007

Tessaku Seikatsu: German & Italian Internees

From Life behind Barbed Wire [鉄柵生活 Tessaku Seikatsu]: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawai‘i Issei, by Yasutaro Soga [1873–1957] (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2008), pp. 49-50:
About seventy to eighty Germans and Italians were interned in one corner of Sand Island. Their living quarters were next to the Japanese mess hall, and beyond that stood the women's barracks. Among them were company men, brewing technicians, doctors, laborers, and a young engineer whom I knew from the Waikiki Rotary Club. I spoke occasionally with an old man who had been arrested on Molokai. There were also Dr. Zimmerman, who made news when a petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed on his behalf, and the dashing young son of the minister of the interior of a northern European country who had cruised around the world in a speedboat. We were envious of those, like Professor Tower of the University of Hawaii, who were released early from Sand Island. Mr. Liebricht, a violinist, was paroled later.

Those in charge at the camps did not seem to discriminate in their treatment of Europeans and Japanese. Generally speaking, Germans and Italians gave them much more trouble than Japanese. They often quarreled among themselves, tattling to the authorities like children. In the end, they were ignored. As for cleanliness, Japanese were far superior. Apparently the toilets and bathrooms in the European barracks were very dirty.

At the beginning of 1942, Germans and Italians were also sent to the Mainland. Thirteen men who were American citizens returned to Sand Island on April 28, 1942; a new rule stipulated that citizens could no longer be sent to the Mainland. Those who returned reported on the conditions of various camps and on the Mainland in general, which led me to feel I would be better off going there as soon as possible. Around this time, Captain S became our commander at Sand Island. Once when I was talking to two or three Germans in violation of camp rules, Captain S approached us and asked, "What are you talking about?" I answered, "I was asking about friends who went to the Mainland." He said calmly, "It's against the rules, so you should avoid talking to one another." I replied courteously, "I understand." If it had been Captain E, I would have gotten a verbal thrashing.

Of the German prisoners, Mr. Otto Kuehn was the most famous. While he was imprisoned in a solitary cell, his wife and beautiful daughter (the wife of a U.S. army officer) were kept in a small cottage in front of the women's barracks. I do not know what Mr. Kuehn did for a living, but because he had an ongoing relationship with the Japanese Consulate he was indicted as a spy and sentenced to death. Later his sentence was reduced to fifty years imprisonment. After Mr. Kuehn was transferred to a prison on the Mainland his wife and daughter followed. He was the only spy arrested in Hawaii.

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