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Is History Repeating Itself Right Now?



Most educated Americans are aware of the mistreatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Both naturalized and native-born Japanese Americans were rounded up along with Japanese aliens and placed in camps. Their constitutional rights were ignored; their property was confiscated and they became, in the eyes of America, the enemy.
These same educated Americans are mostly unaware of the mistreatment of naturalized and native-born German Americans during World War I. They were not placed in camps, but their constitutional rights were also shelved; some were tarred and feathered, and two were actually lynched.

Anti-German Hysteria during World War One

When most Americans and West Europeans living today think of book burning, they think of May 20, 1933 in Berlin. Because it was filmed, the book burning has become part of every documentary about the Nazis. However, there were other book burnings that were not filmed. They happened not in Berlin, Germany, but in American cities from Cincinnati, Ohio to Lewistown, Montana. The German books were not fired by Nazis, but by patriotic Americans. The year was not 1933, but 1917 during World War I when the Constitution was temporarily shelved. Vigilantism was in, Constitutional rights were out. Loyalty to the flag and the English language were paramount.
Prior to and following America’s entry into the First World War, German Americans in many states became subject to ridicule, ostracism, and occasionally violent attacks. They were denied their civil and constitutional rights. Anything German was anathema. The names of streets and cities were changed from German to English. The teaching of German was halted in public schools. The citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio, lost no time after war was declared. The city government changed the names of 13 German streets; the Board of Education halted the teaching of the German language, and the public library removed German books and periodicals from its shelves. These things were accomplished only three days after the declaration of war on the Central Powers on April 6, 1917.
Even colleges and universities succumbed to the pressure and discontinued teaching German. Patriotic groups got to the New York Metropolitan Opera Company; its German repertoire was replaced with Italian and French works. It became downright foolish to speak German in public. In places it became unlawful to speak German.  More


Propaganda: Your Job in Germany
Directed by It’s A Wonderful Life’s Frank Capra and written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, produced by the United States Information & Education Division of the Army Services Forces in 1946, this authentic film proposes, “War with Germany ends in victory, victory leads to peace … Sometimes … Sometimes not.”
Christmas 1943—A celebration not to be found in the photographic histories of Ellis Island. (from Jacobs' web site caption:) The dark years of Ellis Island, 1941 through 1948, remain a secret. Many German Americans found themselves locked up in this place three years after the war in Europe had ended. They were held behind barbed wire fences and iron-barred windows. By 1947 hundreds had already been held for more than five years.
German Americans are the largest ethnic group in the U.S. Approximately 60 million Americans claim German ancestry. German-American loyalty to America’s promise of freedom traces back to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, during Second World War the U.S. government and many Americans viewed German Americans and others of “enemy ancestry” as potentially dangerous, particularly recent immigrants. The Japanese-American World War II experience is well known. Few, however, know of the European American WWII experience, particularly that of the German Americans. The government Used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable methods to control those of enemy ancestry, including internment, individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges for Americans held in Germany, deportation, “alien enemy” registration requirements, travel restrictions and property confiscation. The human cost of these civil liberties violations was high: families were disrupted, reputations destroyed, homes and belongings lost. Meanwhile, untold numbers of German Americans fought for freedom around the world, including their ancestral homelands; some were the immediate relatives of those subject to oppressive restrictions on the home front. Pressured by the United States, many Latin American governments arrested at least 4,050German Latin Americans. Most were shipped in dark boat holds to the United States and interned. At least 2,000 Germans, German Americans and Latin Americans were later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held in Germany. Some allege that internees were captured to Use as exchange bait.
During WWII our government had to do its utmost to ensure domestic security against dangerous elements in its midst—but it should have exercised greater vigilance to protect the liberties of those most vulnerable because of their ethnic ties to enemy nations. Some were dangerous, but too many were assumed guilty and never able to prove their innocence.


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