Mon-Sat: Closed Sun: Closed (210) 458-2300

Collections Blog

Object: Book

Sep 27, 2018

Text Book
Materials: Cardboard, Ink, Paper

This is a children’s text book, written in German entitled “Arbeitsbuch fur de Interricht in der deutsche Sprache,” which translates roughly to “Workbook for Teaching in the German language.” Under the title of the book there is a secondary title of, “.5/.6 Schuljahr,” which translates to “5/6 School Year.” Based on the translation it is inferred that this book was used by those in their 5th or 6th school year. The book was published in 1943 and was used in the school at Crystal City Family Internment Camp in Crystal City, Texas which housed German Americans, Japanese Americans, Latin American Germans, Latin American Italians, and Latin American Japanese.

Internment Camps were set up throughout the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor to house those who were of Japanese, German, and Italian descent and nationality. It was believed that by placing these groups in secured areas possible sabotage from the Axis powers would be avoided. Most of those interred in camps throughout the United States were of Japanese descent, but many of German and Italian descent were held as well. About 3,000 Japanese, Germans, and Italians from Latin America were deported to the United States, and most of them were placed in the Texas internment camps.

Ariel Photo of Crystal City Family Internment Camp Photo via Texas Historical Commision

Ariel Photo of Crystal City Family Internment Camp
Photo via Texas Historical Commission

The Crystal City Family Internment Camp was opened in the Fall of 1942 with its first internees to arrive being a mix of German Americans and German Enemy Aliens. In March of 1943 the first Japanese American internees arrived. The Germans and Japanese were given separate living areas and facilities, such as separate schools, grocery stores, canteens, etc. There were no fences separate them, however the internees mainly kept to their own areas.  There was a German School, a Japanese School, a Federal American Elementary, and a Federal American High School. If the internees desired repatriation to their country of origin then the children were sent to their respected school; otherwise the children attended the American Schools.

The living conditions at the Crystal City camp were better than some of the other internment camps in use throughout the United States. There were different accommodations for families, which were based on the size of the family. There were one room shelters that were for couples and those with small children. Other buildings were divided into various sized apartments, for larger families. Twenty used Victory Huts (prefabricated buildings that were easy and quick to assemble, these were primarily used to house soldiers) were also moved onto the site. There were a few cottages that had an inside bath and toilet, designed to house families with special needs. Since most shelters did not have private baths and toilets, most internees used centrally located facilities.

Security for the camp was provided by two types of guards. There was a Surveillance Division which  patrolled the fence line and provided the armed guards for the towers. There was also an Internal Security Division which  operated as a small police force inside the compound twenty-four hours a day. The Internal Security Division was responsible for ensuring that all internees were accounted for and that if there was a violent encounter between internees that it was brought under control quickly, these were very rare occurrences.

As the war was drawing to a close the United States government faced a problem of what to do with the internees that were still being held across the country. Those internees who were willing to be repatriated to their country of origin were able to be reconsidered for return to the United States at a later date. Also those children who were born in the United States, but were sent back with their parents to their parent’s home country, could return as well. Those internees who would not voluntarily return to their country of origin or who were considered dangerous were classified as deportees and could not return to the Unites States at any time. The Crystal City Family Internment Camp finally closed on February 27, 1948. [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

A video made from a public domain film produced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1945 of the Family Internment Camp at Crystal City, Texas.

Additional Resources:

Donald, Heidi Gurcke. 2008. We were not the enemy: remembering the United States’ Latin-American civilian internment program of World War II. New York: iUniverse, Inc.

Estlack, Russell W. 2011. Shattered lives shattered dreams: the disrupted lives of families in America’s internment camps. Springville, Utah: Bonneville Books.

Friedman, Max Paul. 2003. Nazis and good neighbors: the United States campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fox, Stephen. 2000. America’s invisible gulag: a biography of German American internment & exclusion in World War II : memory and history. New York: Peter Lang.

Riley, Karen Lea. 2001. Schools behind barbed wire: the untold story of wartime internment and the children of arrested enemy aliens. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Weglyn, Michi. 1976. Years of infamy: the untold story of America’s concentration camps. New York: Morrow.

Join Our Newsletter!
Get the latest news & updates about ITC.