London, England · June 25, 1940

Under the threat of imminent invasion from Nazi Ger­many, the Brit­ish govern­ment on this date in 1940 began in­terning all sus­pect aliens living in the United King­dom. Some 300,000 Ger­mans, Aus­trians, and Ital­ians, in­cluding Jewish refugees from the Nazis, were placed behind barbed wire in England (race­tracks and un­finished housing pro­jects were typical loca­tions), on the Isle of Man (between Brit­ain and Ire­land), or deported to Cana­da or Aus­tra­lia (7,000 in­ternees). The botched Allied cam­paign to assist Nor­wegians fighting German in­vaders (April 9 to June 10, 1940) and the res­cue of some French citi­zens during the evacu­a­tion of the British Army at Dun­kirk (May 27 to June 4, 1940) led to an out­break of spy fever and agi­ta­tion against enemy aliens. And so all males in Brit­ain aged 16–60 who held enemy citi­zen­ship were in­terned—women only if under actual sus­picion. Four days later Presi­dent Franklin D. Roose­velt signed the Alien Regis­tra­tion Act (Smith Act), which required non-citizen adult resi­dents living in the U.S to regis­ter and be finger­printed. Within four months of its pas­sage, close to five million U.S. aliens had regis­tered, including 40,000 Japa­nese. Following on the Smith Act, Roose­velt’s Exec­u­tive Order 9066 of Febru­ary 19, 1942, autho­rized the Sec­re­tary of War and U.S. armed forces com­man­ders to declare parts of the U.S. mili­tary areas “from which any or all per­sons may be ex­cluded.” The order led to the forced relo­ca­tion, usually to back­water areas of the U.S., of many of the same peo­ple, citi­zens and aliens alike, who had regis­tered under the Smith Act. Of all alien in­tern­ment, the most bru­tal was that orga­nized by the Japa­nese after their armed forces flooded into Brit­ish, Dutch, and Amer­i­can colo­nies and terri­tories in the Asia Paci­fic region following the out­break of the Paci­fic war in Decem­ber 1941. In 1941–1942 approx­i­mately 130,000 civil­ians from Allied coun­tries were in­terned. The camps varied in size; some were segre­gated by race or gen­der, but many were mixed gender. One of the largest un­segre­gated camps was in Hong Kong, which held 2,800 mainly Brit­ish in­ternees. Un­like pri­soners of war, the in­ternees were not com­pelled to work, but they were held in primi­tive con­di­tions. Bru­tality by camp guards was com­mon and internee death rates were high.

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Wartime Internment of Enemy Aliens in Different Parts of the World

Huyton, England, internees carrying out bomb disposal (undated)Italian Australian wives and children, Queensland 1940

Left: Huyton near Liverpool, England, was the site of three war­time camps: an intern­ment camp, a Ger­man POW camp opened in 1943 (closed in 1948), and a base for U.S. service­men. The intern­ment camp, one of the biggest in Britain, was created to accom­mo­date “enemy aliens” deemed a poten­tial threat to national secu­rity. Prime Minis­ter Winston Chur­chill’s demand to “collar the lot” meant that around 27,000 people ended up being interned. This picture shows Huyton in­mates carrying out bomb disposal.

Right: When Italy declared war on Britain in June 1940, almost 5,000 Italians living in Aus­tra­lia were herded off to local pri­sons to be finger­printed, photo­graphed and num­bered, hustled at gun­point onto trains with barred windows, and sent to Aus­tra­lia’s intern­ment camps or forced to per­form forced labor with the Civil Alien Corps from 1943 to 1947. This photo­graph shows the families of the interned men of the Caminiti clan in Queens­land some­time in 1940.

Japanese American relocation camp near Granada, ColoradoJapanese Canadian internment camp, British Columbia, June 1945

Left: The Granada War Relocation Center (also called Camp Amache) was a Japa­nese Amer­i­can intern­ment camp located in the hot, treeless, un­popu­lated south­east cor­ner of Colo­rado (truly in the middle of no­where) roughly 200 miles from Denver and not too far from the Kan­sas bor­der. The camp opened in August 1942 and had a maxi­mum popu­la­tion of 7,318 persons. Nearly all of those in­terned at the camp came from the popu­lous West Coast, mostly from the Los Angeles area. Each inter­nee was only allowed to bring one bag or suit­case; there­fore, many people were forced to sell what they could or give away their pos­ses­sions (including pets) before their forced relocation. Adding to the num­ber of Japa­nese Ameri­can inter­nees (over 110,000) were 11,000 peo­ple of Ger­man ances­try and 3,000 peo­ple of Ital­ian ances­try, along with some Jewish refugees.

Right: An unnamed internment camp for Japa­nese Cana­dians in Brit­ish Colum­bia, June 1945. Over 75 per­cent of Cana­dian in­ter­nees were Cana­dian citi­zens. Loyal­ties of Ital­ian and Ger­man Cana­dians were ques­tioned, too. Ital­ian Cana­dians were con­sidered to be fascist sym­pathi­zers and poten­tial ter­rorists, so they were put under sur­veil­lance. Eventually 31,000 Ital­ian Cana­dians were desig­nated “enemy aliens.” Of these, about 600 were taken from their fami­lies and held in pri­sons and remote camps like the one in this photo.

Wartime Propaganda Film Justifying the Forcible Removal and Internment of Japanese Residents in U.S.