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. Thou­sands of 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 from the French coast 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 noncitizen 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, U.S. citi­zens and aliens alike who had registered under the Smith Act. Mirroring FDR’s Exec­u­tive Order 9066 were Cana­dian Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s orders-in-council, the first of which was announced on Feb­ruary 24, 1942. The orders-in-council set in motion the evacu­ation of all per­sons of Japa­nese origin to “pro­tective areas,” mainly in the interior of British Columbia. Some 20,881 Japanese living in Canada were uprooted, of whom 13,309 were Canadian citizens by birth.

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 the British Crown colony of 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.

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 in Britain ended up being interned. This picture shows Huyton in­mates carrying out bomb disposal.

Right: When Italy declared war on Great Britain in June 1940, almost 5,000 Italians living in Aus­tralia—a member of the British Com­mon­wealth—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 the Australian state of 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 state (truly in the middle of no­where) roughly 200 miles from Denver, Colorado’s capital and largest city, and not too far from the Kan­sas state 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. Amache was surrounded by barbed-wire fencing, with eight machine-gun towers located all around the camp. Internees were jammed into wooden barracks divided into 20-by-25-ft “apart­ments.” Adding to the overall 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.

U.S. Office of War Information Film Justifying the Forcible Removal and Internment of Japanese Residents in the United States