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Hashoa: The Jews Who Were Interned in America

by Staff Writer

Detention camps in America? A positive answer to this human question: World War II, post-Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese-Americans. Some Americans are ashamed of this so-called "infamous hour" in American history. But Prof. Max P. Friedman exposed an unknown world of detention on the American soil: A detention camp for Jews, German Jews, refugees from Nazi Germany, ex-prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, ex-prisoners of Buchenwald, or the torture basements of the SS or the Gestapo.

These broken people with their families, the ones who the "Golden Gate" was shut up in their faces, were once again arrested, deported, and against their will, deterred in America, essentially, for repatriation to their motherland, home, Nazi Germany, into Hitler's arms.

Can you believe this? Prof. Friedman is from South Florida University, a writer and ex-journalist, conducted a superb illuminating research. His revisionist book, Nazis and Good Neighbors - The U.S. Campaign Against the Germans of Latin America in World War II (Cambridge Univer-sity Press, NY, 2003) which is based on researching many archives, oral history, in this country and especially in six Latin American countries such as Columbia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and others, discusses an unknown American aspect: How America, together with its allies in Latin America, managed to arrest around 5,000 Germans, among them the German Jews, and deport them to detention camps in Texas or Florida.

Do you get it? America did not detain its Germans! It detained other country's Germans. Of course, who should have pity on this nation of murderers, the Nazis? But Prof. Friedman demonstrated that the majority of them were not Nazis, or never even participated in Nazi activity. They were victims of Latin American dictators who used the U.S.A. for their own interests. America believed that these Germans were its enemies, a problem of national security.

The F.B.I. pressed to arrest them so they were arrested and expelled to the U.S. in order to be "repatriated." Most of them were loyal to their new countries such as Bolivia. After 1945 many of them tried to come back to this new motherland. Of course, Nazis and Prof. Fried-man illuminated it, were very active in Latin America. They helped Hitler. Furthermore, even later in the 1940's in their detention camps, they continued to preach Nazism and celebrated Hitler's birthday!

Of course, their gangs in the camps attacked the German Jews! These Jews escaped Nazism to find near their housing in a camp in the land of freedom. The book is not only about the plight of German Jews, but from a Jewish point of view, the stories are shocking. How could the American authorities be so cruel to these victims? How could they view Jews as Nazis? As a danger to America? They also objected to any attempt to treat Jews in another more human way? Furthermore, Bolivia, Prof. Friedman tells us, turned out to be a new haven for Jews.

But when America pressed against the Germans, Bolivia closed it gates. It was one more disaster for the European Jews who ran away from the Nazis. Jews begged for freedom, some died in the American camps (many Jews were old ones), some almost committed suicide but the government refused to change its policies: "These people and other aliens have been sent to the U.S. by the other American republics as dangerous or potentially dangerous to be repatriated or interned for reasons of hemisphere safety," said State Department official Albert E. Chattenberg.

Of course, the great, strong, notorious official there was the anti-Jewish, anti-immigrants, Breckinridge Long, who closed the doors of the "Golden Gate" in order to save America. This is a well documented chapter of the American annals. Since Prof. Friedman's focus is on the German minorities in Latin America and on the F.D.R.'s "good neighbors" policy in the 1930's and the 1940's and not on the Jewish aspect of this history, I would like to express my surprise to find the inaction of the Jewish establishment and its terrible omissions regarding the plight of these victims, German Jews in American detention camps such as "Silver City" or "Kennedy Camp."

Where were you, my brothers keeper? One can argue that Jews here could not stop the Nazis from their mission of the "final solution." It is still a sensitive issue to be discussed openly although almost sixty years have passed since the Shoah took place, but these Jews were on American soil and it was clear that they cannot be Nazis or German agents. Because even the Latin American Nazis viewed them as enemies of Germany.

Why did Jewish leaders argue that Jews must wait to the end of the victory on Hitler, "Mr. War," why did these leaders such as Samuel Rosenman, Bernard Baruch, Stephen Wise, Sydney Hillman, Felix Frankforter, to mention a few, "directors" of Jewish organizations such as American Jewish Committee, Bnai-Brith, for example, did not try to help these German Jews? They were persecuted in America, lost their freedom and wanted to go back to their homes, new homes in Latin America. Some later managed to reside in America and some, the young ones, joined the army to fight in World War II. They were willing to die in order to destroy Nazi Germany, those who were defined as "dangerous" to American security.

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