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The Difference Between the Japanese American Internment Camps and The Concentration Camps in Europe

Updated on September 26, 2013

World War 2 was a huge historical battle that was fought between the Allies (United States, Canada, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union) and the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan). Two of the biggest issues regarding the fate of human rights were the concentration camps in Europe set up by Nazi Germany and the Japanese internment camps set up by the U.S Government. Now there has been a lot of flack about the Japanese internment camps. Many in the professional and academic world have condemned the United States for taking away the rights of Japanese Americans and sending them to the camps against their own will. Some have now claimed that it was a racial move to control interracial population. However, we should remember that before this happened, Imperial Japan was the one who provoked us to start fighting in the second world war by attacking Pearl Harbor. When stuff like that happens, it would be understandable that white Americans would start harboring fear to their Japanese neighbors. Why would they? Because some factors stand out: fear of spies, unloyalty to the United States, tendency to provoke viewpoints that are un-American and start a conflict with neighbors and friends.

The question comes to this: was it right for the U.S Government to place many Japanese and Japanese Americans in internment camps? The particular question that should be asked next is: were the Japanese in America REALLY being mistreated by the U.S Government?

To answer the first question, I would say that the United States did what it had to do to protect its citizens and its national interest. America just wanted to make sure that there were no infiltration going on inside the country. It's unfortunate that the Japanese in America, both foreign and domestic, had to be the ones affected by the actions of Imperial Japan. I'm sorry for what happened to them. To answer the next question, my answer would be that the American government DID NOT totally mistreat the Japanese Americans. How can that be you might say? Let's now compare between the internment camps in America and the Nazi concentration camps in Europe.

First up is the standard of living. When the Japanese arrived at the camp, they had rooms and cabins built up for them. They were gathered to the living quarters in proper order and fashion. While living there, they still had nice clothes worn. When it was time to eat, they were given proper food and they were provided with nice mess halls to enjoy their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For the Jews at the Nazi concentration camps in Europe, they had rooms that were very hazardous to their health. Insulation was very low during the winter so prisoners had to suffer from the cold, which led to sickness. The clothes that the prisoners wore were very torn, ragged, and barely or never washed. Food was disproportionately served and many Jews died of hunger in the camps.

(The top photo shows the Japanese Americans in the American internment camps enjoying a meal in a well placed mess hall. The bottom photo shows the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps in cramped bunker beds. Which is worse?)


The second issue to point out is the loyalty of these two ethnic people to their adopted homeland. For the Japanese Americans, many had to prove themselves for many months that they were loyal to the United States. When their loyalties were proven, many had the opportunity to join the Army and train themselves for war. When their training was complete, thousands served in Europe bravely and valiantly, winning the respect of their fellow white and black Americans for their courage and willingness to fight. Some have even earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. For the European Jews, many were loyal to their adopted homeland before World War 2 began, especially to Germany. But when Hitler came to power, things gradually changed for the worse and Jews were stripped of their citizenship even though they have proven their loyalties by assimilation. In the Nazi concentration camps, Jews were never given a chance to prove their loyalty because the main goal of the Nazis were to kill every single Jew. No person that were revealed were Jewish served bravely and courageously in the Nazi military. There were Jews that did serve in the Nazi military but that was before their ethnicity were revealed. When it was revealed, their position would be stripped away, even to the ones that served in a higher position and would be forced to resign.

(The top photo shows Japanese Americans proudly standing firm as U.S Army soldiers where one holds the American flag. The bottom photo shows Jews continuing to suffer in the Nazi concentration camps.)

Let's make the third issue, cultural celebration, another factor. For the Japanese Americans, hundreds managed to celebrate and fully exhibit their culture while interned at the camps. They managed to wear Japanese cultural dresses, wear the kimonos, display their cultural fans plus wear make-up. They even made the usual dragon dummies fitted for four people to wear and walk around. For the European Jews, hundreds more were so weak they couldn't manage to light the menora and celebrate either Passover, Yom Kippur, or Rosh Hashanna. Hundreds of Jews were still continuing to build their own camps with guns pointed at their heads, which did not provide them any opportunity to celebrate their Jewish culture and religion.

(The top photos shows a group of Japanese Americans fully dressed in Japanese cultural outfits in the internment camps while the photo on the bottom continues to show Jews dressed in filthy striped pajamas)

With all these three facts I have written down and the comparison photos I have shown, shouldn't it question to you dear readers on which of the ethnic groups had it better when interned in camps during the Second World War? It is painfully obvious that the Japanese Americans were treated more better by the U.S Government than the Jews in Europe. Clearly, the United States did everything it could to maintain their civilized reputation in that time period of war. Nazi Germany were never threatened by Jews. Remember, for those who don't know history at all, there was no physical nation of Israel threatening Nazi Germany of war. Israel came back as a nation three years after the reign of Nazi Germany, so there would be no reason to blame and declare war on Jews. This reign of terror happened because of one man's personal relationship struggle with Jews and his ability to propagandize the German people into thinking Jews were behind every problem of their society.

Am I trying to applaud the U.S Government of that time. No, per se. But I do understand what they had to do for the purpose of national security. It is hard for people to accept other groups of people in a country where that group's ancestral nation declares war. In the end, America is not a 100 percent racist country. Yes it had racial problems for many many years but throughout those times, it has tried to fix it, again and again, both the government and the people. I could be more specific on that but that would be in another future article. So if people start criticizing about our historical treatment of the Japanese Americans in internment camps, always remember to compare it to them between what happened to the Japanese and what happened to the Jews.

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    • abrodech profile image

      Anya Brodech 3 years ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

      I have to disagree with your essay because I feel that you are omitting a lot of information and key points. First off, the Nazi Concentration Camps in Europe were intended as "death centers" in that they specifically hunted down and rounded up as many Jews as they could, with the intent of "exterminating" them according to Hitler's "master plan." Many Jews were killed on the train, getting off the train, going into the camp (soldiers deciding who got to live and who had to die, before sending them into the shower gas chambers). The concentration camps in Europe were deliberately intended to be cruel, violent, horrible, and deadly to all those who were imprisoned. The Jews were not a real threat to Germany or any other country, they were not declaring war or violence on anyone. They were simply a prejudiced group, victims of Hitler's political oppression.

      On the other hand, the internment camps in America were created for an entirely different purpose. The internment camps in America were intended for holding Japanese and Japanese Americans out of fear of political and violent upheaval in the wake of Pearl Harbor. There was this insane paranoia that they were going to do some siege on the US, even though Washington DC is located on the opposite end of the country.

      However, this is not to say that the camps that they were sent to forcefully were as "nice" you say they were. Obviously, in comparison to the concentration camps in Europe, they were amazing. Just about anything can be better than the atrocities set up by the Nazis!!!

      If you had read Mine Okubo's graphic novel/memoir "Citizen 13660" you will discover that the Japanese internment camps were horrible and cruel in their own ways. American citizens were forced by their own government to complete give up their livelihoods, homes, and families to be deported into some Godforsaken camp in the desert and exiled from the rest of society based on their race alone.

      Many prisoners of these internment camps had had little or no contact with Japan, and considered themselves loyal to the US. They had committed no political scheming or plotting to take over the government or stage an attack!

      Whereas on the other side of the country, particularly along the east coast in cities like New York, there were politically active Germans who openly declared themselves to be Nazis and followers of Hitler, who committed hate crimes against local Jews and blatantly expressed their views. These American Nazis were not arrested or sent away to internment camps like the Japanese, even though they were actively supporting Hitler, the enemy!!

      There was serious racial prejudice going on in the United States at the time towards Japanese and Asians. There was this ridiculous belief that Nazis and Germans "weren't all that bad because they were WHITE like us" and could be "changed," unlike the Japanese who would always be the "others."

      It is beyond unfair and a horrible injustice that innocent Japanese and Japanese-Americans, US Citizens for crying out loud, were forced into internment camps against their wills for doing absolutely nothing, while the American Nazis got to have their way and march about openly without suffering any consequences.

      So don't you make comparisons between the Jews and the Japanese and say that they "had it easy" or even begin to justify what the US government towards them.

      This is the horrible but true story of how outdated perceptions of physical racial traits have scarred and continue to haunt the dark pages of American history.

    • christian107 profile image
      Author

      Christian 3 years ago from Lancaster, PA

      abrodech-first off I want to point out that everything you have said is exactly the point why I wrote this essay. The point of this was to show that during this period, America was not equal in atrocities committed against humanity just like Nazi Germany. It just wasn't. Second, that book you have referred to is just one of the many internment camps stories that held Japanese and Japanese Americans as prisoners cruelly and racially. Were they true, I'm sure they were. But one person who experienced the internment camps cannot justify the generalization that all internment camps in America were horribly cruel. Yes there were racial prejudice behind this internment camp activity. But not all were racial. Trust me I have read my history making sure that materials I read came from primary sources. Third, even though a large majority of internment camp detainees were Japanese, there were internment camps that held Germans and Italians as well. And that is a fact. Fourth, the tone on the second last paragraph saying to me "So don't you make comparisons the Jews and the Japanese...." sounded like I had no right to make this piece. Let me put this in a kind word while being bold-I have every right to do my piece of homework regarding this issue no matter what. To have a tone to tell me that I have no right to do this piece makes you as guilty as such to respond to my piece by falsely accusing the whole American population during that time of racial prejudice and I can tell you to not make accusations like that. But again you have every right to have an opinion and your own research. But I still stand boldly on what I have researched and I will still write these kinds of articles regarding this piece of history. There is a U.S Government video from the 1940s explaining honestly as much as they can about their actions on the Japanese in America regarding their internment. Check on you tube, it's there. Fifth, in the end ask yourself this question: which of the two groups had their own people died in either camps? Japanese or Jews. It is so obvious that 6 million Jews died and no Japanese died. And it doesn't make sense to call the internment camps a scar and haunting dark page of American history when Jews had it worsed in German history, and my heart breaks at what happened to them on those fateful years. Think about it first, read my article carefully again to get my context, and feel free to come back to respond again. I also read your response on my other article but first let's focus on this one.

    • abrodech profile image

      Anya Brodech 3 years ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

      I'm not arguing that the Japanese had it worse than the Jews, but rather that the Japanese suffered as well in America and for you not to make light of it. And even though the Japanese weren't intended to be killed went they were sent to the camps, it doesn't mean that absolutely none of them died nor that they weren't any altercations between detainees and the guards.

      I just found it terrible that the US government detained it's own US citizens in camps like these in the 1940s since it's not something that modern government should be doing, especially when it primarily fueled by paranoia.

      I say that it is dark because it's something that we would find unbelievable to happen in today's society in the US.

    • christian107 profile image
      Author

      Christian 3 years ago from Lancaster, PA

      And I understand how you feel about it and I'm glad that your concerned about human rights. Of course it is terrible. But how would you feel if you found out that someone from a neighborhood killed someone in your neighborhood and you found out about where the killer came from. I am sure that your natural instincts would suspect people from that neighborhood would be killers as well. It's a wrong thinking, but you're concerned for your safety. I know I will be like that. Same thing what happened during WW2. If there is blame, blame Imperial Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor where American sailors and soldiers were killed in those bombings and made Americans suspect the Japanese in America. We as Americans know today that it is unbelievable that internment camps happens today we have made sure that it doesn't happen. How? When those indentified Muslim terrorists attacked on 9/11, we retaliated against al Qaeda but did not herd up Muslims to internment camps

    • abrodech profile image

      Anya Brodech 3 years ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

      Yes, that's very true. It just seems as if the Japanese were reacted to much more strongly than the German Nazis and Italian Facists because it always seemed to me that most of WWII was centralized around Europe rather than Asia

    • profile image

      Jason Mclenna 3 years ago

      Christian107...

      Thank you for trivializing a shameful moment in our history. It's nice to know that the ignorance and racism that contributed to the creation of the camps is still evident in our society.

      As an Veteran of OEF I want to thank you for once again proving that not everyone is worthy of the freedom we give them and that we still have a long way to go in America.

    • christian107 profile image
      Author

      Christian 3 years ago from Lancaster, PA

      Jason McIenna

      I'm kinda lost on your comments. Are you really complimenting my article or are you exaggerating and disagreeing with my article?

    • profile image

      anonomous 3 years ago

      Wow!

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 22 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Thank you for pointing this out. The Japanese did lose their property and freedom. Compared to the Chinese massacred by the Japanese and the horrible treatment of Western soldiers death marched during World War 2, the Japanese in the internment camps were well treated. It isn't comparable to the Germans killing everyone from Jews to Romany to Slavs to anyone they didn't execute on the spot for spying and sabotage, the Japanese in the internment camps had a much better standard of living.

      Japan was at war with the US, and their spy ring was overwhelmingly drawn from their own ethnicity, though a top spy for Pearl Harbor, Bernard Kuehn, was German.

    • profile image

      16 months ago

      hi..

    • profile image

      libeth 12 months ago

      I just came across this article. I am Jewish, my family came from Poland just before WW2.

      First, I believe it is wrong to compare the camps. Wrong is wrong, even if one is bad and the other horrific.

      I found it sad and interesting that Christian comments that Muslims were not rounded up after Sept 11.

      Today we have 2 presidential hopefuls that are suggesting doing something close to that of. Mr Cruz who said Muslims neighborhoods should be patrolled, which sound a bit like the ghettos of that time, and Mr Trump suggesting that Muslims have to register, minus the yellow star in my view.

      We also have a refugee crisis in the world, non terrorists, many of them children, being killed, and the US has accepted much fewer than Canada.

      Statistics of public opinion about accepting refugees are as low now as they were at the beginning of WW2 regarding Jewish children. Two thirds of the population opposed it then, and NOW.

      Interment camps were wrong. We can say it and not try to justify it. Not all Japanese were enemies or murderers, not all Muslims are terrorists, just a small fraction. In Europe, most terrorists were born there, they were also criminals with prior non political or religious crimes.

      Most of the refugees are regular people that are suffering.

      The US opinion about refugees places all minority groups, including Jews, at risk. It is a show of intolerance.

    • profile image

      Christian 12 months ago

      Look libeth

      The point I'm making in this article is that the Japanese internment camp issue is just being used to disgrace the US as if it is the worst human right's violation ever commited. This whole internment camp issue is just pure hate towards the US. And I've heard this whole "not all Muslims are all terrorist" conundrum. I'll point this out about you Libeth: you're just scared of Muslims. Your so scared that one criticism of them and you think you'll be labeled a bigot or worse get killed by them. Then you go to Europe and then you say they had more terrorist? I know what you meant by that as well: white people are evil. That's bigoted righ there. You want to get emotional, I don't care. Read the article properly and get my point. And I'll challenge you as well: denounce the Muslim attacks on Christians in the Middle East with the whole ISIS thing. And I know what you'll bring up: you'll most likely show some articles of how some Muslims have protected a Christian church; you're most likely gonna show me some " research" that more whites have committed terrorist; and then the so-called Christian terrorists that have commited more terror that you most likely will show me are not real Christians at all. I think you're more hateful towards Christians. Anything against Christians you'll accept but when it's Muslims: " oh not all of them". Yeah right!! And then you make it political. You're arguments are not worth looking into

    • profile image

      libeth 12 months ago

      Forget it. I'm not interested in a debate that is plain name calling and aggressive.

      I was hoping for a constructive exchange of different points of view.

      I'm signing out.

      Best

    • profile image

      carly 11 months ago

      thank you so much this helped a lot:)

    • profile image

      Dobby 6 months ago

      Christian

      Of course Jason was not complimenting your article. Haven't you heard of sarcasm?

      And human rights violation is human rights violation. Its not as if a crime committed by a gov isn't bad unless it goes to the extent of the Holocaust. And you appear to be defending the atrocities committed by the American gov. In doing so you insult the memory of those Japanese Americans who were victims to this.

    • profile image

      Christian 6 months ago

      Dobby

      First off, how do you know that Jason is sarcastic? You're not him

      Second, since you THINK i'm defending the so called atrocities of the American government, then I THINK you're just simply anti American in anything America does. Read the article again. Get my context and then come back and debate me properly again

    • profile image

      (´・_・`) 5 months ago

      This is ridiculous. I cannot believe that someone believes that just because they weren't as bad as the ones in Europe, means they had it "better" there was absolutely nothing good about those camps no matter what you say. I'm sure if it wouldh ave happened to your ancestors you'd be going off about how unfair it was. Don't try to justify what happened. I understand they were scared I do but it was more than just fear it was racism. They put babies children and old people there that could never even be "spies" it was beyond ridiculous. The camps might have been "different" but they were very much the same as well .

    • profile image

      ._. 5 months ago

      I am justifying it and you don't tell me otherwise. But I should tell you to stop being emotional and hateful and read the article properly and get the context

    • profile image

      Wow 5 months ago

      I have never heard anyone say that Japanese-Americans in the US had it worse than Jews in Germany during WWII. This whole article is just one gigantic ridiculous straw man. Sheesh.

    • profile image

      Christian 5 months ago

      Well that's your problem since that's how you're seeing it

    • profile image

      XDDDDDD is cancer 7 weeks ago

      this was a nice article

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