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Dutchess_III's avatar

Why did they only intern the Japanese Americans and not the German Americans?

Asked by Dutchess_III (46531points) May 25th, 2023

Was it just easier finding Japanes Americans?

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25 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The answer is racism.

elbanditoroso's avatar

There were far too many German Americans in the US (dating back to the 1800s and before) to do so. Whereas there were far, far fewer Japanese Americans – generally the descendants of the Japanese who were brought over to build the railroads in the 1860s.

In addition, Japanese were readily identifiable by their names and their appearance.

zenvelo's avatar

In addition to the reasons above, Japanese Americans were mostly located on the West Coast and Hawaii, so it was easier to relocate them away from the coast.

Because the attack on Pearl Harbor was by Japanese planes, and was a direct threat to US soil, it was considered more of a risk.

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting question. Here are my thoughts, but not a definitive answer.

Germans had been in America for many generations. In fact the Declaration of Independence was published in German at the time of its writing to make sure German speaking (reading) people were aware of what was happening in the country. The late 1800’s was the biggest migration of Germans. By the time of WWII the majority of German-Americans were fully Americanized. There were still some more new immigrants coming in the early 1900’s, but overall I don’t think the loyalty of German-Americans to America was questioned.

Also, President Roosevelt actually had spent time in Germany as a child and spoke German. I don’t know if that had any affect, but maybe he separated the German people from Hitler in his mind? That would be interesting to know.

The Japanese were newer immigrants, many still probably had accents, there was a lot of anti-Asian sentiment in the country. The Chinese Exclusion Act was in force when the Interment Camps were started. I know Japanese people are not Chinese, but of course many Americans just see all of “them” similarly. Possibly, many of the Japanese were not yet US citizens? Does anyone know?

Also, as mentioned above Pearl Harbor was on our land (although before Hawaii was a state) and racism most likely played a roll. America has a history of not trusting people who they deem different.

Plus, the Japanese were a smaller group and less integrated. If the government had locked up Germans, that would have been a huge number of people, and German families were mixed with English, Scottish, Polish, etc.

Many German-Americans fought against Germany in WWII and were integral in us winning. I wonder if there are stories of German Americans being very conflicted about fighting the war. There must have been some.

Dutchess_III's avatar

GA zenvelo. Never thought of that.

gondwanalon's avatar

Perhaps blind irrational fear had something to do with such an over reaction.. Also the sneaky attack by the Japanese was was absolutely devastating and humiliating.

Also Germany didn’t attack the USA directly and it is very difficult to determine those of German descent. My DNA is 84% German and my last name is Irish.

jca2's avatar

Good answers by everyone and the real answer is probably a combination of several things, including @gondwanalon, @JLeslie and @zenvelo and @elbanditoroso plus racism as mentioned by @ragingloli.

kritiper's avatar

It could be that we didn’t inter Germans in WWII because we didn’t have an internal problem with them in WWI. The Japanese we couldn’t be too sure of, so better to lock them up and then not have the worry of what they might do. Yes, it was racist to some extent but better to provide oneself with “an ounce of prevention” instead of “a pound of cure.” Also, “Better to be safe than sorry.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

How did we have an internal problem with the Japanese?

kritiper's avatar

We didn’t. But we wanted to avoid the possibility of such a thing.

tinyfaery's avatar

America was okay with Nazis.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Some definitely were.

janbb's avatar

—@Dutch Just as an aside; “inter” means to bury; I think you mean “intern.”—

Dutchess_III's avatar

I stand corrected @janbb

janbb's avatar

@Dutchess_III Don’t stand, sit. i don’t want you to hurt your feet.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL!! I’m sitting! I’m sittin!

janbb's avatar

^^ Bending down for a hug.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Check the topics. I got it right there!

seawulf575's avatar

I always thought it was because it was far harder for Germany to attack us than it would be for Japan to do so. If they had agents planted into our society already, they could be triggered to create mayhem if there was an attack. It wasn’t done until the attack on Pearl Harbor (done as a precautionary action). I imagine there probably was discussion about German born immigrants as well, but as I said, Germany wasn’t close to being able to attack us.

filmfann's avatar

Also, due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were considered sneaky and untrustworthy.

Zaku's avatar

Aren’t German Americans the largest ethnic group in the USA?

JLeslie's avatar

Wikipedia about internment of Germans in the US:,more%20had%20distant%20German%20ancestry.

@Zaku They are the largest group today, and I assume back in the ‘30’s too. If not the largest, then still very large.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I would say it was a combination of what Loli, and @filmfann said…

Keep in mind. The Japanese were in talks with the US government at the time. As a result of being in the midst of diplomacy, the US did not suspect an attack from Japan.
Japan’s leaders did a great job with strategy, at first. Their only mistake was not following Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the US mainland. I’ve read that experts predicted that Japan could have gotten all the way to Chicago, before the US could have mounted a realistic defense.
Although I agree that racism was a factor. I find it relevant that the war resulted in a lot of Pacific countries having a dislike, and hatred for Japan. The Japanese were absolutely ruthless, and atrocious when they were on the offensive. They were a well disciplined, very capable enemy in defense mode.

It’s a crazy world.

Russia helped the US defeat Japan. They helped, or we helped Russia and Europe defeat Germany too. In addition China was ravaged by Japan, and was helped greatly by US involvement.
Not even that long ago.

Today. The US is great allies with Germany and Japan. Conversely, the US is at odds with Russia. As is most of Europe, which also benefited from Russian help. Although Russia only was at war with Germany because they were attacked by Germany. Much like the US probably wouldn’t have gone to war with Japan, if not for Pearl Harbor…

And. It’s highly likely that the US and China will have military conflict in the next 5–15 years…

It’s almost like war doesn’t make sense….....................

Zaku's avatar

War, doesn’t make sense.

On the point of Russia having been only at war with Germany because Germany attacked them, I don’t think that’s entirely accurate to say, as Stalin had been planning to attack Germany, too.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Most historical data I have studied has indicated that Stalin was oddly susceptible to Hitler’s deception.
I agree that it seemed Stalin’s ambitions could have been aggressively expansionist. However all indicators are that Stalin trusted Hitler and he (well Russians,) paid dearly for it…

For whatever reason, there were at least three pretty awful authoritarian assholes in Europe at the time. Plus, obviously at least one on Eastern Asia (Japan.)

So. I guess I’m kind if agreeing with you @Zaku . Or at least not completely disagreeing…

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