WWII Japanese Internment

During WWII I know that some Jews were hidden from the Germans by non-Jews. Were any Japanese-Americans hidden from the US authorities during the time of Japanese internment?

I’d like to add another question to the OP, if I may.

I believe that Japanese-Americans who were interned lost everything, in particular their homes, and I don’t think they ever got them back. (My father told a story that a nearby neighbor of his, in those days, was a Japanese family that got interned, and lost their home.)

Did any of them ever get their homes back? Were they compensated for the loss of their homes, either at (or about) the time, or later? I assume the homes were sold to other people. Who got the money for them? The Japanese former owners, or the State, or the Federal government? In short, were their homes outrightly confiscated?

Some reparationswere provided much later…

No idea on the OP. I read one story about a Japanese-American man who tried to flee to the Midwest with his white girlfriend, but he didn’t get out in time and ended up in one of the camps (Manzanar, I believe). I’ve never read any stories about anyone successfully hiding from internment.

As for Senegoid’s question, I do know the answer for that one. Some were able to regain their property. Many were not. Many lawsuits were filed, and the government did end up paying out some money after the war, but the total amounts paid out were nowhere near the totals lost.

Japanese-American business owners really got screwed. It takes a long time to build up a business. Even those that received some compensation from the government couldn’t just go back and re-open their stores. Most of their businesses were ruined. Those that managed to rebuild basically rebuilt their businesses from the ground up, which wasn’t an easy thing to do in a very anti-Japanese culture.

During the Reagan era, a bill was passed that paid the survivors something like $20,000 each.

It wasn’t that their homes and property were confiscated. It’s just that they were interned and away for years, and couldn’t work, had no income. And they often only had a few day’s warning before being interned. So if you had a mortgage on your property how could you continue to make payments? If you had a business it would shut down. If you had a car it would sit there are rust. Property left lying around would get stolen. There were people who would buy the property of internees at pennies on the dollar, which I guess was preferable to just having it go to the bank.

My father, who was a teenager at the time and lived in San Francisco remembers going to school one day and seeing a lot of empty chairs where there used to be Japanese students. He said that at the time nobody would lift a finger for a Japanese neighbor as they were perceived to be the enemy, and there was anti-Japanese hysteria after Pearl Harbor. Had they not been rounded up and sent to interment camps he assumed their homes and businesses would have been burned to the ground. So it wouldn’t surprise me that **most **people turned their backs on their Japanese-Americans neighbors, but I would be a little surprised if **none **of them tried to hide them.

Of course the Italian-Americans and German-Americans were never rounded up and sent to camps. Perhaps because Germany and Italy never attacked the US directly.

As bad as the internment camps were, I don’t know how living in hiding would have been any better.

I recall reading that in Canada, some Japanese were not allowed back to BC for several years after the war. their property was held in trust by the Canadian government but eventually disposed of; in general, their property was sold for cents on the dollar - a good deal for example for rival commercial fishermen who bought a boat for cheap.

On the US side

There’s also the detail that the Japanese were visibly different from their white neighbors.

Jews in Europe were far more likely to be able pass themselves off as gentiles, which made hiding quite a bit easier.

So, from a legal perspective, what would’ve happened in the following legal/historical scenario? Suppose there was a Japanese-American man (naturalized citizen) who owned a small business and the building it was in. He runs the business with his wife (also Japanese-American but born in the US) and four employees. As of December 7, 1941, his mortgage was paid off and the business was in the black with no outstanding loans. How would have internment affected his business and property? Was there anything he could have done to avoid losing them?

Also keep in mind that the interment only applied to Japanese-Americans living in the West Coast exclusion zone, and simply leaving that zone would have been much easier than hiding out. In the first few months of the war, that’s in fact what the government was encouraging. About 10% of the Japanese-American population did leave during the “voluntary evacuation” period and managed to at least avoid the camps for the whole war. Even after internment became mandatory, it wouldn’t have been too terribly difficult for someone to just slip out of the exclusion zone instead of turning themselves in.

That’s sort of what a friend of mine’s grandfather did. He was from California but was going to college in the Midwest when the war started. He left school after the Spring '42 semester and it was assumed he would join his family in (IIRC) Manzanar, but instead he just moved to Chicago and stayed there for the duration. I don’t know if he was actually officially obligated to turn himself in or if his family just expected it, but either way he avoided the camps.

We visited the camp at Tule Lake, CA this past summer. Among the group of tourists, there was a woman who had been imprisoned there as a young girl. Looking at what remains of that camp, it must have been misery, sitting in the middle of hell, with no shade other than what was provided by the buildings, and holding over 18,000 people in a space meant for 15,000. The only building still standing is the jail, where rebellious prisoners were kept. It too was overcrowded, with people sleeping in the hallways. Interesting place to visit.

Small numbers of Italian-Americans and German-Americans were interned, and larger number faced various restrictions on their movements.

My guess?

Assuming that he didn’t sell the business and/or building, he comes back to a building that was probably locked and boarded up, and then very severely vandalized, with anything of value in it having been removed in his absence. If he had a successful business, chances are that a new business doing the exact same thing, except owned by someone who wasn’t Japanese-American, sprung up to fill the void while he was gone. So he returns to ruins and all of his customers are now shopping somewhere else.

He sues the government and gets a tiny check, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to what he needs to rebuild his shop. Even if he struggles to re-open his shop, his customers are now very anti-Japanese and are reluctant to shop there.

Legally, he may still own the building, but from a practical point of view, he’s screwed.

He might very well have lost all that if he couldn’t continue to pay the property taxes.

And how did the Nisei respond?

442nd Regimental Combat Team

I found my great uncle’s yearbook from San Diego in 1940 or so. So many Japanese students who wouldn’t be in the next few yearbooks…

Aside from old-fashioned racism, keep in mind that German and Italian ancestry are the first and seventh largest in the US, while Japanese is not even in the top 20. You cannot feasibly detain half the country, so only those with considerable ties to their homelands were interned. Also, in Hawaii Japanese ancestry is a plurality, so people were not full-scale interned from Hawaii because it would disrupt the economy.

Fred Korematsu hid out for a time and supposedly had his appearance changed and tried to “pass.”

What happened to the Japanese Americans who lived in Hawaii (ground zero for the attack)?

There were many Japanese Americans in California, but their number was nothing compared to the number in Hawaii. In 1920 Japanese made up 43% of the population in Hawaii. Twenty one years later, they still might have made up 30% of the total population of the islands. The 1940 census indicates that the population of Hawaii was 423,330. This means the US government had to intern well over 100,000 people if they wanted to enforce the same policy they had on the mainland.

What do you do when you want to intern such a large segment of the population?

You do nothing. The government realized that any attempt to intern Nisei in Hawaii would destroy the economy of the islands and seriously hamper the war effort.

I have a friend whose grandfather had the misfortune to be a Japanese-American schoolteacher and the neighbor of Bernard Kuehn. When Kuehn was caught, her grandfather was arrested under suspicion, cleared, but kep behind the wire in California until 1945 just because.

True, the general Japanese-American population in Hawaii was not interned, but individuals could be swept up on the flimsiest pretext.