Friday, October 14, 2016

687 (2016 #42). The Train to Crystal City

by Jan Jarboe Russell

This book was this month's selection for the local book club I used to be active in (until the meeting time moved to afternoons, which I cannot attend).

The book discusses a World War II internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, that housed families of (mostly) men of Japanese, German, and Italian origin who were still aliens (not yet naturalized) and were considered a threat to national security during the war, sometimes simply because of their occupations (photographer, for instance, or bridge-builder).  Many of their children were born in the United States and thus citizens.  However, the parents agreed to be potential deportees in exchange for American citizens held behind enemy lines, so of course their minor children would go with them.

Jan Jarboe Russell interviewed a number of these surviving children, and their stories are the strength of the book.  She also presents the conflicting thoughts of the Americans supervising the internment, from the camp school principal through the camp director to the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and even the President.

I knew that there were some prisoner of war camps in Texas, but I never realized there were internment camps as well, particularly one for entire families.

This book is relevant for me because I am currently doing some research about a first cousin twice removed who, despite immigrating here from Germany in 1912 and serving in the Army, was still not naturalized when World War II broke out.  He too was arrested (apparently because his American-born wife had a short-wave radio, illegal for aliens) and briefly detained, and then was a parolee for most of the rest of the war.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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