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World War II Internment Records

World War II Enemy Alien Control Program


Separate from the Japanese American relocation program run by the War Relocation Authority, two additional programs were implemented by the United States to identify and imprison civilians considered a threat to the country during World War II. The first program, run by the Department of Justice, targeted German, Italian and Japanese nationals ("enemy" aliens) residing in the U.S. after the start of the war. Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 were issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to detain suspected enemy aliens living in the United States - primarily individuals of German, Italian or Japanese ancestry. A secondary program, run by the Special War Problems Division of the State Department, offered Latin American countries the opportunity to send allegedly dangerous enemy aliens living in their country to the United States for internment (many of them citizens of the Latin American country from which they were taken). Over fifteen Latin American countries accepted the offer, sending over 6,600 individuals of German, Italian and Japanese ancestry to the U.S. for internment, along with many family members.

By the end of WWII, over 31,000 suspected enemy aliens and their family members had been interned for at least a time at enemy alien internment camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many were paroled or released following an appearance before a local hearing board. Several thousand were repatriated to their native country, some voluntarily and others involuntarly. At the end of the war, internees no longer deemed "dangerous" were released, although it took until 1948 before the last internment camp was closed.

Records relating to the internment of World War II enemy aliens are located in several different record groups in the custody of the National Archives. The index to the WWII Alien Enemy Detention and Internment Case Files can be searched online in ARC (Archival Research Catalog).

The United States was not the only country to intern alien civilians during WWI and WWII. The Isle of Man was used as a base for Alien Civilian Internment Camps during both wars. The National Archives of Australia holds records of internment camps and the enemy aliens held there during both World War I and World War II. Canada held over 8500 "enemy aliens" in internment camps, of which over 5,000 were Ukranians, in the period following the outbreak of WWI, and obliged an additional 80,000 individuals to register as "enemy aliens." Similar internment camps existed in France, Germany and other countries around the world.

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