INTERNMENT AND ABANDONMENT
© 2005 By Doris Nye
December 7, 1941--I witnessed the attack on
At the time my parents owned and operated a private nursing home with nineteen patients. On Sunday, December 7, I watched as they helped their patients and families relocate. We listened to the radio as its harried announcer said, “This is the real McCoy. The Japs are attacking. Take cover! Pack food and clothing and be ready to flee to the hills.” All other radio programs had been cancelled. Everyone was waiting for the second attack. During that same evening, there was a total black out. Visible lights were shot out. Armed men patrolled the streets. We snuggled down into bed early--my Mom and my usually jovial Dad, but now unnaturally serious, in their room and my shy nine year-old sister and I, a chubby happy eleven year-old with long braids, in our room which was next to our parents’ room on the third floor. I felt loved and safe; all is well I thought, Mom and Dad are here. It was both frightening on one hand but exciting on the other.
The next day, Monday, December 8,
The next morning, in mental agony, I made some
pancakes--needed to feed any of the remaining clients. Unknown men came into
the kitchen and took much of our food. My little sister hung on to a box
of corn-flakes. The next few days, my mind was in turmoil, I was in mental
anguish. Around December 13, my older sister, Elle, returned. Elle
had been with an aunt on the neighboring
My parents and Elle were taken separately first to the FBI headquarters, where they were fingerprinted, photographed and given an alien registration number—now they were classified as “alien enemies”—yet all three were American citizens—it made no difference! When each of them proclaimed that they were American citizens, the agents did not believe them. Mom and Dad were separated and both were questioned regarding Nazi meetings in their bedroom. My sister was accused of harboring Nazi's in her small cottage. Outrageous accusations were flung at them. Again, individually they were driven to the immigration station where they were turned over to armed soldiers, soldiers who pushed bayonets as prods into their backs and forced them into holding rooms. The men and women were in separate quarters comprised of all races, no one knew why they were being “held”, they were not “charged” with anything, nor were they allowed any outside contact. Around December 17th, without seeing each other, Mom, Dad and Elle, had their “hearings” in front of an anonymous “tribunal.” They were not allowed to have an attorney present, they could not confront their accusers—it was all so secret. During their hearings they were again accused of outrageous actions, but they did not know from whom the FBI received these packs of lies. My parents suspected—that one must be from the demented alcoholic patient, who had a room right beneath theirs. In 1940 Mom had been warned that he was reporting them to the FBI. Mom dismissed it, as a demented raving, and besides Mom would say, “We are American citizens.” Mom also suspected a second patient, one with a glass eye and stiff leg, may have made false accusations against her; my mother had admonished him for harassing a nurse.
During this time, the FBI advised Mom and Dad to give a certain very casual acquaintance (Mr. Reed), a power-of -attorney over all of their property and “belongings” or else their property would be confiscated. Mom was afraid, refused, but she was again threatened with “confiscation", finally she signed. Dad did the same in his cell.
After a month of captivity in their own private hell, the
woman and men who had slept on cots one foot apart with no change of clothing
except that in which they had been “picked up,” were transferred to
In the meantime, after my sister was “forcibly” taken from
me, we went to live with a strict aunt. We were not allowed to say who we
were except that we were war refugees. We were threatened with the
orphanage. We were allowed to keep only two of the Christmas presents
that my parents had hidden in the attic. The rest was “given away” to the
Salvation Army. Our home had been ransacked, anything of value was
stolen. I had to leave my beloved cat to fend for herself, I was not
allowed to take her with me. My loved ones and possessions kept dripping away.
My aunt on
In February of 1942, an interned American citizen, Dr.
Zimmerman, hired an attorney who filed for a writ of habeas corpus.
A few days later, several German and Italian Americans, thirteen of whom were
American citizens (including Dr. Zimmerman and my Dad), were quickly sent to
Camp McCoy in Sparta, Wisconsin. The only clothing they had was what they
had on when there were taken for questioning by the FBI. Their
accommodations were in the hold of a ship that was traveling in convoy through
submarine infested waters to
When Dr. Zimmerman’s attorney presented the General with the writ
of habeas corpus, the government could not produce Zimmerman for he was no
In March 1942, At FBI headquarters, my sister Elle, had to sign papers that she was not allowed to read. She was being released on probation. The FBI agents did not tell her why she was held or why she was being released, she did not dare ask. A friend drove Elle to my aunt’s home. Elle walked in just as my little sister and I were about to be sent to an orphanage. My aunt had suffered a heart attack. When Elle came in my little sister and I were crying holding on to each other--our bags had already been packed. What a relief and joy to see our sister Elle. We left and were on our own.
In April of 1942, Elle said that we could visit Mom, I was so
overjoyed! There was a navy launch waiting at dockside for relatives of the
internees, it made several trips a day. In our boat, no one spoke, many
avoided eye contact, I looked down, and I was so scared and ashamed. We
Finally, around mid-June 1942 the couples were reunited and we were able to spend the weekends with Mom and Dad in their tent. I was so excited seeing Dad for the first time since his arrest almost six months before. How happy to be a family again even under these adverse conditions. What a wonderful feeling to be held, loved and cuddled, as if there was no war!
Mom and Dad’s tent did not have a floor, but Mom carefully
removed all of the larger coral stones and swept the sand. They found and
planted grass and Dad built a little bench in front of the tent. They took
pride in their limited and inconvenient space. In October or November of
1942, my parents were sent to
Mr. Reed—the so-called supporter, robbed and lied to my
parents. Reed said he had many bills and a mortgage to pay, he had sold a
beautiful piece of my parents’ property and pocketed the money from that and
other rentals and gave us nothing. Because of this, three of us, on our own, we
had a very difficult time. Elle was not supposed to be our guardian for she was
underage and on parole. I was terrified of separation and of being sent to an
orphanage. Elle’s jobs paid poorly, little money for rent, less for food (I was
hungry much of the time) and nothing for clothes. Fortunately, living in
Mom fought to keep what property was left. Being kept isolated and in a
“cage” was a huge handicap and this did not help her to protect our assets.
Mom tried to contact various banks, savings and loans to determine if
they could assist in managing her property. At first they were going to
be helpful, but after speaking to Mr. Reed, they immediately declined. For
example, in response to her letter, she received the following from the
Secretary of Federal Savings and Loan: “You asked if there is any law in the
My mother was not allowed to speak with anyone directly, all of her letters had to go through regular channels. In 1943 my mother wrote a letter to General Boyd requesting permission for an attorney friend to visit her. This request was denied. Mom also requested that a physician friend visit her. She was told that her request would have to go through the regular channels. It was obvious that General Boyd could not be bothered.
On June 21, 1943 (62 yrs ago today) my mother was released on parole. In the nick of time, she was able to save the rest of the land. In August of 1943, Dad was released on parole.
All three, Mom, Dad and Eleanor were loyal American citizens. Yet, this
horrible experience happened to them. My sister Elle was incarcerated for three
months, my mother for eighteen months and my father for twenty months. However,
their misery and punishment did not stop upon their release from internment,
they still had to report to a probation officer once a week until the end of martial
law which was not lifted until October 24, 1944. For almost three
years my family suffered under the most unbelievable restrictions even
though each of us was a citizen of the
On April 19, 1993, Senator Dan Inouye submitted a personal bill in the Senate (For
the relief of Bertha Berg) on behalf of my mother Bertha Berg. This
bill in part asked that my mother “should receive the same amount of
compensation that eligible interns of Japanese descent are awarded under
section 105 of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (50 U.S.C. App. 1989b-4).
However, this bill went nowhere. There was no support for this bill in the
United States Senate, a chamber where many now “grieve” and complain that the
Although, the above events did happen under martial law, mistreatment continued to plague the whole family well after martial law was lifted…and now more than sixty years have passed, six decades later, there has been no action taken to recognize that a horrible crime was committed against the Berg family!!! How long must we wait?
June 21, 2005