Please Print and Use
of the Camps
Developed by Dr.
About this Guide
This viewer's guide is designed to help individuals and groups
most effectively use the Children of the Camps documentary. It
contains thought-provoking questions, as well as sources of more
information on the Japanese American internment experience. A
college level study guide will be available beginning in August
About the Program
Children of the
Camps is a
one-hour documentary that portrays the poignant stories of six
men and women who were interned as children in US concentration
camps during World War II. By Executive Order of President Franklin
D. Roosevelt, men, women, and children solely by virtue of their
racial similarity to the enemy, were deemed a "risk to national
security" and, without determination of guilt, were imprisoned
behind barbed wire for up to 5 years.
The film captures a three-day intensive group experience, during
which the participants are guided a trained therapist through
a process that enables them to speak honestly about their experiences,
often for the first time. The six participants openly share how
their families were torn apart, the shame and humiliation they
watched their parents endure, and the legacy passed on to them
for how to survive in a world that had accused and ostracized
them for no other reason than the color of their skin. Through
the telling of their personal stories we witness an unfolding
of the deeply traumatic nature of that early childhood experience.
The documentary sheds light on the deeply damaging personal impact
of racism and offers an opportunity for viewers to understand
the cultural and familial consequences of growing up as a scapegoated
minority group member. As the film shows, the trauma was not
merely the overt experience of being imprisoned at a young age,
but even more so, the covert victimization from racism that conveys
to children that they are unworthy and unwanted.
The healing process is reflected in the participants' increasing
ability to tell each other the truth about their experience,
allowing them to feel their long-held grief and anger. Through
this process, they gain a deeper understanding of how that early
trauma has continued to effect their lives today. The once secret
and darkly shrouded private suffering becomes clearer and better
understood, thus clearing the way for self-acceptance and new
* Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 194l, shocked
all Americans, including Japanese Americans.
* On February 19, 1942,
President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which
set into motion the exclusion from certain areas, the restriction
of movement by curfew, and the eventual mobilization for mass
incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry on the
West Coast, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. For most internees,
this represented the single most traumatic episode in their collective
lives. ("The Bill of Rights and the Japanese American
World War II Experience", National Japanese American
Historical Society, San Francisco Unified School District Dept.
of Integration Staff Development, 1992.)
* Most of the 110,000 persons removed for reasons of "national
security" were school-age children, infants and young adults
not yet of voting age. ("Years of Infamy: The Untold
Story of America's Concentration Camps", Michi Weglyn,
* Early rumors of sabotage
and espionage by Japanese residents in Hawaii and the West Coast
were found to be false by the FBI and other government agencies,
but these findings were suppressed by high U.S. officials in
government. There was not one instance of sabotage or espionage
by Japanese American citizens or residents of the U.S. before
or during the war. Nevertheless, the government did not deny
rumors to this effect. ("The Bill of Rights and the Japanese
American World War II Experience", National Japanese
American Historical Society and San Francisco Unified School
* Japanese Americans died in the camps due to inadequate medical
facilities and emotional stresses they encountered. Some were
killed by the military guards posted around the camps. ("Legacy
of Injustice", Donna K. Nagata, 1993)
* One of the most hauntingly pressing issues facing Japanese
Americans today is their concentration camp experience during
World War II. Yet, the major group of survivors ? the Nisei ?
generally do not confront the implications of it within themselves
or with their own children. In many respects the Nisei have been
permanently altered in their attitudes, both positively and negatively,
in regard to their identification with the values of their bicultural
heritage; or they remain confused or even injured by the traumatic
experience. ("Identity Crisis of the Sansei and the Concentration
Camp", Nobu Miyoshi, 1978.)
* Recognizing the great
injustice that took place, they carry with them the legacy of
their parents' internment. Time has not severed the psychological
ties to events that preceded them, nor has the fact that their
parents will not openly discuss the internment. On the contrary,
the vast majority of Sansei (third generation) feel that the
incarceration has affected their lives in significant ways..quot;Legacy
of Injustice", Donna K. Nagata, 1993.)
*The recent Japanese American redress movement was "led
largely by younger Japanese Americans whose parents and grandparents
still bore the psychological scars of internment". ("Justice
at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases",
P. Irons, 1983.)
* Trauma may directly or indirectly affect the children of trauma
victims. The multiple pathways of its effects create a variety
of consequences. Despite the silence, or perhaps because of it,
the Sansei who had a parent interned felt the effects of that
experience in numerous ways. They are sad and angry about the
injustice and attribute a number of negative consequences in
their own lives to their parents' internment. These include feelings
of low self-esteem, the pressure to assimilate, an accelerated
loss of the Japanese culture and language, and experiencing the
unexpressed pain of their parents. ("Legacy of Injustice:
Exploring the Cross-Generational Impact of the Japanese American
Internment", Donna K. Nagata, 1993.)
* Long-term health consequences included psychological anguish
as well as increased cardiovascular disease. Traumatic stress
was buffered by culturally constructed coping mechanisms that
were less inculcated in the youngest detainees. They reported
more post-traumatic stress symptoms of unexpected and disturbing
flashback experiences than those who were older at the time of
incarceration. Survey information found former internees had
a 2.1 greater risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular
mortality, and premature death than did a non-interned counterpart.
California Nisei-age individuals, the proxy for internment, died
1.6 years earlier than Hawaiians who represented non-interned
status. I concluded traumatic stress has lifelong consequences
even in the presence of efficacious coping strategies. (The Experience
of Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese American Internment,
Gwendolyn M. Jensen, 1997.)
It is our hope that the Children of the Camps documentary will
educate its viewers about the internment experience and the lifelong
impact of racial oppression, while instilling a sense of hope
and responsibility for healing the wounds of racism in all its
forms. The healing for all of us begins by talking to one another
and listening very carefully. The following suggestions and guidelines
can help members of the viewing group to gain a better understanding
of themselves and others.
Invite others to a group viewing . . .
Children of the Camps, the Documentary, offers many levels of
experience and learning. Because it is an emotionally impactful
story, we believe that viewing it with others and talking about
your response and insights can provide a very powerful opportunity
to examine topics and issues that are normally too difficult
We encourage you to invite family, friends, colleagues or classmates
to participate in a frank and open discussion about this little-known
aspect of US history and all of its ramifications for understanding
and unlearning racism.
Be sensitive about the subject . . .
For anyone who has been directly affected by the internment personally
or through a family member, this program can touch a sensitive
nerve. We urge members of the viewing group to be respectful
of the extent to which that individual may feel like sharing
their personal experiences. In addition, during World War II,
the general public was caught up in wartime hysteria and as a
result, many people today may have long-held beliefs about the
justification for internment. We ask that viewers allow themselves
to take in the reality of the personal stories presented so that
they may reconsider any judgments which might be based on misinformation.
Suggested Discussion Format
The healing for all of us begins by talking and listening. The
following suggested format can help the viewing group to achieve
a better understanding of one another.
For Japanese Americans
Suggestions for having a family dialogue after viewing Children
of the Camps:
FOR THE FAMILY MEMBER
OR FRIEND -
- Talk to family members
about why it's important for you to learn more about your family's
experience in camp.
- It often helps to
look at camp photos or artifacts together. These can stimulate
memories and create a focal point for discussion.
- Listen carefully and
without judgment. Many internees have been reluctant to speak
for fear they will be judged for decisions and choices they made.
- Walk in the other
person's shoes. As you listen, try putting yourself in that picture,
in those circumstances and be aware of the your thoughts and
- Acknowledge the feelings
that come up in you and those you observe in the person sharing
the story. Releasing the emotions is an important part of the
- Express your gratitude
and appreciation. It helps to remind the internee that every
decision and choice they made contributed to their survival and
their presence in your life today.
Some questions you
might ask of yourself:
- What has made it difficult
for me to ask about camp?
- How do I think I might
have reacted under those same circumstances?
- What coping strategies
are used in my family that are strengths and/or problems for
- What does the camp
experience mean for me and what are my feelings about the internment?
Some questions to
ask of the former internee:
- What helped you to
survive the camp experience?
- What were your greatest
worries and fears?
- What were the best
times for you in camp?
- What were the most
difficult times for you in camp?
- How did you make sense
or meaning about your camp experience?
- How did camp experience
effect the way you raised your children?
- What strengths do
you now have as a result of camp?
FOR THE FORMER INTERNEE
- Tell your story. By
sharing your experience you are educating others who can benefit
from your direct experience.
- Be aware of your emotions.
Acknowledging these feelings can be very liberating and can help
others to more fully understand your experience.
- Acknowledge the truth
about the losses you and your family suffered. Minimizing our
experience can create a distorted image of what can happen when
civil liberties are denied.
- Identify the strengths
you have gained. Share with your family and friends what you
feel helped you to face the situation.
- Finish any unfinished
business. If you need to make amends, acknowledge a mistake,
clarify a misunderstanding related to or during the internment,
take action that will contribute to healing.
Some questions for
the former internee to consider:
- Who did I identify
with the most in the group?
- What do I want my
family and friends to get out of this program?
- How do I feel about
the intensity of emotions expressed in this program?
- What is the most difficult
thing for me to talk about?
- How has camp effected
how I view the world and what I expect in life?
We suggest to the following to facilitate your discussion. .
- Listen very carefully,
avoiding judgment and encouraging discussion.
- Listen to your own
emotional and intellectual response to what you're hearing and
try to express it.
Ask and Discuss:
- What parts of the
program effected you the most and why?
- What kind of feelings
did you experience as you watched the program?
- In what way or with
whom did you identify the most and why?
- What did you learn
that you didn't know?
- What do you believe
made it possible for this large-scale internment to occur? Could
it happen again, perhaps to a different racial group?
- What you can do to
help educate others about the dehumanizing consequences of racism.
- What is one thing
you can do to help yourself and others to heal from the wounds
How you can teach
- Stand up for others
whose rights are being challenged, whether through a racial joke
or an institutional decision.
- Cherish your freedom
by voting, contributing your time and resources to support human
To Learn More . . .
A few suggested books and organizations are listed below. Please
visit the Children of the Camps web site (http://www.children-of-the-camps.org)
for a more complete resource list, as well as the following:
* to find more information,
Web sites and resources about the internment experience.
* to learn how you can attend or organize a Children of the Camps
Japanese American Community Education Workshop where the documentary
is screened and a facilitator is available for group discussion.
* to find out where
the documentary is scheduled to be screened.
* to contact us about organizing a Training Workshop for mental
health providers interested in exploring the psychological impact
of racism using the Children of the Camps documentary as a training
A Fence Away From Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II.
Ellen Levine. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1995.
Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family. Yoshiko
Uchida. University of Washington Press. 1998.
Drawing the Line, Poems by Lawson Fusao Inada. Lawson Fusao Inada.
Coffee House Press. 1997.
From a Three-Cornered World, New & Selected Poems. James
Masao Mitsui. University of Washington Press. 1997.
Identity Crisis of the Sansei and the Concentration Camp. Nobu
Miyoshi. Sansei Legacy Project. 1994.
Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei
Couple. Louis Feist. University of Washington Press. 1997.
Legacy of Injustice: Exploring the Cross-Generational Impact
of the Japanese American Internment. Donna K. Nagata. Plenum
Pub. Corp., 1993.
My Six Years of Internment: An Issei's Struggle for Justice.
Rev.Yoshiaki Fukuda. The Konko Church of San Francisco. 1990.
Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime
Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The Civil Liberties Public
Education Fund and University of Washington Press. 1977.
The Bill of Rights and the Japanese American World War II Experience.
National Japanese American Historical Society and San Francisco
Unified School District. 1992.
The Experience in Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese
American Internment. Gwendolyn M. Jensen. UMI Dissertation Services.
Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration
Camps. Michi Nishimura Weglyn. University of Washington Press,
Asian American Psychological
3003 N. Central Ave., Suite 103-198
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Asian Pacific Community Counseling
5330 Power Inn Rd., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95820
Phone: (916) 383-6783
Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development
Asian American & Pacific Islander Concerns
5999 Stevenson Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22304
Japanese American Citizens League
1765 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 921-5225
Web site: www.jacl.org
Japanese American National Museum
369 East First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 625.0414
Japanese Counseling Program
Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc.
3626 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: (415) 668.5955, ext. 60
National Asian Women's Health Org.
250 Montgomery St., Suite 410
San Francisco, CA 94104
National Japanese American Historical Society
22 Peace Plaza, Suite 225
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 431-5007
National Research Center on Asian American Mental Health
University of California
Department of Psychology
One Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
Phone: (916) 752-3747
The Japanese American National Library
P.O. Box 590598
San Francisco, CA 94159-0598
The Japanese American Network
231 East Third St., Suite G-104
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: (213) 473-1653
Web site: www.janet.org
The Sansei Legacy Project
2311 Buena Vista Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
For other resources, contact your local community Baptist, Buddhist,
Christian, Methodist, or other churches, as well as local libraries,
college and university Asian American/Ethnic Studies departments,
and counseling and psychology departments.
Tell us what you thought about the program, and its impact on
you, your group or your family. Contact us at:
Children of the Camps, 2716 X Street, Sacramento, CA 95818
Fax (415) 566-3487, E-mail: email@example.com.
Purchase a Video!
Videocassettes may be purchased for educational, grassroots and
from the Center for Asian American Media (formerly National Asian American Telecommunications Association) at (415) 552-9550 or on their web site at http://www.asianamericanmedia.org.
of the Camps Documentary and Educational Project is made possible
by a grant from The California Endowment and The California Endowment's
CommunitiesFirst Program, and was produced under the auspices
of Asian Pacific Community Counseling.
Children of the Camps, 2716 X Street,
Sacramento, CA 95818