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Mammoth, California

The Manzanar Controversy

Much controversy has surrounded the use of the words "Concentration Camp" in reference to the plaque at the entrance to Manzanar.

Manzanar Plaque.
The Manzanar state historical plaque reads as follows;
"Manzanar In the early part of World War II, 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were interned in relocation centers by executive order NO. 9066, issued on February 19, 1942. Manzanar, the first of ten such concentration camps, was bounded by barbed wire and guard towers, confining 10,000 persons. The majority being American citizens. May the injustices and humiliation suffered here as a result of hysteria, racism and economic exploitation never emerge again. California Registered Historical Landmark NO. 850 Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Manzanar committee and the Japanese American Citizens League, April 14, 1975."

Webster's Definition of "Concentration Camp"
The definition according to Webster's Dictionary confirms this as an appropriate use of this term. "Concentration Camp". A prison camp in which political dissidents, members of minority ethnic group, etc. are confined." Webster's New World Dictionary, 1986.


Gaurd Tower.

Famous People that used "Concentration Camp"
Adding support to the use of "Concentration Camp" on this sign is the use of it in reference to these Japanese war relocation camps by others. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (10/20/42, 11/21/44) President Harry S. Truman (4/59) General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Assistant Chief of Staff (3/28/42) Attorney General Francis Biddle (12/3/44) Life Magazine (4/6/42) San Francisco Chronicle, front page editorial (2/1/42) In addition, U.S. Supreme Court Justices and congressmen also used the term in this reference.


Concentration Camp versus Death Camp
There are many reasons for this lingering controversy. One is the association the words "Concentration Camp" and the Nazi Death Camps. These Nazi Concentration Camps were used primarily to exterminate the interned. Although some people were killed during "The Riot" at Manzanar, the purpose of the American Concentration Camps was only to detain the interned.


The Tower of Memory.

Hatred and Racism
Some people still harbor hatred toward Japanese Americans. Some of these people sacrificed physically and/or emotionally in the war with Japan. Some of these people hold Americans of Japanese decent accountable for this war. This is somewhat surprising, since World War II ended over a half century ago. This hatred points out the racism that existed in the United States at the time towards non-whites . Unfortunately, this racism still exists to a certain extent. This racism becomes more clear when you consider, no internment plan was ever even considered or even discussed for Americans of German decent. Such a proposal would have been considered preposterous.


Origami bird on barbed wire fence.

Ansel Adams' words of wisdom Origami
Ansel Adams suffered greatly during World War II from his views that the Manzanar Concentration Camp was wrong. History has ultimately championed his viewpoint, and the words from his 1944 book "Born Free and Equal" to raise awareness of the relocation camps are worth remembering. "We must be certain that, as the rights of the individual are the most sacred elements of our society, we will not allow passion, vengeance, hatred, and racial antagonism to cloud the principles of universal justice and mercy".

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