Books in Brief: December 2021

Enemies Among Us: The Relocation, Internment, and Repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans During the Second World War, by John E. Schmitz (University of Nebraska Press; 430 pp., $65.00). How can we possibly avoid history’s repetition when we don’t learn anything from it in the first place? For 50 years after World War II, historians cited racism as the sole reason for the United States’ internment of Japanese-Americans. The academic obsession with racism has undermined our understanding of history.

Morton Godzin’s Americans Betrayed kicked off our self-loathing in 1949. Schmitz’s book revises this simplistic interpretation of American internment policies during WWII, finding that “the government interned more German and Italian Americans than Japanese Americans, arrested them in greater numbers, and relocated members of all three enemy groups.” Why haven’t scholars more deeply probed Roosevelt’s wartime policies, which called for the removal of German and Italian enemy aliens and citizens? If something more than just fears of the Yellow Peril drove the feds to arrest the “Chianti, Catholicism, and Crime” squadristi and their sauerkraut-eating Freunde, what was it?

Schmitz identifies several long-ignored factors. After Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt...

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