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Relocation Memories

February 15, 1987

I was very interested in your review of the book "Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism by Richard Drinnon (The Book Review, Jan. 18). I worked for the personnel office of the Office of Emergency Management during World War II. Our office was responsible for providing personnel services for the agency headed by Dillon S. Myer, the War Relocation Agency. It is true that official New Deal Washington had high regard for Myer because of his progressive reputation. We felt, therefore, that it was important to have liberal, humanitarian personnel in the administration of the camps and offices.

It was not until residents of the camps, mostly young adults, came to the Washington office of WRA that we began to question the whole policy of relocation. It was a shocking day when we first began to understand what had happened. I agree with your analysis that "subtle racism" was at work. In our defense, the only point that can be made is that most of us were Easterners and had little understanding of the Japanese-American situation. As a matter of fact, many of us believed that the relocation of the Japanese was to protect them from the West Coast Caucasian population that became very anti-Japanese. Institutional racism is the most difficult to expose and therefore defeat.

ELEANOR BELSER

Los Angeles

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