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ANAHEIM : WWII Internment Books Spur Protest

December 06, 1991|TERRY SPENCER

About two dozen World War II veterans and others protested in front of the Anaheim Public Library on Thursday to complain about its handling of two books that they say prove Japanese-Americans had to be held in camps during the war and that they were treated well.

The protesters, who said they would return today and Saturday, also blasted the U.S. government for recently agreeing to give $20,000 and an apology to survivors of the relocation camps. The camps were opened in 1942 in the western United States by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the attack. About 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned.

Howard D. Garber, a retired Anaheim optometrist, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee and the group's organizer, initially contended that the two books by Lillian Baker, "The Collective Guilt of American Japanese" and "American and Japanese Relocation in World War II: Fact, Fiction and Fallacy," had been rejected by the library while books denouncing the relocation are available.

"All we want is that these books be given the same treatment as these . . . anti-American books," Garber said.

But when confronted by reporters who found Baker's books in the library's history room, Garber said the library would not allow the books to be checked out.

Library director William J. Griffith said that the books can be checked out, although until Thursday, no one had asked to in the year that the library has owned the books. Garber then said the books should be taken out of the history room, placed with the general collection and purchased for all six of the library's branches.

But Griffith said only the most popular books are purchased for all of the library's branches, although all books in the system are listed in each branch's computerized directory and can be delivered to a patron within a day.

Garber said that Baker's books show that the Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps were treated well, that many were spies for the Japanese government and that most who weren't could have left the camps voluntarily but chose not to. He said any book or article that says differently is part of a plot to justify the reparation payments to the camp survivors.

But John Liu, a UC Irvine professor of comparative cultures, said that Baker's books are inaccurate. He said the interned families were forced to abandon their homes and businesses to live in small single rooms. Spying by Japanese-Americans was rare, and the few who could leave the camps were college students who had sponsors, military enlistees, and those agreeing to perform menial labor in the fields and factories, he said.

He said the books' pictures of happy internees were taken by government photographers who were ordered not to take unpleasant pictures. Baker also takes quotes, photos and reports out of context, he said.

"For example, she shows pictures of a truck filled with internees from an Arizona camp that is going into town to buy groceries," Liu said. "What she doesn't say is that these Japanese-Americans in that truck had to get permission to go."

He said that reparation for the internment is morally right for one basic reason:

"These were American citizens who were rounded simply because of their race."

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