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Report from Swiss Legation about Camp Upton

Camp Upton

POW Camp

Visit from the Swiss Legation


Aliens Division

PMG

 

                                                                                    April 3, 1942

 

 

 

The Honorable,

 

            The Secretary of State.

 

Dear Mr. Secretary:

 

        This will acknowledge your receipt of your communication of March 24, 1942, inclosing a copy of a report made by Mr. Bernard  Gufler of your Department concerning the internment enclosure at Camp Upton, New York.

 

     It was suggested in the report that the persons interned at Camp Upton be removed at the earliest possible date.  For your information, all of the internees at Camp Upton were transferred on March 16, 1943, to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.  It has been the intension of the War Department to use the enclosure at Camp Upton as a temporary internment camp only.

 

                        Mr. Gufler’s report was reviewed with interest by the War Department, and the suggestions contained therein are now under consideration.

 

                                                            Sincerely yours,

 

  

                                                            Secretary of War.

 

 

 

 

ELE                                                                                                      GEM

 

Smith, H.W.-gs                                                                                    BMB

 

 

cc:   Chief of Administrative Services.

 

Copy

 

 

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

 

WASHINGTON

 

In reply refer to                                                                                   March 24, 1942

SD

           The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Honorable the Secretary of War and enclosed for the information of the Provost Marshal General a copy of a report made by an officer of the Department covering a visit, in company with a representative of the Swiss Legation in charge of German and Italian interests in the United States, on February 26, 1942 to the civilian internment camp at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York.

  

Enclosure:

 

         Inspection report,

             February 26, 1942

 

COPY

 

 

REPORT ON CIVILIAN INTERNMENT CAMP, CAMP UPTON

 

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK – February 26, 1942

 

 

  I    CAMP COMMANDER:       Lieutenant Colonel H. C. Brenizer,

 

       Prisoner Officer:  Captain Dean

 

 II    CAMP VISITED BY:          Mr. Eduard Feer, Counselor of Swiss

                                                Legation.

 

       Accompanied by War Department – General Robertson,

                                   Provost Marshal General of the 2nd Corp

                                   Area, and Colonel Paul Debevoise,

                                   Inspector General, 2nd Corp Area.

                                   State Department – Mr. Bernard Gufler

                                   of  the Special Division.

III    PERSONS DETAINED IN THE CAMP

 

      There was detained in the camp a total of 218 nationals of enemy countries of whom there were 118 Germans, 86 Japanese and 14 Italians.  Of these 45 were from the crew of the German ship Odenwald including 11 officers and 33 men.  The other officer of the Odenwald is confined at Governor’s Island.  There were also 3 Italians and 23 Germans from the group brought to the United States from Colombia on the Santa Lucia, the balance comprising 51 Germans, 11 Italians and 86 Japanese were taken in custody in the United States.

 IV    GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

            This camp is located about three-quarters of the way out Long Island in a barren region covered with scrub pine.  On the day of the visit thanks to the brilliant sunshine it presented a not uncheerful appearance, although the prisoners were all kept inside by a strong cold wind.  The prisoners are housed in tents exactly like those used in the same camp for American soldiers.  These tents are placed

 

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Placed on wooden platforms and have wooden side walls for a part of their height.  Five men are housed in each tent.  They are heated by small coal stoves.  On the day of the visit they were not uncheerful, thanks to the brilliant sunshine which penetrated the canvas, giving enough light to permit reading within the tents.  They were, however quite noisy on account of the high wind which kept the tops flapping continually.  On a cloudy and especially on a rainy day the tents would probably be gloomy and not pleasant.

            The prisoners eat in a large wooden mess hall which was clean and cheerful.  There are also a number of recreation rooms which lack sufficient benches and tables and do not appear to be much used by the prisoners.  With the addition of proper furniture and with a supply of games, books, etc., these recreation rooms would be made more useful as they are clean, airy and well lighted.

            The prisoners are allowed to walk about freely in the alleys between the tents and in a large playing field within the barbed wire enclosure.  On the day of the visit the high wind, as stated above, rendered the playing field useless.

            The camp is surrounded by a double barbed wire enclosure consisting of two high fences set up independently with a gangway between them.  At the corner of the rectangle there are placed towers from which machine guns protrude.  About three feet inside of the inner barbed wire fence there is placed a single strand of barbed wire, slightly more then knee high.  According to the officers of the camp standing instructions to the sentries, which have been made known to the internees, are to shoot directly at any internee who crosses this single strand of wire.

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COPY

The various buildings in the camp are connected with one another by duck boards since the grounds although fairly sandy becomes quite muddy in wet weather.

   V       WASHING AND TOILET FACILITIES

               Washing and toilet facilities are good.

  VI       FOOD AND COOKING

         The kitchen is large and clean and very well equipped.  The food appears to be good and ample most of the time though for a period of about ten days previous to the visit it was reported to have deteriorated in quantity and quality.  The prisoner officer, Captain Dean, stated that this deterioration was due to the transfer of the internees’ mess from the general camp mess to an independent status.  He remarked that the financial arrangements made with the general mess had involved the taking over of large amounts of supplies which had put the prisoners’ mess in such financial condition that it had had to practice very strict economy.  The first of March, he added, it would be financially on its feet again and the food would improve.

VII       MEDICAL FACILITIES AND SICKNESS

There is assigned to the internees section of the camp a part of the general camp hospital which is enclosed with a barbed wire fence.  This section has a number of small rooms for individual patients, including one with barred windows and doors for mental cases, a large ward and a good sized sun porch.  This section of the hospital was being used by American soldiers at the time of the visit since none

 

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of the internees was ill.  There is within the internee enclosure proper a dispensary with facilities for taking care of minor injuries and with a large room which can be used as a ward for patients not ill enough for hospitalization.  No one was in this ward at the time of the visit except five Japanese under observation for possible tuberculosis.  The general health of the internees was excellent.  This fact speaks well for the housing of the internees in tents and seems to indicate that it is not an unhealthy form of housing.  The camp commander stated that it had been his experience during the winter that soldiers housed in tents were healthier then those housed in barracks.

VIII      CLOTHING

      All of the internees had been furnished with shoes, socks heavy underwear, overcoats, 4 handkerchiefs, 4 blankets and with toilet kits.  Extra pairs of shoes are also being furnished them since in rainy weather they are unable to avoid wetting their shoes in going about in the camp from their tents to the mess hall, recreation hall, wash rooms, etc., in spite of the duck boards connecting a number of these buildings.

 IX        CANTEEN

      There is a canteen at which the internees who have money may purchase various small articles and comforts such as razor blades, toilet articles, etc.

  X        MAIL

The internees have neither received nor sent any mail to their friends

 

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and relatives to their home countries.  The camp commander stated that he had made arrangements to send letters for them through the office of the Provost Marshal General in Washing ton and had dispatched packets to Washington marked PM, the Army abbreviation for Provost Marshal General.  Unfortunately when this packet of letters reached Washington it was sent through error to the post-master at Washington, who returned them all to the camp stamped undeliverable.  The camp commander stated that he would send the packets of mail back to the Office of the Provost Marshal General for dispatch through the Red Cross.

 XI        RECREATION AND EXERCISE

      There is a piano in the large recreation hall and the internees are erecting a stage at one end of the hall on which they propose to give amateur theatricals and musical performances.  Several of them have musical instruments.  The camp needs books and games.  The prisoners are in receipt of only one copy of an American newspaper.  The camp commander makes available to them his personal copy of the New York Times after he has read it.  They receive no other newspaper or periodicals.

XII       COMPLAINTS

      The Counselor of the Swiss Legation received the men of confidence of the various groups of internees as follows:

      1.         For the officers of the Odenwald, Captain Loers.  The Captain had a number of personal complaints with regard to his own position, most of which appeared to grow out of difficulties between the officers and crew of the Odenwald for which the camp authorities are in no way responsible, and which appear to have had their COPY

 

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genesis before the ship was taken if not even before the crew was assembled in Japan.  The Captain also complained that he had been rudely treated by an American officer who had not given him the respect due his position as “an officer prisoner of war”.  Furthermore, he requested assurance that he would be permitted to continue to occupy a tent alone.  His other complaints and requested had to do with the inability to send and receive mail, the lack of money and bad food.  The Captain who is elderly gave the impression ob being in a highly nervous and somewhat disturbed state of mind as a result possibly of the troubles he has had with his crew and his misfortunes in losing two ships.  The camp authorities informed the Swiss representative that they had no intention of putting anyone else in the tent with Captain Loers and that they would provide the Captain with his books, which were among his baggage, and would leave him alone as much as possible.  They stated that they had found it more satisfactory to deal in matters which concerned the Odenwald collectively with the captain’s second-in-command and that except for the Captain himself they found all the officers to be reasonable and easy to deal with.

      2.         For the crew of the Odenwald, Hans Huttler.  Huttler complained that until recently he and his thirty-two comrades had had to do most of the kitchen police for the entire internee camp but that now this work was now being shared.  His other complaints were about lack of mail and money and bad food during the previous ten days.  He stated in connection with the lack of money that American Army regulations obliged internees to shave daily and that, although

 

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  they themselves all preferred to shave, they found it difficult since they had no money to buy new razor blades.  The Swiss representative questioned him with regard to the difficulties between the officers and the crew of the Odenwald.  Huttler refused to reply stating that he could speak only of matters that had occurred since he had been unanimously elected the crew’s man of confidence subsequent to arrival at the camp and anything that had happened prior to that time could not be discussed and settled until after the eventual return of the persons involved to Germany.  He refused to reply to the Swiss representative’s questions regarding the assault on one of the officers of the Odenwald, in the internment camp.  He gave the impression of being a political agitator and sea lawyer.

      3.         For the Germans and Italians from Colombia, Theodore Funk, J. Marggraf, Emil Pruefert, S. Gilletti.  Practically all the complaints that this group had to make collapsed when they were told they would probably be moved within the near future to White Sulfur Springs where they would be reunited with their families.  Their complaints all grew out of the fact that they had been promised by the Spanish Minister in Colombia, and they said by the Colombian Foreign Office also, that they would be sent away from Colombia under the safe conduct of the American and British Governments for repatriation to Germany and Italy.

      4.         For the other internees, Heins Berthing, German; Italo Verando, Italian.  These had as their principle complaints bad food,

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 confinement in tents, difficultly of carrying on legal transactions in connection with their business activities, the shortness of visits which wives and relatives are allowed to pay to them and their ultimate status.  They stated they their wives were able to visit them for only fifteen minutes once a week and that in view of the long journey necessary to reach Camp Upton they felt that this time should be lengthened.  They remarked that in a number of cases wives of internees were also enemy aliens and that as such they were forbidden to leave their places of residence and asked what sort of permit their wives might be able to obtain to visit Camp Upton and to whom application for permit should be made.

      They appeared greatly worried about their business affairs and about the financial welfare of their dependents.  Berthing stated that he was unable to make out his income tax report and pay his income tax and that he was concerned lest he incur some penalty for failure to pay his taxes.  They stated that they would like to have more newspapers and magazines.

XIII      OTHER MATTERS INVESTIGATED BY THE SWISS REPRESENTATIVE

                  The Swiss representative inquired into the case of Karl August Kantereit, one of the Germans from Colombia, who had forwarded to the Swiss Legation a statement that he had been chancellor of the German Consulate at Medellin, and had complained that he was not given the treatment to which his status entitled him.  The camp authorities produced Kantereit’s papers.  An examination of three papers showed that there was among them no German consular commission.  The passport, serial number 14495D/ 40, which was issued on February 14, 1941 under no. 59.41 by the German Legation at Bogata,

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described him as a “bank official”.  This passport contains a notation in Spanish dated December 15, 1941 and signed by the German Consulate at Medellin to the effect that between the middle of 1937 and December 15, 1941 Kantereit was chancellor of the Consulate.  The Swiss representative expressed the opinion that Kantereit was not entitled to special treatment as a consular officer on a basis of such documentation of his status. 

      The Swiss representative also wrote with Heins Luedicke, a financial writer on the New York Journal of Commerce, who also acted as financial correspondent in the United States for the Neue Zuricher Zeitung, a Swiss newspaper, and for certain German newspapers.  Luedicke stated that he had resigned as correspondent of the German newspapers sometime before the outbreak of war, that he had been in the United States since 1929, that his wife was a native-born American citizen, that he was a father of a nine year old American citizen daughter who does not even speak German, that he had no compelling ties in Germany and that he had applied for American citizenship about a year ago.  He asserted that he had endeavored to establish a claim for repatriation to Germany as a journalist in order that by subsequently turning down an offer of repatriation he might effectively demonstrate his preference for the United States over Germany.   He stated that under no conditions would he wish to return to Germany since he regarded the United States as his home and wished to remain here permanently.

      Both the Swiss representative and the State Department representative gained the impression that Luedicke had vacillation to blame for his difficulties in having arrived in an interment camp in

 

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that he had apparently hesitated to sever his German connections completely until he was absolutely sure that he could obtain American citizenship.  He appeared to be just another person who had failed in the difficult experiment of carrying water on both shoulders.

NOTE:

      At the request of the Swiss representative the State Department representative telephoned the Justice Department and asked what that Department’s records showed with regard to Luedicke.  Justice stated that its records did not show anything very definite against Luedicke or anything especially for him and that there was enough doubt about his case to justify internment.  This information was communicated to the Swiss representative.

 

XIV      REMARKS OF THE SWISS REPRESENTATIVE REGARDING HIS IMPRESSION OF THE CAMP AND SPECIAL POINTS WHICH HE TOOK UP WITH THE CAMP COMMANDER

           

The Swiss representative stated that the camp had made a much better impression on him than he had expected; that he was very favorably impressed with the attitude of the camp commandant, the prisoner officer and the other American officers with whom he had come in contact and felt than they had done a great deal for the prisoners under difficult circumstances; and that he would make a favorable report on the camp.  He stated that he would describe the tents not as tents but as small wooden huts with canvas roofs.

      He seemed most concerned by the internees’ lack of money.  He informed the camp commander that he would like to make available the sum of $2 a week for each member of the crew of the Odenwald and $2.50 for each officer of the Odenwald and that he would also like to make available sums of money for other Germans and Italian prisoners in the camp.  He added that he was unable to obtain permission from the Treasury Department to pay out these sums.  The camp commander

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Stated that he would like very much to have some funds for the internees since one of his greatest problems arose from their lack of money.  He remarked that the Army had obtained $250 from the American Red Cross to spend on the internees but that his money had been long since exhausted.  He added that a project was under way in the War Department to obtain an appropriation from Congress to furnish money to the internees.  General Robertson confirmed this statement.  The Swiss representative asked the State Department representative for permission to make payments to the camp commander for the internees from German funds blocked in the hands of the Swiss Legation.  The State Department representative informed the Swiss representative that he was unable to grant such permission.  Finally the Swiss representative took $100 in cash from his pocket and handed it to the camp commander saying that he would like to leave this money on his own for the expenses of the internees.  The camp commander accepted the money with alacrity.

XV        SUGGESTIONS

It is suggested that consideration be given:

                  1.         To the removal of the internees from the Camp Upton at the earliest possible date to a camp purely for internees, preferably at some point inland (both Colonel Brenizer and General Robertson stated that Camp Upton was not a satisfactory place for long-term confinement of internees).

                  2.         That steps be taken to permit the internees both at Upton as well as other camps to purchase books and current American newspapers and periodicals, including American foreign language newspapers in their respective languages.

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                  3.         That the sentries be cautioned that, although they are to exercise greatest possible vigilance, they should fire warning shots before shooting directly at internees who may appear to be trying to escape.  In this connection it was noted that at one point in Camp Upon the single strand of barbed wire, referred to in under heading no. IV, which forms a deadline which the internees may not cross without danger of being shot, ran sufficiently close to a duck board so that it was not unlikely for a person stumbling on the duck board might fall over the wire.  It should be borne in mind that shootings produce more speedy reprisals than almost anything else that can be done to internees and prisoners of war, especially if death results.  It is not believed that, in view of the solidity and extent of the barriers at camps such as Upton and the nature of the watch which consists not only of soldiers armed with repeating shot-guns, the chance of a successful camp break would be greatly increased by instructions to the sentries to fire a warning shot before they shoot to kill or wound.

      3.         That the most liberal policy consistent with the security of the interment camp be adopted with regard to visits by friends and relatives in so far as concerns their length and frequency.

      4.         That steps be taken to facilitate the correspondence by the internees with their friends and relatives aboard.

XVI      ENCLOSURE

      A copy of the camp regulations, which have been made known in their respective languages to the various internees.

 

SD: BGuler:kc

 

(COPY:LDL:SD)

(COMPARED:  )         HEADQUARTERS CAMP UPTON, NEW YORK

February 6, 1942

N O T I C E

      While you are at Camp Upton, your comfort and well being will be increased by strict compliance with the following and other rules which may be published.

 

      1.  MESS:    Your leaders will march you to mess.  Be clean at mess time and remove your hat before entering the hall.  Noisy conduct will not be allowed.  Your leaders will march you out of the mess hall.  Time of meals as follows:

 

Breakfast . . . . . . 7:00 AM      Dinner . . . . . . 12:00 Noon     Supper . . . .5:00PM

 

      2.  MAIL:    You will submit to the Post Commander the name, address, and relationship (if any) of not to exceed five (5) persons with whom you desire to correspond.  Five (5) days thereafter you will be permitted to write a total of two (2) letters per week to those you have designated as your correspondent.  These letters will be deposited unsealed, but addressed and stamped, in mail box provided for that purpose.  Your full name and serial number will appear on all letters.  No limit is placed on the number of letters you may receive.  Incoming mail will be distributed at the Post Exchange at 4:30 PM daily.

 

3.  LAUNDRY:      This will be done in the lavatories.

 

4.  HEALTH:        Bathe and shave daily.     “Sick Call”   at Camp Dispensary is at 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM.  If you are suddenly taken ill, go to the Camp Dispensary at once.

 

5.  PROPERTY RESPONSIBILITY:     In order ro protect your health and increase your comfort, you are furnished with shelter, clothing, etc.  These articles are the property of the United States and you will be hold strictly responsible for any loss, damage or destruction of such property.

 6.  FIRE:   Upon hearing the fire siren, all will assemble in front of the tent assigned to them.  Any fire in the Camp will extinguished by you.

 7.  CONDUCT:   Strict discipline will be enforced, ordered will be instantly and willingly obeyed.  Punishment, in proportion to the offence, will be awarded when necessary.  Bunks will be kept neatly made at all times.  Clothes, toilet articles, and personal effects will be kept in an orderly condition.  Your cooperation and obedience will contribute to your comfort and health.

 8.  RECREATION:   When not at work, you will be permitted out-of-door recreational sports.  In the Recreational Halls you may read, write, and play games.  Read the Bulletin Board in the Recreational Halls daily.

 9.  CHURCH SERVICES:    Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Church Services will be held as needed.

 10.   CAMPS LIMITS:    You will not touch or go beyond the single strand of barbed wire which is placed inside of, and parallel to the inclosure fence.  Sentries are ordered to shoot anyone so doing.

 11.  LIGHTS:    Lights in tents will be extinguished at 9:30 PM, and in the Recreation Halls at 11:00 PM

                                                   H. C. Brenizer

                                                   LT. COL., F. A.,

                                                   Commanding.

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