LETTERS: ‘Enemies among Us’ author protests book review


Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent in response to the “Enemies among Us: The relocation, internment, and repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans during the Second World War” book review entitled ‘Composite history’ falls short,’ published in the Jan. 1, 2022 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Dear Editor:

As the author of “Enemies among Us,” I write to protest misrepresentations and falsehoods in the review by Greg Robinson. First, the misrepresentations: My book is not a “composite history” and I never use such language, which implies conflating the experiences of the groups subjected to relocation and internment. Also, my book does not deny that racism and fear were causal factors in relocation and internment. Instead, it carefully notes how and in what instances causal dynamics in addition to racism shaped the U.S. government’s treatment of the all three groups involved — Japanese, Italians, and Germans. Second, the falsehoods: My book neither supports the contentions of “internment deniers” nor “approvingly cites” the 1990 book by Lillian Baker. Nor does my book make erroneous claims about the numbers of the three groups who were relocated and interned. Also, my book is not mainly a rehash of secondary sources supplemented with oral histories, as the Robinson review suggests. Instead, it is based first and foremost on extensive archival sources, many used for the first time. Finally, the review ignores the book’s contributions to the historiography: detailed treatment of the prewar precedents for the government’s actions during the war; comparative analysis of internees in camps outside the WRA’s authority (including members of my family); the repatriation and exchange of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans. I invite those interested to read my book and decide for themselves whether it succeeds in advancing our understanding of how during World War II “Americans created, castigated, and then incarcerated alleged enemies; all this, despite lack of evidence, or worse, evidence to the contrary.”

Dr. John E. Schmitz

Dr. John E. Schmitz is a professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus. Schmitz obtained a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill, a master’s degree from NC State University, an MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from American University. Schmitz currently lives in Springfield, Va.

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