On March 23, 1943, the principal of Woodward High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, walked into the senior English classroom where Eberhard Fuhr was sitting. He said, "I hate to do this, Eberhard. I'm sorry, but I don't have any options. You've got to come with me out into the hall." Fuhr, who now lives with his wife, Barbara, in Palatine, says, "I stepped out in the hall and these two guys grabbed me, said, 'Let's go down to your locker. Get your coat.' The minute we were out on the sidewalk they put the handcuffs on. Then we went to where my brother Julius worked and we picked him up. They took us to the police station and booked us. With fingerprints. Booked us 'on suspicion.'"
Fuhr's arrest was not a surprise. He'd been taken downtown and interviewed by two FBI agents four or five months earlier, and that past summer his parents, who'd moved to the U.S. from Germany 14 years earlier but had never become citizens, had been arrested as "dangerous enemy aliens." They and Fuhr's younger brother, Gerhard, who was born here and was therefore an American citizen, were then sent to an internment camp in Texas.
Most people know that during World War II many Japanese civilians, an estimated 110,000, were interned in the U.S. under a presidential order. But few realize that thousands of European civilians--all aliens, though many were long-term residents of this country--were also sent to camps. According to figures the FBI released after the war, under separate presidential orders 6,241 Germans, 2,296 Italians, and about two dozen Romanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians were arrested, along with 5,428 additional Japanese. As many as half of them were interned--all these numbers are fuzzy--and the rest were released unconditionally, paroled, or sent back to their homelands.
Eberhard and Julius Fuhr, who were 17 and 18 and had been fending for themselves since their parents were interned, were locked in a jail cell for about an hour, then driven to the county prison. "It looked like a bad cartoon. The walls were this thick." Eberhard snaps his arms out so that his big hands are a couple feet apart. "You've got one guy in a cell. The cell's probably five by seven, the bed is hanging off the wall with a chain, and there's a bucket in the corner that's your toilet. Everybody was locked up for the night when we got there. The guard said, 'Hey, we've got a couple of Nazis here, you guys. These guys want to fight for Hitler.' It really stirred the pot." They were given prison clothes--shoes with no laces, pants with no belts--and locked in. Fuhr barely slept.
The next morning they were given their own clothes back, handcuffed together, and driven downtown by federal marshals for a hearing. As they walked across the square one of the marshals told Fuhr to put his coat over the handcuffs so no one would see them. "I told him, 'Just take them off and they won't see.'"
At the federal building the two were turned over to FBI agents, who gave them coffee, doughnuts, and the morning paper. "They call my brother in for his hearing, and while he's in there I'm reading the paper. And it says, 'Two brothers arrested. They will have a hearing, and then they will be interned.' I said to this FBI agent: 'It says right here we're going to have the hearing--I haven't even had my hearing yet, but it says, "They will be interned."'"
Julius's hearing lasted about an hour, and then Eberhard was ushered into the room alone. "I was kind of numb. I wasn't allowed to have a lawyer or anything--not that I could have afforded one. But I was definitely told 'You can't have that, you can't have any witnesses'--not even my brother or my pastor from church or anybody from school."
The board members asked him many of the questions the FBI agents had asked. "Like 'Five years ago did you say that Hitler was good for Germany?' That would have placed it back into 1938, when, hey, the world was at peace, when Germany did have a lot of economic progress that was really different from here in the United States, where things were still pretty damn bad because of the continuing Depression. And of course I couldn't remember if I'd said it. It's kind of tough to remember what you said when you were 12 years old, particularly if you're under oath and you're supposed to be 100 percent truthful--and in those days I took the oath kind of seriously. Then they'd say, 'Well, could you have said it?' I interpreted that to mean 'Could you have put those words together to make that kind of a statement?' Well, sure I could have. I should have just said no, I couldn't possibly have said anything like that.
"Then, 'Did you go to a German American day at Coney Island?' There's a Coney Island outside of Cincinnati, a big amusement park. They showed me eight-by-ten glossy prints--and there you are at this German American picnic in 1940 or 1939. 'Is that you?' 'Yes, that's me.' 'Is that your mother? Is that your father? Is that your brother? Is that your younger brother?' 'Yeah. Of course.'
"They'd say, 'It's three o'clock in the morning, and there's some guy knocking on the door. You answer it and it's your cousin from Germany. He just came up the Ohio River in a submarine and wants you to put him up. What are you going to tell him?' I was kind of a smart aleck, so I said, 'Who's going to hide me while I'm hiding you?' Because my parents were already interned, and I know the FBI's watching everything I do. So I'm going to tell this guy, 'This house is under watch. You better get the hell out of here.' And then I said, 'Second, a submarine can't come up the Ohio River because it only drafts about four feet in several spots.'" He grins. "They called me a smart aleck."
His hearing lasted about an hour. The FBI agents drove the brothers home, told them to pick up two changes of clothes, promised to bring them back if necessary, then dropped them off at the prison. The next morning the federal marshals handcuffed them together and told them they were being driven to Chicago. Fuhr asked to go home first. "The guy said, 'You're going to Chicago. Forget about the house.' The house was never closed. The gas was never turned off. The water was never turned off. The electricity was never turned off."
In Chicago they were taken to 4800 S. Ellis, a huge, turreted, yellow-brick mansion that had been taken over by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The house is still standing, still surrounded by the same high wrought-iron fence. Twenty-five or 30 men were already there, most from Chicago--a Romanian priest, a Hungarian priest, an Austrian, three Italians. "The rest were krauts like me."
The arrest shook Fuhr's whole world. "Up to that point I was a happy-go-lucky high school jock. I didn't do too well in school with my grades. I just played football, baseball, and had a lot of fun. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I wanted to be the best catcher that ever played for the Cincinnati Reds."
Nevertheless he insists that this country had a right to intern him. "I really honestly believe that during wartime they don't have to go through this charade of phony hearings where all your civil rights are totally denied. They didn't have to say, 'This is a dangerous guy.' All they had to say was, 'This guy's a German, and we're at war with Germany, and we're going to put this guy in internment for the duration of the war. And here's the ticket to get there.'"
Fuhr says his mother, who was 53 when she was arrested, "lived and breathed the church mostly. She was strictly a homemaker." He guesses that neither she nor any of her sons would have been interned if his father, Carl, who was 52 at the time, hadn't been. But then he's not at all sure why his father was interned. "My father was a baker. No big thought leader. No big political situation where he could control other people's destinies or influence them unnecessarily."
Carl Fuhr grew up in a small town in northern Germany, but for three or four years before World War I he and his older brother, Joseph, worked together as journeymen bakers in England, where Carl came to admire the freewheeling British political system. "He thoroughly enjoyed the give-and-take of English democracy. He'd tell me about going down and listening to the guys on soapboxes. He said they'd present all these different things, and they'd argue and spat. He said the only thing you weren't allowed to talk about was the royal family."
When the war started, German nationals were told they might be interned. Joseph stayed, but Carl went back to Germany. "His eyesight was so bad they wouldn't take him in the military until 1917. He never made it beyond private first class."
The war wrecked the German economy--inflation and unemployment were cruelly high and riots were common. Carl found jobs with a couple of big chemical firms in Cologne, but didn't particularly like the work. Around 1922 he married Anna, whose father was a blacksmith. Julius was born in 1924, Eberhard in 1925. Joseph had emigrated to Cincinnati, and in 1927 Carl followed him. A year later he sent for his family, and Gerhard was born that year. "I guess things were going pretty well, but then 1929 hit, the Depression." Carl had a hard time finding work. His stubbornness didn't help. "He'd work for somebody and say, 'Well, you just don't make bread this way.' They'd say, 'Well, if you work here you've got to make bread this way.' He'd say, 'Well, I don't work here anymore then.' He'd walk out." Fuhr's parents had never intended to stay long in this country, but now they had no money to go back.
"My father was very pro-German. He really was a true German patriot, no question about that. And I was brought up that way. To love your country. 'This is your fatherland, you were born there, this is really your roots.' All those kinds of things." His parents spoke German at home, though their sons answered in English--Fuhr still has trouble speaking German. When the boys were small they spent every Saturday morning in a classroom learning German and German penmanship. Fuhr also sang in a German children's choir. At the center of their lives was the Lutheran church and the activities sponsored by the large German community in Cincinnati--films, picnics, concerts. Membership in some German organizations later became grounds for internment, but Fuhr doesn't remember that his father belonged to any.
His father still had a passion for politics. "A lot of times our dinners were kind of political battlegrounds between him and us. He loved to argue." His father liked the American political system and even worked for the Republican candidate for governor in 1938, yet he wanted Germany to become a constitutional monarchy like Britain. "He wanted the successor of Kaiser Wilhelm back. As far as he was concerned, Hitler was a transient kind of thing. He kind of admired his economic policies, but he thought Hitler would stabilize the country and then go, 'Hey, Kaiser, come on back.' Of course it never works out that way."
In June 1940 Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, which required all resident aliens to be fingerprinted and to fill out questionnaires at their post office, listing their occupations, police records, and the names of any organizations they belonged to; 321,080 Germans registered, 28,981 of them in Illinois.
Growing anti-German sentiment didn't persuade Fuhr's parents to consider becoming citizens. "My father would take umbrage if somebody said, 'Well, you live here. Why don't you become a citizen?' They were never going to become citizens. In England they don't expect you to become a British citizen. They expect if you're from France it's natural for you to remain a Frenchman. And I don't think my parents thought the Germans would ever provoke a war with the United States." He pauses. "What my father admired most about the British was that you could say anything you wanted. And I think he believed that about the United States."
In September 1939 J. Edgar Hoover secretly, on no authority but his own, ordered FBI agents to prepare reports on people whose "presence in this country in time of war or national emergency would be dangerous to the public peace and the safety of the United States government," including those with German and Italian "sympathies." (Back when he started working for the Justice Department, in 1917, his job had been to review cases of arrested German aliens, recommending them for parole or internment for the duration of World War I.) These files on both aliens and citizens went into a "custodial detention" index; the aliens were divided into three lists, with those on the A list considered the most dangerous, recommended for immediate arrest if war broke out. A year later Hoover sought Attorney General Robert Jackson's authorization for the list and got it.
Neighbors, coworkers, and friends were interviewed in the search for people who should be on the list, and rumor, innuendo, even fantasy were enough to put them there. The late journalist Harrison Salisbury landed on the list after a neighbor with what he called a "vivid imagination" reported that he was doing undercover work for the German government and had microphones and recording devices hidden in his house. In 1943 Attorney General Francis Biddle ordered Hoover to stop classifying people for the list, and Hoover technically obeyed--by changing the name of the list.
On the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, December 7, 1941, three-by-five cards with the names of those on the A list were distributed to FBI agents and police, who promptly arrested hundreds of people all over the country, even though they didn't yet have warrants from the Justice Department. That night and the next day Roosevelt made the arrests legal by signing proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527, which stated that all Japanese, German, and Italian aliens "deemed dangerous to the public peace or safety of the United States by the Attorney General or the Secretary of War . . . are subject to summary apprehension . . . and confinement." Proclamations the following summer would add Romanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians.
In his autobiography Biddle wrote that when he and Roosevelt discussed the internment of aliens Roosevelt said, "I don't care so much about the Italians. They are a lot of opera singers. But the Germans are different, they may be dangerous."
Among the first to be arrested, at 1 AM on December 8, was the father of Fuhr's wife, Barbara. A journalist who'd worked in the New York Times's Berlin bureau until it closed in the mid-30s, he'd spent the last year working for a German news service and was technically an employee of the German government. He was promptly interned, leaving behind his two daughters and wife, a woman of Irish descent he'd met in Florida when they covered a Fritz Kreisler concert for rival newspapers. His wife and Barbara were American citizens, Barbara's younger sister had been born in Germany.
The arrests were hardly secret. Early on they were front-page news. On December 9 the Chicago Daily Tribune reported, "Two elevator operators were kept busy all evening in the new post office building carrying those taken in the Chicago roundup to the immigration office where they were questioned. Two Army trucks waited outside the building to take prisoners to Fort Sheridan." For a while the paper listed prominently the numbers and sometimes the names of the people arrested here and around the country, as well as the numbers of American citizens arrested by the German and Italian governments in retaliation. By Christmas nearly 3,000 resident aliens had been arrested in this country: 228 Italians, 1,243 Germans, and 1,473 Japanese.
Public officials repeatedly stated that citizens of enemy countries who were loyal to the U.S. had nothing to fear, and cautioned the public to let the FBI handle the disloyal. Newspapers echoed them. "There probably are fifth columnists and spies in this country," stated a December 12 Tribune editorial. "The nation must be on the alert to see that they do not damage our cause. But this is not to be interpreted as encouragement to overzealous patriots who see in everybody with a German or Italian grandfather a potential menace to the national safety. . . . The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the police, and the service intelligence branches can be relied upon to deal with dangerous aliens or enemy sympathizers." Such warnings may have been given in an attempt to prevent the kind of vicious assaults on Germans that occurred during World War I, including numerous tar-and-featherings and the lynching of a German in Collinsville, Illinois. Anti-German sentiment wasn't nearly as strong during World War II, though many Germans were ostracized or lost their jobs simply because of their names or accents.
But such statements also encouraged neighbors to spy on one another. After the war Hoover reported that the FBI was getting 2,800 calls a day; the Chicago office had to double its phone lines to handle them. Fuhr believes that those who spoke against his family were other Germans afraid of being interned themselves--some 30 people from Cincinnati were interned before his parents were. "And I think maybe that's the reason they made it so public when they did intern people--because they wanted to manipulate the ones they didn't. They wanted to intern enough of them to send a message to the rest: "You will toe the mark, or you can join these guys.' And I think there was enough indication that they knew where everybody was." He says he wouldn't even be surprised if his uncle talked to the FBI about his family. An article in the newspaper he read the day of his hearing stated, "The boys' uncle said, 'They deserve anything they get.'" Carl and Joseph had been feuding ever since they'd come to America--their children never even met. Fuhr thinks the friction was partly because his father had become a Lutheran when he married instead of remaining Catholic, partly because he'd been less successful. "Joe had his own bakery, and my father worked for other people." They also argued about politics. "If you can believe my father, Joe was a commie."
Whatever the reason, aliens caused little trouble during the war--not one was convicted of sabotage. At hearings held in 1946 someone from the intelligence services stated, "In the fall of 1941 and the winter of 1942, we expected that subversive elements would be found mainly in the alien population. To our amazement by 1943 we discovered such was not the case at all. Most aliens were scared to death."
In mid-December 1941 the Justice Department announced that it was setting up three-member hearing boards in each judicial district to review the cases of aliens who'd been arrested and to recommend whether they should be released unconditionally, paroled, or interned for the duration of the war. U.S. Attorney Matthias Correa said, "It is the policy of the department that the determination that they are dangerous aliens be made fairly and in accordance with democratic principles. To this end, each and every alien apprehended will be given a fair and impartial hearing." Yet the New York Times said that Correa also "stressed the fact that the regulations for dealing with enemy aliens are purely a matter of grace, and not right." Therefore aliens were not permitted to have lawyers at the hearings, the standard rules of evidence were waived, the press was barred. Local U.S. attorneys, relying on FBI reports, presented each case, and then the board members, one of whom was an attorney, asked questions. According to Stephen Fox, a professor at California's Humboldt State University who wrote a book on Italians who were interned and is working on another about Germans, many hearings seem to have lasted no more than half an hour.
Still, some of the hearing boards argued for those who came before them. Art Jacobs, who was 12 years old and an American citizen when he was interned with his father in the same camp Fuhr was sent to, has a copy of the letter a board member wrote the Justice Department expressing dismay that it had overruled the board's recommendation that Jacobs's father, a mechanic, not be interned.
In February 1942 Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which began the mass relocation and eventual internment of 110,000 west-coast Japanese, 70,000 of them American citizens. The arrest and internment of individual Japanese, Germans, and Italians as dangerous enemy aliens under the earlier proclamations didn't slow. Among those interned were some who'd fled Germany; Fox spoke to an Austrian Jew who'd been interned in Austria and Belgium before being interned here. The U.S. had also started interning Latin American Japanese, Germans, and Italians, many from Peru, as dangerous enemy aliens, though they'd been arrested without warrants and given no hearings. By the end of the war some 4,700 Latin Americans, about a quarter of them Germans and Italians, would be interned here. (Americans weren't the only ones interning aliens; in the U.K. an estimated 4,300 Italians and 22,000 Germans and Austrians were interned, and in Canada 20,000 Japanese as well as smaller numbers of Germans and Italians were interned.)
By the end of July 1942 1,524 Italians, 3,120 Germans, and 4,764 Japanese had been arrested here. By mid-August 3,269 of them had been interned in camps around the country, including Fuhr's parents and the 12-year-old Gerhard, who was considered a voluntary intern, though he would have been sent to an orphanage had he not gone with them. Fuhr, who was working that summer as a camp counselor in North Carolina, says no one in the family expected his parents would be interned. "I didn't know about this until I walked in the door and said, 'Where's Mom and Pop?' Julius said, 'They were interned two weeks ago. We didn't want to get you upset--because you couldn't do anything about it anyway.'"
Julius had a football scholarship, and that fall he went off to college. Fuhr stayed home alone, using money from his paper route to pay for groceries. At school he made a point of buying war stamps. "I used to buy a dollar's worth a week. I didn't want people saying, 'Hey, this guy isn't even buying war stamps.'" Many people he might have expected to be sympathetic weren't. "The elders of the church came by and said, 'Your parents are delinquent in their pledge.' I said, 'Well, there's a reason for that, and you guys know it. They're interned.' They said, 'We don't care. They're delinquent, and we don't like it. So we're going to drop them off the rolls.'"
Late one night that November two FBI agents came to the door and asked Fuhr to go downtown with them. "They had a desk lamp and they shined it right into my eyes, just like a bad movie. The one guy sitting to my right, he would open up his gun, take the bullets out, put them back in, and fumble around." They asked him "how I felt about my parents. Would it be a hindrance for me serving in the military if they were still interned? I said, 'Yeah, I'd have to think long and hard about serving.' But I said I'd fight in the Pacific. They said, 'Well, we couldn't guarantee you wouldn't be put into Europe.' I said, 'If my parents were still interned I wouldn't want to fight in Europe.'
"They asked, 'What kind of friends have you got, what kind of grades are you getting, and are you playing around now that there's nobody home?' They'd rehash the same thing over and over again. Then 'Some neighbors said this' and 'Somebody said that.' 'Your father would take you to meetings where you saw the movie about the 1936 Olympics by Leni Riefenstahl.' I guess she was already a bad hombre by then. Of course we just thought she was a pretty good film presenter. I did question how they got some of these things that people said about me, but they refused to divulge who made the statements." They kept him about two hours, then offered to drive him home. "I said, 'No, I'll take the streetcar.'"
Late that fall, after football season was over, Julius came home and took a job at a brewery. In March the two brothers were arrested.
At the mansion at 4800 S. Ellis guards with sidearms and rifles sat at the front door and walked the fence line--four guards per shift, three shifts per day. They didn't talk much. "Their job was to give you three meals a day and keep you. If it wasn't in the manual they didn't do it." But, Fuhr adds, "The treatment was humane--very nice, very orderly." He pauses. "The food left a lot to be desired."
The detainees, most of them in their 30s or 40s, were up early and had the bathroom cleaned and their beds made by 9 AM. Chores--kitchen duty, scrubbing the floors--were rotated, but there was little to do besides read books or newspapers, play pinochle, and talk. There were rumors that several men had tried to commit suicide after they arrived and that one had succeeded. "If you were going to get down about anything and not be able to take it for the long pull, that would be the place. Once you were down in the camp you'd learned to adjust. 'I'm not going to be free, I'm stuck with this, and I've got to live with it.'"
At night the shades were pulled and the men were told to stay away from the windows because someone had once fired shots at the house. It was no secret that it was a detention center, something longtime neighbors still remember.
Ten days after he arrived Fuhr turned 18. He insisted he had to register for the draft and a week later was taken to Cook County Jail to sign up. He wrote letters to friends back home, but they wrote back upset that his letters were censored and stamped so on the outside. "I stopped writing. Besides I figured, I may never get out of this. I may never go back to Cincinnati. I may never stay in the United States."
He volunteered to work in the small vegetable garden to get outside. The tools were kept in the carriage house on the west end of the lot, and one day while poking around he opened a big closet. "This thing was loaded with rifles. Ammunition and the whole bit. It was totally unlocked," he says. Then his voice turns mock tough. "We could have blasted our way out. But we didn't." Another day the men gave him money to slip down the street to buy beer. "And like a jerk I did it. I didn't get caught. My problem was to sneak back in." For a moment he thought about escaping. "But the problem was, any identity papers were taken away from you. And, you see, I was down to my last pair of pants and they had holes in the butt." He lifts himself off his chair and slaps his rear. "I didn't have any socks on, because I ran out. I quickly said, 'Hey, what am I gonna do when I get away?'"
There were usually 25 to 30 men in the house--30 signed the flyleaf of a book Julius had. Some who'd been there when the two brothers arrived were still there when they left three months later. Others came and quickly disappeared, many sent to Fort Lincoln, a men's internment camp near Bismarck, North Dakota, including one man who'd turned informant. "He squealed on one of the guys, and the guy got interned because of it. The word was that when he got to Fort Lincoln they really worked him over. Poor guy."
In July the brothers were told they were being sent to join their parents, whom they hadn't seen in almost a year, at an INS family camp in Crystal City, Texas. The train was already full of people, some from Fort Lincoln and other men's camps, most from New York and New Jersey, including American women and children who were being voluntarily interned with their husbands and fathers. Fuhr met the father of his future wife on that train. Barbara, her mother, and her sister would soon be on a train to join him. For a year and a half her mother had supported them alone, but it was hard and she wanted the family together again.
"It took two or three days to get there," says Fuhr. "They stopped the train for everything. And every time it stopped, if the shadows were right, you could see some guy standing on top of the car with his weapon."
Fuhr and Barbara are watching a video copy of a Justice Department film made during the war about Crystal City, which at its peak in 1944 held nearly 3,500 people. At the beginning a chirpy woman's voice says, "The cooperation of the detainees for the most part was excellent," then states they were held "under conditions of American standards of decent and humane treatment." "Yeah," says Fuhr, nodding. "That was humane treatment, no question about it. It was not a concentration camp. We were not abused. We got three square meals a day, and the food was adequate. It was cooked by your own mother. There were no psychological numbers done on us, no Chinese torture, no brainwashing. They didn't send you literature about what the Constitution should mean to you and that kind of stuff. We were kind of left alone."
The climate, though, was harsh. Crystal City is semidesert, and the temperature is often well over 100 degrees. "And talk about bugs--every bug in the world lived there. Mosquitoes that could carry you away. A blister bug. Scorpions. You had to shake your shoes out every morning."
Roughly half the detainees were Germans, the other half Japanese arrested under Proclamation 2525 or from Latin America; there were a few Italians and Austrians as well. Most of the children--the camp held 1,600 at one point--were American citizens, as were the 250 children born in the camp hospital. Many of the women were also American citizens; the rest were citizens of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Haiti. Fuhr has copies of internee rosters from 1944 and 1946 that list native countries, ages, children, and occupations--photographer, engineer, painter, goldsmith, salesman, brewer, teacher, doctor, confectioner, pilot, chicken agent, mechanic, butcher, hairdresser, tailor.
The video shows row after row of simple cabins surrounded by a barbed-wire fence with high guard towers at the four corners. It also shows the hospital, the laundry, the community bathhouse, the supply store where detainees could spend their scrip, and the huge garden that produced half the camp's vegetables. "The Germans did not like farming," says the chirpy voice. Watching the video, both Fuhr and Barbara laugh. "That was true," he says, nodding. Most of the gardening was done by the Japanese, who lived on one side of the camp, though the two groups, especially the children, mingled.
"The Germans preferred this type of manual work," says the voice as the camera pans around a machine shop and then a furniture factory, which made almost all of the beds, chairs, and tables for the camp. Jobs such as picking up the garbage were rotated, and everyone had to work a minimum number of hours every month. Those who wanted a regular job, and Fuhr says most people did, were paid ten cents an hour. Barbara's father taught German and history, Fuhr's father worked in the bakery, and Fuhr worked on the ice truck, which is how he learned to drive. Two or three times a day a crew and guard drove into town to pick up ice. "After a while the guard would go across the street for coffee, and we'd load the truck. When we were done we'd beep the horn and he'd come out." He figures he worked 20 to 30 hours a week, making enough money for cigarettes--he'd picked up the habit on the ride from Cincinnati to Chicago.
Eventually he got bored with the ice truck and switched to working in the hospital as an orderly, sterilizing and packing instruments and later assisting on operations. "Hernia. Hemorrhoidectomy," he says solemnly. Barbara rolls her eyes and says, "Honest to goodness. That's shameless."
Barbara was 16 when she arrived, and she finished her senior year at the camp's English-language high school, the only non-Japanese in a class of nearly 150. Younger children went to either German or Japanese elementary and middle schools, though some, including Fuhr's brother Gerhard, didn't go at all. Fuhr isn't sure why.
The International Red Cross and the Swiss and Spanish legations that regularly inspected the camp made sure the internees had sports equipment, radios, newspapers, and books. "You couldn't get Hitler's Mein Kampf," says Fuhr, "but you could get a Bible or maybe a philosophical book by Thomas Mann." Letters were heavily censored. "You could get a letter with maybe three words in it--the rest was all scissored out," he says, and then laughs. "You learned pretty fast you only write on one side of the paper."
The internees organized their own entertainment. Some gave lectures, and they had enough instruments to contrive an orchestra. Every week they showed a film, and one month they saved up their beer rations and had a beer fest. Several men built a still for some cactus they fermented and accidentally burned down a cabin; they were sent to men's camps and their families sent home. Barbara played basketball, and Fuhr played basketball, softball, and soccer. He remembers that 500 Japanese arrived from Peru all at once, including a lot of soccer players his age. "They drubbed us. I remember that very clearly." One fall an Italian civil engineer from Honduras designed an irrigation tank that could double as a swimming pool, and everyone helped build it. People often passed the time walking the three miles or so along the inside of the fence surrounding the camp.
Fuhr figures there were about 60 people his age at the camp, half of them from Latin America. "We didn't talk about politics. There was a lot of dating going on. Everybody knew everybody. You just do what comes naturally. You talk. You don't really want to get involved, but you eventually wind up getting involved." He pauses. "You get a little hurt when you invest your love, your affection in somebody--and then they're gone."
"We had a lot of dances," says Barbara.
"Oh, that was kind of frowned on," says Fuhr. "Because the folks would say, 'You're dancing--and the boys are dying?' They meant the German boys."
"There were a lot of people that went and had a wonderful time," Barbara insists.
Fuhr nods. "We danced anyway. We had dances on Friday and Saturday night, to records. The big-band sound. Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey."
There were new rumors every day. "This group was going to be deported, and then this group was going to be released," says Barbara. "Always rumors, rumors, rumors."
"Hitler was going to have a secret weapon," Fuhr adds, "and it was going to end the war. Right up to the total defeat of Germany, right up to the very day, it was going to be some secret weapon that was going to blow everything up. Everybody was rooting for the Germans. If they didn't, I don't think they said anything."
He remembers a parade on Hitler's birthday, though Barbara doesn't. "The Japanese were doing the same thing. They'd have their parades with the rising-sun flag." But he says the sympathy had a wide range of motives. "I'm sure there were some people who, if they weren't Nazi party members, endorsed everything the Nazi party stood for. And there were people a lot more like my father, who was a monarchist. And there were others who felt Hitler was OK: 'He got everybody off unemployment and welfare, and created some dignity for the country as a whole.' It was the whole spectrum: from pro-Hitler all the way to good Germans, people who really just honestly loved their country regardless of who was the head guy--to those who were rabid for America. The same thing was true of the Japanese." Asked what percentage of the internees might have tried to work against the U.S. had they not been interned, he says, "There might have been some, but I'd put the percentage very low. Maybe less than 5 percent."
People continually arrived at the camp, though Fuhr doesn't remember large numbers coming after 1943. People were also being released, many to be repatriated, particularly after 1944. The Latin Americans--who'd been brought here largely to be exchanged for American prisoners held by the Axis countries--were repatriated early; by July 1942 1,100 Japanese and 500 Germans had been returned to their native countries. Long-term residents of the U.S. were also repatriated in large groups, often with their American wives and children. By the end of the war around 4,450 Germans and their families had been deported.
Officially the internees weren't to be repatriated unless they went voluntarily and were given hearings to determine why they'd signed up. "A lot of people did it to get out of internment," says Barbara. "Like these people we just visited in Florida. He signed up to be repatriated, but then as soon as he could he came back to the United States." "A good chunk of those guys came back here before I got out," says Fuhr. "And that kind of hurts. It makes me feel that somebody was out after me." In fact, thousands of those who'd been deported were back in the U.S. by mid-1947.
He signed up to be repatriated in 1944 because his girlfriend Millie and her family were being deported. "I tried like crazy to get on the ship she was on, in January '45. I tried to get on the next one too, but they still wouldn't let me go. That was by a stroke of luck, because I would have been over there at a real bad time." The winter of '44-'45 saw some of the worst bombing of the war. Erich Schneider and Alfred Plaschke, American citizens who were voluntarily interned with their parents at Crystal City and Seagoville, Texas, told the Houston Chronicle three years ago that they were deported in February 1945. Plaschke, who was 14, and his family were bombed in Hamburg by RAF and American planes. Schneider, who was 17, arrived with his family in Dresden just before it was firebombed. Many of those who were deported after the war also suffered. The 12-year-old Art Jacobs and his brother, both American citizens, were shipped to Germany with their parents in January 1946; they were all promptly arrested by American soldiers, and the two boys were separated from their parents and loaded into unheated cattle cars for a two-day trip south to a prison where they were held for two months.
At Fuhr's brief hearing officials wanted to know if anyone had coerced him into signing up. "'Why did I really want to go back? Did I want to kill Americans, or did I just want some freedom?' I was military age, but then they sent some other guys there that were military age too. I just wanted to get out." He later learned that Millie was back in the U.S. and married to someone else before he was released. He laughs. "She didn't even come back to see me. I think she assumed, 'Hey, everybody's gone.'"
Later that spring Fuhr had a nasty boil on his thumb that had to be lanced, and Barbara, who'd been working in the hospital as a nurse's aide since she graduated, took care of him. "We knew each other before though," he says. "Casually."
"Casually," she says. "Right. It was a crowd of kids, young people around. I had the night shift--"
"She got me cherries."
"I got you cherries. And plums. I sneaked him stuff from the kitchen." She laughs. "And that was the beginning of the end."
On May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered. "I don't think I took anybody's political temperature," says Fuhr, "but it was a pretty sad day. I think people felt they were going to be released, and they were kind of afraid of their loss of position and jobs. They thought that the stigma of internment would keep them from getting a job, particularly the professional people. The mechanic kind of guy--like the toolmaker, the machinist--he wasn't too afraid." Fuhr's family sat down together to talk over their options. "Germany was flat. It was dead. We decided it would be crazy to go." They also thought they could help their German relatives better if they stayed.
But weeks passed and few people were released. On July 14 President Truman signed a proclamation stating that all interned aliens who were considered dangerous by the attorney general would be deported, though it wasn't clear how "dangerous" was now defined. Later that week the New York Times estimated that 900 Germans were still interned in various camps and that 600 would be deported. A brief history of Crystal City written by its director says there were 2,548 Japanese, 756 Germans, and 12 Italians still in the camp at the end of the month.
Somewhere around this time Fuhr's mother received a letter from Germany saying that her mother had died the year before. Another letter from Cincinnati announced that the family's house had been sold at a tax sale, noting that it had been looted shortly after Fuhr and Julius were arrested. "Everything my mother ever--she kept all kinds of stuff, like lace. She was kind of an old-fashioned lady and had some things she really treasured, including family pictures from Germany of her mother and her brothers and sisters. All gone."
That winter was bitterly cold in Europe. "They were literally cutting down trees in the public parks to keep warm in the cities. The winter of '46-'47 was almost as cold. They were horribly short of things like butter and margarine." Once or twice a month for the next three years his mother sent packages of food to her brothers and sisters.
Gradually German families began leaving Crystal City, many headed for Ellis Island and deportation. The roster Fuhr has from December 1946 lists only 118 Germans. Barbara's father, who had had several hearings at the camp, probably before a panel set up by the Justice Department in 1943 to hear internees' appeals, did not want to be repatriated. Sometime in 1945 her mother moved back to New York alone to work on getting him released, and in June 1946 he was moved to Ellis Island. Several months later he was released on parole.
In the spring of 1946 Fuhr and others began dismantling the camp buildings, taking them apart in sections and numbering them so they could be set up on other federal sites. "It got to be stultifying, especially after Barb left. There were only six or seven people my age that were still down there. I mean, how many mystery books can you read? You know, if you're sentenced to five years you can mark it on a calendar, mark off each day. But here there's no end line. It just goes day after day after day of the same thing. You just sit there. And maybe you get a letter, and maybe you don't. You've got a crummy radio, and the crummy radio station is way up there in San Antonio playing some stuff like 'Don't Fence Me In.' But you resolve, when you get out of there you're going to do something. Well, my problem was I didn't know, would I be able to do it here in the United States or would I have to do it in Germany, which I really didn't know a damn thing about?"
In April 1947, nearly two years after Germany surrendered, the Fuhrs were suddenly told they were being repatriated. "They said, 'You go to Cincinnati to make final preparations.' Really there wasn't anything to make final preparations with anymore, but we didn't argue that point."
The family moved in with old friends, and Fuhr immediately got a job unloading boxcars for Kroger's. He didn't tell them he'd been interned. He told them it was his first job. "For that kind of work they don't care. They just see if you've got enough muscles."
The family had been told to report to the local police every week, and Fuhr called the first day. "The next week I called at the same hour, and the guy said, 'Don't bother us. Don't call us anymore. Forget about it.' So I did."
No one contacted them for almost two months, then the local INS officials gave his father train tickets and told them to report to Ellis Island. They were to be deported the day after they arrived. "At that point I didn't really care where I was going to be. I just wanted the whole thing to be over." Gerhard, who was now 17, stayed behind.
On Ellis Island they joined people who'd left Crystal City before them, people Fuhr hadn't seen since Chicago, people who'd been interned on the island in 1942. But the family wasn't deported. Once again the weeks started passing.
Fuhr went back to reading books and occasionally playing volleyball. "At least at Crystal City we had a big perimeter we could walk around, so there was a certain feeling of freedom. At Ellis Island you were confined to this big room. It was a real, total bore. We did a lot of talking and a lot of card playing and a lot of waiting. I painted for ten cents an hour because I needed that for cigarettes, but above all because you needed to keep yourself busy. Otherwise you'd go daffy." He laughs. "Before they refurbished Ellis Island, all that peeling paint they showed in pictures--that's the stuff I put on."
The internees were allowed one visit a week for an hour. Barbara, who was working at a New York Y as a receptionist and saving money to go to secretarial school, came every week. Her mother had found a job selling pots and pans at a department store, and her father was shoveling coal. "His career by that time had been wrecked totally," she says. "He tried to write articles, but he just never got anywhere."
Fuhr doesn't know why his family was kept so long at Crystal City and Ellis Island after the war and yet not deported, though he vaguely remembers that there was some kind of court action. But Art Jacobs, who made it back to the U.S. less than two years after he was shipped to Germany (he then spent 22 years in the Air Force and now teaches at Arizona State), has documents that, combined with New York Times reports, suggest some reasons. Jacobs has tracked down more than 8,000 pages of documents about the internment camps in a seven-year effort to clear his own family's name.
Sometime in 1945 a group of Crystal City internees organized a committee to try to stop their deportations, working through Kurt Mertig, chairman of the Citizens' Protective League (CPL) in New York. They and internees from other camps contributed money to pay a lawyer to "start pushing our test case for the unconstitutionality of the whole deportation scheme." One of Mertig's letters lists some of the contributors; Fuhr's parents aren't among them, and he doesn't remember them paying into any such fund, though he says they might have.
Mertig and the lawyer met with Attorney General Tom Clark in September and asked that all the internees be released on parole and allowed to present their cases in court. That didn't happen, and in May 1946 they lost the test case in the U.S. Court of Appeals, though they apparently appealed to the Supreme Court. In a June letter the INS commissioner told the director of Crystal City that while other camp directors were proceeding with deportations, he should take no action "until further notice since it appears likely that further litigation will prevent removals actually being effected."
He may have been referring to more than the CPL's case. Some Germans had filed habeas corpus petitions, claiming they could no longer be detained as alien enemies since their native countries were no longer enemies. In another test case selected from 200 petitions from Germans held on Ellis Island, attorneys argued that their client had the right to have a lawyer and examine witnesses at his reparation hearing. They lost in federal court in August 1946 and in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at the beginning of 1947. The Department of Justice immediately said it planned to move ahead with the deportation of more than 300 Germans, and soon after that the Fuhrs were given their orders.
These cases may have delayed their deportation, but it was finally stopped by hearings held on Ellis Island in June 1947 by Senator William Langer of North Dakota, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration. Fuhr's hearing lasted ten minutes. "From the first question on you knew it was over. Because the guy asked rational questions. He didn't talk about submarines coming up the Ohio River and stuff like that. It was obvious that it was geared not to find fault but to find reason why you should be allowed to stay. The first question was 'You never intended any disloyalty to the United States?' I said, 'Absolutely not.' When I walked out I told my brother, 'We're out of here. This is all over.'"
A month later Langer introduced a bill in the Senate directing Attorney General Clark to "cancel forthwith the outstanding warrants of arrest, removal, or deportation" of 207 people on Ellis Island, including the Fuhrs. Two weeks later Fuhr was called into the director's office. "He said, 'You're free to go. We'll have your train tickets tomorrow morning to go back to Cincinnati.' I said, 'When's the next ferry to the mainland?' He said, 'Twenty minutes.' And I left in 20 minutes. I went up to my mother and said, 'I think they're going to let you go too, but I'm leaving on the next ferry. Good-bye, Mom.' Julius made the same ferry. I left my dirty laundry there. I didn't care, because I was gone--I didn't want them to change their minds."
Fuhr, who was now 22, went to work selling insecticide door-to-door in Manhattan. He tried to persuade his parents to stay out east with him, but they moved back; his father took up baking again. "He played at having his own bakery, but it was never successful at all."
Fuhr went to see them occasionally, but they rarely talked about their internment. "My mother was more bitter than my father. He could take most anything, I think. He would have been satisfied just to have a good bakery job. She thought that everything was unfair. She'd lost her house. She'd lost everything in it. It kind of broke her spirit. She'd compulsively acquire things--if she got a hold of anything she just squirreled it away. She was never really close again with some of the people she had been, because I think the suspicion was that they were some of the people that told things to the FBI."
Barbara's father eventually got a job at a military academy in Virginia, where he taught German, French, and Latin. "He got peanuts at this little school," she says. "They gave him room and board and he could eat in the dining room, but he was poorly paid. Those were ugly days." Yet she doesn't think he was bitter about the time he spent in internment. "He had a different philosophy about this than probably most. He loved reading and being introspective and philosophizing and studying on his own. For him it was an inevitable fact that he was there, could not do anything about it, and therefore used the time for study. He was very gentle. Sensitive. He also didn't talk about it, which made us over the years more and more think that maybe it bothered him a lot more than he let on." Her mother had a different attitude. "She was an American citizen, and she hated the whole idea of internment."
Barbara and Fuhr were married in the summer of 1948. That fall he started college at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota, while she worked as a secretary to pay the bills. "If I hadn't been interned I probably would never have gone on to college," Fuhr says. "I think I would have automatically said, 'Hey, nobody from the gut of Cincinnati goes to college.'" A year later he transferred to Ohio University because Gustavus didn't offer business courses. "I figured I couldn't afford the luxury of a liberal arts education. I didn't figure I had any more time to lose. I figured I had to come out of school qualified to do something. The last thing I wanted to be was a salesman, but that's all I could get a job at."
What would he have preferred to study? "I would really have liked to have become a doctor, particularly after I saw this Dr. Martin at Crystal City. He was a really wonderful man. He didn't care if you were an enemy alien or from the United States or if you were Japanese. If you were sick, he was going to make you well. But then I totaled up all the dollars and the time, and I figured I had to shoot for something less." He pauses. "In the long run I'm not sorry I did what I did, because I did OK with my career. I think I always did the best I could possibly do with the job I had--I do consider myself a successful guy. But when you think about the psychic income you get, say, from being a doctor versus being a sales manager--" He pauses again. "Everybody gets psychic income from his work. But a surgeon who cures somebody, just think of the feeling that guy's got to have."
He was required to spend two years in ROTC and grins when he says he aced those classes. When the Korean war started he was eligible for the draft, but he was getting straight A's and was given a deferment. His brother Gerhard volunteered for the infantry. "I said, 'You're crazy. They kill people in the infantry.' He said, 'That's what I want to do.'" But Gerhard was shipped to Germany. "He had a hard time dealing with the internment," says Barbara. "Except in the last couple of years he's come to terms with it." Fuhr nods. "I think one of the reasons he had trouble dealing with it was he stayed in Cincinnati. All of his memories are there. He'd go by the old house and say, 'Hey, we lost that sucker and everything in it.'" Julius, who moved to Minnesota, prefers not to talk about his internment.
Fuhr graduated with honors a semester early, in 1952, and immediately took a job as a salesman for Shell. He'd applied to become a citizen after he transferred to Ohio University, and in 1955 found himself sitting in a courtroom with 150 people waiting to be sworn in. The immigration officer recommended everyone be naturalized but asked the judge to read something first. Then he laid what Fuhr is sure was his FBI file on the judge's desk. It was nearly two inches thick. "The judge asked me to identify myself. I was right smack in the middle of everybody. Barb's pregnant with one of the kids, and our son is sitting next to her. The judge starts reading, and he read about 20 minutes. At least it felt that way. Maybe it was only 5. Finally he looked up at this guy and said, 'Don't you ever, don't you ever bring anything like this to my attention again. There's no reason why this man shouldn't be a citizen of the United States.' He said, 'Will you please rise?' We all rose en masse. 'Raise your right hands.' We go through the citizen's oath. And I was sworn in."
In 1958 Shell transferred Fuhr to Cincinnati. "I never wanted to go back there, but with Shell if you turned down a transfer you were put on a shelf. Besides I was transferred as a merchandising manager, so it was really a promotion." And he was glad that his children would be able to spend time with their grandparents, who were now living in a small house they'd bought in a small town outside the city. Three years later his mother died of a massive stroke. A year after that his father died of cancer. Fuhr and his brothers had to borrow $3,000 to pay off the house after it was sold. His parents had never been able to afford to go back to Germany, even to visit, and they never became citizens.
Fuhr quit Shell in 1964, went to the University of Wisconsin and got his MBA, then took a management job with Consolidated Papers. In 1977 he and Barbara moved to Palatine, where they've lived ever since. The day he arrived he drove down to 4800 S. Ellis. "I wanted to see if it was still there," he says, a smile slanting across his face. He's since taken his three children and six grandchildren to see it too.
In 1985, on a sales trip to San Antonio, Fuhr decided to drive down to Crystal City. He had a hard time finding the camp. Some of the buildings had been converted to housing for Mexican migrant workers who pick the local spinach crop, and a prison had been built on part of the land. But the irrigation tank that had served as a swimming pool was still in use. It had started to rain by the time he finally headed back to San Antonio. "I looked in my mirror--there was sunshine in front of me but rain behind me--and here's this rainbow over Crystal City. I stopped the car it was so strange. I figured, well, this is really great. Here I'm leaving Crystal City and the rainbow says, 'Hey, this is all over. It's done.'" He pauses, then says slowly, "It wasn't tough to walk around there. But I don't really ever want to go to Ellis Island. I hate that place, I really do. I think it's because it faces the back, the rear of the Statue of Liberty. Like she'd turned her back on the people of Ellis Island."
Of course it wasn't all over. For years he'd refused to talk about his internment with anyone but his family and close friends. "Anytime somebody started to talk about his war record I would really get into it, questioning him and getting him to talk about it so there wouldn't be any time left for him to say, 'Well, what did you do?' When somebody would ask, I managed somehow to not answer. I never lied, but I'd have to go to the bathroom or said something inane that was off-putting.
"When I was about two years shy of retirement I finally told the truth. My boss said, 'What'd you do during the war?' I said, 'I was interned as a dangerous enemy alien.' He almost rolled on the floor laughing. He didn't believe it."
Fuhr was hardly the only one who was silent. He and Barbara keep up with around 35 people they knew at Crystal City, several of whom have never even told their children they were interned. "Some felt humiliated. A lot of us feel that we've been impugned. It's always in the back of your mind that the government thought we were disloyal and capable of doing all kinds of dastardly deeds and putting American troops in jeopardy and all that kind of stuff. The implication is that you really don't belong here. And that stigma still applies--because nobody's ever taken it back. The fact is, there were some German spies that landed on the east coast. But they were prosecuted, and they were executed." Yet he says that if he'd been released shortly after the war was over he could have accepted his internment. "I'm really only angry about the time after the war."
He also grew tired of reading newspaper articles that assumed the hearings internees had were fair and tired of reading books that didn't acknowledge that anyone besides the Japanese was interned. He doesn't believe the government had any right to intern Japanese who were American citizens, though he believes it did have the right to intern Japanese aliens, just as it had the right to intern him--though only till the war was over. And he doesn't believe that the Japanese who were interned in Crystal City were treated any differently than the Germans or Italians.
If you compare the treatment of Japanese interned individually under Proclamation 2525, as the Japanese in Crystal City were, to the treatment of Germans interned under the identical terms of Proclamation 2526, it's hard to see any difference. However, those interned under the proclamations were given the dubious courtesy of arrest warrants and hearings, which the Japanese and Japanese Americans who were relocated and interned en masse under Executive Order 9066 were not. Nevertheless, the two groups of Japanese are generally lumped together, including by Congress when it passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which offered an apology to all relocated and interned Japanese along with $20,000 per person in compensation.
What does Fuhr want? "Honest to God, I really didn't feel I was entitled to compensation--and I didn't think the Japanese should have been compensated." What about the families who lost their drafted sons in the war? he asks. What about the veterans who lost their homes because they couldn't pay the mortgage out of their meager military salaries? "But once the Japanese were compensated, I figured for equity to exist, why all Germans ought to be compensated too. I'd like to see my younger brother get 20,000 bucks. Every Japanese kid that was born in Crystal City got 20,000 bucks, but no German kid did. They were born in the same room, the same people attending. But I think more important than the compensation is for the American government to acknowledge that Germans were indeed interned. If they'd make a statement, 'Germans were interned during World War II, and we gave them hearings that were true baloney in an attempt to justify the internment,' then I'd be satisfied. It probably wouldn't make a particle of difference in my life, but I want that recognition."
He doesn't expect to get any money. He's well aware of how long the line of injured parties would be if the U.S. government started compensating white Americans of European extraction. But he smiles and says he's going to ask for it anyway. "It gets their attention."
Barbara's attitude is closer to her late father's. "I don't feel the anger Eb feels. Nothing to do with being a volunteer or anything like that. Personality makes a difference. I was happy that I was there with my father and my sister. My mother left, and that was not too much fun. But I went to school, I went swimming, I had a job after I graduated. I don't know. I was not aware of the future consequences of anything. And then I fell madly in love."
Fuhr says he probably never would have broken his silence if he hadn't been pressured a few years ago by Art Jacobs, who was then suing the government (he later lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals). Jacobs wanted him to start writing letters to editors, and after he retired in 1990 Fuhr did. "I don't have anything to lose anymore. I should've gone public before, I really should've. I've got concerns about what happens in the future with, say, us again or some other group that could be placed in the same kind of situation. You can see in this New York City bombing how easy it is for people to turn on a group. I think the Japanese did it right. They said, 'Hey, the only real protection is for this to see the light of day.' I think in this country they're right, because if it sees the light of day then you really do get justice. In the end it does prevail."
He says most of his friends from the camp don't believe this country had any right to intern them and do believe they deserve some apology, yet he's the only one besides Jacobs who will write a letter to a congressman. So far the response has been along the lines of Senator John Glenn's reply to him, "If legislation comes before me that addresses your concern, I will keep your views in mind." Fuhr says his friends say, "'I believe in what you're doing, but I don't want to go public.' You say, 'Hey, we ought to get together on this.' They say, 'No. Forget it.' They're afraid. 'You'd have all that stuff on your record, and your record's going to come up again sometime.' I don't want to overstate it, but I don't want to understate it either. There's a real paranoia out there."
Fuhr is quick to acknowledge that he's still paranoid too. "I don't go to German American days in Chicago. I don't belong to the German American National Congress in Chicago. I don't belong to any German groups. Because those things get on your record. I don't join anything." He pauses. "I did join the Simon Wiesenthal Center for a while. I want it on my record that I belonged for three years. And I belong to the Republican Party--there's my card." He points to the card tacked to his bulletin board. "I just send them 25 bucks a year."
Jacobs has also been after him to write for his FBI file, which might settle some questions. He kept promising he would, but it wasn't until early July that he finally did. "I'm afraid of what might be in it," he says quietly. "I really am. There's always a fear of the unknown, you know?" Barbara's father died in 1988, and her mother, who also lives in Palatine, needed documentation of his internment for her petition to the German government for a pension. She asked for only enough of his FBI file to confirm the dates.
Fuhr has been surprised at the reactions from people as he's opened up. He warily told some friends he regularly has dinner with that he was interned, but says he can't see that they're treating him any differently. But when he was in Milwaukee he went to see a man he'd gone to grade school and high school with who'd become a Lutheran minister. "It was like, 'What are you doing here?' I figured, I don't need you, right? For a pastor, you'd figure a guy would have a little more compassion. So it depends on the individual."
Last March he went to his first high school reunion, almost exactly 50 years after he was arrested. "I was a little scared because these guys--Woodward High School had 4,000 students then, and of course a lot of the guys in the class of '43 went into the service. And some of them died. I really didn't know what kind of reception I'd get, because a lot of them knew I was arrested right in class and as a dangerous alien enemy." He still seems astonished at how warmly he was welcomed. One woman told him she'd been appalled to see him taken away in handcuffs. Another woman he barely knew said she was still embarrassed that his name and picture were stripped from the yearbook right before it went to press. Several people said they'd called the FBI after he was arrested and asked if they could speak at his hearing, but were told they were wasting their time. "At the dinner dance these guys got up and said, 'We know there was an injustice done to one of our fellow graduates. We've written Senator Metzenbaum and Senator Glenn, and Metzenbaum's office has called in a message.'" They read the message, which noted the "unfortunate occasion" of Fuhr's internment and extended "special recognition" to him. "They called me up there. It was fantastic."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Mike Tappin.