JANM to Screen ‘Resistance at Tule Lake’

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Japanese American members of a pro-Japan group known as the Hoshi Dan honoring brethren who were being purged from Tule Lake and sent to Santa Fe concentration camp before being deported to Japan. Photo courtesy of Tule Lake Committee.

Konrad Aderer

The Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo, will host a screening of “Resistance at Tule Lake,” a new documentary from director/producer Konrad Aderer that tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the U.S. government’s program of mass incarceration during World War II, on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m.

Branded as “disloyals” and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their U.S. citizenship. Giving voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years, the film challenges the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime “loyalty.” A panel discussion with the filmmakers will follow the screening.

Tule Lake was one of ten American concentration camps that were hastily built to house the 120,000 persons of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their West Coast homes following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Located in Modoc County, Tule Lake was the most conflict-ridden of the ten camps. In its first year of operation, it was beset by labor unrest, including strikes over a lack of promised goods and salaries and a mess hall workers’ protest. Then, in 1943, it was designated as Tule Lake Segregation Center and essentially became a prison camp for those perceived as “disloyal” to the U.S.

Residents of Tule Lake Block 42, who refused to sign the “loyalty questionnaire” and were collectively arrested and threatened at gunpoint by Army personnel. Photo courtesy of Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto.

Tule Lake was chosen to be a segregation center partially because of its size and capacity, but also because the infamous “loyalty questionnaire” — an awkwardly worded document circulated by the Army in all 10 camps in an attempt to determine who among the prisoners were patriotic citizens and who were not — was mishandled by authorities at the camp, leading to more unrest, turmoil among the inmates, acts of civil disobedience, and the largest number of presumed “disloyals” of any of the camps.

Tule Lake soon became a maximum-security prison as “disloyals” from other camps were relocated there. The “disloyals” lived alongside original Tule Lake inmates who had answered the questionnaire with “loyalty,” but did not want to be displaced a second time. Home to a deeply divided and disaffected population and constantly beset with strife, the center was for a time ruled by martial law. The emotional fallout from living under such hostile conditions led some inmates to become disillusioned with America and to plan for a “return” to Japan after the war, though many had never been there.

Included with museum admission. JANM members may also attend an exclusive pre-event reception with the filmmaker. For more information and to RSVP, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

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