REPRODUCED AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Declassified: February 23, 1996.
By State Department’s Special Division Memorandum of August 26, 1943.
From Samuel Sobokin, American Consul
Kobe, Japan, November 11, 1943
Date of mailing, December 1, 1943
On board M/S GRIPSHOLM
INTERNMENT OF AMERICAN AND ALLIED NATIONALS
At Weihsien, Shantung Province, CHINA
REPORT ON WEIHSIEN CIVIL ASSEMBLY CENTER
(This section of the report has been prepared by Mr. Wm. B. Christian)
The Japanese authorities notified British and American nationals in Peking and Tientsin on March 12, 1943, about two weeks in advance of the projected internment that they were to be interned at Weihsien in Shantung Province. This notification was first communicated in Peking by the Japanese Embassy to the American Relief Committee which in turn distributed mimeographed notices to American nationals. In Tientsin the same procedure was followed by the Japanese Consulate General and the American Relief Committee.
In Tientsin prospective internees were told that they might send ahead a maximum of three trunks and necessary bed and bedding. In Peking prospective internees were told that they might send ahead two steamer trunks and bed and bedding. There was no restriction with respect to internees taking into camp food, money, clothing, and other personal effects so long as the luggage did not exceed the prescribed limit.
In both Peking and Tientsin exceptions to internment orders were allowed with respect to the very aged and the ill, subject to the approval of a Japanese doctor. Very few individuals were exempted, however, many aged and chronically ill being forced to enter the camp. So far as is known, there was no resistance to or avoidance of the internment order.
The first Tientsin group ― 255 men, women, and children, composed mostly of British nationals ― left that city on March 22, 1943. The first Peking group, numbering about 245 and composed mostly of Americans, left Peking on March 24. The second Tientsin group of about 260 persons, mostly Americans, left on March 26. The second Peking group of about 240, mostly British, left on March 28. The third Tientsin group of about 265 persons, entirely British and largely women and children, left Tientsin on March 30. In all cases these groups arrived at the Weihsien camp on the day following their departure. The Tsingtao group of about 170 persons which had, since October 27, 1942, been interned in the Iltis-Hydro Hotel in Tsingtao, left Tsingtao on March 20, 1943, arriving at the Weihsien camp the same day.
In all cases, the groups were in the charge of a, general sponsor, chosen by the Japanese, and were sub-divided into smaller groups in the charge of persons designated by the internees.
The trip to the Weihsien camp was made under most crowded conditions in third-class cars with no possible place for relaxing. All internees were compelled to sit up for the entire journey which, from Peking to Weihsien, required 18 hours; from Tientsin to Weihsien, about 14 hours, and from Tsingtao to Weihsien, about 6 hours. Not even the aged and ill, compelled to make a journey of from 14 to 18 hours by rail, had any provision for sleeping or even reclining been made.
The Japanese authorities in Peking had indicated officially that food would be provided in the dining cars attached to the trains, but no one was permitted to enter the dining cars and no effort was made by the authorities to provide food or drink during the entire journey. Fortunately, most people had taken lunches and canteens or thermos bottles; otherwise, greater hardship would have resulted.
In the case of the Peking internees, they were advised that they could take two suitcases and a knapsack which they must carry themselves from the American Embassy Grounds, where they were to assemble, to the Ch’ien Men Station, a distance of about one-third of a mile. Many of the internees were men and women of advanced years and at the last moment the Japanese authorities found that it was utterly impossible for these persons to carry their bags. Consequently, one small motor truck was provided for transporting the hand luggage of the feeble. However, at least 80 of the internees were compelled to march through the streets of Peking carrying a suitcase in each hand, a knapsack on their back, and a canteen or thermos bottle as best they could. Many of the women had provided themselves with makeshift wheel-barrows which they trundled before them. Coolies and rickshaws for the handling of this luggage were easily available, and the fact that internees were not permitted to secure this help resulted in additional unnecessary discomfort. It was entirely obvious that the Japanese authorities did everything they could to try to humiliate U.S. citizens in the eyes of the Chinese. Japanese cameramen constantly took motion pictures of the assembly and the march to the station. These pictures subsequently were shown in native cinemas all over occupied China.
Upon arrival in Weihsien, the internees were loaded into motor buses and trucks, and taken to the camp where they were lined up in groups and the chief sponsor for each Group was given a two-page typewritten draft of the rules and regulations of the camp which he was asked to read to his group. After this was done, the groups were led to the classroom buildings of the Weihsien camp and were told that they must sleep on the floor of these buildings. In no case had the beds and bedding, which had been shipped from Tientsin and Peking many days prior to their departure, arrived in Weihsien. On, the morning following their arrival, internees were made to sign a pledge of good behaviour, and to declare the amount of cash which they had brought to the camp.
When the Tsingtao Group arrived on the evening of March 20, no arrangements for eating had been made. They were shown by the Japanese to the kitchens and told they must clean there and prepare their meals from a supply of vegetables which the authorities had provided. In this respect the Tsingtao group suffered more than those arriving subsequently. For the first few days after the arrival of the Peking and Tientsin groups there was nothing to eat except stale bread and a stew composed of leeks and potatoes.
Rooms were allocated by the Japanese the following day after arrival at the camp, but beds and bedding generally did not arrive until two or three days later, so that all internees were compelled to sleep on the floor in freezing March weather with only their overcoats and in some cases blankets for protection. A few stoves were issued to the aged, ill, and those with small children, but in no case were they in usable condition until after the internees had been in the camp for several days.
At the time of the internees' arrival in the camp the Japanese authorities had sent to Weihsien the Japanese Tsingtao Consul. (not Consul General), a Mr. Kagegawa, who had lived many years in London, spoke fluent English, and whose attitude toward the internees was firm but correct. As soon as the camp was organized, he returned to Tsingtao.
Immediately upon the opening of the camp, a temporary committee was formed of senior residents of Tsingtao, Tientsin, and Peking, and the operating of the camp during the first week was handled by this committee to the best of their ability. On the night of March 31 this temporary committee was advised by Mr. Kagegawa that the time had come when permanent committees must be set up and that the names of the committee men must be in the hands of the authorities before noon on April 2. Those concerned asked for an extension of time but this was refused for reasons unknown. This necessitated hurried action on the part of the internees. After considerable discussion, it was decided to divide the camp into four groups, namely, laymen groups from Tsingtao, Tientsin, and Peking, and a Roman Catholic group, as there were nearly 500 Catholic fathers, brothers, and sisters in the camp at that time. Each of these groups was permitted to name one representative to serve on the nine committees which the Japanese had indicated they wished to function as the executive organs of the camp. These committees were Discipline, Education, Employment, Engineering and Repairs, Finance, Food Supplies, General Affairs, Medical Affairs, and Quarters. The 36 representatives, one from each of the four groups to each of the nine committees were chosen, and the groups of four forming each committee chose their own chairman. The results were given to the Japanese authorities at noon on April 2. This hastily chosen organization continued to function from April 1 to May 28 when a general election was held to elect permanent representatives to the various committees. Almost without exception the original members were re-elected. The committee chairmen were as shown below:
|Engineering and Repairs||L. D. Jones||British|
|Food Supplies||N. Whitting||British|
|General Affairs||W. Christian||American|
|Medical Affairs||H. Loucks||American|
The Japanese permanent staff consisted of Mr. Tsukigawa, the Commandant, who personally supervised the work of the Education and Employment Committees; Mr. Koga, general assistant to Mr. Tsukigawa and English-speaking Japanese in the charge of Food Supplies and Medical Affairs; Mr. Izu, non-English speaking Japanese in the charge of Engineering and Repairs, buildings, and related affairs; Mr. Ihara, in the charge of General Affairs, including the canteen, post office, etc.; and Mr. Mitsumoto in the charge of Finance, including the management of the Center Bank. Discipline was under the control of a retired Japanese major whose name has been forgotten and he had under him 40 Japanese Consular Police. On December 7, 1941, Mr. Tsukigawa, the Commandant, had been a Vice Consul attached to the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu but spoke almost no English. He was a man of very ordinary intelligence, extremely incompetent in practical matters, and not inclined to be helpful in connection with the many problems with which the internees were faced. Generally speaking, however, the attitude of the officials was correct in that there were very few incidents and the internees were given practical autonomy in the direction of their affairs ...
End of Introduction (= page -4-)
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No Vatican delegate visited the camp. However, the Catholics were permitted to receive visits from Japanese and Chinese Catholics and also many visits from Father Flasch, a prominent German Catholic priest from Tsinanfu, as well as visits from German priests from Peking. In this respect the Catholics were much more liberally treated than the Protestants. Visiting priests and sisters were allowed to bring in food and medical supplies and clothing without any restrictions whatsoever and with only the most casual inspection. It was obvious at all times that the authorities were anxious to avoid antagonizing the Catholic group.
If any local relief societies existed, they were unable to contact the internees in any way. Local Chinese residents were never permitted to visit the camp.
WELFARE AND RECREATION
(This section of the report has been prepared by Mr. Wm. B. Christian and Mr. E. W. Torrey)
VII. Welfare and recreation:
Facilities for recreation. Comfort allowances. Personal funds (loans, etc.) Passes and temporary releases. For what purpose issued and to what extent. Package lines. "Vacations."
Facilities for Recreation
The Weihsien Camp provided a baseball diamond, somewhat small for regular baseball but well suited to softball, a tennis court in bad condition, and a basketball and volleyball court. In addition, cricket and hockey were played on the baseball field. Softball was by far the most popular form of sport and various teams recruited among the internees provided many interesting games which were largely attended and did much to improve the morale of the entire camp. Athletic equipment was brought in by the internees and supplemented by supplies purchased through the courtesy of the Swiss Consular offices, all of which were paid for by the internees.
The church was the general recreation hall and provided a place where theatricals, concerts ― both piano and symphony ― were held each Friday and Saturday night. Great interest was shown in these performances and many of them reached an amazingly high standard of excellence. The camp was fortunate in possessing two grand pianos which permitted two-piano concerts which were outstanding performances.
The authorities gave the internees complete freedom for religious worship. There were in the camp large groups of all denominations and sects, both Protestant and Catholic, and these had every facility possible for holding Sunday school, church services, and bible classes for the Protestants, and masses and other services for the Catholic group. On Easter Sunday 1943 very impressive services were hold by both Protestants and Catholics. As Protestant missionaries and teachers and Catholic priests and sisters made up some half of the total number of internees, religion in all its aspects contributed a large factor in the life of the camp.
As soon as the camp was opened, the question of education, both juvenile and adult, was given careful consideration. The organization of this important phase of camp life was handled by the Education Committee of four persons under competent chairmanship of a Britisher previously associated with the Tientsin Grammar School. Starting with the youngest children, a group of about 50 three to four year olds were in the charge of a trained English kindergarten teacher and five assistants; a group of about 20 four to five year olds were under two American teachers; and an older group of about 20 five to six year olds were handled by two young women ― an Australian and a New Zealander. As camp mothers were busy with home and kitchen work, the classes for the younger children did invaluable service not only from an educational point of view but also by relieving the mothers of the care of the young children which would have prevented them from carrying out the daily work necessitated by camp conditions.
Elementary education was conducted by internee teachers and was divided into an American group working under the general supervision of former teachers of the Peking American School, and a British group working under teachers mostly from the Tientsin Grammar School. Some 100 children were enrolled in classes covering grades 1 to 8 for the American group and corresponding forms for the British school. Nine teachers were employed for the American group and seven for the British. Classes were held in poorly furnished, dark, crowded, and generally unsuitable classrooms. All books and equipment, except chalk, were supplied by internees. Classes were sometimes held in the open when the weather permitted.
High school education was based on the American four-year system and the English higher forms. Fifteen teachers were employed and there were about 75 students. At the end of the scholastic year in June 1943 five American boys and girls received their high school diplomas and several students of the British school were promoted to higher forms.
Adult education developed along very broad lines. Ninety teachers taught more than 700 students in 25 subjects divided and sub-divided into 120 divisions. There were 320 classes a week, making a total of 3665 student-hours a week. Subjects taught included art, botany, biology, ornithology, physics, chemistry, English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Latin, Greek, philosophy, psychology, theology, commercial subjects (such as shorthand, bookkeeping and auditing), vocal and theoretical music, and higher mathematics.
The Japanese authorities showed a marked interest in education and this phase of camp life was under the supervision of Mr. Tsukigawa, the camp commandant. Weekly lectures on timely subjects of general interest were held each Wednesday evening and proved both entertaining and instructive.
Comfort Allowances and Personal Funds
Each group of internees on arrival at the Weihsien camp was required, to declare the amount of cash held by each individual. About the middle of April 1943, after all the larger groups from Peking, Tientsin, and Tsingtao had arrived, internees were requested to deposit, their funds in the Center Bank, which is under the complete control of the Japanese authorities in the camp. Except in the case of two or three small groups that arrived later on, the authorities made no attempt to require the internees to deposit the full amount declared on arrival. In return for the money, they received a sheet of paper marked "passbook", showing the name, nationality of depositor, amount of deposit, balance, and bearing a chop applied by one of the Japanese officials.
The Japanese authorities insisted that "comfort" money received from the Swiss representative must be deposited to these individual accounts (in the case of families it was required that the account be in the name of the head of the family). Thus, up to the departure of this group, the following deposits of "comfort" money had been made:
|For Month of||Amount per Person||Approximate Date Deposited|
|August/September||FRB$200||Third week of August|
The Japanese authorities did not allow these deposits or any of the personal deposits to be withdrawn at will. They were reluctant to permit the internees to withdraw except on a very modest scale, hence there developed dissatisfaction and friction in the camp. Finally, however, through the good offices of the Swiss representative and the representations of the camp committees, the camp authorities agreed in July to allow monthly withdrawals at the rate of $l00 per month per person.
"Regular" monthly withdrawals (i.e., those permitting every depositor to withdraw) were permitted as follows:
|Middle of April||FRB$25 per person (US$1.66)|
|Middle of May||FRB$50 per single person (FRB$80 for a married couple with a scale for children according to age, averaging FRB$25 per each child)|