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Japanese Internment Camp Survivors Decry Presidential Campaign Rhetoric

Speakers Warn Central Wisconsin Students Not To Let History Repeat Itself

Glen Moberg/WPR

An acclaimed central Wisconsin school history program took a political turn this past week when survivors of World War II Japanese-American internment camps warned students about the rhetoric in this year’s presidential campaign.

The Walk in Their Shoes program brought the speakers to packed school assemblies in Wausau and Edgar. KerryYo Nakagawa’s family was interned at the camps before he was born. He told students it could happen again.

“Never take your civil liberties or the Constitution for granted,” Nakagawa said. “It can turn on and off like a light switch in today’s world.”

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Camp survivors Tets Furukawa and Howard Zenimura, now in their late 80s, described how they and their families were stripped of their possessions and sent to an internment camp in Gila River, Arizona, in 1942. Furukawa’s father was picked up by the FBI as a suspected spy and separated from the family.

They said they are concerned about political campaign rhetoric toward Muslims.

“From what I hear, there’s no way that I’m going to vote for Donald Trump,” Furukawa said, adding that as a Republican he couldn’t support Hillary Clinton either.

“History hasn’t changed, only the names have. We have political leaders today that are willing to put immigrants into concentration camps again. And if that’s the case, history will repeat itself, and what lessons have we learned?” Nakagawa said.

Trump has pointed to the World War II camps as examples of what America has done in the past for national security. He has called for a moratorium on the immigration of Muslims to the U.S.

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