Internment in Topaz, Utah: Japanese American Experiences

Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. The Central Utah Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah, was one of the largest internment camps. The Nisei documented their lives and aspirations through artwork and magazines.  

Outcasts!: A Story of America's Treatment of Her Japanese Minority

"Outcasts!: A Story of America's Treatment of Her Japanese Minority" by Caleb Foote
Pamphlet cover, circa 1943
War Relocation Authority [Central Utah Project],
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

The progressive Fellowship of Reconciliation produced this work to educate Americans on the oppression of their fellow citizens of Japanese descent. Author Caleb Foote includes information on the exclusion, relocation, loyalty, resettlement, as well as laws and liberties for Japanese Americans. "A Program for Action" is included near the end suggesting concrete actions to prevent discrimination on this scale from occurring again. 

 

Trek Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 3, June 1943

Trek Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 3, June 1943
Publisher: United States War Relocation Authority
War Relocation Authority [Central Utah Project],
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Trek was a quarterly literary magazine produced by Japanese Americans interned at Topaz, Utah, under the camp's Project Report Division. This volume includes a map of the camp adorned with visual descriptions of its various sections. The red border is lined with barbed wire fence, allowing the viewer to feel the same sense of confinement likely felt by detainees. Additionally, this volume includes a variety of stories; from life at Topaz, reports from other camps, fossils found in Utah, to recollections of college life at Berkeley. Trek gives a window into the everyday life, hopes and dreams of those interned at Topaz.

 

Welcome to Topaz Welcome to Topaz Welcome to Topaz

"Welcome to Topaz," Illustrated by Yuri Sugihara
Publisher: United States War Relocation Authority
War Relocation Authority [Central Utah Project],
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

The camp guidebook sought to welcome internees and demonstrate its services and a sense of community. However Japan Americans were forced migrants to Topaz. This list of “Dos and Don'ts”, near the back of the guidebook, makes this dynamic clear with strict rules inflicted on those forced to relocate.

[Miyagawa Sisters and Friends at Topaz, Utah]

[Miyagawa Sisters and Friends in Topaz, Utah]
Photograph, circa 1943-1944
Item on loan from the Saburo and Haruye Tsuchiyama Family

This is a photograph of Haruye Miyagawa Tsuchiyama (2nd from left, top row) and her sister Mae Miyagawa Nitta (top row, far right) with friends they met at Topaz. Along with the Miyagawa sisters, Helen Shimamura (far left in top row) relocated to Detroit after the war and was considered extended family.

[Nurses Aides at Topaz, Utah]

[Nurses Aides at Topaz, Utah]
Photograph, circa 1943-1944
Item on loan from the Saburo and Haruye Tsuchiyama Family

This photograph was taken at the Central Utah Relocation Center, Topaz, Utah. Internees were enlisted to assist nursing staff as shortages of nurses in camps were common. Haruye Miyagawa Tsuchiyama (2nd from right, 2nd row) was one of the nurses aides. Many aides had no previous medical experience, instead receiving training as they worked.

Without a Country?

"Without a Country?" by Gladys D. Walser
Pamphlet, circa 1943-1944
War Relocation Authority [Central Utah Project],
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom advocated on behalf of Nisei held in internment camps across the nation. It analyzed Japanese American experiences in education, business, and religion. The work appears to be an attempt to humanize those interned from the perspective of a white middle class woman.

Internment in Topaz, Utah: Japanese American Experiences