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106 All accounts of life in the internment camps, ­ whether in INS reports, memoranda of camp officers, or in the letters of internees, paint a picture of the resiliency of the Italian aliens in bleak surroundings. The sense of normalcy that the internees created through volunteering for work proj­ ects, participating in musical and sports activities, celebrating their cultural heritage in meals and in holiday traditions, and forging friendships with fellow internees allowed them to regain their dignity and gave them a sense of agency while confined. Although their agency was limited by the strictures of the camp environment , that environment was itself ameliorated by U.S. commitments to international law. As noted in a previous chapter, member states to the 1929 Geneva Convention ­ were not obligated to extend the treaty’s prisoner of war protections to civilian internees, but the United States did so, following a proposal of the International Committee of the Red Cross and thereby affording the internees checks on government power in the camps. The 1929 Convention guaranteed prisoners safe and humane treatment, a good standard of living, and a means of redressing complaints about their conditions.1 Moving beyond the protections of the treaty, however, the Italians took initiatives to influence their fate so that they might gain freedom. In the face of the government’s preponderance of power—­ internment without notice of charges, frequent movement from camp to camp, interference in ­ family relationships through censorship of mail and monitoring of visits—­ the Italian aliens individually sought to prove that they could be loyal American citizens through their work ethic, their cooperative demeanor, and by expressing their patriotism in camp and in letters to the Justice Department. In some cases, such efforts may have secured an earlier parole or release, while in other cases the government’s adherence to damaging FBI reports prevented aliens’ explanations for suspicious information about their past from having any positive effect on their fate. Thus, while the Italian aliens frequently challenged the power asserted by Justice Department officials and military personnel, the government ultimately had the upper hand. This chapter tells stories of how Italians challenged governmental power and chapter four Bocce ­ behind Barbed Wire Checks on Government Power in the Camps Bocce ­ behind Barbed Wire 107 ways in which the government retained power, and by ­ doing so, narrates the personal consequences of the ­ legal and po­ liti­ cal manipulations described in the preceding chapters. This account of camp life draws upon multiple sources of varying degrees of reliability. Whereas INS reports provide information on the structure of camp life as well as the administrative history of operational decisions, they better reflect the aspirations and goals of the system than the ­ actual experiences of the internees. The accounts of Jerre Mangione are more reliable ­ because he had the advantage of visiting ­ every INS camp and speaking with and observing camp officials and internees, and he wrote about camp conditions when he was no longer employed as the public relations director for the INS. The letters between internees and their loved ones do a much better job of giving us a picture of how the internees felt and how they spent their time; however, both the system of censorship and the internees’ desire to paint a rosier picture of camp life to save their families from worry compromised the truth of what they wrote. In contrast, government officials did not censor internees’ appeals to the Justice Department , the State Department, or to the Swiss Legation as the Protecting Power, lending more veracity to ­ these statements about confinement. Fi­ nally, accounts provided in interviews of former internees and their ­ family members many years ­ after internment may be truthful ­ because ­ there was no risk of reprisals for criticizing the government, but the passage of time undoubtedly altered their memory of events. Camp Barracks and the Structure of Internment Life The INS, ­ under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, had detention facilities in almost ­ every large port in the United States and converted space in county jails and other publicly owned buildings for the purpose of holding ­ enemy aliens. It had custody of all ­ enemy aliens ­ until the Alien­ Enemy Control Unit reached a decision to intern, parole, or release each individual. ­ Those sentenced to internment ­ were turned over to the U.S. Army for detention at their camps, with the exception of ­ women internees who remained in INS custody.2 As explained below, the Latin American internees also remained at INS facilities...


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