A Midwestern historian is coming back to Iowa where he created his traveling exhibits about World War Two internment camps. Michael Luick-Thrams moved “Traces,” his nonprofit educational organization, from Iowa to the Twin Cities about a year ago, but returns this fall with a touring exhibit to 18 stops across Iowa.
Luick-Thrams says while everyone’s heard of Japanese-Americans rounded up and detained as the US entered World War Two, far fewer know that fifteen thousand German-Americans were also interned at camps and detention centers in this country. He says the German-American internees were butchers and wheat farmers from Washington State, were chemists from Milwaukee, photographers from Wichita, Kansas…”They were basically your grandparents and my people’s neighbors and someone’s teacher, and they got interned,” he says.
He says there were sixty centers in all, one of them Fort Crook, which is now Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. He says another was the “Home of the Good Shepherd” Convent, in Omaha. And the historian explains why so many people have never heard of the U.S. internment camps. They were not released until they signed an affidavit that they would never speak about the internment. He says it wasn’t just German POW’s brought to Midwestern camps — at centers including Fort Lincoln and in North Dakota, even the cooks, the guards and other administrators had to sign an affidavit that they would never speak about it either. Lesser numbers of Italian-Americans and people of other nationalities were also interned.
Luick-Thrams moved his Center for History and Culture from Iowa to Minnesota last year, and now operates two traveling “BUS-Eum” exhibits. This one’s visiting towns including Osceola, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown and Dubuque from October 24 through November first. Luick-Thrams says while the traveling exhibit often disturbs people, it does not take partisan positions and does not deal with events after 1948. For more information on the exhibit, including the schedule of eighteen stops across Iowa October 24th through November first, visit the center’s website at “traces-dot-org.”
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