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Japanese Internment: The Slippery slope to Genocide. The examination and analysis of the steps taken by the government of the United States to target, detain, and compromise the human rights of Japanese Americans during World War II. In this presentation:. The definition of genocide.

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japanese internment the slippery slope to genocide

Japanese Internment:The Slippery slope to Genocide

The examination and analysis of the steps taken by the government of the United States to target, detain, and compromise the human rights of Japanese Americans during World War II.

in this presentation
In this presentation:
  • The definition of genocide.
  • The phases of genocide as outlined and described by Genocide Watch.
  • How the phases of genocide compare to the events of internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940’s.

As defined by The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (adopted in 1948), genocide is:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy,in whole or in part, a national,ethnical,racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

was the interment of japanese americans genocide
Was the Interment of Japanese Americans Genocide?

The answer is simple, no.

However, the question of intent is still up for debate.


Due to the massive influx of Asian immigrants during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, anti-Asian sentiment was not uncommon.

Racism in the United States was abundant and viewed the Asian population as less civilized and evolutionarily inferior to the white “Nordic” peoples.

the stages of genocide
The Stages of Genocide

Analyzed, outlined, and described by Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch.

stage 1 classification
Stage 1: Classification

”All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. ”

After the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7th, 1941 the definition of “enemy” now applied to the Japanese, on either side of the Pacific.

stage 2 symbolization
Stage 2: Symbolization

“We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups.”

Japanese Americans were not forced to wear a symbol because their ethnicity was conspicuous. The word “Jap” became ubiquitous. Furthermore, the terms Issei and Nisei became important. “Enemy Alien” became the operating term.

“How to Spot a Jap” by Milton Caniff, 1943. Printed by the US Government and provided to soldiers.


“The enemy alien problem on the Pacific Coast, or much more accurately the fifth column problem, is a very serious and it is very special…The peculiar danger of the Pacific Coast is in a Japanese raid accompanied by enemy action inside American Territory.”

“The Fifth Column on the Coast,” by Walter Lippmann, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1942.

stage 3 discrimination
Stage 3: Discrimination

“A dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups.  The powerless group may not be accorded full civil rights or even citizenship.”

After Pearl Harbor, it was not uncommon for Japanese to be banned from local businesses or they themselves boycotted.

Also, discussion of restrictions (employment, movement, curfew, etc.) to aliens of enemy nations in order to prevent future attacks occurred. This was most severely applied to Japanese aliens (Issei), and eventually extended to Americans of Japanese ancestry (Nisei).

Beginning in 1941, government agencies began suggesting that enemy aliens should be put “under absolute Federal control.”

stage 4 dehumanization
Stage 4: Dehumanization

“One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.”

Racism, particularly on the West Coast, was not a new phenomenon. “Yellow Peril” long preceded Pearl Harbor. With the larger influx of Asian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was viewed by white Americans as an “invasion”.

The Japanese were characterized as unwanted invaders and were often compared to “armies of ants” or “rats.” This aided in the process of making Japanese Americans unequal to other races in America.

stage 5 organization
Stage 5: Organization

“Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.)”

On February 19, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066. This was the order that gave the Secretary of War permission to create designated military areas as so desired.

Even before EO 9066, many members of the Japanese community were taken for “questioning” after the events of Pearl Harbor.


“I thereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops…”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 9066, February 19, 1942.

This map shows the “exclusion areas” or military areas organized by Executive Order 9066. It also shows the relocation centers and internment camps.

stage 6 polarization
Stage 6: Polarization

“Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction.”

As the war in the Pacific Theatre escalated, so did anti-Japanese sentiment.

Propaganda was printed to mobilize the home front for war by creating a grotesque enemy out of the Japanese, which also extended to Japanese Americans.

The Japanese became the scapegoat for all troubles faced by the United States.

stage 7 preparation
Stage 7: Preparation

“National or perpetrator group leaders plan the “Final Solution” to the Jewish, Armenian, Tutsi or other targeted group “question.”  They often use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, such as referring to their goals as “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.” ’

To ensure the security of the state, FDR signed EO 9102 creating the War Relocation Authority which enabled the military to evacuate “designated persons” from military areas (West Coast).

It began with Civilian Exclusion Order #1 that demanded the evacuation of all individuals of Japanese heritage of Bainbridge Island.

“Internment Camps” were organized for the evacuation of Japanese Americans.

stage 8 persecution
Stage 8: Persecution

“Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. In state sponsored genocide, members of victim groups may be forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is often expropriated. Sometimes they are even segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.”

There is no evidence death lists were created but approximately 100,o00 Japanese Americans were evacuated, tagged, and sent to live in camps in various parts of the western United States.

The tags assigned to families took away their identities, dehumanizing them.

internment or concentration camp
Internment or Concentration Camp?

Concentration Camp - internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

stages 9 and 10
Stages 9 and 10

Extermination and Denial.

There is no evidence to support that the United States government ever reached these stages in the process.

On September 4, 1945 the Western Defense Command revokes all restrictions placed on Japanese Americans.

By June 30, 1946, the WRA is shut down.


Telegram to FDR, Dec 7, 1941 from Japanese American Citizens League.


The phases described aren’t exact. They are simply a generalized interpretation of how the process of genocide takes place using precedents.

It is hard to ignore the evidence. The systematic targeting of Japanese Americans and the subsequent discrimination, evacuation, dehumanization, and imprisonment are all violations of human and civil rights. They are also similar to what happened to Jewish people during the Holocaust, Tutsis during the Rwandan Genocide, and other modern examples.



  • Gary Y. Okihiro, ed. Encyclopedia of Japanese American Internment, Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2013.
  • Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Gregory H. Stanton. "The Ten Stages of Genocide." Genocide Watch. Genocide Watch, 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
  • MaisieConrat and Richard Conrat. Executive Order 9066. San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972.
  • tenBroek, Jacobus, Edward N. Barnhart, and Floyd W. Matson. Prejudice, War and the Consitution. Berkley: University of California Press, 1954.
  • Bryan J. Grapes, ed. Japanese American Internment Camps, San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc., 2001.
  • Daniels, Roger. Concentration Campus USA: Japanese Americans and World War II. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972.
  • Daniels, Roger, Taylor, Sandra C., Kitano, Harry H. L. eds. Japanese Americans From Relocatoin to Redress. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1986.

Photo Sources:

  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_29_shKT4Elw/R2Yvu51s7EI/AAAAAAAACZc/OCnvRhdR534/s1600-h/japanese.gif
  • http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/pearlhbr/pearlhbr.htm
  • http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/wwii/jb_wwii_subj_e.html


  • http://www.lib.washington.edu/exhibits/harmony/Exhibit/bainbridge.html
  • http://www.seattlemag.com/article/seattle-remembers-japanese-internment
  • http://publicintelligence.net/japanese-internment-camps-war-relocation-authority-photos/
  • http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/media_ph.php?MediaId=511