“Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and forswear any form of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan? ”This was the 28th question of the loyalty questionnaire that awaited the Japanese in the internment camp. It mattered not if you had been a U.S. citizen your whole life, or whether you ever had any loyalty at all to the Emperor of Japan, refusal to respond affirmatively to this query would make you disloyal to the United States. This was discussed in Konrad Aderer’s Resistance at Tule Lake in a We Stand Against Hate screening that took place in the Brooklyn College library on Feb. 19.
Brooklyn College paid tribute to the Day of Remembrance for the first time in recent memory, commemorating the time when Japanese-Americans were told to dispose of their belongings and take only what they could carry and evacuated their homes for internment camps. Filmmaker Konrad Aderer screened his documentary this past Wednesday with the objective of changing a dominating narrative of non-resistance on behalf of the detainees.
“At this very moment, citizens of our society are having their citizenship rights questioned, denied and in some cases revoked,” said Ken Gold, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. Gold acknowledged that it’s important to remember the acquiescing of the majority because the bureaucratic method of assessing loyalty from the detainees came after the Executive Order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that relocated thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry into military zones on the west coast. With the bombing of Pearl Harbour freshly seared into America’s collective consciousness, the President’s intention was clear when ordering this- preventing espionage on American shores.
The Loyalty Questionnaire came from the War Department and the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to asses the loyalty of all the adults in the WRA camps so they could first prepare to draft
the adult male population in camp and secondly, to release “loyal” Japanese Americans into non-restricted interior states. But some questions wreaked havoc among the detainees, question 28 being chief among them.
“I was a citizen and they were questioning me,” said a former Tule Lake inmate in the documentary. He wasn’t the only one who felt so, 12,000 Japanese Americans were labeled “disloyal” for employing the American method of protesting against the gross overstepping of their constitutional rights.
Tule Lake Segregation Center became a symbol of defiance. The inmates there refused to accept the mistreatment they were receiving, despite judgment pressing down on them from the rest of America and from within the Japanese American community.
Aderer, whose grandparents were incarcerated at Topaz internment camp in Utah, felt the need to create this documentary to “project back” and encouraged viewers to think about what life was like for the people who went through this.