Population redistributions based on ethnicity have defused intense rivalries in the recent past, and could be a solution to the internal ethnic crises for nations such as the former Yugoslavia. Currently described by the media as “ethnic cleansing”, Population redistributions have been the focus of much controversy throughout U.S. and world history. To those affected, Population redistributions can be economically and emotionally devastating. It can also lead to enormous tragedies causing thousands of deaths when conducted in a brutal manner. The results of various population redistributions are examined throughout this paper with the focus on the Japanese Internment camps in the U.S. and the current crises in the former Yugoslavia.
There are examples of population transfers that have taken place in the twentieth century. In 1923, Greece and Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne. The two rival nations agreed to expel 150,000 Greeks living in Turkey, and 388,000 Turks living in Greece back to their ethnic homelands. Except in Cyprus where the populations remained mixed. Turkey and Greece have not taken up arms against each other again. After World War II eight million people of German ethnicity were expelled from their native communities in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe, due to agreements made by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference. Hundreds of thousands of Germans died or were killed during the transfer due to the brutal manner in which it was carried out. Due to the lack of diversity and conflicting cultures the long-term results of the population transfer have ended internal ethnic problems in Poland since then. Israel expelled their own settlers from occupied land (which is currently the new Palestinian nation) in order to bring about a lasting peace between the two former rivals. After bombing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans living in Oregon, Washington, California, and Arizona were relocated. They were forced from their homes and put in internment camps for their protection from the rage of the American people and for the sake of national security.
Japanese-American internment camps like all issues involving race or war, raises the question of whether or not it was legal and ethical to force Japanese-Americans to move homes and livelihoods in early WWII. It is a difficult and controversial problem. When the decision to relocate thousands of Japanese-Americans was made; the actions were considered to be constitutionally legal and seen by many as necessary. It has been argued as to whether or not it was necessary to put so many innocent people through frustration, suffering, and loss of not only their property but also their freedom.
Even before the onset of war, due to the differences in their language, culture, communities, customs, and religion, the Japanese living in America were already alienated from much of society. This made it easier for Americans to justify to themselves the need for a temporary population redistribution of the Japanese-Americans. When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred, the American people were afraid of a Japanese attack and of the Japanese living near them on the West Coast. People believed their Japanese-American neighbors were the enemy. Americans were so enraged at Japan that they turned their anger towards Japanese-Americans in the forms of protests, discrimination and violent hatred. The Government, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were pressured by the restlessness of the people, the threat of a Japanese attack, the threat of violence between Americans and Japanese-Americans and the lack of time to take action.
Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt was chosen for the job of defending and protecting the West Coast. He became one of the biggest supporters of relocating the Japanese. The FBI began investigating and arresting people along the coast who were suspected of spying for enemy countries. Japanese-Americans were not the only people suspected of spying. Italians and Germans were also investigated and imprisoned. DeWitt received reports of acts of disloyalty to the U.S. and sabotage on the part of Japanese-Americans. He was also inundated with reports of unusual radio activity involving contact with Japanese vessels, of farmers burning their fields in the shapes of markers to aid Japanese pilots, and of fisherman monitoring and relaying to Japan the activity of the U.S. navy. None of