Civilian internee

A civilian internee is a civilian detained by a party to a war for security reasons. Internees are usually forced to reside in internment camps, often pejoratively called concentration camps and similar to prisoner of war camps or civilian prisons. Historical examples include Japanese American internment and internment of German Americans in the United States during World War II. Japan interned 130,000 Dutch, British, and American civilians in Asia during World War II.

Internment of civilians by the Japanese during World War II

Number and location of civilians interned by Japan[1]
Country of internment Number of Internees Internee deaths Death rate Most common nationality
Japan 690 32 4.6% British
China 9,350 250 2.6% British
Hong Kong 2,535 127 5.0% British
Philippines 7,800 453 5.8% Americans
Malaya and Singapore 4,525 218 4.8% British
Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) 105,530 13,567 12.8% Dutch
Indochina, Thailand, Burma 465 >10 ? ?
Total 130,895 14,657 11.2%[2]

From December 1941 to April 1942 in World War II, Japan conquered much of Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. In doing so, Japan acquired colonies of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the United States. Tens of thousands of non-combatant civilians of countries at war with Japan resided in those territories. Japan interned most of the civilians in makeshift camps located throughout the region and in China and Japan. Many of the civilians were interned for more than three years from early 1942 until the end of the war in 1945.[3]

In general, civilian internees of the Japanese were treated less harshly than were prisoners of war (POWs). Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs administered the internee camps while the Ministry of War administered the POW camps. The Japanese left the internal administration of the camps mostly in internee hands, providing only small amounts of food, fuel, and other necessities to the internees. As the fortunes of war turned against Japan, conditions for internees worsened and by the end of the war starvation threatened in many camps.[4] The self-rule, self-sufficiency, and cooperation of the internees permitted the Japanese to control internee camps with a minimum of resources and personnel, amounting at times to only 17 administrators and 8 guards at Santo Tomas for more than 3,000 internees.[5]

Conditions for internees were worst in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) where large numbers of widely dispersed internees, mostly Dutch, overwhelmed Japanese resources and capabilities resulting in a high death rate for internees.[6]

Internment of civilians in occupied Germany after World War II

Liberation-Men-- santo tomas
Liberated Allied civilian internees at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1945

Long before 1945, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force had worked out automatic arrest categories ranging from the top Nazi Party leadership to the ortsgruppenleiter (local group leader) from the top Gestapo agents to leaders of the Hitler Youth, the Peasants' League, and the Labor Front. In May and June 1945 about 700 civilians a day were arrested, and a total of over 18,000 in August. In September 1945, 82,000 suspects were being held in internment camps, available for possible trial and sentencing as members of criminal organizations. [1]

Well over 100,000 Germans were incarcerated by December 1945, according to Harold Marcuse. Members of the SS and functionaries of the Nazi Party and its affiliated organizations who were covered by the category of "automatic arrest" were interned by the U.S. occupation authorities in the former Dachau concentration camp. The first of these prisoners were released at the beginning of 1946.

The Soviet Union set up ten special camps in the Soviet Zone of Occupation, the former Buchenwald concentration camp became Special Camp No. 2 while Sachsenhausen concentration camp became Special Camp No. 7. They were run by the NKVD.

The British also set up a number of camps: the former Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg became No. 6 Civil Internment Camp and KZ Esterwegen became No. 9 Civil Internment Camp.

Allied civilian internees at Camp Stanley during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong


Internees including civilians are typically contained in an area enclosed by barbed wire fences and guard towers.

A layout for an internment-resettlement facility for dislocated civilians

A layout for an internment-resettlement facility for dislocated civilians

See also


  1. ^ Waterford, Van (1994), Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, p.145
  2. ^ Note: Death rate of internees was approximately 300% that of people in their home countries.
  3. ^ Waterford, pp. 31, 45–48
  4. ^ Waterford, pp. 45–48
  5. ^ Ward, James Mace (1988), "Legitimate Collaboration: the Administration of Santo Tomas Internment Camp and its Histories, 1942-2003". Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 77, No 2, p. 192. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  6. ^ Waterford, pp. 299, 319
200th Military Police Command (United States)

The 200th Military Police Command is the senior law enforcement unit within the U.S. Army Reserve. The subordinate elements of the 200th MP Command are primarily military police units, but the command also includes criminal investigation detachments, chaplains, historians and public affairs detachments. Units are dispersed across the continental U.S. with major subordinate units located in California, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana. The formation of this command is a departure from the legacy structure of a strategic force in reserve with assigned chains of command based mostly on geography. The purpose of this command is to train, command and deploy units primarily by their functional capabilities.

Adolf Paschke

Adolf Paschke (born 20 September 1891 in Saint Petersburg, Russia) was an expert linguistic cryptanalyst at Pers Z S, which was the Signal Intelligence Agency of the German Foreign Office (German: Auswärtiges Amt) before and during World War II. Dr Adolf Paschke was a Nazi and joined in 1933.

Agnes Newton Keith

Agnes Newton Keith (July 4, 1901 – March 30, 1982) was an American author best known for her three autobiographical accounts of life in North Borneo (now Sabah) before, during, and after the Second World War. The second of these, Three Came Home, tells of her time in Japanese POW and civilian internee camps in North Borneo and Sarawak, and was made into a film of the same name in 1950. She published seven books in all.

Alan Rice-Oxley

Lieutenant Alan Rice-Oxley (1 July 1896 – 21 July 1961) was a British pilot during World War I. He became a flying ace in 1918, credited with six aerial victories.

Batu Lintang camp

Batu Lintang camp (also known as Lintang Barracks and Kuching POW camp) at Kuching, Sarawak on the island of Borneo was a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War. It was unusual in that it housed both Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian internees. The camp, which operated from March 1942 until the liberation of the camp in September 1945, was housed in buildings that were originally British Indian Army barracks. The original area was extended by the Japanese, until it covered about 50 acres (20 hectares). The camp population fluctuated, due to movement of prisoners between camps in Borneo, and as a result of the deaths of the prisoners. It had a maximum population of some 3,000 prisoners.Life in the camp was harsh, with POWs and internees alike forced to endure food shortages, disease and sickness for which scant medicine was made available, forced labour, brutal treatment, and lack of adequate clothing and living quarters. Of the approximately 2,000 British POWs held there, over two-thirds died during or as a result of their captivity. The construction and operation of a secret radio for over 2½ years, from February 1943 until the liberation of the camp, was a morale booster and allowed the prisoners to follow the progress of the war. Discovery would have resulted in certain death for those involved.

Following the unconditional surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945, the camp was liberated on 11 September 1945 by the Australian 9th Division. On liberation, the camp population was 2,024, of whom 1,392 were POWs, 395 were male civilian internees and 237 were civilian women and children. Amongst official Japanese papers found at the camp following its liberation were two "death orders". Both described the proposed method of execution of every POW and internee in the camp. The first order, scheduled for enactment on 17 or 18 August, was not carried out; the second was scheduled to take place on 15 September. The timely liberation of the camp may have prevented the murder of over 2,000 men, women and children.

In July 1948, a teachers' training college moved to the site, where it continues to this day, the oldest such establishment in Malaysia.

Competent tribunal

Competent Tribunal is a term used in Article 5 paragraph 2 of the Third Geneva Convention, which states:

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

Evelyn Witthoff

Evelyn M. Witthoff (Born March 30, 1912 in Chicago, Illinois, United States - died February 5, 2002 in Alhambra, California) was a medical doctor, missionary for the Church of the Nazarene, civilian internee, and author.

Evelyn was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and felt a strong desire to be a missionary from an early age. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois and her medical degree from the University of Michigan.

She was appointed as a medical missionary to India in 1941 but was taken by the Japanese and interned at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines for three years. After her release, she returned to the United States until 1947, when she was reappointed to India and began her assignment at the Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Basim. In the later years of her missionary deployment, she also engaged in medical field work by taking charge of a mobile clinic unit that carried medical supplies and instruments to more remote areas. There she would address the medical needs of the people who could not easily travel to the hospital.

Dr. Witthoff’s missionary assignment ended in 1973, and she joined the faculty of Olivet Nazarene College, where she taught in the nursing program until her retirement in 1977.

Dr. Witthoff, along with Geraldine V. Chappell wrote the book Three Years Internment In Santo Tomas describing her time as a civilian internee.


Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without charges or intent to file charges, and thus no trial. The term is especially used for the confinement "of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects". Thus, while it can simply mean imprisonment, it tends to refer to preventive confinement, rather than confinement after having been convicted of some crime. Use of these terms is subject to debate and political sensitivities.Interned persons may be held in prisons or in facilities known as internment camps. In certain contexts, these may also be known either officially or pejoratively, as concentration camps.

Internment also refers to a neutral country's practice of detaining belligerent armed forces and equipment on its territory during times of war under the Hague Convention of 1907.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights restricts the use of internment. Article 9 states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

Kristian Welhaven

Kristian Welhaven (11 October 1883 – 27 July 1975) was a Norwegian police officer. He was chief of police of Oslo for 27 years, from 1927 to 1954. He was a leading force in establishing an organized Norwegian intelligence service before World War II, and in re-establishing it after the war. During the war years Welhaven was arrested by the Germans and imprisoned in both Norway and Germany, before spending the remainder of the war as a civilian internee in Bavaria.

May de Sousa

May Alvos de Sousa (November 6, 1884 – August 8, 1948) was an American singer and a Broadway actress.

Outline of war

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to war:

War – organised and often prolonged armed conflict that is carried out by states and/or non-state actors – is characterised by extreme violence, social disruption, and economic destruction. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention.Warfare – refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general.

Stephen Peet

Stephen Hubert Peet (16 February 1920 – 22 December 2005) was a British filmmaker, best known as a pioneer of illustrated oral history and his BBC television series Yesterday's Witness (1969–1981).

Tatsuji Suga

Lieutenant-Colonel Tatsuji Suga (菅辰次, Suga Tatsuji) (22 September 1885 – 16 September 1945) of the Imperial Japanese Army was the commander of all prisoner-of-war (POW) and civilian internment camps in Borneo, during World War II. Suga committed suicide five days after being taken prisoner by Australian forces in September 1945.

Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil

Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil Abdul Ghaffar (born 1971) is a politician in Afghanistan. He was the last Foreign Minister in the Taliban government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Prior to this, he served as spokesman and secretary to Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Taliban. After the Northern Alliance, accompanied by U.S. and British forces, ousted the regime, Muttawakil surrendered in Kandahar to government troops.

In 2005, he announced that he would be a candidate in the elections for the House of the People.

War Claims Act of 1948

The War Claims Act of 1948, or Public Law 80-896 (62 Stat. 1240; 50 U.S.C.) is a United States federal law passed by the 80th United States Congress on July 3, 1948. It created the War Claims Commission to adjudicate claims and pay out compensation to American prisoners of war and civilian internees of World War II. It authorized ten prisoner of war and civilian internee compensation programs, and four war damage and loss compensation programs. Payments and administrative expenses for all but three of the programs were paid by the liquidation of Japanese and German assets seized by the U.S. after World War II. Payments to prisoners of war were at the rate of US$1 to $2.50 per day of imprisonment, payments to civilian internees of Japan amounted to $60 for each month of internment. Civilians were also eligible for compensation for disability or death. The act did not authorize compensation for civilian internees held by Germany.

War crime

A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations.The concept of war crimes emerged at the turn of the twentieth century when the body of customary international law applicable to warfare between sovereign states was codified. Such codification occurred at the national level, such as with the publication of the Lieber Code in the United States, and at the international level with the adoption of the treaties during the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Moreover, trials in national courts during this period further helped clarify the law. Following the end of World War II, major developments in the law occurred. Numerous trials of Axis war criminals established the Nuremberg principles, such as notion that war crimes constituted crimes defined by international law. Additionally, the Geneva Conventions in 1949 defined new war crimes and established that states could exercise universal jurisdiction over such crimes. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, following the creation of several international courts, additional categories of war crimes applicable to armed conflicts other than those between states, such as civil wars, were defined.

William Young (veteran)

William Alexander Smillie Young, also known as Sandy Young, (4 January 1900 – 24 July 2007) was, at age 107, one of the last surviving British veterans of the First World War. He later emigrated to Australia, and was the last known veteran of the Royal Flying Corps, in which he served as a radio operator.

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