Internment camp survivor recalls ordeal

April 7, 2011 3:05:02 AM PDT
We've shown you the internment camps in Texas where Japanese, German and Italian Americans were imprisoned during World War II.

Now we have the story of a man who spent five years imprisoned in a camp in Crystal City, Texas, near the Mexico border. He's sharing his experience to make sure America never forgets what happened.

For many of the kids at Kingwood High School, what happened during World War II is the stuff of textbooks, not real life. Eighty-six-year-old Eberhard Fuhr aims to change that.

"At the age of 17, what most of you are right now, I was actually arrested and interned for five years of my life," Fuhr told students.

Arrested and imprisoned for being a German national, but Fuhr and his parents left Germany when he was just three years old and moved to Cincinnati.

"There was never any internee charged with doing anything wrong," Fuhr said.

The internment camp is in Crystal City, Texas, located just 35 miles from the Mexican border. It's where Fuhr and his family spent years during World War II.

Fuhr and his family were among thousands of German, Japanese and Italian Americans and nationals to be imprisoned here.

The camp closed in 1948.

Eyewitness News visited the remains of the camp earlier this year with William McWhorter of the Texas Historical Commission. He showed us what used to be the German elementary school during World War II. It's now a Crystal City ISD campus, and one of the buildings used during the camp years is still in use today.

Fuhr was just 17, a high school student, when he was interned and that's what drove his story home to the kids at Kingwood High School.

"For me to think that if I were to be sitting in history one day and just be called out of class and know that I would never see any of those people again, or if I did, it would be several years until that were to happen, that's a scary thought to me," Kingwood High School student Jason Dayvault said.

Fuhr's visit brought a dark chapter of American and Texas History alive for students. History teacher Gini Foreman spent four months arranging the visit.

"I think that today was so invaluable to give them an insight of what they've never experienced," Foreman said.

It was a lesson plan that may have really resonated with these juniors.

"He's not just here to tell us like what happened in those internment camps but he's also here to help prevent what could possibly happen in the future," student Jacqueline Courchene said.

And if nothing else, Fuhr aims to make this new generation think about the consequences of suspicion. "I have the bias that I never should have been interned," Fuhr said. "But I do understand the urgency when there's a 9-11 or Pearl Harbor."

Fuhr met his wife at the Crystal City internment camp and married her a year after they were released. He became an American citizen seven years after leaving the camp.


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