We Were not the Enemy
Remembering the United States’ Latin-American Civilian Internment Program of World War II
“We Were Not The Enemy is a fascinating look at a little-known piece of American history and stands as a testimony to how patriotism can go awry.”—Mary McCaslin, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“We Were Not the Enemy, Heidi Gurcke Donald’s moving memoir about her family fate at the hands of the U.S. government during World War II, is a critical addition to internment literature.”—John Christgau, Enemies: World War II Alien Internment
“This is a cautionary tale. It is a chapter of American history that is not taught in school. But it happened. And it could happen again, if we do not vigilantly safeguard our civil liberties.”—Jay Feldman, Manufacturing Hysteria
The United States clandestinely funds the operation of a huge prison in Cuba. Men, women, and children are spirited away from their homes and imprisoned indefinitely. No charges are made; no legal counsel is allowed. Newspapers fill with stories of espionage and enemies. Current events? No.
During World War II, the United States used tactics remarkably similar to those in use today against presumed terrorists. By 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt had covertly authorized J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret Intelligence Service to begin surveillance of Axis nationals in Latin America. Believing that “all German nationals without exception [are] dangerous,” the United States surreptitiously pressured Latin-American countries to arrest and deport more than four thousand civilians of German ethnicity to the United States. There, many languished in internment camps, while others were shipped to war-torn Germany.
Heidi Donald is a native of Costa Rica who was deported to the United States with six family members and interned at Crystal City, Texas during World War II. We Were Not the Enemy, her memoir, is a personal look at the pain this indiscriminate civilian internment program inflicted on her family.