past exhibitions

Snow Country Prison: Interned in North Dakota

February 28 - April 11, 2003

In 1941 the U. S. Justice Department converted Fort Lincoln from a surplus military post into an internment camp to detain people arrested in the United States as enemy aliens. Over its five-year operation as a camp, the Bismarck facility housed about 1,500 men of German nationality, and over 1,800 of Japanese ancestry. The first group of Japanese and German men were arrested by the FBI in the days immediately after Pearl Harbor. The arrests were done under the authority of the Alien Enemies Act, and these so-called "enemy aliens" were removed from their homes, primarily on the West Coast and East Coast, and sent to camps in isolated parts of the country.

Snow Country Prison: Interned in North Dakota opened October 4, 2003, in Bismarck at the site of the former camp, now United Tribes Technical College. The exhibition examined the internment experience of German and Japanese nationals, as well as Japanese American citizens deemed "enemy aliens" following the renunciation of their citizenship during World War II.

The exhibition, curated by Laurel Reuter, Director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, and organized jointly by the Museum and the United Tribes Technical College, featured historic photos and murals of the camp, floor-to-ceiling cloth banners imprinted with images of people interned there, and wall text drawn from the haiku poems of one of the Japanese internees, Itaru Ina, the father of Dr. Satsuki Ina, a consultant to the exhibition.


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Order the only book written on Ft. Lincoln
ENEMIES: World War II Alien Internment
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This riveting book recounts the highly secret Enemy Alien Internment Program of the United States during World War II. It does so by presenting for the first time the story of Ft. Lincoln Internment Camp for German and Japanese aliens near Bismarck, North Dakota, where guards were bound by oaths of silence, and where life for inmates involved loneliness, boredom, and bitterness.

Based on interviews and FBI and National Archives records, ENEMIES follows the lives of eight internees prior to incarceration at the camp, life once there, and their lives after internment. In so doing, the book reveals a chapter of American history as astounding as any account of the usually peaceful West Coast relocation centers for persons of Japanese ancestry.

The stories of Kurt Peters, Eddie Friedman, Fred Fengler, Herman Cordes, and Hironori Tanaka and others arrested after Pearl Harbor offer a mesmerizing account of an infamous period of U.S. and WWII history. ENEMIES, which was recommended for the National Book Award and the first book written on World War II alien internment, is food for thought about the rights of immigrants in an American democracy, then and now.