A Smuggled Film of Topaz Internment Camp


My mother and her family were first interned at Tule Lake Relocation Center in California. When Tule Lake became a maximum security camp for Japanese Americans deemed to be disloyal because they answered “no” to Questions 27 and 28 of the Loyalty Questionnaire, the family was transferred to Topaz Relocation Center in Utah.

In my research I came across this clip of a documentary filmed by former Topaz internee, Dave Tatsuno. Mr. Tatsuno smuggled his video camera into the camp and filmed various scenes within the camp during his stay between 1942 through 1945.

I’ve watched the film several times, trying to catch glimpses of my mother or her family, but have not seen anyone I can absolutely identify yet. I’m sure I’ll watch it several more times, as even the commentary is interesting to listen to. I find myself ambivalent about showing my mother, because I know it will bring back some painful memories. But of course I will show her, and I will hope that somewhere in the 9:56 minutes, she might find a fond memory or two.

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