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Students to study Japanese internment camps

Gary Moskowitz

GLENDALE -- Russ Tanakaya thinks it’s important for Glendale students

to learn about Japanese-American internment camps in California during

World War II.


Tanakaya is the project coordinator of Glendale Unified’s

Japanese-American National Museum Project. District freshmen learning

about California history will begin taking tours of the Japanese-American

National Museum this month.


The purpose of the student tours will be to educate Glendale students

about the placement of thousands of Japanese Americans into internment

camps in California during World War II.

Groups of ninth-graders in the district -- some 2,600 -- will be bused

to the museum in downtown Los Angeles beginning Wednesday. Many of the

museum’s docents were interned at camps like Manzanar, in Northern

California’s Owens Valley.

“After Sept. 11, there were lots of hate crimes against Americans


thought to be associated with terrorists. Those attacks were similar to

1941, when hate crimes took place against Japanese for what they looked

like,” said Tanakaya, who is Japanese American. “We think the museum can

help teach students the concept of racial tolerance and help them

understand the history behind it, so maybe we can avoid similar issues in

the future.”

Tanakaya said several community groups have helped cover costs of the

program, most of them transportation-related. Tanakaya also worked


closely with Glendale High School Co-principal Gloria Vasquez to get the

project started.

Glendale Sunrise Rotary, Glendale Noon Rotary, the Character & Ethics

Project, the Arab American Medical Assn., the Japanese-American National

Museum and a private foundation have all worked with Glendale Unified to

get the project rolling.

For Glendale residents like Allen Brandstater, the topic of Japanese

internment camps is not a clear-cut issue. The former AM radio talk show

host hopes the education Glendale students can gain from the museum tours

is not a biased one.

Brandstater wrote several columns about Japanese internment camps for

the News-Press between 1986 and 1994.

“Racism had nothing to do with those camps, and Pearl Harbor had

everything to do with it,” Brandstater said. “We were at war, and the

aspect of racism toward the Japanese is laughable to me. There’s about

1,200 men at the bottom of Pearl Harbor who would agree with me.

“I think any taxpayer should be concerned, if it involves our public

school system. Our young minds are going to be propagandized that the

[United States] did a terrible thing by interning them [Japanese


Tanakaya said the primary objective of the project is to allow

Glendale students to see and feel what Japanese Americans living in

California during World War II went through, and why.