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|Length:||58 minutes, 40 seconds.|
|Released:||October 6th, 1987|
During World War II 120,000 American residents were sent to concentration camps not in Europe, Asia or some other distant place, but here in the United States. Over 8,000 of these men, women and children were interned in Utah. Their crime was their ancestry; their penalty was their loss of freedom.
They were ethnic Japanese (more than 60% were native-born American citizens) who became victims of the wartime fears of their fellow Americans.
Topaz is the story of the thousands of San Francisco Bay Area Japanese who were separated from their property, livelihoods and constitutional rights, removed from their homes and shipped to a windswept stretch of Utah's roughest rangeland. There, for more than three years, these men, women and children were forced to call row after row of tarpaper barracks "home." This was Topas, a War Relocation camp near Delta, Utah, which overnight became the fifth largest city in the state.
The internees, surrounded by barbed wire and armed sentries, were never formally charged with a crime, and were never granted a trial. They were simply uprooted from their homes and shipped off in blacked-out trains. It was feared that, though most were American citizens, they would none-the-less be more likely to serve the Emperor of Japan than the cause of freedom in the United States. No evidence was ever presented to sustain the rumors of pending sabotage or disloyalty, but "military necessity" became the foundation for one of the darkest wholesale actions against an ethnic minority in American history.
Topaz examines Utah's unique role in the relocation program, and explores the atmosphere in Utah during this period. Through archival film and photographs, many never broadcast before, and through interviews with surviving internees and Utah camp workers, the years of imprisonment are brought to life from Utah's perspective.
Topaz also provides deeply personal insights into the ironies of War Relocation: the struggle of camp residents to find normality in their lives in the desert; what it meant to pledge allegiance to the flag of a country that considered you a subversive because of your ancestors; the pain of citizens trying to understand a democracy that apparently didn't apply to them; the loss suffered by parents whose sons died in Nisei battalions (American military units made up of Japanese American soldiers), while the parents remained housed behind barbed wire. Topaz also examines the individual case of an elderly man gunned down to Topaz while walking his dog near the barbed wire fence barrier to the camp.
From the outbreak of the war to the eventual closing of the camp, Topaz provides insight into what some observers consider one of the worst American transgressions against constitutionally guaranteed rights in our nation's history. On the 45th anniversary of the opening of the camp, and the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, Topaz examines the fragile balance that can exist between "rights" and "national security." Topaz was produced and directed by KUED's Senior Producer, Ken Verdoia. Associate producer is Colleen Casto and videographer is Carl Seibert.
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