Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Concentration Vs. Internment: A Pet Peeve

I say "concentration camp," you say "Auschwitz."
Concentration camp... Auschwitz.
Concentration camp... Death camp.
Concenctration camp... 10 to 20 million people slaughtered.
Concentration camp... Unspeakable horror.

Now maybe in the strictest sense of the word, the United States relocated over 100,000 people of Japanese ethnicity into "concentration camps," but really? REALLY? I can't think of a more loaded word.

I have a professor, who I really like, so I won't name him here. I've taken several classes from him over the past couple of years, and I've enjoyed them all. However, on more than one occasion, he has taken the opportunity to chide the United States on their WWII concentration camps. Seriously, just stop.

Firstly, as historians, we shouldn't be in the business of moral judgement. It is the epitome of monday morning quarterback-ing. In my opinion the morality of historical actions was for their perpetrators and contemporaries to determine. It is my goal as a student of history to try and understand what happened and why. Its morality by modern standards is largely irrelevant. Our moral judgements are biased by our own time, culture, and individual circumstances, and therefore are inherently flawed. As were theirs. I can't help but make an exception for the holocaust and actual CONCENTRATION CAMPS. Immoral. Despicable. Horrifying.

Secondly, there is no comparison between American and Nazi "concentration camps"!!! That is why we call them internment camps. Stop trying to implicate the United States by underhandedly tossing in words that we all know come with horrifying connotations.

Internment camp...

Concentration camp...

I decided not to post holocaust pictures of mass graves on my blog, but you all get the point, I'm sure. Next time you throw around the term concentration camp, remember what you're implying, especially if you're a college professor.