Nazis and good neighbors : the United States campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II / by Max Paul Friedman.
Perceiving an urgent security threat from the German population residing in Latin America on the eve of World War II, the Roosevelt administration organized the arrest, deportation, and internment in the United States of some 4000 German nationals from fifteen countries. Nazi activists had attracted a following and subdued resistance in the overseas German communities, but most expatriates—and most of the internees—were not the menacing potential subversives US officials believed them to be. Instead, Washington's traditional patronizing approach toward Latin America, which it viewed as a vulnerable area subject to manipulation by outside powers, contributed to the exaggeration of the German threat. So did sensationalist news reports and inaccurate intelligence assessments. Moreover, Germany's aggressive trade policy made it an increasingly important rival in a region US manufacturers considered their natural and indispensable market. FDR's Good Neighbor policy promised noninterference in the internal affairs of Latin American countries. The pressure exerted upon Latin American governments to force them to yield their German residents shows that the US abandoned noninterference while Roosevelt was still in office. The deportation program was the starkest, most direct anti-Axis operation undertaken in the region: the actual physical removal of persons associated with the enemy, and it is examined here for the first time using interviews and archival sources in seven countries. The policy is shown to be an overreaction that expanded from an emergency war measure to become an opportunity for the US to fortify its dominant economic position by targeting non-Nazi Germans whose businesses and plantations were replaced by US capital. The internments affected numerous individuals whose property was coveted by Latin American governments, or who were denounced anonymously, and even some persons labeled “Germans” although they held Latin American citizenship or were Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. This study demonstrates the dangers inherent in the clash between nation-states and their resident alien communities of complex national allegiances.
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