This page and the maps and other pages it links to represents the work on a project to document and map all of the POW, internment, and concentration camps worldwide during World War II and in the few years before and after. Although most of the camps in North America, Europe, and Africa have been mapped, the Japanese prisons in the Pacific are incomplete. Work is proceeding.
Inspiration for this project was a conversation with a friend where the question, “Is the U.S. prison population greater than the total number of imprisoned people during World War II? ”
We intend on answering this question once we complete our data collection.
- 120,000 ethnic Japanese were interned in the U.S. during World War II—many were U.S. citizens
- Both the U.S. and Canada interned conscientious objectors
- More than 400,000 POWs housed in camps across the U.S.
- How many POWs were housed in Europe?
- There were dozens of POW camps in Japan and the western Pacific.
- Some of the former Nazi concentration camps were later used by the Russians.
- About 125,000 prisoners are estimated to have died in Kolyma gulags.
This timeline is a reminder of events during WWII. The war in Europe was raging for almost two years before the United States entered the war. Canada had established its POW and internment camps much earlier than the U.S. By the time the U.S. entered the war, the UK had so many POW camps, it asked the U.S. to house many of their POWs. When the U.S. enetred the war in North Africa, the captured Italian and German soldiers were sent to POW camps in the United States.
Italy surrendered to the Allies on September 8, 1943. Italian POWs in the United States, thus had their status changed from POW to non-combatants and had more freedoms in the camps. Of course, German troops still occupied Italy, and fighting there didn't end until mid-1944.
There were few camps that had Japanese POWs because Japan's doctrine demanded that Japanese soldiers not be captured—that capture was dishonorable. However, there were some Japanese POWs and a small number of camps housed them. How they were dealt with when they were returned to Japan after the war ended is a story that we'll investigate in the future.
Note that in the final days of the war with Japan, Japanese troops were more willing to surrender when, for example, the Soviets attacked the Kurile Islands. Up to 60,000 Japanese officers and men were taken prisoner in the Kuriles. We're trying to identify where they were taken. We think they were taken to gulags in Kolyma in the Russian Far East.
President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 enacted the policy of interning people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens. These people were removed from their homes.
Also interned (but not because of Roosevelt's order) were the native peoples of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands in the territory of Alaska. Alaska was not yet a state during WWII.
The Who's Who of Jailers
- The U.S. and Canada established exclusion zones on their west coasts, where people of Japanese ancestry were not allowed to live regardless of citizenship. They were moved to internment camps further inland.
- Mussolini's armies interned nomadic tribes in North Africa. (tens of thousands died in squalid conditions)
- Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina also interned their Japanese populations, following the U.S. lead, but sent them to the U.S. for internment.
- The British government tried to limit the flow of Jews to Palestine by interning them in places like Cyprus.
- The British government, expecting attacks from Nazi Germany on Gibralta, moved much of the civilain population of Gibralta to a camp on Jamaica.
Here are maps showing the locations of POW and internment camps throughout the world during WWII as well as prisons in the U.S today.
- Linda at the Town of Diana Historical Society, Diana, New York
- Ross Young, Town of Diana, New York
- Linda Fabian and Cheryl O'Brien at the Wyoming Historical Society
Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese
History: Japanese Internment Camps
Wikipedia: Civilian Public Service
Weingarten POW Camp, Missouri
Forgotten Sites: POW Camps in Ontario
World War II POW Camps in Wyoming by Cheryl O'Brien
Prisoners of War Camps in Rochester - Were they humane?
Wikipedia: War Manpower Commission
Guests of the Third Reich
Mapping POW Camps in Japan during World War II
Wikipedia: Italian concentration camps in Libya
Wikipedia: Manifesto of Race
My Italian Father’s Internment in Egypt
Archive Reveals New Details Of Holocaust In Moldova
Wikipedia: The Gulag Archipelago Russian Historian Accused Of 'Religious Hatred' Over Account Of Solovki Gulag
Wikipedia: The Gulag Archipelago
Russian Historian Accused Of 'Religious Hatred' Over Account Of Solovki Gulag