No Secrets 

The "other" internment camps


It's a little-known story that at the same time Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps, Italian Americans suffered the same unjust fate. Locally, many Italian immigrants were forced to leave Oakland and other East Bay cities, part of the West Coast's prohibited zones during WWII. Such mass evacuations must have made headlines, yet why are we largely unaware of this relatively recent violation of an ethnic group's constitutional rights? According to Lawrence DiStasi, author of Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during WWII, "The generation to whom this happened was terrifically shamed by it. People didn't even know this happened in their own families." After becoming project director of the traveling exhibit Una Storia Segreta: When Italian Americans Were "Enemy Aliens," DiStasi himself discovered that it had happened in his own family. His Italian immigrant uncle and German-American aunt, married since the 1920s, had both been designated enemy aliens and stripped of their citizenship. They reapplied and regained it in 1943.

DiStasi doesn't underestimate the impact of seeing the collection's reproductions of newspaper articles, government documents, photographs, and personal testimonies. After all, it led to national legislation -- the Wartime Violation of Italian-American Civil Liberties Act, signed by President Clinton on Nov. 7, 2000. Story after story draws parallels to the contemporary abuses of the PATRIOT Act -- another paradoxical example of "How can you defend yourself when you don't know the charges?" He recounts singer Ezio Pinza's wartime experience: Following his inexplicable detention at Ellis Island, Pinza eventually found out that he had been accused of "modifying the tempo of his singing in Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts to send secret messages to Mussolini."

To mark the exhibit's tenth anniversary, there will be a reception in the Oakland City Hall Rotunda on February 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., featuring speakers DiStasi; Adele Negro, president of the American Italian Historical Association's Western Regional Chapter, which created the exhibit in 1994; Francesco Sciortino, the consul general of Italy; and Mayor Jerry Brown. Oakland's City Hall is located downtown at 14th St. and Broadway, and the exhibit can be viewed from February 23 to March 12, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. -- Pat Katzmann

SAT 2/21

Fey Folks

Quiet Room

This Saturday night, three acts will try to soothe the savage, boozy beast that is the Ivy Room (858 San Pablo Ave., Albany). Michael Talbott and the Wolfkings have been together for a year now, roughly since Talbott left Winter Flowers . Now he plays his own brand of gentle, British-revival-inspired folk, elegantly implemented with touches of brass and harmonium, backed by a fluctuating crew of local musicians including members of the Court and Spark and the Cave-Ins. In the meantime, Chad Peterson and Gavin Toler, aka Winter Flowers, have ferried their elfin, cape-wearing folk-rock chic to Los Angeles, but return to share a bill tonight (and tomorrow at the Hush Hush) with Talbott. Bart Davenport is on the menu, too. 10 p.m. Call 510-524-9220. -- Stefanie Kalem

THU 2/19

Pitt Stop

Horror movie fans and Hammer Films mavens go crazy for The Vampire Lovers (1970) because of its lesbian sex angle, personified by lissome vamp Ingrid Pitt filtering through the castle hallways in a see-through peignoir on her way to a necking party with another young woman. But Pitt herself is a story. The Polish-born film actress spent part of her childhood in a Nazi concentration camp before going on to star in such flicks as The Wicker Man and The House That Dripped Blood. She now lives in England and has her own entertaining Web site,; meanwhile, The Vampire Lovers plays the Parkway, Thursday (9:15 p.m.). $6. -- Kelly Vance

THU 2/19

Whatever's Clever

Sacramento-by-way-of-Baton Rouge trio Estereo claims to be influenced by fellow Southerners like Cat Power and Neutral Milk Hotel. But those acts have an inherent darkness to their vision that Estereo does not -- the band broods, sure, but most of its darkness plays out in a witty, cynical view of romantic relationships, and is leavened by indie-pop. And how Southern Gothic can you really be when you bust into Hedwig and the Angry Inch's "Wig in a Box" during one of your breakdowns? Estereo plays two sets at Beckett's, 2271 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, starting at 10 p.m. 21 and up. 510-647-1790. -- Stefanie Kalem


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Culture

Author Archives

Author Archives

  • Kiss It Bye

    No dearth of Durst
    • Dec 22, 2004
  • Street Folk

    24-hour party people
    • Nov 10, 2004
  • More»

Arts & Culture Blogs

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

The Beer Issue 2020

The Decade in Review

The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

Best of the East Bay


© 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation