Anna’s Coat

In Attire
Anna’s Coat  Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jo Anna Wartemann Terwege Howell
Anna’s Coat Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jo Anna Wartemann Terwege Howell

 Few people know that German Americans were interned during WWII. This is the story of Anna’s coat and her family’s internment. In 1929, Anna put on her coat and immigrated to the United States to marry Wilhelm. On December 7, 1941 the FBI came in the middle of the night, threw all the family’s belongings in the yard and arrested Anna and Wilhelm. Anna put her coat on as the FBI left her four children standing in the yard. Anna was held in the Seagoville camp in Texas where she gave birth to her fifth child, Jo Anna. Her newborn was given to a farm family to raise while Anna was interned. After nearly two years, the family was reunited in the Crystal City Camp. Anna took her coat. In February 1944, the family was put on a train under armed guard to New York, then shipped off on the MS Gripsholm to Germany. Anna was wearing her coat. The family had to carry their tickets with them at all times, so Anna put the tickets in her coat pocket. In war-torn Germany, the family experienced many hardships from being bombed to cold and deprivation. In October 1952, Anna was wearing her coat when the family finally was permitted to return to the US. When Anna died in 2000, her coat was hanging in her closet. Jo Anna reached into the pockets and found a piece of her family’s journey. In the coat pocket were 5 tickets for the boat. Jo Anna began to learn what happened to her. Anna’s coat tells stories that must emerge from the closet for all of us to read and remember.

Place(s): Crystal City, Texas; Germany, Seogoville
Year: 1929

– Bianca-Rhae Jacquez

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child