Manzanar, whose name means apple orchard in Spanish, is located in the Owens Valley of California and is just one of 10 concentration camps where Japanese Americans, most of them citizens, were imprisoned during World War II. This sad period represents one of those cases where America lost its way and acted on racial prejudice and hysteria to implement a public policy that hurt many innocent people.
The images presented here are of the cemetery at Manzanar, which is located just outside of the barbed wire fence of the camp in what was a peach orchard in Manzanar’s farming era. There is a tradition of visitors leaving mementos to honor the memory of those who were here. These gifts include strings of paper cranes as a symbol of hope and healing. Visitors also leave mementos on the large monument, which has the Japanese inscription “Soul Consoling Tower" on the front and “Erected by the Manzanar Japanese, August 1943” on the back.
As said in the National Park Service description of the camp, “Visiting the cemetery can be a personal pilgrimage of reflection, worship, remembrance, or protest”. In my case, I had not previously studied the history of the camps in any detail, however my visit triggered a somber, reflective mood and I hope these images convey a small part of that feeling. As I write this, in the autumn of 2015, America is once again veering in a similar direction based on events in the Middle East. One can only hope that we will not again stray down the path that led to Manzanar .