SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Families of Japanese-Americans held in internment camps in World War II are trying to stop an auction house from profiting on paintings made by their loved ones.
Barbara Takei and her husband Toso are still traumatized by what happened to their parents and family more than seven decades ago. During World War II, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes and placed in internment camps, stripped of everything.
America was at War and still reeling from a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. The U.S. government then targeted its own citizens.
“People’s lives were destroyed. Their communities were destroyed,” she said.
Takei says many of those held against their will in camps produced beautiful works of art and paintings.
“The artifacts carry a big emotional charge,” she said.
But now many of those artifacts are in the hands of the Rago Auction House in New Jersey. It’s not revealing who the seller is.
Barbara says the artifacts were taken from families in the camps in the 1940s by a man who saw their value.
“His plan was to buy things but instead people just insisted that he take them, not pay for them,” he said.
Toso and Barbara say they contacted Rago, begging them not to sell the artifacts and explaining the historical and emotional ties. Barbara wants to see the art in a public museum as lessons in American history, not lose forever in some anonymous person’s art collection.
“They are material culture and they will eventually be used to tell the story of this terrible social injustice,” she said.
The auction is scheduled for Friday.