By Tom Dare
THESE EERIE photos show what remains of an American internment camp used to detain suspected Nazis from South America during the Second World War, which ironically ended up imprisoning more Jews than fascists.
Images from the site in New Orleans, Louisiana show decaying buildings in a state of disrepair, with some reduced to rubble having been left to fall apart – where Jewish refugees were forced to live side-by-side with their Nazi oppressors.
The camp, originally named camp Algiers, was established in 1941 by the American government as a place to detain suspected Nazis from South America.
But photographer Abandoned Southeast, who took the photos, says that few of those who ended up in the camps actually had ties to the Nazis and it became instead known locally as, “the camp of innocents”.
“Camp Algiers was a former embarkation facility along the Mississippi River that was used as a Nazi internment camp during World War II,” he says.
“The internees included men, women, and children who had been detained by FBI agents in Latin America and brought back to the United States.
“But most of the internees were actually Jewish refugees who had fled Europe from the Nazis. Roughly, only 15 per cent of the 5,000 internees had at one point been members of the Nazi party.”
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the subsequent declarations of war on America from both Germany and Italy, President Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the Axis powers could not open a third front in South America.
FBI agents were therefore sent to various countries across Latin America to track down and detain suspected Nazis, although their method left a lot to be desired. Often it relied on offering money to South Americans who could point out a nearby Nazi. At the time, there were around 1.5 million Germans living on the continent, and anyone heard speaking German in public usually found themselves detained.
It soon became clear that the programme had failed to track down many undercover Nazis, however, and many Jewish people fleeing persecution in Europe found themselves in one of the camps. As such, Camp Algiers was eventually turned into what officials called ‘the camp of the innocent,’ housing thousands of Jewish immigrants until their release to foster homes in 1943.
The photos taken by Abandoned Southeast show the houses where military officials overseeing the camp once lived.
And he says he took a significant risk to gain access to the site.
“The current owner of the property did not want us near the structures,” he said.
“You can see how dangerous the houses are by the missing walls and collapsing roofs. The houses could collapse at any time.
“However, the owner is working to secure financing to renovate the structures, and part of the former internment camp is now used by the city of New Orleans and the Department of Homeland Security.
“Many people were not aware that a Nazi internment camp was in New Orleans, and I hope others can enjoy my photography and learn a little bit of history about these places while doing so.”