A Six Year Old Boy Expatriated to Nazi Germany

The Texas Story Project.

Adolf “Wes” Wesselhoeft was a normal American boy living in Chicago, until life changed dramatically one day. Wes was placed on an armed train to Crystal City, Texas, an internment camp that held Japanese, Italian, and German Americans during World War II.

Wes remembers his time at Crystal City as civil; however, he could never understand why he was forced to learn German, despite being a native born American citizen. Located in the middle of the South Texas desert, Crystal City was home to a variety of species that made for quite an interesting experience for a young former Chicago resident. Wes recalls a puma hopping the fence and causing a stir among detainees.

After spending nearly one year in Crystal City, Wes was sent with 633 other prisoners, 139 of whom were children ages six or younger, to Germany, an active war zone at the time. He and other expatriates and repatriates were exchanged for Americans in Germany, including 30 American war- wounded, businessmen, and diplomats including Douglas MacArthur’s nephew. He remembers being bombed in his village outside of Hamburg by the British during the night and the Americans during the day.

Because of the ordeals of internment and expatriation, this young boy was forced to repeat first grade for three consecutive years. Wes Wesselhoeft spent fifteen years in Germany before he was finally permitted to return home. He had to earn the ship fare on his own in order to come back to the United States. After arriving in New York City, Wes immediately walked to Times Square to join the U.S. Air Force, where he served his country for 27 years, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His service during the Vietnam War exposed him to Agent Orange, which has left him legally blind. Mr. Weselhoeft never gave up on his country, and he represents a true American. He calls for official recognition of German American internment during World War II.

Nicole Johnson is a freshman studying History at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. German American Internment has been an interest of hers since 8th grade, and when she heard of the Texas Story Project, she knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to partner with Mr. Wesselhoeft in order to gain public and federal recognition for the violation of civil liberties suffered by German Americans during World War II.

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