By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Villanova University held its “One Book” lecture on Friday afternoon, featuring a Haverford man who spent several years of his childhood living in a Japanese American internment camp in Arizona.

Dr. Hiro Nikishawa is third generation Japanese American. He says that in 1942, the US government forced his family to move from their California home to an American internment camp in Poston, Arizona. A young boy at the time, Nikishawa says one of his most poignant memories is hearing about a man who hung himself in one of the barracks.

“How often does a five year old or six year old kid hear about suicide? Things like that really stuck in my head,” Nikishawa explains.

photo2031 President Of Philadelphia Japanese American Organization Speaks At Villanova

A photo shows the racist attitudes of some Americans during World War II. (Credit: Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio)

Nikishawa also says he and his family slept on handmade straw mattresses, were forced to take group showers and had to stay within a barbed wire encampment or face death. And Nikishawa says that he and his family, like the majority of the 110,000 people of Japanese descent forced into the camps, were all American citizens.

“It’s important not only for the government leaders to remember history, but American citizens as well.”

Nikishawa is the President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and speaks about America’s treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

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