Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Yoshinori “Toso” Himel said he felt sad at first when he saw his late mother’s photo online, listed for sale in an upcoming auction. The picture was taken during a difficult time, when many Japanese were locked up in internment camps during World War II. His sadness soon hardened into outrage. “Someone was seeking to make a profit off my mom’s suffering,” said Himel, a retired lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice who lives in Sacramento. “The war destroyed her family.”
Himel and his wife, Barbara Takei, have emerged as leaders of a local group of Japanese Americans who are fighting to keep a New Jersey auction house from selling a collection of crafts, photos and other artifacts from Japanese Americans who spent the war years locked up behind barbed wire. They have launched a national campaign to stop the April 17 auction by Rago Arts and Auction Center. They created a Facebook group, Japanese American History: NOT for Sale Community.
UPDATE (April 16): Toso Himel reports the following:
Advocacy by the Japanese American, Asian American, legal, academic, and general communities, accompanied by national and local publicity, plus the notice of an immediate lawsuit . . . , have caused the Rago auction house in New Jersey to take its auction of Japanese American incarceration-related art objects, scheduled for this Friday, April 17, 2015, off calendar. Actor and concentration camp survivor George Takei’s offer to mediate the dispute provided Rago with an occasion to retreat with some public appearance of dignity. . . .