[RIP] Jack Herzig, helped gain redress for World War II internment, dies at 83
- Posted on Wed, Aug. 24, 2005
Jack Herzig, helped gain redress for World War II internment, dies at
LOS ANGELES - Jack Herzig, a lawyer who with his wife played an
instrumental role in gaining redress from the United States for the
internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, has died. He
Herzig, a World War II veteran, died Sunday at his Gardena home from
colon cancer, said his son-in-law Warren Furutani.
Between 1942 and 1945, the federal government interned more than
120,000 ethnic Japanese, most of whom were born in the United States,
amid widespread anti-Japanese sentiment.
The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1944 case of Fred Y. Korematsu v. the
United States upheld the constitutionality of the decision to
imprison Japanese-Americans during the war. Korematsu, who in 1942
was a 23-year-old welder living in Oakland, refused to report to an
internment camp. He was arrested, convicted of violating the
internment order and was sent to a camp in Utah.
Herzig and his wife, Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig, in the 1980s uncovered
documents in the National Archives and other repositories that showed
government prosecutors suppressed, altered and destroyed evidence
during its prosecution of Korematsu. The documents enabled a team of
largely Asian-American attorneys to file a petition for writ of coram
nobis, a rarely used legal strategy to overturn convictions after new
evidence is discovered.
In November 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel from
the bench exonerated Korematsu and blasted the government for basing
its decisions on "unsubstantiated facts, distortions and the
(opinions) of one military commander whose views were seriously
tainted by racism."
The ruling helped secure a presidential apology and financial
reparations for former internees.
Korematsu, who died in March, was given the Presidential Medal of
Freedom by President Clinton in 1998, the nation's highest civilian
"Jack Herzig is one of those unrecognized giants of redress for
Japanese-Americans," said Dale Minami, a Bay Area civil rights lawyer
who helped form the legal team to exonerate Korematsu. "He and his
wife found the documents that essentially incriminated the United
States government and undercut the whole rationale of military
necessity for internment."
Herzig was committed to social justice and also denounced the
discrimination that surfaced during the Persian Gulf War and more
recently during the war with Iraq, Minami said.
"He understood how significant the internment was not only to
Japanese-Americans, but also to the notions of civil rights in this
country," Minami said. Herzig's wife, Aiko, also was a former
Minami called Herzig one of his personal heroes and noted that Herzig
worked pro bono on the coram nobis legal team.
Herzig is survived by his wife, daughters Gerrie Lani Miyazaki and
Lisa Abe-Furutani, and sons David Abe and Tommy Herzig.
A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Green Hills
Cemetery in San Pedro.