Asian diplomats and their families detained at Assembly Inn

MONTREAT, NC — In the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, a Christian retreat was established in the 1800s by interdenominational clergy. They named it Montreat, and a college and a conference center were also built.

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Founded in 1897 by interdenominational clergy as a Christian establishment, the Assembly Inn is part of the Montreat Conference Center located in Montreat, North Carolina.

During World War II, 264 Japanese and German diplomats and their families were held at the Inn as prisoners in exchange for American diplomats held in Italy and Germany.

The detainees were held at the hostel with accommodations in the hope that US citizens would enjoy the same courtesy

The Presbyterian Heritage Center researched and exhibited the finds of these families, which were nearly lost

“It goes back to 1897, 125 years ago,” said Ronald Vincent.

Vincent is passionate about history. He became general manager of the Presbyterian Heritage Center located a few meters from the Montreat Conference Center.

“What we’re saying here is we honor the past, inform the present, influence the future,” he said.

For years, Vincent says the townspeople didn’t talk about the Asian and German diplomats and their families brought to the Assembly Inn, part of the Montreat Conference Center, during World War II. The US government detained 264 Japanese and German diplomats and their families at the inn.

“People didn’t want to talk about it. They were blocked from talking about it by the federal government at the start of the war,” Vincent said.

Luckily, a woman who worked at the inn took photos of the families and children, and the Presbyterian Heritage Center worked to expose this nearly lost piece of history.

“The reason the US government did this is because we had missionaries, diplomats and businessmen who were behind German or Italian lines,” Vincent said.

The families were housed during their stay in the hope that American diplomats would be treated to the same standards.

“In 2011, we were contacted by Ellen Ohta, and this is a photo of her as a young girl. And she said, “I saw your picture on the website, and I know them all,” and she gave us the full list of names for all of them, except for the little girl in front.” , Vincent said.

Vincent said the Presbyterian Heritage Center is working to find more information about the families and hopefully help the Montreat Conference Center create a memorial to honor the families.

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