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Manzanar Cemetery

Over 135 internees died at Manzanar during its operation as a relocation center. While many were sent to their hometowns for burial, some were buried in a small plot of land just outside the relocation center security fence. Historic accounts suggest that as few as 15 or as many as 80 people may have been buried at the cemetery. When the relocation center closed, in many cases the families of the deceased removed the remains of their loved ones for reburial elsewhere. But historic documents suggest that at least six people were still buried at the cemetery in January 1946: three were bachelors in their 60s who had no relatives in the U.S.; two were babies whose parents were sent to the Tule Lake Segregation Center before the internment ended, and one was an unidentified stillborn baby.

The cemetery has been carefully maintained by the National Park Service and it is experienced by thousands of visitors each year. On the last Saturday of April, it is the focal point of the annual Pilgrimage sponsored by the Manzanar Committee.

About the Monument: In 1943 the Manzanar internees decided to erect a monument to honor their dead. Skilled stonemason Ryozo Kado was recruited to supervise the work. Mr. Kado, who before internment had been a landscaper and stonemason for the Los Angeles Catholic Diocese, had also designed and supervised the construction of the sentry and police posts which still stand at the original entrance. Mr. Kado agreed to build the memorial only if all internees approved; he must have obtained their consent, because it has been recorded that each family contributed 15 cents to purchase cement for the memorial. Construction of the monument was completed by Block 9 residents and members of the Buddhist Young People’s organization.

What does the writing mean? The three characters on the front of the cemetery monument literally translate as “soul consoling tower”: (I REI TO). More liberal translations include “memorial to the dead,” “monument to console the souls of the dead,” and “this is the place of consolation for the spirit of all mankind.”

Photo by Guss Vopalensky

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