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Lazar, Betty

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Her recollections of the Japanese interned at Camp Lordsburg, and later the German and Italian prisoners of war held there.

Interviewee Betty Lazar, female, born in -0001
Date Range 1942 - 1946
Date & Location July 12, 2000, Lazar Residence, Lordsburg, New Mexico
Project Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Region Southwest New Mexico
Number of Tapes 1
Transcribed January 2, 2001
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Tape 1, Side A

Mrs. Lazar moved to Lordsburg in the 1930s and in 1940 leased the Hollen Hotel, which she managed. When a contractor told her that he would be constructing a prisoner of war camp about three or three-and-a-half miles east of Lordsburg, she was surprised they would locate a prisoner of war camp so close to the border with Mexico. At that time there wasn't much farming in the Animas Valley.

She was invited by some of the officers and their wives to visit the camp. She had many contacts with the male Japanese internees, but the Japanese women never seemed to be available. Mrs. Lazar reports that the Japanese were mostly business people from California and were very cordial. She often bought little items they had made, such as a dishwashing utensil made from sticks and strips of tobacco sack fabric.

She describes her contacts with some of the Italian prisoners, particularly an art professor from Milan named Aldo. He painted her portrait, which she still has. She had to take a family member with her for the sittings, which were guarded by two men with rifles.

She also met some German prisoners and bought small pictures they had painted. She gave these away as gifts.

She describes both the Italian and German prisoners as being "lovely people" from "good families."

She said Lordsburg in those days was described as the "best business town between Dallas and Los Angeles" and that businesses did well at this time because the American soldiers working at the camp would come to town to spend money, as would railroad passengers disembarking during brief stops. While the enlisted men lived at the camp, the officers lived in town, several of them in her rental units.

She relates a story of Professor Aldo's slipping her a note while helping her with her coat. His note asked for her help in selling some drawings he had made for people who design clothes. She was unable to help him in this, as she did not have the contacts needed. She felt he wanted the work to keep busy, as he was not permitted to take any money. In fact, she was not permitted to give him anything for her portrait except the money ($12) for the canvas; the painting was valued at $5,000 in 1953. It was displayed for a time in two large department stores in El Paso, namely the White House and the Popular.