Americans & the Holocaust Traveling Exhibition

This guide provides information related to the Americans & the Holocaust traveling exhibit from the American Library Association and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Related Archival Collections at the University of Arkansas Special Collections

Arkansas in WWII

What was happening in Arkansas during the World War II period? How were Arkansans responding to the war?

World War II created important social and economic changes across the state of Arkansas. During the war, six military ordnance plants were developed and produced war materials, alleviating the job loss the state had suffered during the Great Depression of the 1930s. About 10% of the 1940 population of the state served in the armed forces, and many left the state during the war to seek better economic opportunities in other states. The presence of prisoners of war from Germany and Italy, as well as the Japanese Americans incarcerated in internment camps in the Arkansas Delta created racial and nationalist tensions.

Below you'll find resources that will help you learn more about Arkansas' connections to WWII.


Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and the United State’s declaration of war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which established ten camps to incarcerate more than 100,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens. Two of these camps were in the Arkansas Delta, Rohwer (Desha County) and Jerome (Chicot and Drew counties). From 1942 and 1945 thousands of Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes in California to incarceration camps in Arkansas. The site of the camp at Rohwer is now on the National Register of Historic Places.


During World War II more than 20,000 German and Italian prisoners of war were held in Arkansas. Most of the camps were in central and eastern Arkansas, where some prisoners were hired out to farmers and businessmen to perform manual labor. Among the largest prison camps in the Delta was Camp Dermott, where several thousand prisoners labored on area farms to help relieve the labor shortage created by WWII.


During WWII, Arkansas was home to Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). First built for training troops in WWI, the camp was expanded and used for basic training and the training of medics during WWII. Part of the camp was also used to house German POWs.


Racism and segregation were ongoing issues in Arkansas during the WWII period. Jim Crow laws in the South, including in Arkansas, continued to be enforced and even intensified during this period, due to the influx of Black soldiers in southern military camps and bases. Black Americans were increasingly pushing back on the hypocrisy of fighting for a country in which their rights were severely limited and in which they were actively oppressed. The WWII period had an important impact on the Civil Rights era that would follow.