Sacramento Couple Helps Halt Japanese Internment Item Auction

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Toso Himel and his wife Barbara Takei are relieved after some tense and hectic moments this week. Their 11th hour efforts to derail an auction of hundreds of items connected to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II has paid off.

"It's such a great feeling to know that the community has risen up and expressed their feelings," Himel said.

There was anger and outrage among Japanese Americans nationwide after an auction was announced by the Rago Art and Auction House in New Jersey to sell off the collection gathered by the late Allen H. Eaton, a prominent author and expert on American handicraft.

The items include paintings, furniture and photographs from internment camps, which were intended to go to a museum. The Eaton collection went to an anonymous heir of Eaton's daughter after his death in 1962.

"Things that were made ... in a very dark time in our history will be on the auction block ... we were furious, people felt anger, people were so upset," Takei said.

Himel was drawn to the collection by a photo of his mother that he didn't know existed.

He believes the picture of his smiling mother was a government propaganda photo during the war, and like the other artifacts, deserves to be curated by historians or a museum to set the record straight.

"I know that her circumstances were anything but happy after the war began," Himel said.

Himel's father and Takei's parents were detained in camps during the war.

A Facebook page the couple created less than a week ago got an immediate response and provided a platform to others who objected to the auction.

"The traffic on the Facebook page and the petition just exploded," Takei said.

Actor George Takei of "Star Trek" fame took up the cause and has agreed to mediate a discussion about where the items will go.

The auction house managing partner Miriam Tucker released a statement saying "We have always wanted to see this property where it could do the most good for history."

Himel said he was both happy and relieved that the postponement of the auciton will give time for the community to weigh-in on where the collection might end up.

"These items that were up for auction are our history and our history is priceless," Himel said.