Oscar F. Hoffman


Name Oscar F. Hoffman
Born December 13 1897
Died February 17 1994
Birth Location Kansas

Sociologist and community analyst at Topaz. Oscar Frederick Hoffman (1897–1994) was born and raised in Kansas. He graduated from Mission House (now Lakeland College) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin with a B.A. degree in 1924 and went on M.A. from Northwestern University (1929) and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina (1942), completing a dissertation titled "Culture of the Centerville-Mosel Germans in Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties, Wisconsin." In between, he also studied for the ministry and was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 1951. He taught sociology at Elmherst College, Oregon State University, Talledega College, and Heidelberg College and was also a dean at his alma mater, Lakeland. After his retirement, he settled in Abliene, Kansas.[1]

According to Topaz historian Sandra C. Taylor, Hoffman needed a job in 1943 and took the community analyst position because it "sounded interesting." He and his family moved to Topaz, arriving on September 4, 1943. He replaced anthropologist Weston LaBarre, who had arrived in May, but lasted less than six weeks before being called away for military service. Hoffman would remain at Topaz for just short of two years, through September 1, 1945. Despite clashing with Topaz project director Charles Ernst, who had made clear his doubts about the need for community analysts, Hoffman was a diligent and productive observer. Assisted by a small staff of inmate research assistants, Hoffman reported on the various inmate labor issues at the camp, inmate reactions to "relocation" (e.g. being forced to leave the camp in 1945), and inmate unhappiness over the state of Topaz schools, among many other topics. He also wrote a series of reports in early 1945 on the prewar Japanese American community in the San Francisco Bay Area—where most Topaz inmates had originated from—as well as prospects for those who intended to move back there. In her history of Topaz, Taylor wrote that he "held a difficult and controversial position and tried only to do his best, and his reports on camp life are a valuable and perceptive source for the scholar, whatever their original purpose."[2]

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Hoffman, Oscar F. "Closing Report, Community Analysis Section." War Relocation Authority, Central Utah Project, Topaz, Utah. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Taylor, Sandra C. Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Footnote

  1. Salina Journal, Feb. 23, 1994, p. 9, Newspapers.com, accessed on May 21, 2014 at http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/482643/; Sandra C. Taylor, Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 101.
  2. Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 101 (first quote), 103 (second quote); Oscar F. Hoffman, "Closing Report, Community Analysis Section," War Relocation Authority, Central Utah Project, Topaz, Utah, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, accessed on May 21, 2014 at http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft067n98zc.