"Starr Pait was born in San Jose, California in 1911. She graduated from San Jose State and
received a master's degree in Germanic languages from Stanford. While on a fellowship to
Germany she met and fell in love with Werner Gurcke. They married in 1936 in Santa Cruz,
California before leaving for San José, Costa Rica where Werner Gurcke had previously
immigrated. There they started a family and Gurcke developed a thriving import-export
business in Costa Rica, dealing in buttons, umbrellas and Hamilton watches. But because he
was still a German citizen, Werner Gurcke's business was one of 340 blacklisted by the Costa
Rican government, under pressure from the United States. He and his brother were arrested
without explanation in July 1942. Six months later, the whole family was put on the U.S.
Army transport ship Puebla. Werner Gurcke spent all three weeks in the hold of the ship,
while Starr Gurcke -- described in a Department of Justice document as "sort of (an)
American citizen" -- and her two young daughters slept in a cramped cabin with other
families. When the Puebla landed in San Pedro, Calif., immigration officials finally told
Werner Gurcke their reason for holding him: he had entered the United States illegally. He
was not allowed legal counsel, and he and his family were taken by train to Crystal City, a
former camp for farmworkers. Since Werner Gurcke was married to a U.S. citizen, he was
granted "internment at large" 18 months later at his first hearing.
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