FBI arrests Martin George Dudel, publisher and editor of Seattle's German-language newspaper Staatszeitung, as an "enemy alien" on December 8, 1941.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 6/13/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8654
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On the night of December 8, 1941 -- a day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, but three days before Germany's declaration of war against the United States -- FBI agents raid the Seattle family home of 61-year-old Martin Dudel (1880-1966). The home is located in the Wallingford neighborhood at 5532 Woodlawn Avenue. After a thorough search, agents seize such suspicious items as copies of Germanic newspapers, various weapons (which turn out to be theater props), and wireless radio equipment that belongs to Dudel's son, Martin Delmar Dudel, who ironically is then serving with the U.S. military in the South Pacific.

Immigrant Song

At the age of 19, about 1899, Martin G. Dudel immigrated to America from Görlitz, Germany, and was soon employed as an actor on a theatrical circuit based out of Chicago. But it was by working at a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, and then at a German-language publication in Portland, Oregon, that Dudel discovered his true calling as a print journalist. Then, upon relocating to Seattle, he was welcomed by the town's German community and soon founded what would become the region's premier German newspaper, Staatszeitung, which he would edit and publish for nearly three decades.

At that time Seattle was home to various Germanic social clubs, theatrical troupes, and a concert band led by another immigrant, Professor Alfred Lueben (1858-1932). Lueben's daughter, Lillian (1886-1967), was a soprano soloist in various local operatic shows. Dudel -- who loved martial music and also composed songs -- scored the leading role in a local production of "The Student Prince" (which also included Lillian in the cast). Professor Lueben helped to organize musical performances at Seattle's world's fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, where Dudel also performed. Martin and Lillian ended up marrying on December 26, 1909, and they had two sons. 

Life During Wartime 

A decade later, and in the wake of World War I, many Americans remained bitter about Germany’s violent behavior and as late as the mid-1930s FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was assigning agents to monitor the activities of numerous Americans of German descent (both citizens and permanent residents, or "aliens"). And as the outspoken publisher (up until 1939) of Staatszeitung -- a newspaper whose intense promotion of German culture and heritage had actually extended to editorial support of the early Nazi government (until disillusionment with their heinous activities set in) -- Dudel was, despite his consistent assertion of innocence regarding any nefarious activities, a seemingly logical target for surveillance.

He was certainly not the only individual seized as a potential spy, saboteur, or traitor by the panicked U.S. government: in addition to the approximately 120,000 Japanese interned into camps, 3,278 Italians and 10,905 German-alien and German-Americans became internees as well.

Hauled away in the dark on that night of December 8, 1941, Dudel was taken to an undisclosed location where he wrote a note that reflected his bewilderment and anger: "So here we are like the caged beasts of the jungle in Woodland Park, walking forth and back, back and forth behind barred doors and windows, thinking, hoping." Months later, when he was finally permitted to plead his case before the internment panel, a humiliated Dudel said: "I stand before you accused, of what, I do not know."

On February 23, 1942, Dudel was transferred to an interment camp at Fort Lincoln at Bismark, North Dakota. Later that spring he was shipped home, but then in 1943 he was among the Germans who were ordered to relocate inland when Washington state was included in the new wartime coastal exclusion zone. Dudel and his wife moved to Chicago for a year and finally returned to Seattle towards the war’s end in 1945.  

Peace Hymn

Forever puzzled as to why nobody seemed to understand that he and other Germans could retain a love for their homeland while simultaneously feeling deep loyalty to their chosen home of America, the profoundly patriotic Dudel wrote at the time: "I cherish the hope that, despite my advanced age, I will be given the opportunity to prove my attachment to the principles of the Constitution. Aliens we are, no doubt about that. But enemies, never."

After the war Dudel worked for a dozen years at the Rhodes of Seattle department store (2nd Avenue and Union Street). He achieved full citizenship in 1951, and he continued to pen original songs including the patriotic paean, "Peace Hymn of the Republic." On September 3, 1958, Dudel was honored with a performance of that tune by a 100-piece U.S. Army Field Band and he was presented with a letter of gratitude from the Secretary of the Army, Wilbur Brucker, for his "splendid contribution which is so in keeping with our American heritage."


“Martin G. Dudels Will Mark Golden Wedding On Saturday,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ca. December, 1959; “Martin G. Dudels To Fete 50th Year,” The Seattle Times, December 24, 1959, p. 24; “Martin G. Dudel, Retired German Editor, Dies,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 13, 1966, p. 30; “Martin Dudel, Retired Editor, Author Dies,” Seattle North Central Outlook, September 15, 1966, p. 5; Sherry Stripling “Confined: An Untold Story,” The Seattle Times, May 31, 1998, pp. L1-L3; Heidi (Dudel) Eggebroten, various emails to Peter Blecha, April-May, 2008, in possession of Peter Blecha, Seattle, Washington.

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