LETTER: Many have suffered in this country in ways contrary to the laws of the land

On Dec. 8, 1941, my paternal grandfather was arrested by two FBI agents at the family home in the Wallingford district of Seattle.

Grandpa was the editor of the Seattle German newspaper, was a German citizen married to an American citizen and the father of two sons born in the U.S. One was fighting in the U.S. Navy, the Pacific Front, at the time of the arrest. The house was searched, and cameras, radios and costume “weaponry” (Grandma and Grandpa were opera singers; Grandma’s family owned the Lueben Costume Shop on Capitol Hill) were confiscated, never to be returned.

Grandpa was taken to a holding center near Woodland Park before being transferred to a camp in Bismarck, North Dakota. He kept a diary of his time there, which is the only reason I know this happened. Neither he, nor any of the rest of the family, ever spoke about this event; it was considered a shameful happening, one to be forever erased from memory.

At the camp, there were not only other Germans, but Italians and Japanese, as well. An executive order had made the arrests so seamless that, in some cases, waiters in restaurants were taken and replaced with other waiters with no break in service and no notice to customers.

Grandpa did not spend the entire wartime at the camp, but on his release was subject to continuous surveillance, curfews and restricted movement. Obviously, the surveillance had taken place before his arrest also.

I petitioned the U.S. government and obtained the file they kept on my grandfather; it is over an inch thick and heavily censored. I have compiled his story, complete with photos of the camp and a list of the men in his section. When I attempted contact with them, decades later, they, too, refused to speak of this time. I do not mean to lessen the severity of what happened to those of Japanese ancestry at this time in our history. But I do wish to make known that others, of other ancestry, also suffered in ways contrary to the laws of the land.

It happened here. It was more far-reaching than we are led to believe. I have the proof.

— Debbie Butler

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