Recently their has being a bit of fuss about Willi Huber and the decison by Mt Hutt to honour a man who it emerged served in the SS and whose own New Zealand ski peers and friends included a former member of the Norwegian resistance and former New Zealand fighter pilot Ray Archibald. Keen mountain men who had left the war behind.
My father, who knew Willi Will, on hearing of petition against Willi Huber asked me to share a letter he wrote to another of Willi’s friends.
I decided to do so as for three reasons
1. The fact is individually Willi who spent eighteen month in US camp for SS soldiers as he was investigated (as was normal course of action) has never actually proven to be personally involved in any war crimes. If we start prosecuting folk on the basis of guilty until proven innocent then we really are heading into totalitarian and dangerous waters.
2. I think the letter puts the history of not just Willi but all young men, who find themselves in a war not of their choosing, in a beautiful context which any one who oppose war and the ability of the state to have the kind of power Hitler was able to achieve will appreciate.
3. I post it not just as an author who has written and warned of the threat of far right hate groups, long before March 15th (who is proud of my own families historical contribution to opposing Nazi Germany) but because it illuminates what happens when we place the crimes of the powerful not on the true perpetrators but those simply caught up in events beyond their control.
Rather than minimise the horrors of the holocaust as some have suggested Willi tale now gives us opportunity to discuss with younger generation how this terrible chapter in history happened to being with. To spot light not just the full horror of the Third Reich but abuse of power in general. It is an important lesson which we are fools to over look. One which will be missed if we seek instead to find vengeance by laying blame upon the wrong targets. It is a reminder of why the state should never be permitted excess power, or given unlimited authority and never be seen as being beyond critic or above having it authority questioned and debated.
If we don’t get that were doomed to repeat such abuse of power and once more the youth will be expected to pay for the hubris of the old.
Least We Forget.
A LETTER FROM DAD
Hello *** .—I find this proposal.—Totally obnoxious & ignorant.—Willy was an Austrian Alpine man.—To the core.—They were his life.—He grew up in the Austrian Alps.—When his country was called to war.—Like young men from both sides.—He enlisted,as a soldier.—Because of his mountaineering skills.—Willy was placed in a Specialized — ‘Alpine Commando Unit’—The Alpine commandos were .—Just that.—They were a specialist alpine commando unit.—While these units were under the control Of the SS.—Special Services.—Division of the German army.—They had no association what so ever with the SS Gestapo.–The units.—Which we all so greatly revile.—
Willie was proud of his service to his country as a fighting soldier something any solider of whatever nation will understand.—&.—Of the “Iron Cross’.—Awarded to him .—-So much so that on an occasion at Craigieburn ,when Sir Charles Upperham was there,being lauded for having won the VC for his heroics ,on our side.—-Willie drove all the way back to Ch. Ch. to return with his ‘Iron Cross’.—To show us all.—He had been as fighting soldier to.—–In no way was the Willie I knew a supporter of the Gestapo ,in any sense of the word.—-He was.—A very simple man.—In love with the mountains.—&.—Pretty women.—He was a greatly entertaining & ,sociable man.
If it had not been for Willies vast knowledge ,&,experience of the Southern Alps ,&, his intimate knowledge of the conditions of The Mt Hutt Basin ,in particular.—–Mt Hutt would never ,have been chosen ,as the site that was being planned for a ski Area.
That is A FACT.—He was the only one who initially stood for the selection of ‘Mt Hutt’,as a ski Area.—–Every one else needed to be shown ,& ,talked in to it.—But.—He .—Alone.—Knew it.—Intimately.———With all due respect.—Peter??(can’t remember his name)—Doug Hood.—& all the others involved.—Just did not know & understand My Hutt & the surrounding mountains ,with the intimacy that Willie did.
To rub him out?—-Would be an act of total ignorance of the history of Mt Hutt & create an erroneous record of the history of Mt Hutt.————Mt Hutt — would not exist as a ski field today ,if it had not been for Willie Huber.
It is absolutely wrong to alter & rub out history .—Because we don’t like some of the facts.—History.—is history.—Good & Bad.—please try to .—KEEP IT HONEST. I hope the above.—Is helpful to illustrating what kind of person Willi was and was not.————–
P.S.—I skied often,with Willie.—Got drunk with him.-Even more often. Called on him as a buyer for Tisdalls & later Dave’s (Denton?)shop across the road. I employed him for a short while.—He was great fun to have around.—But bloody hopelessly disorganised as a business person.—A total disaster.- A great mountain man.—A huge amount of fun.—He had two packs,ready at all times.-To be ready to leave for the mountains,the instant any one asked him. —One packed for climbing.—the other packed for hiking.—–One hell of a character.—To good to rub out .—Or .—Forget.
All people need to know. –Or.—To learn.—-In war.—There are good ,&,bad,people on both sides.—We are born on the side we end up fighting for.—It’s almost never.—Ours .to choose.—-Willie came to NZ .—For love of the mountains.—&.—For Peace.—Not to fight.—Now.—In remembrance.–Give him the peace he deserves.—&.—Love.—–PLEASE.