Willi Huber: The trouble with Sunday's Nazi soldier segment

by Diana Wichtel / 01 September, 2017
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Image from the Sunday piece on Willi Huber.

Faced with the chance to question Mt Hutt ski resort pioneer Willi Huber, a former Nazi Waffen-SS soldier, Sunday instead delivered a human-interest blancmange.

History is always up for grabs, literally in the case of those problematic Confederate statues in the US.  

And then there's the Sunday piece about Mt Hutt ski resort pioneer and “Father of the Mountain” Willi Huber. He also once fought for “Hitler’s infamous SS!” How to tell that story? Not by showing the 94-year-old smiling serenely as he remarked, “I give it to Hitler, he was very clever. He brought Austria out of its dump, you know.” Or by having him show off his war medals. Or by having Cameron Bennett announce – poor choice of words – “There’s no question Willi Huber is a remarkable survivor!”

Bennett asked Huber whether, as a member of the SS, he knew about the concentration camps. “Never!” he said. Not until the “bitter end”, anyway. “And when you learnt about this, were you horrified?” wondered Bennett. “What could we do?” mused Huber. “We all agreed it was wrong.” If he was horrified by what happened, he didn’t say so.

Huber was 17 in annexed Austria when he volunteered. “Anyone who wanted to get ahead there had to embrace the Nazi Party,” explained Bennett. Sheesh. In a 2014 article, Huber was reported to have said that “[having] volunteered for the German Army put him offside with many Austrians”. Joining the SS wasn’t such an obvious choice as Sunday seemed to unquestioningly accept. Huber was very young when he joined up, but he’s had a lot of time to think. Here was a chance to ask some penetrating questions. Instead, we got human-interest blancmange. Huber was allowed to keep control of the narrative. In the end, Bennett and Huber went skiing. At the bottom of the run, Bennett said cheerfully, “As you can see, he left me for dust.” That he did.

Sunday, TVNZ 1, Sunday, 7.30pm.

This excerpt is from an article that was first published in the September 9, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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