The difficult case of Willi Huber

has died aged 98. He from all accounts led an excellent life in NZ, and leaves behind many family members who loved him.

He is one of the pioneers of Mt Hutt skifield, and they have a run named after him. His contribution to New Zealand has been a good one.

However before he came to New Zealand he was a Nazi and a member of the Waffen-SS, which he volunteered for at age 17. There is no evidence he personally took part in war crimes, but the Waffen-SS was found to be a criminal organisation involved in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now as I said the other day, I think you judge people by the entirety of their life, not by the worst thing they did. But serving in the Waffen-SS is not quite the same as making a stupid phone call.

The Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation quotes the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

As a historian, I can state unequivocally that serving in a Waffen-SS unit on the Eastern front, there is no way that Mr Huber could possibly not have been aware of the massive atrocities carried out by the SS and the Wehrmacht in the territories of the Soviet Union, where 1,500,000 “enemies of the Reich,” primarily Jews, were murdered individually during the years 1941-1943.

Huber’s statements ring incredibly hollow in the face of the historical record of the Holocaust on the Eastern front. If we add the fact that he volunteered for the SS, and his comments that Hitler was “very clever,” and that he “offered [Austrians] a way out”  of the hardships after World War I, it’s clear that Mr. Huber was an unrepentant Nazi, who doesn’t deserve any sympathy or recognition.

I’m still a bit conflicted. His statements about why he joined and that he never was aware of the atrocities do indicate a lack of repentance.

For my two cents what I would have looked for is did he ever try and atone after WWII. Did he denounced what happened? Did he ever visit a synagogue and ask forgiveness? Or did he not think he needed to? Maybe he did it in private, and never broadcast it.

In the end I think of his family who only knew a loving husband, father and grandfather, and hope they can realise his past doesn’t diminish what he was to them.

But to me, I do think there was either a minimisation or lack of repentance for his role in the Waffen-SS, that will mean he is somewhat defined by his past.

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