By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN Unemployment was high, inflation was rising, and the economy was in deep trouble.
Before Adolf Hitler took power in 1938, this was a picture of Austria.
“We elected Hitler by 98 percent of the vote,” said Kitty Werthmann, a survivor of Nazi-controlled Austria. “We didn’t hear anything about persecution.”
Werthmann will share her compelling story at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, located south of Howard Lake.
A free dinner will be served at 6 p.m. CampAmerica, a local grassroots group dedicated to educating people about freedom, will provide sloppy joes, chips, salads, and desserts.
“We’re expecting a minimum of 250-300 people,” said Waverly resident Al Doering, who is part of CampAmerica. “The first 300 will get fed, for sure. After that, there’s no guarantee.”
Eighty-four-year-old Werthmann has been conducting nationwide speaking engagements, interviews, and radio talk show appearances for more than 30 years.
Her memories are sharp, and her perspective is unique.
“For our area, we don’t often get a chance to have speakers like this,” Doering said. “There aren’t many people like her around. She’s telling history as she saw it.”
Werthmann said that now, more than ever, people are interested in hearing her message. There are “unmistakable similarities” between pre-Hitler Austria and the direction America is headed today, she explained.
“Many people are extremely worried,” Werthmann said. “History always repeats itself.”
Hitler was a popular politician, and the vast majority of people initially welcomed his authority, Werthmann said.
“We didn’t know anything about Hitler,” she said. “He was a great orator.”
Hitler brought what many people were looking for at the time public sector jobs, nationalized education, and increased government control.
The Werthmann family was in the small minority of people who weren’t excited about the change.
“My parents were very suspicious,” Werthmann said.
According to Werthmann, it’s vital to choose good people for political office.
“That is the key to elect a good candidate who understands the Constitution,” Werthmann said. “I don’t want to live under socialism again.”
Werthmann, who currently lives in Pierre, SD, isn’t charging a speaking fee for the Sept. 28 event.
“It’s my gift to this great country,” she said.
CampAmerica has decided to pay for Werthmann’s airfare and lodging. Anyone who would like to donate to help cover this expense can contact Laurie (612) 280-2250, John (612) 280-5021, or Al (612) 759-5094.
The master of ceremonies for the evening will be Minnesota Independence Party politician Joe Repya.
“He was one of the oldest people to serve in the Iraq war,” Doering said.
Werthmann said she is looking forward to sharing her memories with the Howard Lake area.
“Tell your friends, also, to come,” she said. “They will not be sorry. It’s a history lesson you don’t get anywhere else.”