Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

American Freedom & Austria’s Experience with Totalitarianism

Posted by Orrin Woodward on March 10, 2010

Freedom isn’t free and people who treat it lightly are likely to lose it.  Throughout the history of mankind, people have yearned to be free from the yoke of tyranny and oppression.  Freedom is a blip on the screen of a long history of corruption and tyrannical power grabs.  History is a fascinating subject for so many reasons, but the part that strikes me most profoundly is the inability for mankind to learn from it.  The names change, the countries change, but the principles of oppression are attempted again and again, dressed in a new garb. 

The following article is by Kitty Werthmann, who grew up in Austria during the Nazi takeover and is a chilling portrayal of lost freedoms.  Her story is personal, but aligns with the economic and historical books that I have read covering this historical period.  Freedom can be lost in a day or gradually eroded by increased government involvement in the personal lives of its citizens.  Friedrich Von Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom should be required reading for all high school graduates to prepare them against totalitarian techniques.

Leadership is not done in a vacuum, meaning without freedom there is no leadership.  If people have power over you, they don’t use leadership, but will resort to force as it is much easier to compel than influence.  This principle is as old as the history of man, but doesn’t seem to sink in easily if at all.  I encourage everyone to read and think through Kitty’s personal story.  Ideas do have consequences and the ideas you do not know still have can have consequences in your life.  I believe American leaders have a responsibility to speak about the precious gift of freedom as leadership is pointless in a totalitarian system.  Patrick Henry said it right nearly 250 years ago, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  The Founding Fathers understood that freedom was non-negotiable and we must learn this lesson before it is to late.  God Bless, Orrin Woodward

America truly is the  Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip  Away 
 By: Kitty  Werthmann

What I  am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard  or will ever read in history books. 
I believe that I am an eyewitness to history.  I cannot  tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would  distort history.  We elected him by a landslide – 98% of  the vote..  I’ve never read that in any American publications.  Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in  with his tanks and took Austria by force.  
 In 1938,   Austria was in deep Depression.  Nearly one-third of our  workforce was unemployed.  We had 25% inflation and 25%  bank loan interest rates.  
 Farmers and  business people were declaring bankruptcy daily.  Young  people were going from house to house begging for food.   Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any  jobs.  My mother was a Christian woman and believed in  helping people in need.  Every day we cooked a big kettle  of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people –  about 30 daily.

The Communist  Party and the National Socialist Party were fighting each  other.  Blocks and blocks of cities like Vienna , Linz ,  and Graz were destroyed.  The people became desperate and  petitioned the government to let them decide what kind of  government they wanted.
We looked to  our neighbor on the north, Germany , where Hitler had been in  power since 1933.  We had been told that they didn’t have  unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of  living.  Nothing was ever said about persecution of any  group — Jewish or otherwise.  We were led to believe  that everyone was happy. We wanted the same way of life  in Austria . We were promised that a vote for Hitler would  mean the end of unemployment and help for the family.   Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and  farmers would get their farms back.  Ninety-eight percent  of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.

We were  overjoyed, and for three days we danced in the streets and had  candlelight parades.  The new government opened up big  field kitchens and everyone was fed.  
 After the  election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle,  we suddenly had law and order.  Three or four weeks  later, everyone was employed.  The government made sure  that a lot of work was created through the Public Work  Service.  
Hitler  decided we should have equal rights for women.  Before  this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work  outside the home.  An able-bodied husband would be looked  down on if he couldn’t support his family.  Many women in  the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the  jobs they previously had been required to give up for  marriage.
Hitler  Targets Education – Eliminates Religious Instruction for  Children: 

Our  education was nationalized.  I attended a very good  public school.  The population was predominantly  Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we  elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom  to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next  to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and  told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion  anymore.  Instead, we sang “Deutschland, Deutschland,  Uber Alles,” and had physical education.

Sunday became  National Youth Day with compulsory attendance.  Parents  were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum.   They were told that if they did not send us, they would  receive a stiff letter of warning the first time.  The  second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and  the third time they would be subject to jail.  The first  two hours consisted of political indoctrination.  The  rest of the day we had sports.  As time went along, we  loved it.  Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports  equipment free.  We would go home and gleefully tell our  parents about the wonderful time we had.

My mother was  very unhappy.  When the next term started, she took me  out of public school and put me in a convent.  I told her  she couldn’t do that and she told me that someday when I grew  up, I would be grateful. There was a very good  curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political  indoctrination.  I hated it at first but felt I could  tolerate it.  Every once in a while, on holidays, I went  home.  I would go back to my old friends and ask what was  going on and what they were doing.  Their loose lifestyle  was very alarming to me.  They lived without  religion.  By that time unwed mothers were glorified for  having a baby for Hitler.  It seemed strange to me that  our society changed so suddenly.  As time went along, I  realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t  exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.

Equal Rights  Hits Home: 

In  1939, the war started and a food bank was established.   All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food  stamps.  At the same time, a full-employment law was  passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t get a ration  card, and if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death. Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any  marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for  men.

Soon after  this, the draft was implemented.  It was  compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one  year to the labor corps.  During the day, the girls  worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys.  They  were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in  the signal corps.  After the labor corps, they were not  discharged but were used in the front lines.  When I go  back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these  women are emotional cripples because they just were not  equipped to handle the horrors of combat.  Three months  before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid  attack.  I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared  having to go into the labor corps and into military  service.

Hitler  Restructured the Family Through Daycare:  

When the  mothers had to go out into the work force, the government  immediately established child care centers.  You could  take your children ages 4 weeks to school age and leave them  there around-the-clock, 7 days a week, under the total care of  the government.  The state raised a whole generation of  children..  There were no motherly women to take care of  the children, just people highly trained in child  psychology.  By this time, no one talked about equal  rights.  We knew we had been had.

Health Care  and Small Business Suffer Under Government  Controls: 

Before  Hitler, we had very good medical care.  Many  American doctors trained at the University of Vienna …  After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for  everyone.  Doctors were salaried by the government.   The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to  the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at  his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at  the same time, the hospitals were full.  If you needed  elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your  turn.  There was no money for  research as it was poured into socialized medicine.  Research at the medical schools literally  stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and  emigrated to other countries.  
As  for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80% of our  income.  Newlyweds immediately received a  $1,000 loan from the government to establish a  household.  We had big programs for families.  All day care and education were free.  High schools were  taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized.  Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such  as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

We had another  agency designed to monitor business.  My  brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables.  Government officials told him he had to replace  them with round tables because people might bump themselves on  the corners.  Then they said he had to have additional  bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a  snack bar.  He couldn’t meet all the demands.  Soon,  he went out of business.  If the government owned the  large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be  in control.

We had consumer  protection.  We were told how to shop and what to  buy.  Free enterprise was essentially abolished.  We  had a planning agency specially designed for farmers.   The agents would go to the farms, count the live-stock, then  tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce  it.

“Mercy  Killing” Redefined: 

In  1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps  .  The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes  which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing  people to be isolated.  So people intermarried and  offspring were sometimes retarded.  When I arrived, I was  told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all  useful and did good manual work.  I knew one, named  Vincent, very well.  He was a janitor of the  school.  One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent  and others getting into a van.  I asked my superior where  they were going.  She said to an institution where the  State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read  and write.  The families were required to sign papers  with a little clause that they could not visit for 6  months.  They were told visits would interfere with the  program and might cause homesickness.

As time passed,  letters started to dribble back saying these people died a  natural, merciful death.  The villagers were not  fooled.  We suspected what was happening.  Those  people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6  months.  We called this euthanasia.

The Final  Steps – Gun Laws:

Next came  gun registration.. People were  getting injured by guns.  Hitler said that the real way  to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial  numbers on guns.  Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their  firearms.  Not long after-wards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns.  The  authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.

No more  freedom of speech. Anyone who said  something against the government was taken away.  We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests  and ministers who spoke up. 

Totalitarianism  didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until  1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria.  Had it happened overnight, my countrymen  would have fought to the last breath.  Instead, we  had creeping gradualism.  Now, our only  weapons were broom handles.  The whole idea sounds almost  unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our  freedom.

After World  War II, Russian troops occupied Austria .  Women  were raped, preteen to elderly.  The press never wrote  about this either.  When the Soviets left in 1955, they  took everything that they could, dismantling whole factories  in the process.  They sawed down whole orchards of fruit,  and what they couldn’t destroy, they burned..  We called  it The Burned Earth. Most of the population barricaded  themselves in their houses.  Women hid in their cellars  for 6 weeks as the troops mobilized.  Those who couldn’t,  paid the price.

There is a monument in Vienna today,  dedicated to those women who were massacred by the  Russians.  This is an eye witness account.  
 “It’s true..those of us  who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of  unbelievable freedom and opportunity.

 America Truly is  the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip  Away  “After America , There  is No Place to Go”

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