Kitty Werthmann survived Hitler.
“What I am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard or read in history books,” she likes to tell audiences.
“I am a witness to history.
“I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.
“We voted him in.”
If you remember the plot of the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family escaped over the Alps rather than submit to the Nazis. Kitty wasn’t so lucky. Her family chose to stay in her native Austria. She was 10 years old, but bright and aware. And she was watching.
“We elected him by a landslide – 98 percent of the vote,” she recalls.
She wasn’t old enough to vote in 1938 – approaching her 11th birthday. But she remembers.
“Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force.”
Hitler is welcomed to Austria
“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent 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.’
“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933.” she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.
Austrian girls welcome Hitler
“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany 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………