October 5, 1996
In 1938, Austria was in deep depression. We had nearly one third of our workforce unemployed, 25% inflation, and a 25% interest rate from banks. Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy every day. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn't want to work, but there simply wasn't any work. My mother was a very devout woman who believed that you have to help the people in need. I remember she had a big kettle of soup every day, on the stove, and we baked bread to feed those poor hungry people, about thirty each day.
The Communist Party and the National Socialist Party were fighting each other. Blocks and blocks of cities like Vienna, Lenzt, and Grotz were being destroyed. The people became desperate, and petitioned the government to let the people 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. But they did have a high living standard. There was nothing being said of persecution of anyone, Jewish or otherwise, just that every one was happy. We wanted the same thing for Austria. We were promised that if we would vote for Hitler, everyone would be employed in two or three weeks, and he would help the family. He also said that businesses would be helped. And the farmers would get their farms back.
98% of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany, and have Hitler be our ruler. We were so joyful that for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. They opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed. After the election, everyone was appointed from Germany. Like a miracle, suddenly we had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was being created by the Public Work Service.
Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married women did not work outside of the home. The husband would be looked down (upon) because he couldn't support a family. The teaching profession was overjoyed that women could go back to the jobs they gave up for marriage. Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good school; 98% of the population was Catholic at that time, so we had religion in our schools. the day we elected Hitler, March 13, 1938, I walked into my schoolroom and where we had a cruxifix it was replaced with Hitler's picture and the flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class that we wouldn't pray or have religion anymore. We sang Deutshland, Deutshland Uber Alis and had physical education instead. Our parents were not happy about the sudden change.
On Sunday, we had National Youth Day. It was compulsory to attend. We were told if our parents would not send us on Sunday, they would get a stiff letter of warning the first time. The second time they would be fined the equivalent of three hundred dollars, and the third time they would be subject to jail. As time went along, we loved it. The first two hours we had political indoctrination. The rest of the day, we had sports. We all had so much fun and got our sports equipment free. We would go home and tell our parents, gleefully, what a wonderful time we were having.
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 might be grateful. I almost hated my mother. It was a very good curriculum; 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 lifestyle was very alarming to me.
By that time, it was glorified to be an unwed mother; to have a baby for Hitler. They lived a very loose lifestyle, without religion. It seemed strange to me that all of this 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 philosophy.
In 1939, the war started and a food bank was established. That meant all food was rationed and you couldn't buy anything without food-stamps. At the same time, the 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 one, you starved to death. The women who stayed home and raised their family for years and didn't have any skills often had to take a job that was for men. Soon after this, the draft was implemented. It was compulsory for young people, male or female, to give one year in the Labor Core. During the day, the girls had to work on the farms and then at night, they returned to their barracks and had their military training just like the men. They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and in the Signal Core. After the Labor Core, they were not discharged, but were used in the front lines. When I go back to Austria and visit my friends, most of those women are emotional cripples, because they just were not geared to the same thing that men did in 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 Core, and into the military service.
Socially, Hitler had to restructure the family. When the mothers had to go out into the work-force, the government immediatiely established child care centers. You could bring your child from age four weeks on up to school age, and leave them there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, under the total absolute care of the state. There were no motherly women there to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology. They raised a whole generation by state.
By that time, no one talked about equal rights, we knew we had been had. Before Hitler, we had very good medicine. Many doctors from America came over to train at the University of Vienna. After Hitler, all the health care was socialized; free for everyone. The doctors were all 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 eight O'clock in the morning, forty 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 until your turn came. There was no money for research because they poured it all into free medicare for everybody. Work at the medical schools was literally stopped, so the doctors left and went to other countries.
As for welfare, our tax rates went up to 80%. Any young couple who got married immediately received a one thousand dollar loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families. All day-care and education was free. Going to college was subsidized, and high school was taken over by the government. Everyone who was entitled to something, whether it was food-stamps, clothing, or subsidized housing, was given it by the government.
We had another agency designed to control the businesses. I had a brother-in-law who's restaurant had square tables and chairs. The government told him he had to have round tables because people can bump themselves on the corners. Then they said he had to have more bathroom facilities. It was just a small business; a dairy business with a snack bar. His business couldn't survive with all the demands. Soon, he went out of business. If the government owned the large businesses, and not many small businesses existed, they could be in control. We had consumer protection. We were told how we should shop, and what we should buy. Free enterprise was literally abolished. We had a planning agency, espeially designed for farmers and private property owners. The agents would go to the farms, count the livestock, then tell the farmer what to produce and how to produce it.
In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps. The villages were surrounded by mountain passes which in the winter were closed off, with snow causing people to be isolated. So people inter-married. By genetic, the offspring were often retarded. When I got there I was told there were fifteen adult mentally retarded people, but they were all useful and did good manual work. I knew one named Vincent really well. He was the janitor of the school. One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van. I asked my superior what they were doing. She said it was the state health department, taking him to an institution to teach him a trade, and to read and write. The families had to sign a paper. The paper had a little clause that they could not visit for six months, because it would interfere with their program and they might get homesick. When the six months passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death. The villagers were not ignorant. We suspected what was happening. Those people all left in excellent physcial health, and all died within six months. We called this euthanasia.
Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler also said that the real way to catch the criminals (and we still had a few) was by the serial numbers of the guns, so we had to register our guns. Most of the people were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station and registered their guns. Not long afterward, they said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. They already knew who had the guns, so you had to turn them in, or they would come and get them.
We knew then that we had a full dictatorship. No more freedom of speech. If you said anything against the government, you were taken away. We knew many people who were taken away, not only Jews, but priests and ministers. It didn't come overnight, it took five years from 1938 until 1943 to graduate into dictatorship. If we (would have) had a dictatorship overnight, we would have fought to our last breath, but we had creeping gradualism.
Now we had nothing except broom-handles. The whole thing was almost unbelievable; that you can feed all this to the masses, little by little and no one would object. It's true, those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty, came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity. America is the greatest country in the world. Don't let freedom slip away. After America, there is no place to go.
********************* end of letter *******************
Web Site: http://www.coos.or.us/~leslemke/index.html (inactive as of mid Oct 97)
|Home||Ordering||Articles||US||state||historical||int'l||poles, etc||Waco pics|