NEW ULM - A 92-year-old Martin Luther College (MLC) Professor Emeritus gave a first-hand account of a 1938 visit to Nazi Germany at age 16 to several hundred people in the school's auditorium on Tuesday.
Ted Hartwig of New Ulm, who was called to teach history and theology in 1955 at Dr. Martin Luther College/MLC, spoke in great detail and with a sense of humor at times.
Hartwig told how as a Northwestern Prep student in Watertown, Wis., he was chosen to visit Germany at the expense of the German government in a foreign student program involving Hitler Youth and Hitler's SS. The exchange was created by Dr. Colin Ross who portrayed himself as a Scotsman but was later discovered to be a Nazi spy in America. He was back in Germany by the time his true identity was discovered.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Martin Luther College Professor Emeritus Ted Hartwig speaks Tuesday at the MLC Auditorium. He shared his experiences in Germany in 1938.
"I learned German at my mother's knee. We had to speak it at home," Hartwig said. "I was very appreciative of this at prep school."
He rode German ships - later sunk in World War II - to and from Germany, touring Bremen, Nuremberg and Munich. "Three-wheeled cars were one of the things that got my attention there first," Hartwig said. "Signs comparing Jews with the devil mystified me."
A visit to the Hofbrau House in Munich was unique in that one of the students was a Latter Day Saint who could not drink beer, only water and milk. "All they had there to eat was sauerkraut, wieners and beer, but the guy bought milk and brought it in to drink, incensing the waiters," Hartwig said.
A list of 51 wines in a restaurant at the bottom of a mountain proved entertaining to Hartwig.
"The list included what each wine was best for," he added. "One was described as a throat screamer, others good for tenors and other loudmouths, another guaranteed against loss of hair, best for clergy and other poor people, divorcees and married widows, and another guaranteed to leave you with no inhibitions."
Hartwig went to an opera where Hitler was in the audience, but he didn't see him. Thanks to his fluent German, he was invited and attended a banquet with SS officials and met the supreme head of Hitler Youth.
One of Hartwig's Hitler Youth friends sent him a letter that reached his ship on the way home. "I never heard from any of them after the war," he said. "The anti-semitism in Germany really shocked me. I was impressed with the Autobahn, music, arts, cleanliness and efficiency, but not the hideous cost of totalitarianism and the Holocaust."
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).