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Thousands demand removal of Nazi name from ski run

Leah Carter
September 11, 2020

Over 5,000 people have signed a petition to remove the name of Willi Huber, a former SS officer, from a New Zealand ski run and restaurant. The owner says he will not do so unless he sees evidence of war crimes.

Skiers on slope
Image: picture-alliance /F. Hoermann

A petition to remove the name of a former Nazi officer from a New Zealand ski field met its target of 5,000 signatures on Friday.

Willi Huber, a member of the Waffen-SS, died in New Zealand at the age of 98 in early August.

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At 17, Huber volunteered for the military branch of the Nazi party, where he served as a machine-gunner and then as a gunner in Panzer tanks.

Huber arrived in New Zealand from Austria in 1953, and met and married a local woman.  

He is known for helping to establish the South Island ski field Mt. Hutt, where a ski trail and alpine restaurant are named after him. He was additionally recognized with a plaque to commemorate his work on the mountain. 

Read more: White supremacy still plagues New Zealand, says PM Jacinda Ardern 

The change.orgpetition to "remove the 'honoring' legacy" of Huber was started by Rob Berg, the president of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand.  

"This is not a "legacy" to be proud of and is an insult to all those murdered by the Nazis or who died fighting the Nazis," the petition says. 

The petition also calls for the removal of Huber's commemorative plaque on the mountain.  

"We demand that Mt Hutt Ski Area removes the plaque honoring an unrepentant Nazi, who in a 2017 TVNZ interview said, "I give it to Hitler, he was very clever" and admitted he volunteered to serve in the SS." 

"Nazis should not have their legacy remembered," the petition says. 

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Despite the signatures, Mt. Hutt Ski Area manager James McKenzie told news website Stuff that the names of the Huber's Hut restaurant and Huber's Run would remain the same unless evidence of war crimes emerged.  

The owners of the ski area, along with Berg and members of the New Zealand Jewish Council and Holocaust Center of New Zealand met last week to discuss the petition, according to Stuff.  

Read more: Former Nazi SS guard convicted in Germany’s ‘last’ Holocaust trial 

“At this stage, NZSki is not prepared to accept that Willi Huber is a war criminal by association to the Waffen-SS,” said McKenzie, adding that the company is seeking "independent expert advice" to determine whether Huber was responsible for criminal acts while serving in the Waffen SS.  

The Waffen-SS was involved in the Holocaust by participating in mass shootings, anti-partisan warfare and providing guards for concentration camps. The organization was officially declared a criminal organization during the post-war Nuremberg Trials.