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Perham man recalls time spent in mandatory Hitler Youth camps

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PERHAM, Minn.—A Perham, Minnesota man, who spent his working years as a successful businessman in Lakes Country, has one of those "Made for TV" life stories that got its start at the beginning of World War II.

In Germany.

As a mandatory member of the Hitler Youth.

Looking like he is barely retirement age, Willie, at 85 years old, recalls the late 1930s.

"I remember everything," Willie Humbeck said.

A boy in Germany, forced to join the Nazi's Prized organization.

"We were brainwashed," he said.

The Hitler Youth.

"Swastika flags all over, marched with shoes, with big nails, to make noise and 'Heil Hitler,' " said Humbeck.

Willie's parents were suspicious of the Nazis, but had no choice but to send Willie to the parades and Hitler Youth camps and classes.

"My God, they were so brutal you would not believe it and what did they accomplish? Just the opposite," he said.

It was all about Hitler and his desire for a pure race.

"We were the future of Germany, the Third Reich, the super race. Stupid. And they taught us unreal things," said Humbeck.

As the war in Europe raged on, Willie, now around 10-years old, recalls his much loved Jewish neighbors, who had fought for Germany in World War I.

"Guess what? They disappeared. The Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) I heard the crying, they had a daughter, and the scream. I still get chills," he said.

Willie's father eventually gathered up his family and escaped to the mountains.

Living in a barn.

"The Nazis, had chains around their necks, and they went after us, who were fleeing and they would hang you and shoot you right there," he said.

Years later, they filled out the paperwork and came here to the United States.

"I am an American," Humbeck said, proudly.

These days, Willie is in Perham.

He and his beloved wife Margot have been married for 65 years.

"This is my darling, who I love dearly, I hope she loves me too," said Humbeck.

Despite medical setbacks, Margot, now in a nursing home, gets visits from her longtime sweetheart several times a day.

The war behind him, memories of how he got here, never forgotten.

Willie has spent the last couple of years speaking at schools and service clubs to help educate more people about what German youth endured during the Hitler regime.