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Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography

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Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland’s classic, definitive biography of Adolf Hitler remains the most thorough, readable, accessible, and, as much as possible, objective account of the life of a man whose evil effect on the world in the twentieth century will always be felt.

Toland’s research provided one of the final opportunities for a historian to conduct personal interviews with over two hundred individuals intimately associated with Hitler. At a certain distance yet still with access to many of the people who enabled and who opposed the führer and his Third Reich, Toland strove to treat this life as if Hitler lived and died a hundred years before instead of within his own memory. From childhood and obscurity to his desperate end, Adolf Hitler emerges as, in Toland’s words, “far more complex and contradictory . . . obsessed by his dream of cleansing Europe Jews . . . a hybrid of Prometheus and Lucifer.”

Year:
1992
Edition:
1st
Publisher:
Anchor
Language:
english
Pages:
1120
ISBN 10:
0385420536
ISBN 13:
9780385420532
File:
EPUB, 46.13 MB
Download (epub, 46.13 MB)

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Cahiers du Cinéma nos 81-100

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1958
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Acknowledgments 



Without the co-operation of numerous people in Germany, Austria, England and the United States this book could not have been written. Archives and libraries contributed immeasurably: the National Archives (John E. Taylor, John Mendelsohn, Robert Wolfe, George Wagner); the Library of Congress; the main branch of the New York Public Library; the Danbury, Ct., Public Library; the Yale University Library; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (Bettie Sprigg, Robert Parks); the Wiener Library, London; the Imperial War Museum, London (Rose Coombs); the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich (Frl. Danyl); the Bayerisches Hauptstaatarchiv, Munich; the Forschungstelle für die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg (Werner Jochmann); the Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart (Werner Haupt, Gerhard Buck, Dr. Jurgen Röhwer); the Bundesarchiv, Koblenz; the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Vienna (Dr. Ludwig Jedlicka); and the Landesarchiv, Linz (Dr. Hans Sturmberger). 

Numerous agencies, organizations and individuals made substantial contributions to this book: 

United States: Charles MacDonald and Hannah Zeidlik of the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; U. S. Army Intelligence Command, Fort Holabird, Md. (Elaine M. Pospishil); fellow authors and historians: Richard Hanser, Telford Taylor, Richard Walton, Dr. John Lukacs, Dr. Harold J. Gordon, Jr., Dr. Eberhard Jäckel, Dr. Ernst Deuerlein, Dr. Dietrich Orlow, Dr. Reginald Phelps, Dr. Oron Hale, Dr. Bradley F. Smith; contributors of documents: Edward Whalen, Dave Stanton, Peter Thayer and Ben E. Swearingen; psychiatrists and physicians: Drs. R. Walzar, Richmond Hubbard, Jason Weiner and Warren Sherman; Edward Weiss; Raymond Garthoff; Michael Erlanger; Arthur Shilstone; Sig Muller; Otto Zundricht; Peter Repetti; John Stillman and Stewart Richardson of Doubleday & Company. 

Austria: Alfred Janicek, Heimleiter, Männerheim, Vienna; Josef Adler, Asylum, Vienna; Dr. Wilfried Daim; and Dr. Eleonore (Kandl) Weber. 

England:;  Ellic Howe, Walter Henry Nelson and Hugh Trevor-Roper. 

Spain: Otto Skorzeny. 

Germany: Bavaria Atelier Fernsik-Productions (Dr. Helmut Pigge); Bayerischer Rundfunk and Fernseher (Thilo Schneider and Dietmar Ebert); Prof. Gerdy Troost; Nerin Gun; Egon Hanfstaengl; Harry Schulze-Wilde (H. S. Hegner); Günter Syrup; Klaus Wiedemann; Major General Gustav Lombard; Erich Kempka; Dr. Werner Koeppen; Heinrich Heim; Erich Kernmayer; Helmut Sündermann; Admiral Karl Jesko von Puttkamer; General Hasso von Manteuffel; Frau Luise Jodl; Dr. H. D. Röhrs; Hein Ruck; Richard Schulze-Kossens; Max Wünsche; Hans Ulrich Rudel; Frau Ilse (Braun) Fucke-Michels; and two research assistants and interpreters: Inge Gehrich and Wolfgang Glaser. 

Finally I would like to thank eleven people who contributed outstandingly to the book: Roger Bell, The Society for the Studies of the E.T.O. 1944–45, London, for supplying numerous books; Dr. Rudolph Binion, John Jamieson, Dr. George Breitbart and Dr. Eric Roman, all of whom read the entire manuscript and made valuable suggestions; my chief research assistant and interpreter in Germany, Karola Gillich, an indefatigible aide since 1957; my secretary-translator-typist, Ann Thomas, whose suggestions and corrections have been of inestimable value; my two editors at Doubleday, Carolyn Blakemore and Ken McCormick, who somehow managed to make the revisions a pleasure; and my wife, Toshiko, for putting up with Adolf Hitler more than five years. 



OTHER BOOKS BY JOHN TOLAND 

  THE RISING SUN 

 THE LAST 100 DAYS 

 NO MAN’S LAND 

 OCCUPATION 

 GODS OF WAR 

 THE GREAT DIRIGIBLES 

 INFAMY 

 

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

JOHN TOLAND was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1912 and educated at Exeter and Williams College. He served in the Army during World War II. He is the author of two novels and ten works of nonfiction including Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, the 1971 Pulitzer Prize winner The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936–1945, and, most recently, In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950–1953. He died in 2004. 



Table of Ranks 

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Chapter One 



DEEP ARE THE ROOTS 1889–1907 

1 

Hitler rarely talked about his family but to a few confidants he did confess an inability to get along with his father, a dictatorial man. While he revered his mother, a quiet, soft soul, it soon became evident that the former would be the dominating force in his life. Both parents came from the Waldviertel, a rural area of Austria, northwest of Vienna, not far from the present Czechoslovakian border and, according to one member of the family, there was Moravian blood in the line. Hitler was an unusual name for an Austrian and quite possibly it was derived from the Czech names “Hidlar” or “Hidlarček.” Variants of these names had appeared in the Waldviertel since 1430 and changed from Hydler to Hytler to Hidler. In 1650 a direct ancestor of Adolf Hitler on his mother’s side was called Georg Hiedler. His descendants occasionally spelled their name “Hüttler” and “Hitler.” In those days spelling was as unimportant and erratic as in Shakespearian England. 

The Waldviertel was a district of modest beauty, hilly and wooded, its graceful slopes covered with orderly forests, broken occasionally by fields cleared by generations of hard-working, frugal peasants. Hitler’s father was born on June 7, 1837, in the village of Strones. His mother was a forty-two-year-old unmarried woman, Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Strones was too small to be a parish and so the baby was registered in Döllersheim as Aloys Schicklgruber, “Illegitimate.” The space for the father’s name was blank, generating a mystery that remains unsolved: he probably was a man from the neighborhood. There is the slight possibility that Hitler’s grandfather was a wealthy Jew named Frankenberger or Frankenreither; that Maria Anna had been a domestic in this Jewish household at Graz and the young son had got her pregnant. 

When Alois (as his name would be spelled henceforth) was almost five, Johann Georg Hiedler, an itinerant millworker from nearby Spital, married Maria. But her little son continued to have a blighted family life; she died five years later and the stepfather apparently resumed his drifting. Alois consequently was brought up by Hiedler’s brother Johann Nepomuk at house number 36 in Spital. This farmhouse and the one next door would play an important role in the life of young Adolf Hitler, for here, in this isolated village, he spent half a dozen pleasant summer holidays. 

The situation in Spital became intolerable for Alois and at thirteen he “laced his tiny knapsack and ran away from his home.” This is the touching, if accurate, scene later painted by his son Adolf in Mein Kampf. “A desperate decision to take to the road with only three gulden for travel money, and plunge into the unknown.” He worked his way to the mecca of venturesome youth, Vienna, where he became apprenticed to a shoemaker, but five years later, after learning this trade, he decided to become “something better” so enlisted in the frontier guards. This made him a civil servant, a step above the priesthood. He studied diligently, passed a special examination, and by the time he was twenty-four was promoted to a supervisory rank, an exceptional honor for a boy from the Waldviertel. Promotions came regularly to the ambitious Alois and in 1875 he was made a full inspector of customs at Braunau on the Inn River, just across from Germany. 

No one was prouder of Alois’ success than the man who had brought him up, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. No Hiedler had ever risen so high. There was no son to carry on the name of Hiedler and on a late spring day in 1876 Johann decided to do something about it.1 On June 6 his son-in-law and two other relatives made the short trip to the town of Weitra where they falsely testified before the local notary that “Hiedler’s brother”—they spelled his name “Hitler”—“had several times stated in their presence and before his death [in 1857] as his last and unchangeable will” that he had fathered an illegitimate son, Alois, and wanted him made his legitimate son and heir. 

Perhaps the change of name from Hiedler to Hitler was carelessness, but more likely it was a cunning peasant trick to becloud the issue. The next day Johann Nepomuk Hiedler traveled with his three relatives to Döllersheim where the original birth record of Alois was registered. After examining the document signed by the three witnesses, the elderly parish priest affirmed from the parish marriage book that a man named Georg Hiedler had indeed married a girl named Schicklgruber in 1842. And so he agreed to alter the birth register. But he must have been reluctant or leery. Although he changed the “illegitimate” to “legitimate” and crossed out “Schicklgruber” in the space for the child’s name, he failed to write in another name. In the last space, in extremely cramped writing, he penned: “It is confirmed by the undersigned that Georg Hitler whose name is here entered as Father, being well known to the undersigned, did accept paternity of the child Aloys, according to the statement of the child’s mother, and did desire his name to be entered in the register of baptisms of this parish.” He himself signed the names of the three witnesses and each, in turn, made his mark, a cross. 

The amendments on the register were neither dated nor signed. The parish priest had reason to be devious. Not only had he written in the father’s name as “Hitler,” instead of the “Hiedler” appearing in the marriage book, but he must have known the entire procedure was illegal on two counts: a deceased man could not be recognized as a father except by legal proceedings; moreover, the mother had to corroborate the facts. 

There was yet another ambiguity in the matter—the willingness of Alois Schicklgruber to accept the new name. Illegitimacy had been of little embarrassment to him; in lower Austria it was common and in some remote districts ran as high as forty per cent. Children were the lifeblood of any farm community and every healthy worker was welcome. It could even have been more of an embarrassment to change his name once he had achieved a measure of success as a Schicklgruber. 

Whatever the motivation, Alois was somehow induced by Johann Nepomuk Hiedler to change his name. (The talk in the village was that he had been persuaded by a promise that the old man would change his will and this gossip was somewhat confirmed six months after Hiedler’s death when Alois bought a farm for five thousand florins.) In any case his decision to assume the name of Hitler was momentous. It is difficult to imagine seventy million Germans shouting in all seriousness. “Heil Schicklgruber!” 

To the girls of Spital, Alois must have cut a dashing figure in his uniform, close-clipped military haircut, bushy eyebrows, sweeping Kaiserbart (handlebar) mustache, and two fiercely jutting tufts of hair on either side of a clean-shaven chin. He too had an eye for the girls. Like his legal father, he had already sired an illegitimate daughter. Nor had marriage to the daughter of an inspector in the imperial tobacco monopoly been much of a restraint to amorous adventures. After all, she was sickly and fourteen years his senior. 

One of the most attractive Spital girls was Johann Nepomuk Hiedler’s granddaughter, Klara Pölzl, a sweet-faced, quiet sixteen-year-old. She was slim, almost as tall as stocky Alois, with abundant dark brown hair and even features. Whether it was love at first sight or simply a desire to provide his ailing wife with a willing housemaid, he managed to persuade the family to let Klara follow him to Braunau. She was installed with the Hitlers in an inn where Alois was already carrying on an affair with a kitchen maid, Franziska (Fanni to the customers) Matzelsberger. 

This situation was too much for Frau Hitler. She left Alois and was granted a legal separation. Now it was Fanni’s turn to enter the Hitler ménage and she established herself more as common-law wife than mistress. She was only too aware of how tempting a pretty maid could be to the susceptible Alois and one of her first acts was to get rid of Klara. Two years later, in 1882, Fanni gave birth to a boy, like his father, illegitimate. 

The following year Hitler’s estranged wife died of consumption and he married Fanni. The ceremony was timely. Within two months a second child, Angela, was born. At last Alois had a legitimate child, even if conceived illegitimately. He also accepted legal responsibility for the boy, who became Alois Hitler, Jr. Fanni, restored to respectability, was no happier since Alois, Sr., once more showed signs of wandering affections. Like her predecessor, she contracted a serious lung ailment and was forced to leave Braunau for the country air of a nearby village. Since this left Alois alone on the top floor of the Pommer Inn with two infants, it was only logical for him to seek help from his attractive niece. Once more the compliant Klara was installed in the Pommer Inn and this time she became housemaid, nursemaid and mistress. Adolf Hitler’s mother-to-be was such a goodhearted girl she also did her best to help restore Fanni to health, visiting her frequently. Curiously, Fanni welcomed the ministrations of her rival. 

In the summer of 1884 the wretched life of Fanni ended. Predictably, the next lady in waiting in the Hitler household was already pregnant. Alois wanted to marry Klara; she could care for his two children and he was genuinely fond of her. But the Church forbade their marriage since, by the fake legitimization, his own father and Klara’s grandfather were brothers. Alois appealed to the local priests for a special dispensation from Rome. It was granted within the month, undoubtedly because of Klara’s pregnancy. And at the first possible moment, on the morning of January 7, 1885, Alois and his niece were married at the Pommer Inn. Present were the two children, Alois, Jr., and Angela, and three witnesses: Klara’s younger sister, Johanna, and two customs men. Their new maid had taken care of all the arrangements; in her enthusiasm she overheated the parlor and throughout the ceremony Alois teased her for it. There was no honeymoon and after a simple meal Alois returned to the customs station. Before noon, as Klara later wistfully recalled, “my husband was already on duty again.” 

Remarkably, the untidy private life of Alois had never interfered with his professional duties. He continued to be an efficient and honest public servant, esteemed by colleagues and superiors alike. He held himself in the same high esteem although his local reputation was not good; extramarital affairs in such a small town inevitably became common gossip. Among the ugly rumors was one that he had bought a coffin for his first wife while she was still alive. 

Klara flourished in her new role as Hausfrau. She was a model housekeeper and completely devoted to Alois, Jr., and Angela, treating them as if they were her own. Four months after the ceremony she gave birth to a son, and within two years to a girl and another boy. The youngest died within a few days of birth and shortly afterward both of the older children contracted diphtheria and succumbed. The tragedy was hard for Klara to bear. Fortunately she had an outlet for her affections in Alois, Jr., and Angela, but relations with her husband were strained. From the first she had regarded Alois as a superior being and the road from housemaid to mistress to wife was so complicated for a simple girl from Spital that she still addressed her husband as “uncle.” 

The death of three children apparently affected her regular rate of pregnancy and it was not until April 20, 1889,2 that the fourth child was born. He was one quarter Hitler, one quarter Schicklgruber, one quarter Pölzl, and one quarter uncertain. In the baptismal registry he was entered as “Adolfus Hitler.” Later Klara claimed that Adolf was a sickly baby and that she always lived in fear of also losing him, but their housemaid remembered Adolf as a “very healthy, lively child who developed very well.” 

In either case, Frau Hitler lavished love and attention on her boy and, as a result, probably spoiled him. Life went on placidly at the Pommer Inn. The father spent more time with his cronies and his hobby, beekeeping, than he did at home, but he apparently had ceased his sexual wanderings—or at least was becoming more discreet. He was remembered pleasantly by the housemaid, who described him as a “very strict but comfortable man” who treated the help with consideration. One day, for instance, this exalted official actually took off his boots rather than soil the freshly cleaned floor. But to his new customs supervisor Alois Hitler was an unsympathetic figure. “He was very strict, exacting, and pedantic, a most unapproachable person.… He took pride in his uniform, and always had himself photographed in it.” 

When Adolf was three years and four months old his father was promoted and the family moved to Passau, a good-sized city down the Inn on the German side of the river, where the customs inspection office was located. Living in a German city and playing with German children made a lasting mark on the youngster. The distinctive lower Bavarian dialect, for instance, would remain his mother tongue. It reminded him, he recalled, “of the days of my childhood.” 

Frau Hitler had not became pregnant again and it has been suggested that in overcompensating the “sickly” child she was still nursing him. It was not until Adolf was almost five that the next child, Edmund, was born. At last Adolf was freed from his mother’s constant surveillance, and almost complete freedom came shortly after when his father was reassigned to Linz. The family, apparently because of the newborn baby, stayed in Passau and the five-year-old Adolf now could play endlessly with the German children or wander at will for hours, his own master. 

For a year he reveled in this carefree life. Then in the spring of 1895 the family was reunited in Hafeld, a small farm community some thirty miles southwest of Linz. They lived in a farmhouse situated on nine acres of gently rolling fields. The property established the Hitlers near the top of local society. A month later the six-year-old Adolf was further separated from his possessive mother by entrance into a small Volksschule (primary school) several miles away at Fischlam. The regimentation of education was reinforced within a few weeks by rigorous supervision at the hands of his father, who had just retired, after forty years of service, to a life of modest comfort as a minor country gentleman. 

It was a pretty house on a slight rise, almost completely hidden by an orchard of fruit and walnut trees and flanked by a brook, artificially straight, churning with clean water. Despite the new restrictions, Adolf must have led a happy life in such pleasant surroundings, for there was no lack of neighboring children for companionship. 

It took Adolf and his half sister Angela more than an hour to walk to school, a rigorous trip for a small boy. The building, “shabby and primitive,” was separated into two classrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. The Hitler children made a good impression on the master, who remembered Adolf as “mentally very much alert, obedient, but lively.” Moreover both children “kept the contents of their school bags in exemplary order.” 

“It was at this time that the first ideals took shape in my breast,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, an account with the usual exaggeration of an autobiography. “All my playing about in the open, the long walk to school, and particularly my association with extremely ‘husky’ boys, which sometimes caused my mother bitter anguish, made me the very opposite of a stay-at-home.” Even at this age he could express himself vocally and before long he became “a little ringleader.” 

In the months to come his position at home became increasingly difficult. Retirement was proving to be a drudgery for Alois since he had no talent for farming. To add to the aggravation, another child, Paula, was born in the late fall of 1896. With five children, including a crying infant, in the cramped quarters, Alois probably drank more heavily than usual and certainly became quarrelsome and irritable. His main target was Alois, Jr. For some time the father, who demanded absolute obedience, had been at odds with the son, who refused to give it. Later, Alois, Jr., complained bitterly that his father frequently beat him “unmercifully with a hippopotamus whip,” but in the Austria of those days severe beatings of children were not uncommon, being considered good for the soul. Once the boy skipped school for three days to finish building a toy boat. The father, who had encouraged such hobbies, whipped young Alois, then held him “against a tree by the back of his neck” until he lost consciousness. There were also stories that Adolf was whipped, if not so often, and that the master of the house “often beat the dog until the dog would cringe and wet the floor.” The violence, according to Alois, Jr., extended even to the docile Klara and, if true, must have made an indelible impression on Adolf. 

As for young Alois, life at Hafeld had become unbearable. He felt not only mistreated by his father but neglected by his stepmother and out of this deprivation came a deep resentment of his half brother Adolf. “He was imperious and quick to anger from childhood onward and would not listen to anyone,” he told an interviewer in 1948, still resentful after fifty-two years. “My stepmother always took his part. He would get the craziest notions and get away with it. If he didn’t have his way he got very angry.… He had no friends, took to no one and could be very heartless. He could fly into a rage over any triviality.” 

Feeling abused and rejected, Alois, Jr., followed in the footsteps of Alois, Sr., and ran away from home at the age of fourteen, never to return in his father’s lifetime. His vengeful elder retaliated by reducing the boy’s inheritance to the legal minimum. The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father’s frustrations. The elder Hitler piled additional chores on the youngster’s back and carped at him constantly for failing to come up to expectations. A few months later the disgruntled country gentleman sold the burdensome farm for the more enjoyable town life of Lambach half a dozen miles away. For six months the family lived on the third floor of the Gasthof Leingartner just opposite the imposing Benedictine monastery. Freed from farm chores, Adolf’s existence also became more palatable and he did well at the modern school. His marks were excellent and in the last quarter of the school year 1897–98 he had twelve 1’s, the highest grade. He also had a good natural singing voice and on certain afternoons attended the choir school at the monastery, under the tutelage of Padre Bernhard Gröner. On the way he had to pass by a stone arch in which was carved the monastery’s coat of arms—its most prominent feature a swastika. 

At this time he became “intoxicated” with that “solemn splendor of brilliant church festivals.” The abbot became his idol and he hoped to join the Church himself, one aspiration that curiously met his anti-clerical father’s approval. Adolf later told Frau Helene Hanfstaengl that “as a small boy it was his most ardent wish to become a priest. He often borrowed the large kitchen apron of the maid, draped it about his shoulders in vestment fashion, climbed on a kitchen chair and delivered long and fervent sermons.” His devout mother would certainly have welcomed such a career, but Adolf’s interest in things priestly ended as quickly as it began. Before long he was caught smoking. 

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The family was now living in pleasant quarters on the second floor of a spacious house connected to a mill. It was an ideal headquarters for the venturesome boy, providing him with a variety of arenas for his favorite game of cowboys and Indians. To the couple who owned the mill, Adolf was a “little rogue,” rarely at home but always “where something was happening,” usually as the leader in raids on pear trees and other pranks. When the “wild boy” did come home his trousers were torn, his hands and legs scratched and bruised from his adventures. 

Lambach proved to be as dull as the farm to the restless Alois and in 1899 he bought a snug house across from the cemetery wall in Leonding, a village on the outskirts of Linz. The house was no larger than usual but the location was far more to Alois’ taste. Leonding had 3000 inhabitants and took on an air of civilization from its proximity to Linz with the latter’s theaters, opera house and imposing government buildings. The local companionship was more congenial. 

With Alois, Jr., gone from home, it was Adolf who bore the brunt of the father’s discipline. It was he, recalled Paula Hitler, “who challenged my father to extreme harshness and who got his sound thrashing every day. He was a scrubby little rogue, and all attempts of his father to thrash him for his rudeness and to cause him to love the profession of an official of the state were in vain. How often on the other hand did my mother caress him and try to obtain with her kindness, where the father could not succeed with harshness!” 

In a show of rebellion Adolf decided to run away from home. Somehow Alois learned of these plans and locked the boy upstairs. During the night Adolf tried to squeeze through the barred window. He couldn’t quite make it, so took off his clothes. As he was wriggling his way to freedom, he heard his father’s footsteps on the stairs and hastily withdrew, draping his nakedness with a tablecloth. This time Alois did not punish with a whipping. Instead he burst into laughter and shouted to Klara to come up and look at the “toga boy.” The ridicule hurt Adolf more than any switch and it took him, he confided to Frau Hanfstaengl, “a long time to get over the episode.” 

Years later he told one of his secretaries that he had read in an adventure novel that it was a proof of courage to show no pain. “I then resolved never again to cry when my father whipped me. A few days later I had the opportunity of putting my will to the test. My mother, frightened, took refuge in front of the door. As for me, I counted silently the blows of the stick which lashed my rear end.” From that day on, so Hitler claimed, his father never touched him again. 

Even at the age of eleven there was something in the thin-faced youngster’s look that set him apart from his fellows. In the class picture that year of the Leonding Volksschule he sits in the center of the top row, several inches taller than his comrades, chin up, arms crossed. With his glint of rebellion, his cocky assuredness, he is patently the top boy. He was breezing through school with little effort and had already discovered another talent. He could draw. A picture of Wallenstein dated March 26 of that year, 1900, indicates a budding talent as an artist. In the classroom he would spend some of his study time surreptitiously sketching. A boy named Weinberger once watched in wonder as Hitler recreated from memory the castle of Schaumberg. 

At recess and after school he remained the leader. He had already resided in more places than most of his comrades would visit in their lives and they saw him as a man of the world. In play he was inspired by the adventure stories he was devouring by James Fenimore Cooper and his German imitator, Karl May. The latter had never been to America but his tales of noble Indians and hardy cowboys were accepted as gospel by generations of German and Austrian boys. To Adolf the adventures of old Shatterhand and his comrades were almost an obsession. He tirelessly led his schoolmates into violent re-enactments and when the enthusiasm of the older boys flagged he recruited younger ones and even, on occasion, girls. 

It was about this time that he found more significant stimulation in two illustrated magazines devoted to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He pored over the words and pictures. “It was not long before the great historic struggle had become my greatest inner experience,” he claimed in Mein Kampf, which occasionally twisted the truth for political purposes. “From then on I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any way connected with war or, for that matter, with soldiering.” 

The Boer War, which broke out that same year, also inspired him with Germanic patriotism as well as providing play material. For hours he led his Boers into “hot battle” against those unfortunate ones who had to portray the English. Often he would become so involved that he kept his father waiting an hour or so for the tobacco he was supposed to pick up at the store. The result, recalled Weinberger, was a “hot” reception at home. These adventurous days perhaps helped shape the course of Hitler’s career. “Woods and meadows,” he once wrote, “were the battlefields on which the ‘conflicts’ which exist everywhere in life were decided.” 

That year six-year-old Edmund died of measles. Four deaths were almost too much for Klara to bear, and—with Alois, Jr., gone—there was only one son to carry on the family name. Coming as Adolf was completing his last year at the Volksschule, this latest domestic tragedy heightened the conflict between father and son. Alois wanted the boy to follow his example and tried to inspire him with stories from his own life as a civil servant. His son yearned to be an artist but for the time kept this revolutionary plan to himself and without argument accepted his father’s plan for the next step in his education. He was eligible to enroll either in a Gymnasium, which placed emphasis on classical education and prepared a student for university, or in a Realschule, which was more technical and scientific. The practical Alois decided on the latter and Adolf acquiesced since such a school also had a course in drawing. 

The nearest Realschule was in Linz and on September 17, 1900, he set out for the first time, green rucksack on his back. It was a long trip, more than three miles, and halfway there he could see the city lying below him flanked by the Danube River. It must have been a magic yet formidable sight to a boy raised in villages and small towns. There, on a rise, jutted the famous Kürnberg Castle where the “Nibelungenlieder” were said to have been composed; below stretched a forest of church spires and clusters of impressive buildings. His road wound down a steep hill to the heart of the city and the Realschule, a gloomy four-story building on a narrow street. Utilitarian and forbidding, it looked more like an office building than a school. 

From the beginning Adolf did poorly. No longer the leader, the brightest, the most talented, he was overwhelmed by his surroundings. The other students tended to look down on boys from a country suburb; and the personal interest and attention he had received from teachers in the smaller schools were not to be found in such a large institution. In that year’s class picture he again was perched on the top row but gone was the cocky Adolf; in his place sat a lost, forlorn youngster. 

Retreating into his shell, he showed increasing lack of interest in schoolwork. “I thought that once my father saw how little progress I was making at the Realschule, he would let me devote myself to my dream, whether he liked it or not.” This explanation in Mein Kampf could be either an excuse or a reason for his failure to be promoted because of deficiencies in mathematics and natural history. His detractors claim his failure was due to inherent laziness but it was just as likely a form of revenge against his father, some emotional problem, or simply unwillingness to tackle uncongenial subjects. 

The next year, however, Adolf changed tactics and showed a marked improvement in the classroom. Older than his mates, he once more became the leader. “We all liked him, at desk and at play,” said Josef Keplinger. “He had ‘guts.’ He wasn’t a hothead but really more amenable than a good many. He exhibited two extremes of character which are not often seen in unison, he was a quiet fanatic.” 

After school the boys, under the leadership of Adolf, who had learned to throw a lasso, played cowboys and Indians down by the Danube meadows. Hitler also held sway at recess, lecturing his group on the Boer War and passing out sketches he made of gallant Boers. He even talked of enlisting in their army. The war helped arouse in young Hitler a yearning for German nationalism, a feeling shared by most of the boys. “Bismarck was for us a national hero,” recalled Keplinger. “The Bismarck song and lots more German hymns and songs of the same character, were forbidden to be sung.3 It was a crime even to possess a sketch of Bismarck. Although privately our teachers felt well enough that we boys were in the right, they had to punish us severely for singing these songs and brandishing our German loyalties.” 

For some reason Adolf took his Germanism far more seriously than the others, perhaps as a rebellion against his father, who was a stout advocate of the Habsburg regime. Once Keplinger accompanied him part of the way home, up the steep Kapuzinerstrasse. At the top of the hill Hitler stopped before a small chapel. “You are not a Germane [old German],” he bluntly told Keplinger. “You have dark hair and dark eyes.” His own eyes, he noted proudly, were blue and his hair (at that time, according to Keplinger) was light brown. 

He was already entranced with the heroic figures of German mythology and at the age of twelve attended his first Wagnerian opera, Lohengrin, at the Linz Opera House. He was “captivated at once” as much by the Germanic feelings it aroused in him as by the music. Inspirational words—such as those of King Henry to his knights—wakened in him the primal urge of race and nationalism: 

                Let the Reich’s enemy now appear. 

                We’re well prepared to see him near. 

                From his Eastern desert plain 

                He’ll never dare to stir again! 

                The German sword for German land! 

                Thus will the Reich in vigor stand! 

 

This time he finished the school year successfully, passing all subjects and receiving “good” and “very satisfactory” in conduct and diligence. But almost from the beginning of his Second Form he again began slipping; once more mathematics was too much for him and he dropped to a “variable” in diligence. Then, near the end of Christmas vacation, crisis at school was overshadowed by a major family disaster. 

On January 3, 1903, Alois left home for his morning visit to the Gasthaus Stiefler. No sooner had he seated himself at the table for regular patrons than he remarked that he wasn’t feeling very well. Moments later he died—of pleural hemorrhage. 

He was buried two days later in the church cemetery in sight of the Hitler house. On the gravestone was attached an oblong picture of the former customs official, eyes fixed determinedly ahead. “The sharp word that fell occasionally from his lips could not belie the warm heart that beat beneath the rough exterior,” read the commendatory obituary notice in the Linz Tagespost. “At all times an energetic champion of law and order and universally well informed, he was able to pronounce authoritatively on any matter that came to his notice.” 

2 

Contrary to popular belief, Alois did not bequeath his family a life of penury. At the time of his death he was receiving a pension of 2420 kronen, a sum considerably more substantial than that received, for example, by the principal of a Volksschule. The widow was granted half of this amount as well as a lump sum equivalent to a quarter of one year’s pension. In addition, each child would receive 240 kronen annually “until its 24th birthday or until it becomes self-supporting, whichever shall be the earlier.” 

The remarkable change in the little house was the absence of tension. Gone was the authoritarian shadow cast by Alois. Adolf, almost fourteen, was the man of the family. Klara attempted to carry out the wishes of her husband concerning the boy, but her only weapon was entreaty. Needless to say, this was no deterrent to Adolf’s dream; whenever anyone asked what he was going to be, the answer was invariably, “A great artist.” 

Even the gentle influence of his mother was diminished at the beginning of the spring term when Adolf was permitted to room in Linz so that he wouldn’t have to endure the long daily trip to school. He was installed in the home of an elderly lady, Frau Sekira, with five other schoolboys. Here he became known for his reserve, always using the formal Sie, not only with the landlady but with his peers. While this change of locale did little to improve his low standing in school, it did give him more time for drawing and reading. According to Frau Sekira, he used an inordinate amount of candles for night work. Once she found him bent over a map which he was decorating with colored pencils. “Why, Adolf, what on earth do you suppose you are doing?” she asked. The curt answer was: “Studying maps.” 

The desultory school year ended with a failure in mathematics and Frau Hitler was informed that her son would again have to repeat a year unless he passed a special examination in the fall. This cast only momentary gloom on the household, for that summer they were all invited to Spital for a vacation. With two large, old-fashioned trunks filled with clothes and dishes, the Hitlers set off by train for the country. They were met in Weitra by Klara’s brother-in-law, Anton Schmidt, who drove them to the tiny settlement of Spital in his oxcart. It was a pleasant summer. Klara found companionship and sympathy in her family, and Adolf, who contrived to avoid work in the fields, would occasionally play with the Schmidt children. Once he made them a large dragon kite “with a long colorful tail from different colored paper” which “rose beautifully in the air.” But more often he spent his time reading and drawing. The last two pursuits already had marked him as a peculiar youngster; he preferred living in his own dream world. When it rained Adolf was forced to stay in the children’s room. “On such occasions,” recalled Maria Schmidt, “he often paced up and down or drew or painted and was very angry if he was interrupted. He pushed me out of the room and if I cried outside, he tried to get his mother to give me some tea or something else. We often teased Adolf Hitler and threw something against the window when he was inside, whereupon he quickly jumped out and chased us.” 

Shortly after the return to Leonding came another change in the family. Angela, “a jolly person who enjoyed life and loved to laugh,” married a Linz tax official, Leo Raubal. Adolf intensely disliked Leo and later claimed he drank too much and gambled; but the youngster probably objected more to the fact that his new brother-in-law, a civil servant, heartily disapproved of art as a profession. 

Adolf had succeeded in passing his make-up exam and was now involved in the demanding work of the Third Form. His most difficult subject was French, which he would condemn years later as a “complete waste of time.” Professor Hümer, the French teacher, had mixed feelings about young Adolf. “He had definite talent, though in a narrow field,” he recalled. “But he lacked self-discipline, being notoriously cantankerous, wilful, arrogant and irascible. He had obvious difficulty in fitting in at school. Moreover, he was lazy; otherwise, with his gifts, he would have done much better. In freehand sketching his style was fluent and he did well in scientific subjects. But his enthusiasm for hard work evaporated all too quickly.” Dr. Hümer had more than a passing interest in Adolf since he also taught him German and was the class adviser. “He reacted with ill-concealed hostility to advice or reproof; at the same time, he demanded of his fellow-pupils their unqualified subservience, fancying himself in the role of leader, at the same time indulging in many a less innocuous prank of a kind not uncommon amongst immature youths.” There was something about the “gaunt, pale-faced youth” that appealed to Hümer, and he did what he could to guide him. But such efforts were fruitless. Young as he was, Adolf had grown set and stubborn in his ways, withdrawing whenever anyone attempted to pry into his private world. 

The history professor—Leopold Pötsch—did manage to make an impression on the secretive youngster. Adolf was fascinated by his lectures on the ancient Teutons, which were illustrated by colored slides. “Even today,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “I think back with gentle emotion on this gray-haired man, who by the fire of his narratives, sometimes made us forget the present; who, as if by enchantment, carried us into past times and, out of the millennial veils of mist, molded dry historical memories into living reality. On such occasions we sat there, often aflame with enthusiasm, and sometimes even moved to tears.” 

Outside of this class, however, Adolf was more often moved by tedium and by the spring of 1904 school had become a dull routine. That May he was confirmed on Whitsunday at the Linz Cathedral. This too was a bore to the young artist. Of all the boys Emmanuel Lugert had sponsored “none was so sulky and surly as Adolf Hitler. I had almost to drag the words out of him.… It was almost as though the whole business, the whole confirmation was repugnant to him, as though he only went through with it with the greatest reluctance.” As soon as the confirmation party got back to Leonding, Adolf ran off to his playmates. “And then,” recalled Frau Lugert, “they started charging around the house, playing at Red Indians—a fearful row!” 

That year Adolf failed in French. In the autumn his make-up exam was given a passing mark but only on condition that he not return to the Linz school for the Final Form. The nearest Realschule was some twenty-five miles away in Steyr. Once again Adolf would be forced to live away from home. Frau Hitler and the fifteen-year-old journeyed to Steyr where she found a little room for him at the home of the Cichini family. From the beginning Adolf was unhappy. He detested the new town and the view from his room was sinister. “I often used to practice shooting rats from the window.” Adolf spent more time shooting rats, reading and drawing than on schoolwork. As a result his grades for the first semester suffered. While he received an “excellent” in gymnastics and “good” in freehand drawing, he was only “adequate” in two favorite subjects, history and geography, and failed mathematics and German. He would go to ridiculous lengths to avoid schoolwork. Upon arriving in class one morning with a huge scarf tied around his neck, he pretended to have lost his voice and got himself sent home.4 

Despite all this, his marks gradually improved and he was informed he could graduate if he returned in the fall for a special examination. Adolf brought this relatively good news to his mother on a sultry day in July 1905. She had sold the farm at Leonding, scene of so much turmoil and unhappiness, and now lived in a rented flat in a dour stone-faced building at Humboldtstrasse 31 in the middle of Linz. The year away from his mother’s protective care had brought a marked change in Adolf’s appearance. He was no longer a boy but a youth with unruly hair, the rudiments of a mustache and the dreamy expression of a romantic young bohemian. One of his classmates in Steyr, named Sturmberger, caught all of this in a pen-and-ink drawing that could have been entitled “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” 

He was greeted as a hero by the adoring Klara, and mother and son resumed their warm relationship. Shortly they left with Paula for another summer in Spital. Here the youth was stricken by a lung infection (the family had a history of respiratory diseases). This illness brought mother and son even closer together and the summer, despite its problems, must have been a pleasant change for both of them after Adolf’s exile in Steyr. 

By the time the Hitlers left the country, the youth was well enough to return to Steyr for his make-up examination on September 16. He passed; and that night he and several comrades celebrated with a secret wine party, which left him dead drunk. “I’ve completely forgotten what happened during the night.” He only remembered being wakened at dawn on the highway by a milkwoman. Never again would he suffer such humiliation. It was the first and last time he got drunk. 

Despite the certificate, Hitler could not face his Abitur, the final examination for a diploma; in fact, the mere thought of additional schooling at an Oberrealschule or technical institute was repugnant. Using his lung condition as an excuse—“suddenly an illness came to my help”—he persuaded Klara to let him discontinue his studies. Detractors later charged that Hitler had lied about his ill-health in Mein Kampf, but Paula testified that her brother did suffer a hemorrhage; a boyhood friend remembered that “he was plagued by coughs and nasty catarrhs, especially on damp, foggy days,” and a neighbor testified that he was “in poor health and had to leave his studies because of a lung problem—as a result of which he was spitting blood.” 

With no father and no school to deter him, the sixteen-year-old was free to drift, his own master, a despiser of authority. It was an escapist existence. Adolf read voraciously, filled sketchbooks with drawings, went to museums, the opera and the waxworks, once saw a movie near the railroad station that shocked his moral sense (“What a horror of a film!”). No longer did he seek out companionship; no longer was he the leader of childhood games. He wandered the streets of Linz, solitary but not lonesome—his mind churning with dreams of the future. The company of others became tedious. Late in the fall of 1905 he finally met someone he could tolerate. August Kubizek, son of an upholsterer, also had a dream: he would be a world-famous musician. Already he could play the violin, viola, trumpet and trombone and was studying musical theory at Professor Dessauer’s School of Music. One evening the two young men met at the opera. Kubizek noted that Hitler was reserved, meticulously dressed. “He was a remarkably pale, skinny youth, about my own age, who was following the performance with glistening eyes.” Kubizek himself had a sensitive look and with his high forehead, curly hair and dreamy eyes seemed destined for an artist’s life. 

Together Adolf and Gustl (Hitler refused to call his new friend “August”) began attending almost every opera performance. Other nights they would stroll along the Landstrasse, Adolf twirling his ever present black ivory-handled cane. Once Kubizek got up the nerve to ask his uncommunicative companion if he worked. “Of course not,” was the gruff reply; a “bread-and-butter job” was not for him. 

Since Hitler did not like talking about himself, their conversation centered on music and art in general. One day, however, Adolf abruptly drew out a black notebook to read a poem he had just written; a little later he showed his new friend several drawings and designs, then confessed he was going to be an artist. Determination at such an age impressed Kubizek (“I was thrilled by the grandeur which I saw here”), and from that moment his admiration for Hitler approached hero-worship. Although his recollections, consequently, are often exaggerated and sometimes even fictionalized, no comrade knew the young Hitler so intimately. 

While the two had much in common, they were of conflicting temperaments. Kubizek considered himself “adaptable and therefore always willing to yield,” while Hitler was “exceedingly violent and high-strung.” These differences only solidified the friendship. Kubizek, a patient listener, relished his own passive role, “for it made me realize how much my friend needed me.” Hitler warmed to such a sympathetic audience and would often make speeches “accompanied by vivid gestures, for my benefit alone.” These orations, usually delivered when they were walking through the fields or on some deserted woodland path, reminded Kubizek of an erupting volcano. It was like a scene on the stage. “I could only stand gaping and passive, forgetting to applaud.” It took some time before Kubizek realized his friend was not acting but was “in dead earnest.” He also discovered that all Hitler could stand was approval and Kubizek, enthralled more by Adolf’s oratory than by what he said, readily gave it. 

On fair days during this seminal period the two young men would occupy a bench on the Turmleitenweg where Adolf read, sketched, and painted water colors, or they would perch themselves on a rock ledge far above the Danube. In such seclusion Hitler poured out hopes and plans, giving his vivid imagination free rein. It was no one-sided relationship. Adolf seemed to know exactly how Kubizek felt. “He always knew what I needed and what I wanted. Sometimes I had a feeling that he was living my life as well as his own.” 

While Adolf was enjoying the carefree existence of a young bohemian dandy, he occupied humble quarters. The apartment on the third floor at Humboldtstrasse was rather pleasant if restricted. The kitchen, its single window looking out on the courtyard, was small but homey. Paula and Klara slept in the living room, which was dominated by a portrait of Alois, the personification of the dignified civil servant. The third room, hardly larger than a closet, was occupied by Adolf. Unlike the previous homes, this was a peaceful one, run largely for the young master, whose present each Christmas to his mother was, typically, a theater ticket. To Klara he was a young prince with slumbering talent, obviously destined for fame; and she resisted the practical suggestions of relatives that Adolf learn a respectable trade so he could contribute to the family income. 

In the spring of 1906 one of Adolf’s dreams was realized; his mother allowed him to visit Vienna, the mecca of art, music and architecture. For a month he roamed the romantic old city (he probably stayed with his godparents, Johann and Johanna Prinz) totally enthralled. He kept Gustl posted. “Tomorrow I go to the opera to see Tristan, the day after to Flying Dutchman, etc.,” he wrote on a three-sectioned postcard on May 7. “Even though I find everything very fine, I am longing for Linz again. To the Stadttheater today.” A second postcard, sent the same day, pictured the Royal Opera House. Adolf found the interior uninspiring. “Only when the mighty waves of sound roll through space and the whistling of the wind yields to the frightful rushing billows of sound does one feel nobility and forget the gold and velvet with which the interior is overloaded.” These lines were typical of the budding artist—atrocious grammar mixed with poetic imagery, grandiose but sensitive sentiments. 

Adolf returned to Linz more dedicated than ever to a life of art and architecture. He insisted that Gustl share this dream, finally persuading him to go into partnership on a ten-kronen state lottery ticket. Hitler talked endlessly of how their winnings should be spent. They would rent the entire second floor of a large house across the Danube and work in the two rooms farthest apart so that Gustl’s music should not be a distraction. Adolf himself would furnish every room, create the murals and design the furniture. Their apartment, he daydreamed, would become the headquarters for a circle of dilettantes. “There we would make music, study, read—above all, learn; the field of German art was so wide, said my friend, that there could be no end to the study of it.” There was a final delightful and revealing provision: “A lady of exquisite culture would preside over the household as ‘chatelaine,’ but this educated lady would have to be sedate in temperament and years in order that no expectations or intentions should be aroused of a kind unwelcome to us.” This fantasy, like most, was dissolved by reality: their ticket did not win. 

After another uneventful summer vacation in Spital, highlighted by his present of a magic lantern to the Schmidt children, Adolf resumed his existence as budding artist and dreamer. In early October he began taking piano lessons from Gustl’s teacher. Paula recalled her brother “sitting for hours at the beautiful Heitzmann grand piano my mother had given him.” No expense was too great for such a son. It was about this time that Hitler revealed himself to Kubizek in a startling new role. It occurred on the evening they first saw Wagner’s Rienzi. The story of the hero’s rise and fall as tribune of Rome had a curious effect on Adolf. Ordinarily he began criticizing the performers or musicians once the final curtain dropped. This night he not only said nothing but rebuked Kubizek to silence with “a strange, almost hostile glance.” Hitler strode into the street, silent, paler than usual, the collar of his black overcoat turned up against the November chill. Looking “almost sinister,” he led his puzzled companion to the top of a steep hill. Suddenly he grasped Kubizek’s hands tightly. Eyes “feverish with excitement,” he began speaking in a hoarse, raucous voice. It seemed to Kubizek as if another being had taken over his friend—“it was a state of complete ecstasy and rapture, in which he transferred the character of Rienzi, without even mentioning him as a model or example, with visionary power to the plane of his own ambitions.” Till now Kubizek had been convinced that his friend’s true goal was to be an artist or perhaps an architect. This Adolf was a complete stranger, ranting as if possessed of “a special mission which one day would be entrusted to him”—a call from the people to lead them to freedom. This scene may have been one of Kubizek’s fictions, but it surely reflected the state of mind of his romantic friend. It was 3 A.M. by the time they descended to Kubizek’s house. After the boys solemnly shook hands, Adolf did not head home. Instead he started up the hill again with the explanation: “I want to be alone.” His family became the dubious beneficiary of his visionary experience. “Very often,” remembered Paula, “he used to give lectures on the themes concerning history and policy to my mother and me in a rhetorical way.” 

The vision on the hill was followed by a moody period in which he felt as rejected and injured as a Dostoevski hero. He could have stepped out of the pages of The Adolescent. The piano lessons stopped within four months. Kubizek felt it was because “those dull, monotonous finger exercises did not suit Adolf at all,” but it was more likely occasioned by the ill-health of Klara Hitler. On January 14, 1907, two weeks before Adolf’s last piano lesson, his mother called on Dr. Edward Bloch, a Jewish physician known locally as the “poor people’s doctor.” In a quiet, hushed voice she complained of a pain in her chest; it kept her awake night after night. An examination indicated that Frau Hitler had “an extensive tumor of the breast.” Dr. Bloch did not tell the patient she had cancer but the following day he summoned Adolf and Paula. Their mother was “a gravely ill woman,” and the only hope, and that but a slight one, was surgery. Bloch was touched by Adolf’s reaction. “His long, sallow face was contorted. Tears flowed from his eyes. Did his mother, he asked, have no chance? Only then did I recognize the magnitude of the attachment that existed between mother and son.” 

The family decided to risk an operation and Klara Hitler entered the hospital of the Sisters of Mercy in Linz on January 17. The next day Dr. Karl Urban removed one of her breasts. By this time Aunt Johanna—a hunchback, irascible but always on hand—had arrived from Spital to keep house for the children. For nineteen days Klara recuperated in a third-class ward at three kronen a day; she could have afforded more comfortable quarters but, typically, economized on herself. The three flights to the apartment on the Humboldtstrasse were too difficult for Klara to climb and late that spring the family moved across the Danube to the suburb of Urfahr into three rooms on the second floor of an attractive stone building at Blütengasse 9. It was a quiet, pleasant neighborhood, a short ride on the streetcar across the long bridge to Adolf’s favorite haunts. 

The youth had a new preoccupation. He fell in love. Until then his relationship with girls had been trifling. During one vacation in Spital, for example, there had been a brief encounter in a barn with a girl who was milking a cow, but when she showed a willingness to go further, Adolf had rushed off, knocking over a large pot of fresh milk. While strolling the Landstrasse with Kubizek, they had approached a “distinguished looking girl, tall and slim,” with thick fair hair swept into a bun, a young Valkyrie. Adolf excitedly gripped his companion’s arm. “You must know,” he said resolutely, “I’m in love with her.” Her name was Stephanie Jansten; and she too lived in Urfahr. He composed numerous love peoms to her, including one entitled Hymn to the Beloved, and read them all to his faithful Gustl. Adolf confessed he had never spoken to her but that eventually “everything would be clear without as much as a word being exchanged.” Theirs was such an idyllic match, said Hitler, that they communicated by eyes alone. “These things cannot be explained,” he said. “What is in me is in Stephanie too.” Kubizek urged him simply to introduce himself to Stephanie and her ever present mother. Hitler refused to do this; he would have to mention his profession and he was not yet an academic painter. He was immersed moreover in Norse and German mythology where the women were anything but ordinary, and he probably had a romanticized, knightly concept of all things sexual. No prosaic introduction for this young Siegfried! Fantasy built on fantasy. If all else failed he would kidnap her while Kubizek engaged the mother in conversation. 

When Stephanie continued to ignore Hitler’s presence he imagined she was angry with him (she was about to become engaged to a lieutenant, and it would come as a complete surprise to learn years later that Hitler had been her devoted admirer). Despondent, he swore he could bear it no longer. “I will make an end of it!” He decided to jump off the bridge into the Danube. But Stephanie would have to go with him in a suicide pact. He devised a plan complete in every detail, with appropriate dialogue for everyone, including Kubizek, who must witness the tragic event. 

It was a convenient love affair for a susceptible youth of imagination. Success would have led to marriage and the end of an artistic career; failure only contributed to another pleasurably painful fantasy. More important matters soon put Stephanie in the background. Adolf’s creative drive had made a turn from art to architecture. He was still an indefatigable water colorist, but these paintings, while pleasantly executed with a degree of talent, could not satisfy the ideas and emotions seething inside him. “Adolf never took painting seriously,” said Kubizek; “it remained rather a hobby outside his more serious aspirations.” His architectural designs, on the other hand, gave expression to an irresistible urge to create as well as a sense of order that was almost obsessive. He was driven to alter the shape of Linz. He would stand in front of the new cathedral, praising some features, criticizing others. He redesigned structure after structure in a passion for improvement. “He gave his whole self to his imaginary building and was completely carried away by it.” As he ranged the streets with his one-man captive audience, Hitler pointed out features that must be changed, then explained in detail what had to be done. The town hall was uninspiring and he envisioned in its place a stately modern structure. He would also completely remodel the ugly castle, restoring it to its original grandeur. The new museum did please him and he returned time and again to admire its marble frieze, which depicted historical scenes. But even this had to be changed; he would double the length to make it the longest frieze in Europe. 

His plans for a new railroad station showed a flair for city planning: to rid the growing Linz of tracks that were ugly as well as a traffic hindrance, he set his station on the edge of town, running the tracks under the city. The public park would spill over onto the old station site. His imagination was boundless. He planned to run a cog railway to the top of the Lichtenberg where he would place a spacious hotel and a three-hundred-foot steel tower which, in turn, would look down upon a magnificent new high-level bridge spanning the Danube. 

His life had become one of isolation. Hitler slept late and stayed in the house most of the day reading, painting and designing. The downstairs neighbor, the wife of the postmaster, would see him leave the house after 6 P.M. and, on his return from his adventures with Kubizek, hear him pace around the living room until early morning. One day her husband suggested Adolf enter the postal service but he replied that he was going to be a great artist someday. “When it was pointed out that he lacked the necessary means and connections for this, he replied briefly: ‘Makart and Rubens worked themselves up from poor circumstances.’ ” 

Adolf was restless; and Linz had no more to offer him. He yearned for the world outside, specifically Vienna. He tried to convince his mother that he should be allowed to enter the Academy of Fine Arts. Klara was pressed from the other side by arguments from her son-in-law and Josef Mayrhofer, the children’s guardian. Both insisted that it was time the boy selected a respectable profession. Mayrhofer even found a baker who was willing to take Adolf as an apprentice. 

But Klara could not resist her son’s passionate pleas and that summer he was allowed to withdraw his patrimony, some seven hundred kronen, from the Mortgage Bank of Upper Austria. This was enough for a year in Vienna, including tuition at the academy. Adolf’s victory was marred by a deterioration in his mother’s health and he probably left home with emotions of guilt, regret and exultation. But examinations for the Academy of Fine Arts were held only in early October and if he didn’t go to Vienna now his career would have to be postponed another year. On a late September morning in 1907, Kubizek appeared at Blütengasse 9. Both Klara and Paula were weeping and even Adolf’s eyes were wet. His suitcase was so heavy it took both youths to carry it down the stairs and to the streetcar. 

During Adolf’s first trip to Vienna, he had deluged his friend with postcards. But ten days passed without a word. Kubizek conjured up scenes of illness, accident and even death. He decided to find out what had happened from Frau Hitler. Her first words were: “Have you heard from Adolf?” Her face was more careworn than ever; her eyes were lifeless, her voice listless. With Adolf gone, she seemed to have let herself go and become “an old, sick woman.” She began repeating all the laments he had heard so many times: why hadn’t Adolf chosen a proper profession? he would never earn a decent living painting or writing stories; why was he wasting his patrimony on “this crazy trip to Vienna?” why did he refuse to take any responsibility for raising little Paula? 

Adolf was living near the Westbahnhof on the second floor of Stumpergasse 29 in the flat of a Polish woman named Zakreys. He was depressed. He had taken his exam at the academy with confidence. The verdict was shocking: “Test drawing unsatisfactory.”5 When the stunned young man asked for an explanation the rector assured him that his drawings “showed my unfitness for painting, and that my ability obviously lay in the field of architecture.” 

It took the downcast Hitler a few days to realize what Kubizek had already guessed—his painting was only a hobby and his true destiny was as an architect. The road ahead seemed insurmountable; entrance in the Academy’s School of Architecture depended on a diploma from the building school and to enter this institution he needed a diploma from Realschule. Determined to succeed, yet depressed by the difficulties, he spent the next weeks aimlessly, reading for hours in his little room, attending the opera and wandering the streets to admire the buildings. 

In Urfahr, Klara Hitler was dying. The postmaster’s wife wrote Hitler and he rushed back. On October 22 he again consulted Dr. Bloch, who revealed that drastic treatment was necessary to save the patient’s life. Klara, it seemed, had been operated on too late and “there were already metastases in the pleura.” The treatment, continued Dr. Bloch, was not only dangerous—large doses of iodoform on the open wound—but extremely expensive. Money was no object to Adolf and he agreed to remunerate Dr. Bloch for the iodoform in advance, while promising to pay for the treatment itself later. 

Kubizek was startled when Adolf unexpectedly turned up at his home, deathly pale, eyes dull. After explaining what had brought him from Vienna, Hitler burst into a diatribe against doctors. How could they say his mother could not be cured? They simply were incapable of curing her. He was staying home, he said, to help take care of his mother since his half sister, Angela, was expecting a second child. Kubizek was surprised that his friend didn’t even ask about Stephanie, nor did Adolf mention her for some time, “so deeply engrossed” was he with his mother. 

By November 6 she was receiving an almost daily dosage of iodoform. It was an agonizing procedure. Gauze was saturated with iodoform (which had a nauseating, clinging, “hospital” odor) and then folded around the open wound. Not only did the iodoform burn its way into the tissues but once it entered the system the patient could not swallow. Klara’s throat burned and yet she could not quench this burning thirst since all liquids tasted like poison. 

Hitler devoted himself to his mother, sharing the household duties with the postmaster’s wife, Paula and Aunt Johanna. Klara had been installed in the kitchen since it alone was heated all day. The cupboard had been removed and replaced by a couch. Adolf slept here so he could be in constant attendance. During the day he was part-time cook and Frau Hitler confided to Kubizek with pride that her appetite had never been better. At these words her usually pale cheeks colored. “The pleasure of having her son back and his devotion to her had transfigured the serious, worn face.” 

In the cold, damp days that followed, Kubizek could not believe the change in Hitler. “Not a cross word, not an impatient remark, no violent insistence on having his own way.” Adolf “lived only for his mother” and even took over as man of the house. He would scold Paula for doing poorly at school and one day made her swear solemnly to their mother that she would henceforth be a diligent pupil. Kubizek was deeply impressed by this uncharacteristic behavior. “Perhaps Adolf wanted to show his mother by this little scene that he had meanwhile realized his own faults.” 

Each waking hour was filled with pain for Klara. “She bore her burden well,” recalled Dr. Bloch, “unflinchingly and uncomplaining. But it seemed to torture her son. An anguished grimace would come over him when he saw pain contract her face.” On the evening of December 20 Kubizek found Frau Hitler, mouth drawn and eyes sunken, sitting up in bed, supported by Adolf to ease the pain. Hitler motioned his friend to leave. As he started out, Klara whispered, “Gustl.” Usually she addressed him as Herr Kubizek. “Go on being a good friend to my son when I’m no longer here. He has no one else.” 

By midnight it was apparent that the end was near but the family decided not to disturb Dr. Bloch. Klara was beyond his help. In the dark early morning hours of December 21—in the glow of a lighted Christmas tree, according to Hitler—she died quietly. After daylight, Angela asked Dr. Bloch to come to the Blütengasse and sign the death certificate. He found Adolf, face wan, at his mother’s side. On a sketchbook was a drawing of Klara, a last memory. Dr. Bloch tried to ease Hitler’s grief by saying that in this case “death had been a savior.” But Adolf could not be comforted. “In all my career,” recalled Dr. Bloch, who had witnessed many deathbed scenes, “I never saw anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler.” 

 

 1 He may have had other motives. There was village gossip that Alois was his natural son. It has also been suggested by Franz Jetzinger, author of a generally accurate book on Hitler’s youth, that Hiedler may have wanted to legitimize Alois as insurance for the young man’s career, “a strong motive if his father had been a Jew.” 

 2 Crown Prince Rudolf had recently committed suicide at Mayerling. 

 3 The Austrian and German anthems had the same music by Haydn and the Pan-Germans would rebelliously sing the lyrics of “Deutschland über Alles.” They would also greet each other in secret with the German “Heil!” 

 4 That spring, while visiting in a nearby town, he wrote a revealing poem in a guest book. Four words cannot be deciphered. 

                 1. There the people sit in an airy house 

                    Refreshing themselves with wine and beer 

                    And eat and drink riotously 

                    ( ) out then on all fours. 

                2. There they climb up high mountains 

                    ( ) with proud faces 

                    And tumble down in somersault fashion 

                    And cannot find their equilibrium. 

                3. Then they arrive sadly at home 

                    And then are forgotten the hours 

                    Then comes ( ) his wife (poor?) man 

                    And cures his wounds with a beating. 

 

 The poem was illustrated by the sketch of a smallish man being beaten with a large stick by a woman with huge breasts. The sketch and poem are remarkable coming from a boy just turned sixteen; it is equally remarkable that he could make such a bizarre entry in a guest book. 

 5 A contemporary, Marc Chagall, was rejected by the Academy of Art in St. Petersburg. 

 



Chapter Two 



“THE SCHOOL OF MY LIFE” DECEMBER 1907–MAY 1913 

1 

The morning of December 23, 1907, was damp and foggy. Klara was carried out of Blütengasse 9 in a “hard polished wooden coffin with metal corners” and the hearse headed down the slushy street to a church. After a short service the little funeral cortege—hearse and two carriages—proceeded slowly across the Danube and over the hill to Leonding. She was buried, as she wished, beside her husband, with her own name inscribed on his marker. The family, all in black, stood silently in the misty graveyard, within sight of the snug little house they had once occupied. Adolf in a long black overcoat held a black top hat. He seemed even paler than usual to Gustl, his face “stern and composed.” 

Christmas Eve was lugubrious for the Hitlers. The family made a formal visit to Dr. Bloch to settle the medical bill. The total was 359 kronen, of which 59 kronen had already been paid on account. It was a considerable sum, representing more than ten per cent of Klara’s estate, but it was extremely reasonable since it included seventy-seven home and office visits and forty-seven treatments, most of them with iodoform. The balance was paid with profuse thanks. The sisters talked while Adolf, wearing black suit and loosely knotted tie, stared at the floor, a shock of hair tumbling over his forehead. Finally he grasped the doctor’s hand and looked directly at him. “I shall be grateful to you forever,” he said and bowed. “I wonder if today he recalls this scene,” wrote Dr. Bloch thirty-three years later in Collier’s. “I am quite sure that he does, for in a sparing sense Adolf Hitler has kept his promise. Favors were granted to me which I feel were accorded no other Jew in all Germany or Austria.” 

Both Adolf and Paula had been invited to spend the rest of the day with the Raubals and Adolf turned down the invitation. He was becoming increasingly uneasy with brother-in-law Leo, who couldn’t resist taking every opportunity to urge him to abandon his foolish dream of becoming an artist. In fact, the youth confided to Kubizek, all his relatives were constantly pestering him and so he was escaping to Vienna. He was bound to become an artist and prove to that narrow-minded clan he was right, not they. 

He was equally determined that his friend leave his father’s upholstery shop to become a professional musician. The Kubizeks had refused to let Gustl go to Vienna the previous autumn, but Hitler renewed his pleas and arguments, firing the imagination of both Gustl and his mother with tales of Vienna—the operas and concerts, the unlimited opportunities for the study of music. Convincing Herr Kubizek was more difficult. He regarded Adolf as “a young man who had failed at school and thought too highly of himself to learn a trade.” But Hitler’s power of persuasion even at that age was exceptional and this practical man agreed to let his son go to the capital for a trial period. One of the arguments that had helped sway him was that Gustl would be living with a bona fide art student. 

Hitler journeyed again to Leonding to tell his guardian of his decision to return to Vienna for good. This time there was no argument. Herr Mayrhofer readily, if reluctantly, gave his consent—he told his daughter it was his duty to do so—and Adolf spent the next few weeks with Angela and Aunt Johanna, making final family arrangements. By now all bills had been paid to the last groschen, including that for the funeral, which came to the considerable sum of 370 kronen. The neighbors were thanked for their help during Klara’s illness. Adolf was so grateful to the postmaster and his wife that he gave them one of his paintings. Even after all obligations were settled, there must have remained at least three thousand kronen from the estate of the economical Klara. Since Angela had assumed responsibility for the eleven-year-old Paula, it is likely she got more than two thirds. Alois Hitler, Jr., later told his elder son that he had persuaded Adolf they should “turn their part of the inheritance over to the girls,” since the Raubals were short of funds; Adolf promptly gave his share to Angela, while Alois gave his to Paula. If true, that left Adolf very little with which to start his career in Vienna: an orphan’s pension and what was left of his patrimony. 

Early in February Adolf received unexpected encouragement from Vienna. A neighbor persuaded Professor Alfred Roller, director of scenery at the Royal Opera, to take a look at young Hitler’s paintings and advise him on his career. The offer from Roller helped beat down the family protests, and Adolf made definite plans to leave. On February 10, 1908, he filled out the form for his and Paula’s pensions. It was returned three days later with a note that it should have been countersigned by their guardian. Adolf passed on the form to Herr Mayrhofer but was too impatient to wait for an answer from the Pensions Office. He packed his clothes, books and art materials, bade farewell to his family and left Blütengasse 9 for the last time. 

Gustl accompanied him to the station—it was probably February 17—and during the wait for his train Adolf spoke of Stephanie. He still had not introduced himself to her but perhaps he would write her. As the train moved out of the station, Adolf called through the open window, “Follow me soon, Gustl.” It is doubtful if the young man’s reading extended to the inspirational works of Horatio Alger but he certainly would have felt a kinship with Alger’s heroes. The third-class fare on the local train was 5.30 kronen and after five hours the eighteen-year-old Adolf Hitler arrived for the third time in the magic city of Vienna. It was only a few minutes’ walk from the Westbahnhof to Frau Zakreys’ establishment at Stumpergasse 29 but it must have been an arduous one with such bulky luggage. Although the weather was dreary that month, Adolf’s spirits were high. On February 18 he wrote an enthusiastic card to Kubizek: 

 Dear Friend! Eagerly await news of your coming. Write soon and definitely so that I can get everything ready to receive you in style. All Vienna is waiting.… As we said to start with you stay with me. We can see later how we get on. Piano to be had here in the so-called Dorotheum [government pawnshop] for as little as 50–60 florins. Well, many greetings to you also to your esteemed parents from your friend Adolf Hitler. Once again please come soon! 

 

Five days later, on a foggy Sunday, Gustl arrived at the Westbahnhof, a brown canvas bag “overflowing with food.” As he stood confused by the bustle of the station waiting room, he saw Adolf coming toward him, already a citizen of Vienna. “In his dark, good-quality overcoat, dark hat and walking stick with the ivory handle, he appeared almost elegant.” Hitler was so delighted to see his friend, he kissed him on the cheek. He took one handle of the heavy bag, Kubizek the other, and they emerged into the turmoil of the city. It was already dark but electric arc lights made the station plaza “as bright as day.” 

They passed through the wide entrance of Stumpergasse 29, an imposing structure, crossed a small courtyard to its humbler annex and struggled up dark stairs to a room on the second floor. Sketches were scattered everywhere. Adolf spread a newspaper over the table and brought out his own sparse food supply—milk, sausage and bread. Kubizek shoved these aside and, like a magician, produced from his canvas bag roast pork, freshly baked buns, cheese, jam and a bottle of coffee. “Yes,” Hitler is supposed to have exclaimed, “that’s what it is to have a mother!” 

After the feast Hitler insisted on conducting his tired friend on a tour of the city. How could Kubizek possibly go to sleep without seeing the Ring? First Adolf introduced him to the grandeur of the Opera House—“I felt as though I had been transplanted to another planet, so overwhelming was the impression”—then came the graceful spire of St. Stephen’s, and finally Adolf insisted on “something else special,” the delicate St. Maria am Gestade Church. But it was so misty that Kubizek could see little and he was grateful when they finally got home well after midnight and he crawled into the bed the landlady had made up on the floor. 

Since the room was too small for two and a piano, the persuasive Adolf convinced Frau Zakreys to give up her own large room and move into his. The young men agreed to pay twenty kronen a month, double the original rent. The grand piano took up more space than imagined and, since pacing was a requirement for Adolf, the furniture had to be rearranged to give him a promenade three strides in length. 

Within two days Gustl had registered at the Academy of Music and passed the entrance examination. “I had no idea I had such a clever friend,” was Hitler’s curt comment. Nor was he interested in hearing about Kubizek’s progress in the weeks to follow. He made a scene when Gustl was visited by a fellow student, a pretty young girl, and after she left, delivered a tirade, as he paced back and forth, “about the senselessness of women studying.” Kubizek had “the impression that Adolf had become unbalanced. He would fly into a temper at the slightest thing.” Nothing Gustl did seemed to suit Adolf, “and he made our life together very hard to bear.… He was at odds with the world. Wherever he looked he saw injustice, hate and enmity.” 

The underlying reason was Hitler’s own rejection and this came into the open when he suddenly burst into a bitter denunciation of the Academy of Fine Arts. “…   a lot of old-fashioned fossilized civil servants, bureaucrats, devoid of understanding, stupid lumps of officials. The whole Academy ought to be blown up!” His face was livid; his eyes (“There was something sinister about them”) glittered with hatred. Then he finally revealed that he had been thrown out, turned down. “What now?” asked the concerned Kubizek. Hitler sat down at the table and began to read a book. “Never mind,” was the calm reply. 

Despite his talk of determination to succeed, he had yet to take advantage of Professor Roller’s offer of help. Several times, portfolio in hand, he had gone to the studio of the noted stage designer but could never get up the nerve to knock on the door. At last he tore up the letter of introduction “so he would not be tempted again.” He could have been afraid his work was not good enough; or been driven by some inner urge for failure; or simply have been overwhelmed by Roller’s fame and feared meeting him. 

About a week after Hitler left Linz, Herr Mayrhofer was informed by the Pensions Office that the two orphans, Paula and Adolf Hitler, would each be granted three hundred kronen a year until they reached the age of twenty-four. Mayrhofer was authorized to divide the entire six hundred kronen a year as he saw fit and he decided to give each orphan twenty-five kronen a month. 

This regular sum, equivalent to some six current American dollars, undoubtedly gave renewed hope to Hitler but, assuming that he still had most of the six hundred and fifty kronen from his patrimony, life would still have been spartan. His roommate later insisted that Hitler often went hungry. “For days on end he could live on milk and bread and butter only.” Kubizek never knew how much money Adolf had and assumed he was secretly ashamed of how little it was. “Occasionally, anger got the better of him and he would shout in fury, ‘Isn’t this a dog’s life.’ ” 

The money Hitler saved on food and other economies—he “pressed” his trousers, for example, under the mattress—enabled him to go to the Burgtheater or the Opera several times a week. Nor would Hitler sit in the gallery with girls—“all they were after was flirting.” He made Kubizek stand with him in the promenade, where women were not admitted, at the considerable cost of two kronen a ticket. They never saw the end of the longer operas, since they had to leave at 9:45 P.M. in time to get home before the entrance to Stumpergasse 29 was closed. Otherwise they would have to tip the concierge. Back in their own room Hitler would force Kubizek to play on the piano what they had missed. 

Hitler never tired of hearing Wagner. Even when Gustl wanted to see a first-class production of Verdi at the Royal Opera, Adolf insisted on dragging his friend to the People’s Opera for a second-rate Wagner production. The music would transport him and was “that escape into a mystical world which he needed in order to endure the tensions of his turbulent nature.” Together they saw Adolf’s favorite opera, Lohengrin, ten times. Die Meistersinger similarly entranced Hitler, who never tired of quoting the lines from the second act: 

                And still I don’t succeed. 

                I feel it and yet I cannot understand it. 

                I can’t retain it, nor forget it. 

                And if I grasp it, I cannot measure it. 

 

Kubizek did manage to inveigle Adolf to several Verdi operas but he only approved of Aïda. He objected to the trick theatrical effects. “What would these Italians do if they had no daggers?” One day they heard an organ grinder playing La donna è mobile and Hitler exclaimed, “There’s your Verdi! Can you imagine Lohengrin’s narration on a barrel organ?” 

The two young men also spent many evenings at concerts for which Kubizek, as a student at the Academy, got free tickets. Gustl was surprised when Adolf began “developing a taste for symphonic music” and a particular fondness for the Romanticists—Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Other favorites included Bruckner, Beethoven and Grieg, whose Piano Concerto in A Minor never failed to move him. 

Lack of money did not dim the luster of their Vienna. It was the golden era for opera and music. Gustav Mahler had just quit the Royal Opera for the Metropolitan in New York City but had left behind magnificent productions, many designed by Roller. Particularly notable were their collaborations on Rienzi and the first two parts of The Ring. The new director, Felix Weingartner, while causing some furor by making cuts in certain Mahler productions, was already carrying out his predecessor’s plan to complete The Ring with new Roller scenery. Both directors, incidentally, were Jews, as were many Viennese luminaries of literature and the theater, such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Richard Beer-Hofmann and Hermann Bahr. 

Vienna was the capital of an empire in its final years of flowering, a polyglot center with no common tongue and a population gathered from the four corners of Austria-Hungary. It was a brilliant, cosmopolitan city where joy of life ran hand in hand with a sense of impending doom. This seat of the Habsburg dynasty was German in tradition, yet unique among metropolises. It was a capital not only of banking and finance but also of fashion and culture. Unlike Germany, it was a melting pot of incongruous peoples. “Swamped for long centuries by the Slavs, the Magyars, and the Italians,” commented one contemporary reporter, “this town, they say, has no longer a drop of German blood.” There was a Bohemian theater, an Italian opera, singers from France and clubs for the Polish; and in some cafés there would be Czech, Slav, Polish and Hungarian newspapers but not one in German. You might be “a German of pure breed, but your wife will be a Galician or a Pole, your cook a Bohemian, your nursemaid an Istriote or a Dalmation, your valet a Serb, your coachman a Slav, your barber a Magyar, and your tutor a Frenchman.… No, Vienna is not a German town.” 

Those, like Adolf, who had left the cities and villages of the realm for Vienna fell under its spell despite, perhaps because of, its disturbing contradictions. It was a city of glamor and slums, of cast-iron conventions and radical intellectual experiments, of free thought and violent racial prejudice. Drawn as he had been to this glittering city, “the dubious magic of the national melting pot,” as he later described it, began to repel Hitler as the months passed and any kind of success eluded him. 

He and Kubizek would leave their room on the Stumpergasse, often with empty stomachs, pass through dingy middle-class streets to the center of the city with its “splendid mansions of the nobility with garishly attired servants in front and the sumptuous hotels.” Adolf became increasingly rebellious, railing endlessly at the social injustice of all that unearned wealth. What bothered him more than hunger was the filth of the bug-infested room on the Stumpergasse. Hitler, Kubizek recalled, was “almost pathologically sensitive about anything concerning the body.” 

His feeling for the city was not unique. “Every outstanding personality brought up in the peculiar intellectual atmosphere of Vienna lived ever after in a dialectical syncretism of love and hatred for the city which offered splendid potentialities for the highest accomplishments, as well as the most stubborn resistance to their realization.” So wrote Bruno Walter in his biography of Mahler, whose inspired production of Tristan, with its striking orange, purple and gray sets by Roller, Adolf Hitler would see almost monthly for the next five years. Vienna in short was peopled by the Raunzer (grumblers) and had a tradition of attacking its most outstanding citizens; it derided Freud’s psychoanalysis, hissed at the too modern sounds of Arnold Schönberg and the too bright colors of Oskar Kokoschka, and found much to criticize in the works of Hofmannsthal and Schnitzler. 

The youthful Hitler, alternately fascinated and repelled, spent time ferreting out the evils of the gaudy city. According to Kubizek, who saw him as a young Werther with a social conscience, he followed an erratic program of self-education, wandering the Meidling section to “research” the housing conditions of the workers; he haunted the Ringstrasse, inspecting it and adjoining areas by the hour, before returning to his dingy hole of a room to redesign large sections of the capital. The youth was as much city planner as architect and, as he strode up and down the narrow passage between door and piano, he forced Kubizek to listen to endless lectures on “conscientious planning.” Once he disappeared for three days, returning with the announcement that the “tenements will be demolished,” and proceeded to work all night on designs for a model workers’ settlement. 

Adolf also would sit at the table until late at night, writing in the uncertain glow of their single source of illumination, a smoky kerosene lamp. Curious, Kubizek finally asked what he was doing and Hitler handed over several scribbled sheets: 

 Holy Mountain in the background, before it the mighty sacrificial block surrounded by huge oaks; two powerful warriors hold the black bull, and press the beast’s mighty head against the hollow in the sacrificial block. Behind them, erect in light-colored robes, stands the priest. He holds the sword with which he will sacrifice the bull. All around, solemn, bearded men, leaning on their shields, their lances ready, are watching the ceremony intently. 

 

Hitler explained to the puzzled Kubizek that it was a play. Excitedly he described the action which took place at the time Christianity was brought to Bavaria; the mountain men would not accept the new faith and were determined to kill the Christian missionaries. This play was probably never finished and others—such as a drama about the painter Murillo—were envisaged and occasionally started, their plots usually lifted from Germanic mythology or history. Adolf would write until dawn, then toss the results on Gustl’s bed or read aloud a page or two. Each of these dramas required expensive productions with scenes ranging from heaven to hell, and Gustl suggested that Adolf write something simpler—for example, an “unpretentious” comedy. This adjective infuriated Hitler and he put his mind to an even more ambitious project. It was inspired by a casual remark of Kubizek’s that the outline of a music drama about Wieland the Smith had been discovered in Wagner’s posthumous papers. 

The following day Kubizek returned from lunch to find Hitler at the piano. “I’m going to work up Wieland into a musical drama,” he said. Adolf’s plan was to compose the music and peck it out on the piano to Gustl, who would “put it on paper, adapt where necessary and finally write the score.” A few nights later Hitler played the overture on the piano, then anxiously awaited Gustl’s opinion. Kubizek thought it was secondhand Wagner, but the basic themes were good and he offered to put the music into proper metric form. While Hitler was never satisfied with his friend’s changes, he continued to compose day after day as well as to design the scenery and costumes and sketch the hero in charcoal. Adolf would spend his evenings on the libretto, keeping one eye on Kubizek, and when he fell asleep over the orchestration would shake him awake and then read out, in a soft voice—because of the late hour—from his manuscript. After several weeks, however, Adolf put aside the opera. Perhaps some problem or other had come up that demanded his attention. Or perhaps the fire of creation that had possessed him had burned out. He talked less and less about their unfinished project and finally ceased mentioning it. 

That spring Kubizek went home for the Easter holidays. He wrote back that he had contracted conjunctivitis, probably from studying so much in the kerosene light, and might arrive at the Westbahnhof wearing glasses. It was a lonely, dreary Easter Sunday for Adolf. That year, 1908, it fell on April 19, the day before his nineteenth birthday. His answer to Gustl on mourning paper was filled with heavy humor: “It filled me with deep sorrow to hear that you are going blind; you will hit more and more wrong notes, misread the music and end up blind while I slowly go deaf. Oweh!” 

The room on the Stumpergasse seemed more dismal than ever to Gustl after the countryside of Linz and he persuaded Hitler to go on excursions in the open country. In the mild spring sunshine they spent several Sundays in the Vienna Woods and took steamer rides down the Danube. Although it was the season when a young man’s fancy was supposed to turn to love, sex played little overt part in their lives. On promenades, girls and women would often slyly glance at them. At first Kubizek thought their interest was directed to him, but it soon became apparent that the reserved Adolf was the object; he coldly ignored their silent invitations. If the two did nothing about sex, they spent hours at night discussing women, love and marriage, with Adolf as usual dominating the conversation. Over and over he insisted that he must keep “The Flame of Life” pure. That is, he believed—in accordance with his Catholic upbringing—a man and woman should keep themselves chaste in body and soul until marriage and thus be worthy of producing healthy children for the nation. 

But the dark side of sex also haunted him and he talked “by the hour” about “depraved [sexual] customs.” He railed against prostitution, condemning not only the whores and their customers but society. His condemnation approached obsession and one night after attending a performance of Wedekind’s Spring’s Awakening he took Gustl’s arm and said, “We must see the Sink of Iniquity once.” They turned down a small dark alley—it was the Spittelberggasse—and walked past a row of small houses, so brightly lit that one could see the girls inside. “In their scanty and slovenly attire they sat there,” recalled Kubizek, “making up their faces or combing their hair or looking at themselves in the mirror, without, however, for one moment losing sight of the men strolling by.” Occasionally a man would stop in front of a house, converse with a girl—and the light would go out. When the two youths reached the end of the alley Adolf maneuvered them in an about-face and they took another long look at the appalling sight. Back in their room, Adolf went into a lengthy tirade on the evils of prostitution “with a cold objectivity as though it were a question of his attitude towards the fight against tuberculosis, or towards cremation.” 

Gustl finished his competitive examinations with excellent grades and conducted the end-of-term concert. Three of his songs were sung and two movements of his sextet for strings performed. In the artists’ room, a proud Adolf at his side, he was congratulated not only by the head of the Conductors’ School but by the director of the Academy of Music. 

It was early July, time for Gustl to return to Linz. He was spending the summer with his parents but insisted on paying his half of the rent until his return in the autumn. Adolf himself was silent about his own plans and, when Gustl vowed to get a position as violinist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra so he could pay more than his half of their expenses, Hitler’s reaction was irritable. The compliant Gustl, inured to his friend’s dark moods and still glowing with his own success, took no offense. At the Westbahnhof, Adolf assured him “for the hundreth time” how dull it would be living in the Stumpergasse room alone but showed no apparent emotion as they parted (“The more anything touched him, the cooler he became”). Then he did something unusual: grasped both of Kubizek’s hands, pressed them firmly and made off hastily without looking back. 

Gustl wrote from Linz—a postcard and a letter—and received a picture postcard explaining that Hitler had been “working very hard, often till 2 or even 3 in the morning.” Adolf promised to write before he went to Spital for his own vacation, adding testily, “Shan’t want to at all if my sister is coming.” He probably was referring to Angela, who, along with her husband, remained critical of his way of life. A fortnight passed without word from Adolf. Finally a letter arrived about July 20 which, by the things it said and those it omitted, told much of the curious and lonesome life he was leading: 

 Dear Friend. Perhaps you will already have guessed why I have not written for so long. The answer is very simple, I could think of nothing to tell you or what would have interested you particularly. I am still in Vienna, and here I stay. Alone here for Frau Zakreys is at her brother’s. Still I am pretty well in my hermit life. There is only one thing I miss. Up till now Frau Zakreys has always drummed me out of bed in the morning. I have been used to getting up very early, in order to work, whereas now I have to look after myself. Is there no news from Linz? 

 He asked for a guide to Linz and a timetable of the Danube steamer. 

 …Otherwise I don’t know any news, only this morning I caught a murderous stream of bedbugs that soon after was swimming dead in “my” blood, and now my teeth are chattering with “heat.” I think such cold days as this year are rare in summer. 

 

Hitler spent the remainder of the month in the stifling, bug-infested room. That his life continued to be dull was indicated in the next letter Kubizek received in August. While replete with Hitler’s usual self-pity, mistakes in grammar and spelling, it was “a lovely letter” to the uncritical Gustl—“probably the most revealing letter that he ever sent me.” Revealing it was, from its emotional greeting, “Good Friend!” First he asked forgiveness for not writing lately. “There were good reasons, or rather, bad ones; I could not think of any news. That I am suddenly writing to you now after all shows merely that I had to search for a very long time, in order to collect a few items of news for you. So here goes.” He passed on their landlady’s thanks for the rent money, carelessly calling her “Zakays” and then “Zakrays,” although he had correctly spelled her name in a previous letter. He revealed he had just recovered from “a bad attack of bronchial catarrh” and joked heavily about the weather—“It’s lovely pleasant weather with us at the moment, i.e. it is raining heavily and in this year of boiling heat that is truly a blessing from heaven.” He noted that the Linz authorities, rather than rebuild the theater (one of his own favorite projects), had decided to “patch up the old shack yet again,” and charged that they had “as much idea of building a theater as a hippopotamus of playing the violin.” 

Hitler revealed that he was at last quitting Vienna for Spital and would “probably be leaving on Saturday or Sunday.” By the end of August he was enjoying the fresh air of that village. There was little else to enjoy. Increased pressure was being brought to abandon his way of life in Vienna, this time by his aunt Johanna. But, recalled Paula, this “last attempt to persuade him to take up the career of an official was in vain.” Even Paula was showing signs of crossing her big brother. Now twelve, she resented his advice, including the reading list he prescribed (one item was Don Quixote, which he had sent from Vienna). “Naturally he was a great brother for me, but I submitted to his authority only with inner resistance. In fact we were brother and sister, who did frequently quarrel, but were fond of each other, and yet each spoiled each other’s pleasure of living together.” 

As it had been with Angela and Alois, Jr., so it was now with Paula. There was affection but little understanding or common interest. The unpleasantness of Spital that summer marked the end of Hitler’s youth. His refusal to consider a more practical profession cut him off from his family; never again would Spital, the scene of so much pleasure in his boyhood, be a refuge. For the fourth time he set off for Vienna, this time truly on his own. 

In mid-September Hitler once more applied for admission to the Academy of Art. But the drawings he submitted, the labor of a year’s solitary study, were so lowly regarded that he was not allowed to take the test. Along with the crushing blow of a second rejection, Hitler was faced with the problem of survival. His stay at the Stumpergasse room had probably exhausted his patrimony. Even if he had accepted his share of his mother’s inheritance—and this is doubtful—it could have amounted to no more than enough to last another year in Vienna. His first economy was a cheaper room. In mid-November he gave Frau Zakreys notice and paid his share of the rent for the month. Without leaving a note for Kubizek, who was expected momentarily, he moved to the other side of the Westbahnhof to a gloomy building on the Felberstrasse overlooking the railroad yards. 

On November 18 he registered his new address with the police (a regulation in both Austria and Germany whenever one moved), listing his occupation as “student” rather than “artist.” Several days later Kubizek arrived in Vienna. Adolf had sent him a picture postcard from Spital with a one-line message: “Best wishes for your esteemed Name Day.” Though Kubizek had received no word since, he was accustomed to Adolf’s long silences and, upon arriving at the Westbahnhof, he expected to see his friend on the platform. There was no Hitler. He checked his heavy case and hurried to Stumpergasse 29. He couldn’t understand why Adolf had moved without leaving a message, and gave Frau Zakreys his own present address. Week after week passed without word from Hitler. Kubizek was puzzled. Had he somehow offended Hitler without knowing it? But they had parted the best of friends and Adolf’s letters had certainly not been cool. 

On his next trip to Linz, Kubizek visited Adolf’s older sister. When he asked for Hitler’s new address in Vienna, Angela crossly replied that she didn’t know; he hadn’t written. She began criticizing Ku