Gustav Kubizek – Reminiscences
(Hitler – My Boyhood Friend)
Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
Chapter 3 – DESCRIPTION OF HITLER
Chapter 4 – HITLER’S MOTHER
When I first met her, Klara Hitler was already forty-five years old and a widow of two years’ standing.
Whenever I saw her I had — I don’t know why — a feeling of sympathy for her, and felt that I wanted to do something for her. She was glad that Adolf had found a friend whom he liked and trusted, and for this reason Frau Hitler liked me, too. How often did she unburden to me the worries which Adolf caused her. And how fervently did she hope to enlist my help in persuading her son to follow his father’s wishes in the choice of a career! I had to disappoint her, yet she did not blame me, for she must have felt that the reasons for Adolf’s behaviour were much too deep, far beyond the reach of my influence.
Just as Adolf often enjoyed the hospitality of my parents’ home, I went often to see his mother and on taking leave was unfailingly asked by Frau Hitler to come again. I considered myself as part of the family — there was hardly anybody else who visited them.
The children of this marriage were Adolf’s half brother Alois and half sister Angela. Klara, who had continued living in the house during the time he was separated from his first wife, left on the second marriage and went to Vienna.
As Franziska, the second wife, fell gravely ill after the birth of her second child, Alois Hitler called his niece back to Braunau. Franziska died on August 1,0, 1884, barely two years after her marriage. (Alois, the first child of this union, had been born out of wedlock and adopted by his father.) On January 7, 1885, six months after the death of his second wife, Alois Hitler married his “niece” Klara, who was already expecting a child by him, the first son, Gustav, who was born on May 17, 1885, that is to say five months after the marriage, and who died on December 9, 1887.
Application of Alois Hitler and his fiancée, Klara Pölzl, for permission to marry.
Most Reverend Episcopate!
Those, in humblest devotion undersigned, have decided to marry. According to the enclosed family tree they are prevented by the canonical impediment of collateral affinity in the third degree touching the second. They therefore humbly request the Reverend Episcopate to graciously procure them dispensation on the following grounds: According to the enclosed death certificate the bridegroom has been a widower since 10th August of this year and is father of two infant children, a boy of two and a half (Alois) and a girl of one year and two months (Angela) for whose care he needs a woman-help as he, being a customs official, is away from his home the whole day and also often at night, and therefore hardly able to supervise the education and upbringing of the children. The bride has looked after the children ever since the death of the mother and they are very fond of her, so that it may be justifiably assumed that the upbringing would be successful and the marriage a happy one. Moreover, the bride is without means and it is therefore unlikely that she will ever have another opportunity of a good marriage.
For these reasons the undersigned repeat their humble petition for the gracious procurement of dispensation from the impediment of affinity.
Braunau, 27th October, 1884
ALOIS HITLER, Bridegroom — KLARA PÖLZL, Bride
How much suffering is hidden behind these bare figures! When Adolf was born the three other children were already dead. With what care the sorely tried mother must have looked after this fourth child! She told me once that Adolf was a very weak child and that she always lived in fear of losing him, too.
Chapter 5 – HITLER’S FATHER
Chapter 6 – SCHOOL
Chapter 7 – HITLER THE NATIONALIST
Chapter 8 – HITLER AND ART
Chapter 9 – THE BEGINNING
Chapter 12 – DEATH OF HITLER’S MOTHER
Chapter 13 – HITLER AND GUSTL IN VIENNA
To the Respected Imperial and Royal Finance Administration.
The respectfully undersigned herewith request the kind allocation of the Orphans’ Pension due to them. Both of these applicants, after the death of their mother, widow of an Imperial and Royal Customs Official, on December 21, 1907, are now without either of their parents, are minors, and are incapable of earning their own living. The guardian of both applicants — Adolf Hitler, born on the 20th April, 1889, in Braunau-on-Inn, and Paula Hitler, born on the 21st January, 1898, in Fischlham, near Lambach, Upper Austria — is Mr. Joseph Mayrhofer, of Leonding, near Linz. Both applicants are domiciled in Linz.
ADOLF HITLER — PAULA HITLER
Chapter 13 – IMPRESSIONS OF VIENNA
Chapter 14 – VIENNA
Chapter 16 – HITLER AND THE OPERA
Chapter 17 – ORCHESTRAL MUSIC
After a course of four years intensive study at the Vienna Conservatory, I was engaged as assistant conductor by the Municipal Theatre in Marburg on the Drau and opened my career there with Lortzing’s Der Waffenschmied. I was very happy about this first, independent job. Although the town was smaller than Linz, it was very interested in art. I produced several good light operas, of which, in particular, Flotow’s Martha had a great success. At the end of the season I moved, with my orchestra, to Bad Pystian to conduct the music there for the summer season. My engagement in Marburg continued for the following season and I was already completely at home in that bright little town. The support which I encountered on all sides increased my youthful self-assurance and spurred on my enthusiasm.
One night, after a first performance of Eva, the director called me to his box and introduced me to the Head of the Klagenfurt Municipal Theatre, who was looking for an opera conductor. He was, apparently, so impressed by my performance that he engaged me on the spot for the next season. So in the early summer of 1914, at the close of the season in Marburg, on my way home to Linz I broke my journey in Klagenfurt and made some enquiries about my future sphere of activities. A good orchestra, forty strong, a nice house, a modern stage, and all this in the capital city of Carinthia, renowned for its love of music. Here I could give Lohengrin, perhaps even the Meistersinger. What more could I ask? Truly the heavenly violins were, almost literally, already playing for me.
Then, so near to their fulfillment, my youthful dreams disappeared in the fire of the Russian batteries when, a few months later, as a reservist of the Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment No. 2, I experienced my baptism of fire on the Galician front. This was not the music I had dreamed of. Although I was so unsuited to soldiering, I tried, like all my comrades, to do my duty. This endeavour brought me, after the frightful winter of 1915 in the Carpathians, to the wretched field hospital of Eperjes in Hungary.
The sick and severely wounded were taken to Budapest, a terrible journey of seven days; at all the larger stations the dead were unloaded. I had given up hope and had already calculated at which station they would dump me. By a miracle I survived all the horrors and miseries of this journey — but my strength was gone forever.
When, after months of sickness, I was so much improved as to be able to visit my parents again, there too I found everything changed. My father, worn out by work and betrayed in his fond hope of handing over to his only son the firm he had so painstakingly built up had given up the business in 1916 and had bought a small farm at Fraham, near Eferding. There he sought to regain his health, but in vain, and, while I was at the front for a second time in September 1918, he died in all the misery and despair that filled those days. How I wish I could have made his old age happier!
The end of the war came while I was with a transport formation in Vienna and here, on November 8, 1918, I was demobilised. What should I do now? All the provincial theatres were closed, so I travelled to Vienna to look for some kind of job. To be sure, both the state theatres were still open, but it was hopeless to try to get a position in one. The orchestra in which for many years, while studying, I had earned my keep as a cellist had been disbanded. Nothing remained but a few dance bands in the big cafes. No, that was no good for me. For some while I conducted a six-piece band in one of the new cinemas, a band that was supposed to “provide the musical illustration” for the silent films, but I got no satisfaction out of this. I tried to get a job as a cellist or at least to get some occasional engagements of this kind, but with no success. Nor was there any demand for private lessons.
I was at the end of my tether when a letter came from my mother. She wrote me that in the town of Eferding they were advertising for a Secretary to the Council. With all her mother’s guile she knew how to make this far from attractive job seem more palatable to me. She had told the Mayor of my musical ability and added that, in addition, they would like the future Council Secretary to reorganise the Music Society that had broken up during the war and to undertake its direction.
I went home and looked into the proposition; the salary was small and the artistic possibilities seemed very limited. But meanwhile I had given up hope of becoming a professional conductor and, mainly to please my mother, I sent in my application. Then I returned to Vienna still hoping to get into an orchestra. There, in January 1920, I received a notification from the Mayor advising me that the job of Secretary to the Council had been awarded to me out of a list of thirty-eight applicants. Thus I became a civil servant.
Gradually I became familiar with the work and some years later I passed the Upper Austrian State examination for municipal employees. It was a humble job but it left me free to give myself up to my music. I built up a respectable orchestra and soon the musical life of the little town began to develop very well indeed. What with the quiet chamber music of a string quartet, the open-air performances of the brass band and the gala performances of the choral society there was much satisfying and successful work for me.
Throughout all this period I never succeeded in getting any news of the friend of my earlier years who had deserted me in such a strange fashion and I had finally given up trying. Besides, I had no idea how to try to find out about him. His brother-in-law Raubal was long since dead. Angela, his sister, was no longer living in Linz. Anything might have happened to my friend. That he was a better soldier than I had been, I was convinced; perhaps he, like so many of our generation, had been killed.
Now and again I would hear talk of a German politician who was called Adolf Hitler. But I thought it must refer to some other man who happened to have the same name. After all, the name of Hitler was not so uncommon. I imagined that if ever again I heard of my erstwhile friend it would be to learn that he had become an important architect, or at least an artist, not just some insignificant politician, least of all in Munich.
Then one evening, as I was crossing our quiet market square, for no particular reason I stopped to look into the bookshop. There in the show window lay the Münchner Illustrierte. On the front page was the picture of a man in about the middle thirties with small, pale features — I recognised him the very first moment. That was Adolf; he had hardly changed at all. I reckoned how long it was since the days when we had lived together in the Stumpergasse — fifteen years! The face seemed to have become sterner, more mature, more manly, but hardly any older.
The caption read, “The well-known National Socialist orator, Adolf Hitler.” So my friend was in fact one and the same as that politician of whom there was so much talk. I was very sorry that he, like myself, had not been able to achieve an artistic career. I knew only too well what it meant to bury all one’s hopes and dreams. And now he had to earn his living by making speeches at meetings. A hard job, although he was indeed a good and convincing speaker — I had had proof of that often enough. I could also understand his interest in politics, but politics was a thankless task as well as being dangerous. I was glad that, if only through my professional position, I was obliged to hold myself aloof from political events as, now being Town Clerk, I had to work in the interests of all the townsfolk alike, without any distinction. But my friend went full steam ahead into politics and I was not at all surprised that his stormy activities of which I read in the papers landed him in jail at Landsberg.
But he turned up again and the press gave him more space than ever. His political ideas, which gradually found supporters in Austria too, did not surprise me in the least because, fundamentally, they were the same as those he used to expound to me, admittedly still confused and exaggerated, in Vienna. When I read his speeches I could actually see him in front of me, striding up and down in the gloomy back room in the Stumpergasse between the door and the piano, holding forth unceasingly. In those days I was his only listener; now his audience was counted in thousands. One heard his name everywhere and soon they were asking, “Where does he come from, this Hitler?”
Well, I was certainly in a better position than many others to tell them. Did I not still have letters and drawings of his? I had forgotten all about them, but now I climbed up to the loft and there it still stood, the old wooden chest that had remained in my parents’ house at Fraham until the time my mother sold the little farm and moved in with me, bringing It with her. I found the key and unlocked the chest. And, in fact, there lay a large blue envelope bearing the name “Adolf Hitler,” written in my hand. I could not recollect this envelope. In the frightful happenings of the war and the misery that followed I had completely forgotten about it, just as my friend, too, would have faded slowly from my mind if he had not appeared again as a politician.
I opened the envelope; there were my friend’s postcards, letters and drawings, though certainly only a part of those I had received from him. But nevertheless, some well worthy of interest; I reread his cards and letters. What should I do with them? Should I send him back the whole correspondence. But why? He had other things to do now than to warm up old boyhood memories. Perhaps he had long since forgotten the lanky, music-mad carpenter’s apprentice whom he had met in the Linz Theatre. Should I write to him? That, too, seemed to me pointless, as even in those days he had scorned me for my feeble interest in politics and now he would be more than ever disappointed in me.
So I contented myself with reading what the newspapers said about him. His supporters could now be counted by the million. Without stepping onto Austrian soil he managed, with his radical conceptions and ideas, to bring excitement and unrest to our shrunken little Austria, and this was even more reason for me to keep quiet.
It might seem incomprehensible that, after Adolf had made himself a name as a politician, I did not immediately try to get in touch with him. But yet, looking back, I must say this: our boyhood friendship had sprung from our common interest in art; politics had no attraction for me and so I no longer felt drawn towards Adolf who, in turn, could not be expected to have any interest in me.
Then on January 30, 1933, I heard the news that Adolf Hitler had become Reichs Chancellor. Immediately I thought back to that night on the Freinberg when Adolf had described to me how he, like Rienzi, would rise to be the Tribune of the people. What the sixteen-year-old had seen then in a visionary’s trance had really come to pass. So I sat down and wrote a few lines to “The Reichs Chancellor Adolf Hitler in Berlin.”
I didn’t expect any reply. A chancellor had more important things to do than to answer the letter of one August Kubizek from Eferding with whom he had been friendly a quarter of a century earlier. But it seemed to me, politics apart, the right thing to do as a former friend to congratulate him on the position he had reached.
But one day to my great astonishment I received the following letter:
To the Town Clerk Mr. AUGUST KUBIZEK Eferding, Upper Austria
My dear Kubizek,
I have only just been shown your letter of February 2.
Yours, ADOLF HITLER
They called over an officer and when he too had seen the letter he let me through immediately and conducted me to the entrance hall of the hotel, but in there it was like a beehive; generals were standing around in groups waiting and discussing events. Ministers of State whom I recognised from the illustrated papers, high-up Party leaders and other uniformed personalities came and went. A.D.C.s, recognisable by their gleaming shoulder tabs, strode busily about.
And all this exciting activity centred around the man to whom I, too, wished to speak. I became quite giddy and realised that it had been foolish of me to come. I had to accept the fact that my erstwhile friend had become Reichs Chancellor and this highest position in the State had created between us an unbridgeable gulf. The years when I had been the only one to whom he gave his friendship and when he had confided to me the most intimate affairs of his heart, were definitely over.