The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

As He Knows Himself

[Transcription note: Bracketed [Page] links provide access to the individual images from which these transcriptions were made]

Friction developed between himself and his fellow workmen. It seems logical to suppose that he was working beneath his class and refused to mingle with them for he tells us that he sat apart from the others and ate his lunch. Further difficulties developed inasmuch as the workmen tried to convert him to a Marxian point of view. Their attitudes and arguments jarred him since they were far from the ideal Germany that had been portrayed by his favorite Linz teacher, Ludwig Poetsch, an ardent German nationalist. But Hitler found himself unable to answer their arguments. He made the unpleasant discovery that the workmen knew more than he did. He was fundamentaily against everything they said but he was unable to justify his point of view on an intellectual level - he was at a terrible disadvantage. In order to remedy the situation he began reading all kinds of political pamphlets and attending political meetings but not with the idea of understanding the problem as a whole, which might have enabled him to form an intelligent opinion, [Page 117] but to find arguments which would support his earlier conviction.

This is a trait that runs throughout his life. He never studies to learn but only to justify what he feels. In other words, his judgments are based wholly on emotionel factors and are then clothed with an intellectual argument. Soon, he tells us, he knew more than they did about their own political ideology and was able to tell them things about it which they did not know themselves.

It was this, according to Hitler, which antagonized the workmen against him. In one case, he was run off the job with the threat that if he appeared again they would push him off the scaffold. This must have been during the first half of 1909 when he was twenty years old. Without a job, he sunk lower and lower in the social scale and at times must have been on the verge of starvation. At times he found an odd job such as carrying luggage, shoveling snow or running errands but a large part of his time was spent in breadlines or begging on the streets.

In November, 1909, he was ousted from his room because he did not pay his rent and was forced to seek refuge in a flophouse. Here he met Reinhold Hanisch who was in much the same predicament. Years later, Hanisch wrote a long book about his associations with Hitler during this period. It is a gruesome story of unbelievable poverty. Hltler must have been a sorry sight during these days with a full black beard, badly clothed and a haggard look. Hanisch writes:

"It was a miserable life and I once asked him what he was really waiting for. The answer: 'I don't know myself'. I have never seen such hopeless letting down in distress."

[Page 118]

Hanisch took him in hand end encouraged him to do some painting. The difficulty was that neither one had the money with which to buy materials. When Hanisch discovered that Hitler had signed over his inheritance to his sister, he persuaded Hitler to write her and obtain a small loan. This was presumably his half-sister, Angela. When the money was received Hitler's first thought was to take week's vacation in order to recuperate. At this time he moved into the Maennerheim Brigittenau which was slightly better than the flophouses in which he had been staying.

He and Hanisch went into business together. It was Hitler's job to paint post cards, posters and water-colors which Hanisch then took around Vienna and peddled to art dealers, furniture stores, etc. In this he was quite successful but his difficultes were not at an end. The moment Hitler got a little money, he refused to work. Hanisch describes this beautifully:

"But unfortunately Hitler was never an ardent worker. I often was driven to despair by bringing in orders that he simply wouldn't carry out. At Easter, 1910, we earned forty kronen on a big order and we divided it equally. The next morning, when I came downstairs and asked for Hitler, I was told he had already left with Neumann, a Jew.... After that I couldn't find him for a week. He was sightseeing Vienna with Neumann and spent much of the time in the museum. When I asked him what the matter was and whether we were going to keep on working, he answered that he must recuperate now, that he must have some leisure, that he was not a coolie. When the week was over, he had no longer any money."

At this time, Hitler was not a Jew-hater. There were a number of Jews living in the Mne's Home with whom he was on excellent terms. Most of his paintingss were sold to Jewish dealers who paid [Page 119] just as much for them as the Aryans, He also admired Rothschild for sticking to his religion even if it prevented him from entering court. During this time he also sent two postcards to Dr. Bloch, in Linz, who was s Jew. One of these was just a picture postcard of Vienna; the other, a copy which he had painted. On both of them he wrote of his deep gratitude to the doctor. This is mentioned because it is one of the very few cases of which we have any record in which Hitler showed any lasting gratitude. During this time Hitler himself looked very Jewish. Hanisch writes:

"Hitler at that time looked very Jewish, so that I often joked with him that he must be of Jewish blobd, since such a large beard rarely grows on a Christian's chin. Also he had big feet, as a desert wanderer must have."

In spite of his close association with Hanisch the relationship ended in a quarrel. Hitler accused Hanisch of withholding some of the money he had received for a picture. He had Hanisch arrested and appeared as a witness against him. We have little knowledge of what happened to Hitler after this time. According to Hanfstaengl the home in which Hitler lived has a reputation of being a place where homosexual men frequently went to find companions. Jahm said that he had information from a Viennese official that on the police record Hitler was listed as a sexual pervert but it gave no details of offenses. It is possible that the entry may have been made solely on suspicion.

Simone (467) claims that the Viennese police file in 1912 recorded a charge of theft against Hitler and that he moved from Vienna to Munich in order to avoid arrest. This would fit in with Hanfstaengl's suspicion that Hitler's elder half-brother (who was twice convicted for theft) was in Vienna at that time and [Page 120] that they may have become involved in some minor crime. This would not be impossible for Hanisch tells us that Hitler frequently spent his time figuring out shady ways of making money. One example may be of interest:

"He proposed to fill old tin-cans with paste and sell them to shopkeepers, the paste to be smeared on windowpanes to keep them from freezing in winter.' It should be sold.... in the summer, when it couldn't be tried out. I told him it wouldn't work because the merchants would just say, come back in the winter.... Hitler answered that one must possess a talent for oratory."

Since Hitler could only be brought to work when he was actually hungry he spent a good deal of time reading political pamphlets, sitting in care houses, reading newspapers and delivering speeches to the other inmates of the home. He became a great admirer of Georg von Schoenerer and the Viennese mayor, Karl Lueger. It was presumably from them that he learned his anti-Semitism and many of the tricks of a successful politician. According to Hanisch his companions were greatly amused by him and often ridiculed him and his opinions. In any event it seems that he got a good deal of practice in speech making during these years which stood him in good stead later on. Even in these days, he talked about starting a new party.

It is not clear why he remained in Vienna and lived in such poverty for five years, when he had such a deep love for Germany and could have gone there with relatively little difficulty. It is also not clear why he went when he did unless there is some truth in the supposition that he fled Vienna to avoid arrest. His own explanation is that he could not tolerate the mixture of people, [Page 121] particularly the Jews and always more Jews, and says that for him Vienna is the symbol of incest.

But as far as Hitler is concerned this time was not lost. As he looks back over that period he can say:

"So in a few years I built a foundation of knowledge from which I still draw nourishment today." (MK 29)

"At that time I formed an image of the world and a view of life which became the granite foundation for my actions."


In Munich before the war, things were no better for him. As far as poverty is concerned he might as well have stayed in Vienna. He earned a little money painting postcards and posters and at times painting houses. Early in 1913 he went to Salzburg to report for duty in the army but was rejected on the gr.unds of poor physical conition. He returned to Munich and continued to work at odd jobs and sit in cafe houses where he spent his time reading newspapers. Nothing of which we have any knowledge happened during this time which is particularly pertinent to our present study. The prospects of ever making anything out of himself in the future must have been very black at that time.


Then came the World War. He writes of this occasion:

"The struggle of the year 1914 was forsooth, not forced on the masses, but desired by the whole people."

"To myself those hours came like a redemption from the vexatious experiences of my youth. Even,to this day I am not ashamed to say that, in a transport of enthusiasm, I sank down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart...."

[Page 122]

On August 3, 1914, Hitler joined a Bavarian regiment as a volunteer. During the first days of the war his regiment suffered very heavy losses and was not particularly popular among the Bavarian people. Hitler became an orderly in Regimental Headquarters as well as a runner. The one thing that all his comrades commented on was his subservience to superior officers. It seems that he went out of his way to court their good graces, offering to do their washing and other menial tasks much to the disgust of his comrades. He was not popular with the other men and always remained aloof from them. When he did join them he usually harangued about political matters.

During the four years of war he received no packages or mail from anyone. In this he was unique. At Christmastime when everyone else was receiving gifts and messages he withdrew from the group and sulked moodily by himself. When his comrades encouraged him to join the group and share their packages he refused. On October 7, 1916, he was wounded by a piece of shrapnel and sent to a hospital. It was a light wound and he was soon discharged and sent to Munich as a replacement. After two days there he wrote his commanding officer, Captain Wiedemann, asking that he be reinstated in his regiment because he could not tolerate Munich when he knew his comrades were at the Front. Wiedemann had him returned to the regiment where he remained until October 14th when he was exposed to mustard gas and sent to a hospital in Pasewalk. He was blind and, according to Friedelinde Wagner, lost his voice.

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