Hitler arrived at the main railroad station (Hauptbahnhof) in Munich on May 25, 1913.* He left the station and began searching for an apartment. The speech of the people reminded him of his childhood and he was "full of enthusiasm."*
Munich, though not as large as Vienna, was a thriving city with over 600,000 people. It had been the capital of Bavaria since 1255, and past Bavarian kings had contributed greatly to its art and architecture. Painting, sculpture, and architecture museums abounded. Munich was often referred to as the "modern Athens." Besides being the center of German art, it boasted one of the best universities and libraries in Germany and was the intellectual center of Bavaria.
A few blocks north of the railroad station, Hitler stopped before a four-story building on Schleissheimer Strasse to inquire about a posting: "Furnished rooms to let for respectable gentlemen." After a short talk with the landlady, he took a room for 20 marks a month, three flights up, where his only window overlooked the street.
The owner of Hitler's new residence was a Paris trained tailor named Josef Popp who had his business on the ground floor while the "first and second floors" were occupied by himself, his wife, their two children and their parents. When Mr. Popp first observed "the new lodger" his wife had rented to, he was glad to see that Hitler "was far from shabby."* His wife found Hitler to be a well mannered "Austrian charmer."*
As required, Hitler registered with the local police department, but this time as an "Architectural painter from Vienna." To show his contempt for Austria., or possibly attempting to emulate other "men of the world," he designated himself as "stateless" (as Marx had done in his youth) though Hitler made no attempt to relinquish his Austrian citizenship.
Hitler's residence was located on the edge of the artist colony and student district in the Schwabing area not far from the University. The area sprawled over the northern part of the city and bristled with art shops, studios, book stalls, and cafes. During the days the streets thronged with young people and older dreamers carrying sheet music, canvases or manuscripts to and fro in hopes of instant success. Most of these would-be "great artists" were normally found in the numerous cabarets and beer gardens. Brewing was Munich's major industry and life revolved around the beer mug. The atmosphere in the Schwabing district also drew misfits, malcontents and rootless characters from all over Europe. Twelve years earlier, Vladimir Ulianov, using the name Meyer, lived a few blocks up the street from Hitler's new address. During "Meyer's" stay he busily wrote inflammatory articles that were smuggled into Russia under his underground name, Lenin. On the other hand, less ambitious but just as optimistic people also passed through the area. Not far away in a room similar to Hitler's, Oswald Spengler had begun writing The Decline of the West. Thomas Mann also lived in the district and was writing about social disintegration and moral decay. (Twenty-five years hence, while in exile, Mann would write (almost in admiration) about the man responsible for that exile--Adolf Hitler.)
For one who intended to make his livelihood as an artist, Adolf Hitler had picked a good time to relocate. The tourist trade would soon reach its height. The cafes and shops offered ample opportunity to sell his work.
Full of hope, Hitler began his painting the very next day. According to Mrs. Popp, within a few days, Hitler completed "two lovely pictures," one of the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) and the other of the Theatinerkirche (Church of the Theatines). Hitler, enthralled by his new environment, would rise early in the morning in search of customers and take up the brush later in the day. He took his meals at local restaurants for awhile but always the economizer he soon brought sausage,* bread and the like to his room.
For a young man, Hitler surprised the Popps by his aloofness. Whenever they offered him the advantage of joining them for supper or conversation he often found an excuse to refuse. As in Vienna he never became overly friendly and could not be induced to talk about himself. Mrs. Popp noticed that he seldom received mail from Austria and when he did it was usually from his "sister." There were times when he would just stay in his room for days painting or "with his nose buried in heavy books"* he obtained from the Bavarian State Library which was a fifteen minute walk from his room. Mrs. Popp noted that he often "read and studied from morning to night." She noticed that the books covered a wide variety of subjects including politics, and once asked Hitler what he expected to gain by all that reading. Hitler, she said, smiled and took her by the arm and while walking beside her said: "Dear Frau Popp, does anyone know what is, or what isn't, likely to be of use to him in the future?" The Popps found Hitler to be a modest and charming young man who kept himself and his room very clean. The Popps' children and parents were also "very fond of the young man"* and felt that Hitler was a "nice" person.
Since Mr. Popp's livelihood depended on his reputation as a master tailor, he took an interest in how his tenants dressed. For a modest fee he supplied Hitler with a couple of fitted suits and a well tailored topcoat which Hitler kept, like his room, in impeccable order.*
To satisfy his sweet tooth, Hitler often purchased "day old" rolls and cakes for a reduced rate at a bakery shop down the street and to the left on Gabelsberger Strasse. In time he befriended the baker, Franz Heilmann, who purchased two of his paintings. In a 1952 interview Heilmann remembered Hitler as a "sensible" and "respectful" young man who was always neatly dressed.
As Hitler learned the in-and-outs of the Munich art business, his paintings began bringing in 10 to 25 marks apiece and he sold all he could paint. Since a bank clerk of his age made about 70 marks a month while many metal workers, with families to provide for, made less than 100 marks a month, his success as an artist was undeniable.
Hitler still did many of his paintings, after viewing the object when possible, from photographs or post cards. His favorite spot when painting was at his window overlooking the street. As in Vienna, some of his paintings were done on the scene. He painted the Hofbrauhaus (one of the biggest pubs in the world and the most celebrated of Munich's beer halls) so many times he could paint it from memory with all its details. Interestingly, some artists, like van Gogh, believed that one must see what one is painting, while others, like Gauguin, believed that artists should paint from memory--Hitler didn't seem to have a preference. Although Hitler did some work in oils, most of his works during this period were watercolors.
He refused to hire an agent and sold his paintings to the Kunsthandlung Stuffle (an art shop) on Maximilian Strasse* or to tourists and businessmen on the broad Leopold Strasse. That Hitler would peddle his paintings on Leopold is noteworthy--Munich's Academy of Art rests right off Leopold and there can be little doubt that some "customers" assumed that Hitler was a struggling art student and/or might become famous some day. A doctor Schirmer remembered that Hitler approached him when he was having a beer at one of the many beer gardens in the area at the time. Hitler, he said, was neatly dressed and politely asked him if he was interested in purchasing a small oil painting he had with him. The doctor purchased the painting for 25 marks and commissioned Hitler to reproduce two of his favorite postcards in water colors. Hitler completed the paintings of Bavarian mountain lakes within a week.
Hitler soon began making over 100 marks a month. Since he had few material aspirations (he admitted to an acquaintance years later that one Mark a day was enough for lunch and supper and he could live "very well" on 80 marks a month) he began to enjoy a very comfortable life style
Hitler however, was not proud and appreciated what people did for him. As time passed, Mrs. Popp found him very helpful. Hitler would help her around the house and was not beneath beating carpets, bringing in the coal or filling her list at the market. He may even have helped with bigger chores because the later references to him as a housepainter or paperhanger stem from his residency with the Popps.* He also entertained her son by reading "military books" to him. When Mr. Popp gathered with friends for his weekly card game, Hitler, who never gambled, was not adverse to running errands for them. When the card game ended, Hitler occasionally would join Mr. Popp and his friends in a certain amount of socializing and conversation. Popp and most of his friends considered Hitler an "emancipated, interesting figure."*
Most of these discussions covered art, music and Bavaria. During most of its history Bavaria had been an independent kingdom but joined Bismarck's "Second Reich" in 1871. (The "First Reich" was the "Holy Roman Empire" (962-1806) which Napoleon destroyed.) Of the 26 German states, Bavaria was second only to Prussia in size and influence. Prussian dominance however, angered many of the Bavarians and although most accepted their status, there was a small though active group who advocated an independent Bavaria. Another group favored separation from Germany and union with their fellow Catholics of Austria. Bavaria, consequently, held a special independent position in Germany, and politics were always a major topic. Hitler, as an outsider, found a ready audience and was listened to with respect. Acquaintances reported that his political views were consistent and that he liked to predict political developments.* In time Hitler and Mr. Popp used to have political conversations almost every night. A fellow lodger who had no liking for politics found the discussions insufferable and ended up moving.*
In his spare time, Hitler visited the local beer halls or cafes where he never had any trouble finding someone to talk to. Three of his haunts were the Schwabinger Brauerei on Leopold Strasse, the Mathaser Bierhalle on Bayer Strasse and the Schwemme--the huge low priced beer room in the Hofbrauhaus on Brauhaus Strasse. The normal clientele of these haunts were usually working people of blue and white collar, but he also met and befriended a lawyer, Ernst Hepp, and his wife at this time.*
Beer halls have always had a reputation as places where the sexes mix and in places like the Mathaser and Hofbrauhaus its down right impossible not to. There can be little doubt that Hitler came into contact with women. He however, never brought a woman to his room, even though he could have entertained since the Popps had no objections. Social and religious pressures being what they were, Germans, like the Austrians, outwardly adhered to a proper and acceptable form of conduct. Due to Hitler's upbringing, which was dominated by the Victorian idea of strict morality, he was often dismayed by the social changes he observed. He found Munich particularly tolerant and would later say: "When I arrived there from Vienna, I was astonished to see officers in shorts taking part in a relay race."* Hitler, consequently, would hardly have been the type to flaunt any encounters with women. (Once, in Vienna, when Hitler walked in on Kubizek and a female classmate, who had stopped at their apartment for an innocent meeting, Hitler was "furious.") In Germany, as in Austria, the rigid observance of class distinctions also forced many unmarried middle class men to be secretive about the women they associated with. If Hitler had any relationships with women at this time, he kept it to himself. Those who remembered Hitler from these days however, were impressed by his eyes and by the impressive vocabulary which he had gained from his constant reading and debates in Vienna.
The Schwabing district was considered the intellectual center of Munich, and the conversation in the places Hitler frequented invariably got around to politics. Of the eight major parties in Germany, the Social Democrats had taken over as the largest party the year before Hitler arrived (1912) and the young flocked to its international banner. Hitler, consequently, found many adversaries. When taking an opposite position and attacking the Marxists values that so many of the young clung to, he was bound to offend some people. On the other hand, Hitler's ideas about curtailing the power and influence of the rich, outlawing stock companies, and letting the state take over or share in the profits of big industry* no doubt found a ready audience--even among the Marxists. As one listener would later described him: "At first positively repulsive, somewhat nicer on further acquaintance." Many of Hitler's other ideas were also far from outlandish, and since nearly everyone in the Schwabing area was against something, he "was often listened to with respect by the laborers, clerks and drifters who populated the pubs he usually favored."* Still, Hitler realized that his anti-representative and pro-national opinions created hostilities on the part of some listeners. He was regarded as a "crank" by some of the "educated" who have always viewed working class people, who do not accept their views, as unsophisticated and stupid.
Hitler however, was far from alone in his beliefs. Just as he and his schoolmates were taught in the Austrian schools that they were to civilize the non-Germans within their empire, German school children were taught much the same but on a world scale. Like the British upper crust (who had nothing but contempt for the different "races" within their empire) the German upper crust portrayed themselves as leaders and regenerators of mankind while other "races" were represented as incompetent and decadent.
Culturally, German achievements compared favorably with those of any neighbor or rival and in some categories were without peer. Germans were winning almost twice as many Nobel Prizes as any other people and students flocked to German universities from all over the world. Germany gave many outward signs of being a nation poised for further social and political progress, and even possibly enlightened leadership of the western world.
German nationalists had declared that, "Germany was the center of God's plan for the world," and the German Kaiser, William II, had recently declared: "God has called us to civilize the world; we are the missionaries of human progress." A teacher, professor or any other propagandist who did not teach the racial, moral, intellectual and physical superiority of the Germans, plus their destiny to lead Europe, was doomed to obscurity. A whole generation of Germans grew up supporting these ideas and though the Marxists could brag that they spoke for 4,000,000 voters, it was Marxist materialism that appealed to their followers and little else.
Pan-Germanism (ultra nationalism) was not organized as a movement until 1894 by Ernst Hasse. "We want territory," he stated in one of his books, "even if it be inhabited by foreign peoples, so that we may shape their future in accordance with our needs." The Pan-Germans went on to claim large areas of land in today's Russia, Poland, and Lithuania solely because these lands were inhabited by small minorities of Germans. They had no patience with talk of internationalism. They clung to the dream of a Great German Reich where "all men of German tongues" would one day gather.
The Pan-Germans also advocated a race program where those Semites and other non-Germans who had not obtained German citizenship were to be expelled from the country--"ruthlessly and to the last man." Those who were citizens were to be treated as foreigners, barred from public office, prohibited from voting or owning real estate, and compelled to pay double taxes for the good of German national life. Pan-Germanism was not an idea conceived by crackpots and radicals but by intellectuals, writers, scholars and other "experts." A large portion of its membership consisted of teachers, professors and those working in the news media.*
There were also others who were much more radical in their nationalistic fervor. They felt that most of the intellectuals and other higher-ups where out of touch with the general populace. Many of these men, like Richard Wagner before them, promoted "feel" and "intuition" as opposed to "reason" in reaching the masses. Men like the writer, Alfred Schuler, damned representative governments and joined the nationalists in looking forward to a day when a hero/leader--a Fuhrer-- would make Germany the greatest country in the world. Schuler, like Lanz in Vienna, taught that any measures could be justified in dealing with other nations or races for the sake of advancing the German nation.
Schuler often gave speeches in the many coffeehouses in the Schwabing and it is possible that Hitler heard him speak. Although Hitler would also be accused of holding such visions at that time, there is no evidence to support the rumor. "Hitler was then an enemy of any kind of terror," an acquaintance would later state.* Others who knew Hitler at the time make no mention of any outlandish views. He was realistic in his views and appeared content with his life.
Even Hitler's art continued to be pleasant, academic and realistic at a time when many artists in Germany considered themselves "free from civilized restraint." Since the turn of the century, changes in the practice of art had battered traditional and academic values of painting. While Vienna maintained its mostly anti-modern stance, Munich (like Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona) had become an art center which was world renowned for its varying experimental art. In large part, because of advances in photography, painting was no longer seen as a mirror to be held up to the world, but a "language." Artists throughout Europe were determined to remake art and wanted to move away from, as they saw it, "European bad taste." Fauvism, cubism, futurism, and other art "movements" followed one another in rapid succession.
The year before Hitler arrived in Munich, a Russian, Vasili Kandinsky founded an artistic movement in Munich known as "The Blue Rider." Earlier (1910) Kandinsky came home and saw one of his paintings leaning against a wall but on its side. Not recognizing it momentarily he saw "an indescribably beautiful picture that glowed with an inner radiance ... I could see nothing but forms and colors, and whose subject was incomprehensible..."* He claimed that this was the direction which he had long been groping for and subsequently created one of the first "abstract" paintings--devoid of representational content. He gave many of his pieces titles that did not refer to anything; such as: "Composition VII, Fragment I."
Kandinsky and his fellow "nomads" (as the citizens of Munich called the long haired refugees from Russia and the Balkans) caused artists from all over Europe to stream into the Schwabing district looking for "artistic freedom." Many of the new hopefuls, the so-called avant-garde, ran around with "uncut hair and loose cravats to advertise their genius." Excess, accompanied by an unexpected novelty that startled and shocked, often launched those of mediocre or no ability into the limelight.
Although some critics would describe the non-objective movement as "the most decisive breakthrough in twentieth-century art," Hitler avoided all tendencies of political expression, forcefulness, experimentation or radicalism. He never accepted the idea that an artist's "feelings," expressed by unrecognizable forms and colors, was art.
Hitler's sentiments were not based on ignorance. Because of his many visits to excellent art museums, and his reading on the subject, he had obtained an impressive amount of knowledge in art history. Hitler considered "modern art" nothing but "deplorable smears." He believed that if people like Kandinsky (who attended the University of Odessa and who had been offered a professorship in law ironically) did not have the right connections, their "spiritual" ideas of art would have got them "locked up in asylum." Hitler believed that the art critics who praised such "alien trash" were too "ignorant or insecure" to state their true feelings. He also felt that the ruling "elite" knew absolutely nothing about art and (as he may have put it in English) let themselves be screwed and swallowed all the crap.* Hitler considered such art one of the "symptoms of a slowly rotting world." He despised all "modern art" whether it came from the authoritarian right or the Marxist left.
On the other
hand, Hitler's understanding of art history gave him a keen perception into the value of
social comment through art. Although, for financial reasons, he seldom painted such works,
he did paint one while still in Vienna which depicted a tranquil street scene.* But,
he painted in all the advertising posters that were pasted all over the walls in the
foreground, reducing the painting to one of contrasts. It is inconceivable that he painted
the scene for money; yet, he did an extensive detailed drawing before painting it.*
It appears that he was "commenting" on the excesses of advertisers who
drew his wrath at the time.
During the winter months in Munich, as in Vienna, the tourist trade dwindled and Hitler designed and painted commercial posters for business and thereby continued to keep his income at nearly 100 marks a month. He put aside the "artist pride" so many are noted for and even accepted the menial task of using his brushes to paint "signs" of the days bargains in grocery stores and butcher shops.* He had told a friend in Vienna that he was leaving there in order to enter the Academy of Art in Munich (and may have felt the need to since his aunt had bequeathed him money for such studies), but he appears never to have tried since circumstances handed him such an easy lot.
Hitler's easy life was abruptly shaken on Jan 18, 1914. The Munich police arrested him. They had received a summons from the Austrian Government requiring Hitler to show himself in Linz in two days. Hitler was tentatively being accused of leaving Austria to evade military service. If this was found to be true, he could be fined up to 2000 kronen, sentenced to a year in prison, and he would still have to fulfill his military obligations.
After being taken to police headquarters, Hitler explained that he was not trying to evade military service. Draft dodgers at that time went to Switzerland, not to Germany, which had an extradition treaty with Austria. The local authorities were sympathetic to Hitler's story and with the help of his lawyer friend, Hepp, Hitler was granted an audience the next day with the Austrian Consulate General.
Hitler explained to the Consulate that he had not known that he was required to register for the draft in the later part of 1909, but had registered in the early part of 1910 shortly after moving into the Mannerheim. He stated that he had not heard anything till now and that it was impossible for him to return to Austria in the one remaining day allotted. The Consulate was impressed with Hitler's explanation and advised the Austrians to grant him an extension.
The following day (the same day Hitler was to report at Linz) the Consulate received a negative response which stated: "Is to report on 20 January." The Austrian authorities, possibly slighted over Hitler's statement of "Stateless" on his German registration card, wanted Hitler to be taken to the border and handed over to them. The Consulate however, refused to repatriate Hitler and personally acted on his behalf.
Since his lung affliction years before, Hitler had always been a lean and frail person suffering from "bronchial catarrh."* Consequently the Consulate advised Hitler to send a letter to Linz and the Consul himself sent an accompanying letter which stated that Hitler "was suffering from a condition which renders him unfit for military service and at the same time removes all motive for evading it ... As Hietler [sig] seems very deserving of considerate treatment, we shall provisionally refrain from handing him over as requested...."*
Hitler's own rambling letter covered almost everything about his hard times in Vienna during the period in question. He noted that he was not one to break the law despite his great need at the time amidst often very "questionable surroundings." He also added: "I have always preserved my good name, am untainted before the law and clean before my own conscience except for that one omission over the military report, which at the time was not known to me."*
Although most historians like to point this mishap out as a lie on Hitler's part, his story is more than credible. If he wanted to lie he only had to say that he signed up in the fall. However, by admitting that he did not register till the following spring, he caused himself all kinds of trouble (which was the reason for his lengthy explanation--three and a half pages of 16 x l3 inch paper). Hitler stated that he had reported in Vienna "to the Conscription Office IB Townhall" in February of 1910 and informed the authorities that he was living at the Mannerheim. He was told to register in the XX District where the Mannerheim was located. He reported there, he stated, signed the necessary papers and paid one Krone. He further stated, that he was always on the register in Vienna. This without a doubt is the truth since Hitler's registration cards still exist today. With the exception of the short period he spent living in shelters or on the street, he had always filed his address with the local police. Hitler also stated that he had been "in correspondence with the local court in Linz which was my guardianship office. Accordingly my address could easily have been obtained through the latter at any time."* This statement is verified by Hitler's testimony to the Vienna authorities concerning the fallout with Hanisch where Hitler states that his home parish was "Linz." A man who would be trying to get lost in the crowd and evade military service would hardly give as precise information to the police as Hitler did: "Adolf Hitler, artist-painter, born in Braunau, 4/20/1889. Permanent address, Linz. Catholic, single. Now resident [District] XX Meldemann Strasse 27."*
A bureaucratic error by the Austrian authorities also had Hitler's name recorded as "Hietler." Even after an investigation that began in August of 1913, to track him down, the error was never corrected. "Law enforcement in Austria was proverbially genial, if not sloppy."* The Consulate General, referring to the summons, and no doubt trying to avoid another bureaucratic entanglement, spelled Hitler's name as "Hietler"* even though Hitler signed all his correspondence in the case with his correct name and on one occasion wrote "Hitler, Adolf"* as though to clarify the problem. The Austrian authorities, finally seeing their error, dropped their insistence on his immediate return. All fines and all charges were dropped. On Feb. 5, 1914 Hitler reported, not as a guarded deserter but as a regular recruit to Salzburg (to save him the trouble of traveling all the way to Linz) to have a physical for possible army service. Even though Hitler admitted to earning a "100 marks" a month, the Austrian embassy, realizing the fault lay with them, paid for the trip. After a thorough examination which included "mental abilities," the five foot, nine inch Hitler was found to be "unfit" and like a large number of other conscripts, was rejected because he was "too weak" for armed service.* (Although many historians have made much about Hitler's "rejection," nothing was out of the ordinary. Even Marx noted in his book, Capital, that in the later part of the 19th century, after a nine year study in Prussia, it was found that "out of [every] 1000 conscripts 716 were unfit for military service.")*
Under Austrian "recruitment law" Hitler would not have to report again for one full year. If his condition had not improved he would still be required to report one more time. Only after being rejected on the third occasion would he be exempt from military service.* Hitler returned to Munich and his comfortable and respectable life style.
In April 1914, Hitler turned 25 years old. Like most men leaving their adolescence behind, he had matured and most of the petty resentments of unfulfilled youth were left behind. He visited the many art and technical museums throughout the city and repeatedly visited the German (Deutsche) Museum located on an island in the Isar. He spent some of his spare time at the opera on Max-Joseph-Platz and at the library on Ludwig Strasse. He spent most of his time reading books or magazines and painting each day. He continued to visit the local cafes where he read the daily papers, ate pastries, sold his paintings, and expounded on his views to those around him. Like millions of other law-abiding Germans, he went almost unnoticed among the crowd.
On June 28, 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the Austrian throne, and his wife were visiting the Balkans. They were shot and killed in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. This seemingly local incident would at first appear not to affect Hitler, however, this was not the case.
To The Balkans
Because it was believed (and later confirmed) that the Serbian secret police played a hand in the murders, the Austrian government worried that the incident would ignite revolts among the other restless "races"* within the Empire. They therefore decided to take strong measures against the "unruly Serbs" and reduce Serbia in power and land. Believing the incident would not go beyond a localized affair, they nonetheless sought the approval of their major ally, Germany.
Germany's recent successes, however, had earned her the suspicion and hostility of the other world powers. Germany's determination to build up a navy and compete for colonies, alienated an ambitious Great Britain. Germany's founding of a few minor colonies in the Pacific, threatened the aspirations of Japan. Germany's determination to build a Berlin to Baghdad railroad, threatened the goals of Russia. By attempting to expand in North Africa, Germany outraged France. All of these "great" nations viewed the newcomer as a threat to their economic, political and colonial self-interest.
Compounding matters, France had been Germany's bitterest rival ever since their first battle in the year 1214, and the French were still smarting over the defeat Bismarck had dealt them in 1870--symbolized by Alsace-Lorraine. Since the fall of the Roman Empire the French had always viewed themselves as the new inheritors of the continent and were very resentful of German power. France not only aimed at recovering Alsace-Lorraine but dreamed of controlling the German Rhineland and so destroying Germany as a rival forever. Because Germany had a "Triple Alliance" which included herself, Austria and Italy, in 1902 France signed an agreement with Italy which seriously weakened the Triple Alliance. A few years later, France brought about a reconciliation between Russia and Great Britain. The three formed the Triple Entente. Militarily, Germany was becoming isolated and surrounded by rivals who longed to see her reduced in wealth and power.
When Austria inquired as to whether Germany would support her, word was sent from Berlin that the "blank. check" was still in effect (see The Balkans) and promised German backing if Russia, who viewed herself as protector of the Slavs, threatened to support Serbia. But, the German government "favored strictly limited military operations, which were considered justifiable, even in London."* The German leaders also believed the war would not go beyond a localized affair.* However, because of treaties, public and private, events took a different course.
When Austria declared war on Serbia on July, 28, 1914, Russia mobilized a large part of its regular armies in support of Serbia. Germany demanded that Russia demobilize. With the encouragement and advice of France,* which "in effect gave a blank check to Russia,"* (At the time, the largest recipient of French loans was Russia--over 11 milliard--over 2 billion U.S. dollars).* Russia answered on July 30 by ordering a "general mobilization" (including reserve forces) of the entire Russian army of 5,971,000 men. In the mind of several Russian diplomats, "this was no war for limited aims but a war for the almost complete elimination of [Germany]."* Since Poland had been swallowed up (by Russia, Prussia(Germany) and Austria) over a hundred years before, Russia rashly began placing troops along the Austrian and German borders. Germany started its mobilization and on July 31st sent Russia an ultimatum demanding that mobilization of Russian forces be stopped in twelve hours. Russia made no reply so Austria called for the mobilization of its entire 3,000,000 man army.
Russia's mobilization, combined with knowledge that France was determined to take part in a European war, ended any hope of a localized conflict and to many "forced Germany's hand."* Germany now had to decide whether she was to abandon or to extend the advances she had made into southeastern Europe over the preceding decades. The survival of the Austrian Empire as well as German's position as a great nation were also at stake. Germany had either to fight a war for the mastery of Europe or abandon central and southeastern Europe to independent national states and other world powers. Germany, confident of victory, called for the full mobilization of its entire 4,500,000 man army and declared war on Russia on August first. France (believing she and Russia could destroy Germany as a rival by Christmas) ordered the mobilization of her 4,017,000 man army. The other declarations of war to follow were only a formality. The leaders of all the belligerent nations went to war to settle old scores and conquer new lands.
Among the general population, the fervor of the moment fed suppressed hostilities. The ultra-national dream of "great nations" to fulfill their destinies grew into a vision. In the smaller nations, the dream was that the national political map would be redrawn and each nationality would seek its own destiny. Nearly everyone praised the coming war for one reason or another. Novelists, historians, theologians, composers, poets and other persons of quality led the fervor.*
In Germany, when William proclaimed to tens of thousands assembled in the palace square in Berlin that he no longer saw parties or denominations but only "German brothers," the nation's barriers disappeared almost instantly. Considering the growth of the Social Democrats in Germany, some experts predicted "that mobilization could be paralyzed by a general strike, and that social revolution might raise its ominous head."* The opposite proved the case. Even the most leftist of the Marxists in the German Reichstag forgot about their internationalism and voted for the war. The leaders of the far right Pan-German movement (one-third of its 35,000 members were engaged in academic professions at this time) officially proclaimed that "we must gather all men of German tongues into one Reich and one people. An everlasting master race will then direct the progress of mankind."
In Berlin crowds marched down the Unter den Linden boulevard in impromptu gaiety, cheering, waving flags, and singing patriotic songs. To the Germans it was a dream come true. A time to carry forward old dreams. To expand. To become the greatest power in Europe. With victory, Germany would unite all the Germans of Europe and be the undisputed master of the continent. Such diverse German elements from the noted poet Rainer Rilke* to Adolf Hitler were overjoyed at the turn of events.
In Munich the declaration of war was read to the public on the steps of the Hall of the Field Marshals. Hitler, well groomed and dressed in one of his tailored suits, stood before the Hall among an enthusiastic crowd of thousands of Munich's "best." Like hundreds of other zealous onlookers he waved his hat in approval. Hitler would later state: "I, overwhelmed by emotion, fell upon my knees and from an overflowing heart thanked Heaven for granting me the good fortune of being allowed to live in these times. A fight for freedom had begun, greater than the world had ever seen before."* Before the echo of Germany's declaration of war on France faded that day, the twenty-five year old Hitler, still an Austrian, applied for special permission to join the German army.
Even the "father of psychology," the Jewish Professor and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who had been studying the human mind for decades, fell under the spell of those primordial forces that lurk near or within the limbic system. A Viennese, he also got caught up in the delirium. At fifty-eight years old, and for the first time in years, he was conscious of being an Austrian.* He was proud that Austria had demonstrated its virility to the world. The Austrian Empire, he believed, torn by dissension and shrinking, would now regain its lost territories and once again become a major world power. He had no doubts about the justification of the war--nor its outcome. He believed Austria had acted correctly and Germany had done the proper thing in honoring its promise to Austria. To an acquaintance he stated that all his "libido" was given to Austro-Hungary.
The nationalistic fervor that infected the Germans also had its counterpart in Russia and France. They also had their nationalistic ideas of fulfilling their destinies. Crowds filled the streets and plazas in Paris, St Petersburg and many other cities. People sang, cried and urged their leaders to "fight." The coming war was viewed (even by such intellectuals as Thomas Mann) as a "purification" process.* Millions of people thanked God that they were alive to witness such a glorious time. One observer would later note that it was a time when "the world went mad."
Revolutionary Marxists leaders who had preached resistance to war a few weeks before, now became propagandists for war. The socialists in every European congress voted for war credits except for a dozen disunited socialists in Russia who were promptly jailed.* Throughout France enthusiastic crowds sang the praises of the coming war and woe to the one who voiced caution. In Paris the wildest enthusiasm was manifested on the boulevards. Men formed into companies in ranks ten across and paraded through the streets waving French and Russian flags while singing the Marseillaise and the Marxist Internationale. Crowds lined the streets shouting: "On to Berlin."
As the first 6,000,000 troops left for the front they were showered with flowers. This "beautiful...sacred moment" (Thomas Mann) was probably expressed best by the German writer Ernst Junger:
Western Europe was the industrial center of the world and Germany was directly in the center. Germany's vulnerable position dictated to all military strategists that she not take a defensive posture and be slowly strangled into submission. "All military authorities in Europe believed that attack was the only effective means of modern war, essential therefore even for defense."* The German war plan therefore, was to prod Russia in the east and smash France quickly before the Russian colossus could rumble into full action. Germany could then turn at its leisure to defeat the Russian giant.
The French defensives along the French/German border at Alsace/Lorraine were formidable and a long campaign would be required to overrun them. The German government, therefore, asked the Belgians for freedom to pass through their kingdom and promised full payment for any damages done. The king of Belgium, Albert, would have granted the Germans the use of his roads, but fiery opposition by the Socialist Party forced Albert to declare that his country was "not a road." The German Army, whose plans were already made, was hurled against Belgium on August fourth.
The Germans expected the British to stay out of the war, but always one to look to their own ambitions, and envious of German industrial competition, the British considered it compatible with their interest that France not be defeated. In addition, if Germany won the war, Germans would be the "arbiter" of Europe and the British habit of always dividing the continent into at least two hostile camps to serve their own purposes would end. Prior secret agreements between the French and British governments had already compelled Britain to come to France's aid, but, for propaganda reasons, the British government needed an excuse to appease her more passive population. An almost forgotten 75 year old treaty with "Little Belgium," that many believed was no longer in effect, came to her service and war was declared on Germany. Bernard Shaw shocked the British when he argued in his pamphlet, Commonsense about the War, that the German invasion of Belgium was a mere pretext for Britain's entry into the war and the real aim was to destroy Germany as a trading rival. Shaw, nevertheless, supported the war on this principle and became an active propagandist for Britain.* In London, enthusiastic crowds urged their government on while they attacked shops with German sounding names and dachshunds were killed in the streets. The highly educated English poet Rupert Brook praised such a time and thanked the "war God" who had "wakened us from sleeping." As in Germany, France, and Russia, the labor leaders in Britain, who were expected to oppose the war, wholeheartedly supported it.
Freud, whose aggression (whether conscious or unconscious) was in full bloom by now, thought the British were driven by an "incredible arrogance." He felt that if the Germans sunk a few more British battleships or landed some troops on British soil that it might open "their eyes."*
As German forces flowed into Belgium from the east, French armies poured in from the west to meet the threat. Three days later the British began landing a contingent of 70,000 British soldiers in the ports of Calais and Dunkirk near the Belgian/French border. The Belgians put up a furious resistance but on August 14, the Germans completed their mobilization. Two days later the Belgian Fortress of Liege, one of the strongest positions in Europe, was in German hands. The road to France was opened.
On the same day, Hitler received word that his request to join the German army was
accepted and he reported to a Bavarian infantry regiment (set up in a large school on the
corner of Elisabeth and Gentz) for acceptance.
Hitler's indoctrination into the army consisted of a two month extensive course in military formalities (saluting, drilling, marching) along with bayonet and rifle practice. Hans Mend, one of Hitler's fellow recruits was impressed by Hitler's "dynamic glance and by his unusual presence," even though Hitler was dressed in his gray-green uniform like the other recruits. Mend stated, "I thought he might be an academic because a lot of them had joined the...Regiment."* On the other hand, Mend almost laughed out loud when he saw the look on Hitler's face the first time he was handed a rifle. Hitler, he said, looked at it with the delight of a woman looking at her jewelry.
Although the French attempted to invade Germany through Alsace-Lorraine, they were quickly repulsed and the Germans kept the initiative. The German army drove across Belgium and into France along a front, two hundred miles wide, driving the Belgian, French and English armies before them. Even though the French had known for years that the Germans would use Belgium as a road to France, during one two-week period the Germans advanced 250 miles. The Germans crossed the French border with hardly a pause. It seemed nothing could stop the Germans. At one point their army penetrated over a hundred and twenty miles into France and was only twelve miles outside Paris. The French government, with the members of Parliament on their heels, fled. The German high command was so confident of victory they transferred two army corps, over one hundred and twenty thousand men, to a proficient Russian front.
Although Professor Freud admired the speed with which the German army pulverized its opponents, he feared that their rapid success, with little help from Austria, would end the war by Christmas and might cause the Germans to become "haughty." Hitler also worried. Like most of the new recruits, he was eager for battle and afraid the war might end before he saw action.*