The Mannerheim, located on Meldemann Strasse, was the fourth project sponsored by the Habsburg's to tackle the miserable living conditions of the less well-paid Viennese. The first three projects stressed homes for families while the Mannerheim catered to men going through a hard time. The establishment covered almost a whole block and had room for over 500 men. Opened in 1905 it was the most sought-after refuge in Vienna for both blue and white-collar workers with meager or uncertain incomes. This was a time of little social security and no unemployment payments and even members of the middle classes roomed there during bad periods. A number of wealthy businessmen (who had pushed their luck too far), a baron and a count had also roomed there. The place was exceptionally clean and the cost, when Hitler first moved in, was a little over two kronen for a week's stay.
The Men's Home was considered the most "luxurious" halfway house in Austria (today it can be compared with many of the older YMCA's in many of the larger US and Canadian cities). Each occupant had his own small private room. In each room a single, metal framed bed nearly filled the space on one side of the entrance door while a chair, small table and storage facilities nearly filled the other side of the room. A large window, which let in an abundance of light during the day, nearly filled the wall directly opposite the door.
There were large
and more then adequate lavatories a short distance down the hall and there were also
waiting, game, and reading rooms. The main reading room on the top floor contained a small
library along with the day's papers and popular magazines. Besides a shoemaker and tailor
shop, where items could be repaired or new ones made, the basement contained a barbershop,
laundry and storage lockers. If one cared for a prepared meal, it could be purchased for a
nominal cost and consumed on the ground floor in a large
dining room at the rear of the building which seated over 300 men.
The place also had a large public kitchen (still in use today) where the economizing Hitler cooked his own meals. The Mannerheim was constantly under attack by conservatives who saw it as pampering the lazy and unworthy. They sarcastically referred to it as the "Men's Hotel."
The place was run by Johann Kanya, a retired officer, who had fixed ideas about behavior. There were many rules and regulations regarding conduct. Kanya insisted that all residents live a quiet and orderly life and woe to the resident who disobeyed. Loud talk, standing on a bed, or unkempt appearances were grounds for expulsion. To shower a resident had to pay a few extra cents which entitled him to a piece of soap, a towel and a "bathing-apron" since total nudity was forbidden. Chess, checkers, and dominoes were the only approved games and even then an argument over a move could get a resident in trouble. For the slightest disregard of the rules a resident would find himself out in the street. In this disciplined world, Hitler had little trouble fitting in.
At the Mannerheim, Hitler had the room and the privacy to paint. Shortly after moving in, Hitler sent Dr Bloch, who tried so desperately to save his mother, a carefully painted postcard of a hooded monk hoisting a glass of bubbling champagne, with the caption: "A toast to the New Year." On the reverse side were cordial New Year's greetings and it was signed: "In everlasting thankfulness, Adolf Hitler."*
The ever conniving Hanisch followed Hitler to the Mannerheim in about a week. He knew that Hitler's type of paintings were the kind that tourists and the average person found pleasing and admitted he hoped to benefit for himself. Hanisch convinced Hitler that he would need an agent to sell his paintings and would handle it for half the proceeds. Hitler appeared reluctant and offered the excuse that Hanisch lacked a peddler's license which might get them into trouble with the police. Hanisch assured him that he would take care of it. Hitler finally agreed.
Hitler continued painting small postcard-sized paintings of landscapes or architectural renditions of churches and the more noble buildings of Vienna. Hitler attempted to do his best but Hanisch complained: "He was a very slow worker, and I often told him not to dawdle around with his cards so much, to daub on anything."* Hitler finally relented and began to dash most of them off in a hurry.
By the beginning of February Hitler settled into a fairly stable routine and began
turning out two or three postcard-sized paintings everyday. He did many paintings of the
Gloriette and the "Roman Ruins" in Schonbrunn Park. To give some of the pictures
an old fashion quality he would hold them near a fire, yellowing them, until he produced
the effect he wanted. A few of his better paintings sold for five kronen. His usual
With his paintings subsidizing his pension, Hitler was soon making more than enough to pay the rent and eat decently. Hanisch stated that Hitler, using part of his Easter windfall, even splurged and went to the movies. With real want diminishing, Hitler began spending less of his time painting.
Many people in Vienna, as in other parts of Europe, use politics to warm-up to a conversation the way Americans use the weather. In a place like the Mannerheim, where most of the down-and-out blame government for their situation., politics was always a major topic. The reading room where Hitler did his painting, was also the room where men gathered almost every day to discuss politics. On March 10, 1910 Karl Lueger, one of the most civic-minded yet controversial men in Austrian politics died. The Mannerheim buzzed with opposing views and before they subsided, Hitler would find another idol "who more than any other became [his] political mentor, though the two never met."*
When Hitler arrived in Vienna he had been a stanch opponent of Lueger and a supporter of Schonerer. “Yet,” Hitler would later state, “in the course of my stay in Vienna I couldn't help acquiring a feeling of great respect for Lueger personally. It was at the City Hall that I first heard him speak. I had to wage a battle with myself on that occasion, for I was filled with the resolve to detest Lueger, Yet I couldn't refrain from admiring him. He was an extraordinary orator .... I never saw him in the streets of Vienna without everybody's stopping to great him. His popularity was immense .... What in other cities was the responsibility of private firms, he converted in Vienna into public service."*
To Karl Lueger
Though controversial, Lueger miraculously remained in the mayor's office for ten years despite the forces and the wealth aligned against him. He withstood all obstacles, slurs and ostracizing and finally withdrew in 1907 only after an illness exhausted his energies. Most people, including Hitler, who witnessed his impressive funeral cortege in 1910, knew that a man of great stature had left them. "At his funeral," Hitler would later recall, "two hundred thousand Viennese followed him to the cemetery. The procession lasted a whole day."* The common people of Lower Austria truly mourned for Lueger. There were many among the privileged however, who had never forgiven Lueger for his "frightening" hold over the crowd and rejoiced over his passing.
The impact of Lueger's death changed Hitler from a person who just skims the surface of political issues, to one who really begins to look deeply into the politics of his day. Politics become Hitler's passion. "Hitler," Hanisch would later write, "told us a lot about Dr. Lueger, who had been forced to fight hard for his position as mayor."* Fourteen years later, persons of quality and their historians in residence were still degrading everything Lueger stood for (Konrad Heiden, for example, considered Lueger a "despot."*) Hitler, however, would refer to Lueger as "the greatest German mayor of all times"* and a greater "statesman" than any other politician who lived at that time.*
Although Hitler did not join the party Lueger left behind, it is possible he handed out the party's literature on street corners for a while.* There now began to sprout in Hitler's mind, more from instinct than by reason, "a political shrewdness which enabled him to see with amazing clarity the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary political movements."* Lueger had shown Hitler at first hand that class interests could be bridged between the lower ranks of the middle class and the working classes. If Lueger had lived his Municipal Socialism might have evolved into National Socialism.
In April, 1910, Hitler turned twenty-one years old. He still had his beard, without a mustache, and his hair was long. His complexion was pale, and his lanky body gave him an ungainly appearance. As always, his prominent blue eyes were his most distinguishing and memorable feature. Although he kept himself and his clothes clean, he developed the habit of cutting expenses by wearing old used clothes. Jacob Altenberg, an art dealer, remembered that Hitler's clothes, although old, were neat and his pants well-pressed. Hitler washed his only good shirt almost everyday as he took his shower. He pressed his pants by folding them carefully and placing them under his mattress.
To keep his expenses at a minimum, Hitler also kept his diet simple. His normal meals consisted of corn pudding or potatoes with margarine and bread. On a profitable day he sometimes went to a cheap coffee shop where he ordered one of his favorite foods, cream cakes. Like many Viennese he was developing a sweet tooth.
With the tourist season approaching, Hitler doubled the size of his paintings and produced a completed one in about a day. These larger paintings, done in oil or water color, normally measured 12 by 18 inches, but he occasionally did some twice as large. These more elaborate, time consuming and fairly good works normally brought in five to ten kronen each. Hanisch, nonetheless, complained that Hitler never worked enough and when he scolded him about it, Hitler retorted that he was "not a coolie."*
Their mildly successful little enterprise brought Hitler and Hanisch together daily. Although politics was always at the top of their conversation, they occasionally discussed other matters. Hitler was interested in science and "thought men of the future would nourish themselves more and more with substitutes."* Hitler also assured his friend that the day would come when men would learn to overcome gravity, and to prove his point explained how gravity functioned. Hitler, Hanisch stated, read a great deal and besides reading the science journals and newspapers at the Men's Home, also read history (including the history of past German revolutions), philosophy, poetry, mythology and religion.
Although Hitler was born and raised a Catholic, he favored Protestantism and had great respect for Luther whom he considered a genius. He nevertheless believed that if the Germans had remained faithful to their old Germanic faith, instead of adopting Catholicism in the south and Protestantism in the north, they would not have been a divided people. On the other hand Hitler understood the advancements that come from outside sources and "believed that the Western nations gained a great deal from the oriental civilizations during the crusades," especially in the field of art.* He questioned the Nationalist's glorification of Teutonic (old German) civilization when compared to the Greek and the Roman.*
As the weather improved, Hitler, Hanisch and other friends often went over to the Prater, an immense park, which was dotted with cafes and recreational attractions. On weekends and holidays, musical groups often performed there for the public. Much of the music tended to be classical and many of the performances consisted of pieces from operas. Since most of Hitler's new acquaintances knew little or nothing about opera, Hitler would quietly explain what action would be taking place in each piece. On the way home he would try to explain the opera to his friends and often sang or hummed some of the tunes to get his point across. Hanisch stated that although Hitler was a bad singer, "he could describe the scenes, very well, and what the music meant."*
During this period, Hitler also became interested in the power of advertising and observed how easily people were swayed by it. He believed that with the right "propaganda," which is what he considered advertising to be, one could be induced to believe or buy anything. He told Hanisch that to be a successful salesman, all one needed was "a talent for oratory."*
On one occasion, Hanisch even got Hitler to talk about women. During one of Hitler's summer vacations to Spital as a teenager, Hitler admitted to an encounter with a girl in a neighbor's barn. When it appeared that the girl, who had been milking a cow, was willing to go further than Hitler expected, he beat a retreat, knocking over a pail of milk in his haste.* Although Hitler used the story as an example of how he had "thought of the eventual consequences," and controlled his passion, Hanisch, like Kubizek, believed that Hitler in reality was shy and timid around women and no doubt lost his nerve.
Like many young men, Hitler was still groping toward those things that attract a woman to a man. According to Hanisch, Hitler once said that the tilt of a man's hat (which would show something of the man's personality) could have an alluring affect upon a woman. Hitler saw most women as fragile and easily seduced by men and told Hanisch it was wrong to take advantage of their weaknesses. He still had a "high opinion of love and marriage," but "little respect" for women outside the marriage role or the home. On the other hand he strongly condemned the "disloyalty" of husbands and felt they should adopt a "moral way of living." He told Hanisch that "a decent man can never improve a bad woman, but a [decent] woman can improve a man."* The way in which Hitler talked about women convinced Hanisch that Hitler's principles regarding them were really decent. Interestingly, just as when Hitler lived with Kubizek and disappeared for days at a time, he also would disappear occasionally from the Mannerheim. On one, or possibly two, occasions, a lengthy absence caused the loss of his room and he had to re-register when he returned.
In July, Hitler had reason to believe that Hanisch was cheating him on what he was receiving for his paintings. He asked for a list of all Hanisch's customers and when Hanisch refused, their partnership began to crumble. Shortly after, Hanisch disappeared with two of Hitler's best paintings, including one oil titled Parliament House which Hitler valued at 50 kronen. Hitler filed a complaint with the police. Early in August, Hanisch was seen by a Jewish postcard seller named Siegfried Loffner who also had some bad dealings with Hanisch and also happened to know Hitler. When Loffner "reproached" Hanisch for having run off with one of Hitler's paintings, an argument ensued in the street and Loffner summoned the police.* Hanisch was arrested for possible embezzlement and carrying false identification papers.
During the investigation Hitler was summoned to give a statement. Hanisch would try to discredit Hitler, even claiming that Hitler was the one who suggested that he use a different name. He also claimed that it was Hitler who was dishonest, and though he refused to reveal or call the buyer as a witness, claimed that he received only 12 kronen for Hitler's oil painting of the Parliament building. Hitler's testimony during the investigation was recorded as follows.
Royal and Imperial District Police Commissariat
Brigittenau [District] August 5, 1910
At the trial that followed on August 11, Loffner and Hitler testified against Hanisch who was sentenced to an additional week in jail. The eight-month business venture between Hitler and Hanisch was over. With the tourist season ending, Hitler found it harder to make a decent living but continued on his own.
Hitler normally left his room at exactly 9 a.m. since the rules of the Mannerheim did not permit residents to stay in bed past that time. He would go down stairs for a light breakfast and then to the reading room for the morning papers. Around ten o'clock he would began work on a new painting by sketching out the picture. After lunch he spent much of the afternoon completing the detailed work and coloring. On days when he had available a sufficient number of paintings he would leave the Mannerheim late in the morning and tramp the streets selling his works. He would later return to the reading room where he painted by the window. He seldom retired early and was normally seen, late into the night, debating, reading, writing or painting. A few of the early risers condemned him for his "late" habits. Hitler, however, would continue to practice the same basic routine the entire time he resided at the Mannerheim.
There were Jews at the Mannerheim with whom Hitler often discussed politics, and he "often found Jews who listened to his political debates."* Many of his favorite actors and musicians were Jews. He spoke enthusiastically about Gustav Mahler and the work of Felix Mendelssohn. Although he didn't agree with the politics of the late author and poet Heinrich (Harry) Heine, Hitler thought that his poetry deserved respect and argued that it was sad Germany did not "recognize his merit."*
The Brigittenau district where the Mannerheim was located sat next to the Leopoldstadt district which had been "set aside" for the Jews in 1623. The two districts were flanked by the Danube on one side and separated from the main city by the Danube Canal on the other. As the Jewish population increased, it had a tendency to push into the Brigittenau district swelling the Jewish population to 17%. Shortly after moving into the Mannerheim, Hitler stated, he observed an Eastern or orthodox Jew. The man had lengthy black hair-locks and was wearing a long black caftan. Hitler claimed that he was instantly repulsed by him. Nevertheless, he still saw Jews who looked and spoke German as Germans. The rampant anti-Semitism that existed in Europe failed to influence Hitler. One of his closest friends during this period was a Jew named Josef Neumann.*
Neumann was a part time used clothes and art dealer who was instrumental in moving Hitler up the social ladder. He had previously given Hitler some respectable used clothes and then put him in touch with a few Jewish art dealers who purchased the best of Hitler's paintings. The dealers resold the paintings, for the most part, to Jewish businessmen, doctors and lawyers. Hitler, consequently, increased the number of his paintings and his business improved.
Hitler's and Neumann's relationship turned into such a close friendship that on certain days they would spend all their time roaming the huge city, visiting museums or lost in conversation. Hitler and Neumann had long discussions about Zionism. In one conversation Neumann stated that if all the Jews left Austria the country would be in trouble for the Jews would carry away much of Austria's money. Hitler, who appears to have understood nothing about international banking affairs at the time, disagreed. He believed that the money would be confiscated since it was not Jewish but Austrian. In another discussion about the Jews, Hitler thought it possible that God had not personally given Moses the Ten Commandments but that Moses had collected them from various other cultures. But, if the Ten Commandments were the work of the Jews, Hitler believed, "they had produced as a nation one of the most marvelous things in history, since our whole civilization was based on the Ten Commandments."* Hitler would carry that thought with him for the rest of his life and would state thirty-one years later: "The Ten Commandments are moral values which are undeniably praiseworthy."*
Neumann was disenchanted with Vienna and dreamed of saving enough money and moving to Germany. The idea strongly appealed to Hitler and on one occasion they actually made plans to leave together. Their plans fell through and Neumann would depart by himself before the end of 1910 and may have been the one who planted the seeds in Hitler's mind of moving to Germany.
Hitler felt a strong sense of obligation and openly praised Neumann long after he was gone. Hitler also had nothing but praise for the Jewish art dealers, including Altenberg, another named Landsberger, and a picture framer, Morgenstern, who bought most of his works. He thought highly of nearly all Westernized Jews, especially since they were "willing to take chances" by buying his art.*
The most serious remark Hitler made against the Jews during this period (when Europe was awash in anti-Semitism) was that he felt that one Jew who ran a pawn shop, "cheated" him on the price he received for the coat he had previously sold. Instead of going to a Jewish shop to buy a new one, as a friend suggested, he refused and went to a government pawn shop. That Hitler would make such a statement at the time was not uncommon.
The Jews as a group in Vienna were law-abiding citizens and had a conviction rate in most crimes that was lower than non-Jews. During Hitler's stay at the Mannerheim, however, they accounted for more than their share of crimes involving fraud, exacting excessive interest and illegal bankruptcy procedures.* Since many of these crimes were committed against fellow Jews, or left others holding a useless IOU, many Viennese found humor in their illegal acts. On the other hand, their activities did nothing to still the fervor of anti-Semitic newspapers. Hitler, who read newspapers everyday, was aware of these acts, yet reliable sources who knew him during this period make no mention of any anti-Jewish statements on his part. Hitler even went so far as to accuse members of the nobility of committing illegal acts while "using the Jews as agents," and also pointed out that "most capital is in the hands of Christians."*
In the large reading room at the Mannerheim, Hitler began to join in on the discussions with the more educated "middle class" residents. Since "workers" were looked down on and seldom used the reading room, opinions like Hitler's were seldom heard. The normal discussion was politics and what "anti" remarks Hitler made against groups at this time were normally reserved for the rich and privileged no matter what their religion or race. He railed against stock companies, large industries, greedy people* and all their "unearned wealth."* The memory of Lueger and his fight against the upper strata was still fresh in Hitler's mind. He saw Lueger's dictatorial system of government as the most efficient. By admiring strong leadership, Hitler was soon at odds with most of the other debaters who favored the "give and take" leadership as found in liberal representative government.
Because of the belief and feeling of the time, Hitler, without realizing it, as he would later write, had also been "inoculated with a certain admiration" of representative government and took it for granted.* By the time of Lueger's death, he had completely turned against the idea. Hitler saw that "representative government" always fell into the hands of the those with the wealth and he believed the rich took control of government only for their own self-interest. Hitler still saw royalty as the rightful heirs* and felt that "unjustified greed for profit on the part of some people represented a great danger for the state."* Since it was the wealthy liberal middle class who more than any other group advocated representative government, he saw it as a "swindle."
Hitler, who continued to visit Vienna's House of Representatives, observed at first hand what was so "elegantly reported," as he put it, in the liberal papers. As he sat above in the visitor's gallery one day and watched one session, consisting of a few hundred representatives, he would remember and later write:
In front of the Representatives sat the shorthand writers who busily recorded the goings-on and Hitler would tell an accompanying friend that they were "the only people who do any work in this house." But he felt that it was unfortunate that "these hard-working men are of no importance whatsoever."*
After observing the "representative process" in person, Hitler would write that he was saved from becoming a convert to a political theory which at first seems so alluring though the "ridiculous institution"* is a symptom of "human decadence." Hitler was particularly bothered by the lack of any individual responsibility by a representative body. Politicians as a group, he argued, can make decisions or refuse to act on matters "which may have the most devastating consequences, yet nobody bears the responsibility for it."*
Hitler felt that representative government was a hindrance to efficiency and was incapable of solving problems as they arose. The upper classes have the security, standing, and money to weather hard times, but Hitler, like most people of the lower stratum, had little interest in long-range policies and had a desire for timely action. Unlike the educated and privileged, the young Hitler had a tendency to view politics in black-and-white terms and had an impatience with all the talk and discussion. His beliefs were influenced by the conditions that prevailed throughout the German speaking world and much of Europe.
The previous century had seen an upheaval in the social structure of Europe and none of the present systems of government seemed able to deal with it.* Whether the wealthy were in complete control or aligned with royalty, the plight of the common man failed to improve and in many cases was made worse. Although countries like Britain and France had weathered the initial impact of the enormous changes brought on by industrialization, the remainder of Europe had just begun to feel the full effects. New production methods had forced many of the small craftsmen and artisans out of work. Technological innovations in agriculture forced many of the small farmers off the land. Changing business methods had forced many small shop owners and merchants out of business. Millions of common people gave up the struggle and headed for America where conditions were little better. Millions more were forced into the bulging cities of Europe to compete with the underpaid workers already there. Between 1895 and 1907, for example, the German machine-building labor force increased almost 300%, the mining and metal industry almost doubled, and employment in chemicals increased by 60%.* Housing for workers was cramped, their health care inadequate, and even though the largest percentage of German workers spent over 50% of their income on food, their diet was meager. For the fortunate ones who were able to achieve a better living, they accomplished it only by working long hours at jobs in which the majority found no pleasure.
The new German workers who came to the cities were filled with expectations but found little hope for themselves or their loved ones. The privileged either ignored or overlooked the fact that these workers were not rustic clodhoppers, but a fairly educated lot. The number of new workers whose fathers had been artisans (trained blue-collar workers) or members of the higher professions was double or triple the number of sons of peasants.* Although a significant number maintained traditional views, another group had picked up liberal middle class values, especially with regard to individualism and aspirations of mobility. But another large group stood between these two; a group that found traditional and liberal goals inappropriate and was groping toward new values.*
Because of the mix of people residing at the Mannerheim, political conversations tended to cover a wide spectrum of views. Hitler, who was able to grasp different points of view because of his passion for reading diverse newspapers, was always in the midst of the discussions. He was one of the large group groping for new values and became strongly impressed with the views advocated in many of the Socialists newspapers--the views grounded on the beliefs of Karl Marx, the father of modern communism.
To Karl Marx
Because of its coarseness, Marx's gospel lost its momentum within his lifetime. In 1889, however, the year Hitler was born, and six years after Marx's death, a Second International movement was formed which hoped to spread the Marxian Gospel across the world with a toned down version. Afterward, "Communists" began to refer to themselves as "Socialists" even though the year before, Engels had stated in his preface to the English version of the "Communists Manifesto":
Most of the Communists, nonetheless, took to calling themselves Socialists. The growing strength of their movement, under the name of the Social Democrats, marched steadily onward. Failing to notice that the Social Democrats never clearly repudiated any of the Marxian Communists' goals, much of their leadership was drawn from the "progressive" and "liberal" ranks. Other "economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole and corner reformers of every imaginable kind,"* and other "revolution-makers," as Marx contemptuously called them, were also drawn to the Socialists out of "principles sake." The respectability that Marx and Engels never wanted was theirs.
Although there were some liberals who were organizing parties that represented not only the rights of the middle classes but those of small businessmen, artisans, and factory workers, it was too little to late. While crammed into the large cities, millions of common men, especially the industrialized working classes, looked about for anyone to help them. The Social Democrats seemed to be the only party who offered them anything. Out of desperation, for the most part, they flocked to its banner. As Hitler would later state: "The poverty into which they would fall sooner or later drove them finally into the camp of Social Democracy."* By the time Hitler entered the Mannerheim the Social Democrats were one of the most powerful parties in Central and Eastern Europe. A left-wing radical movement, that was more closely attuned to the teachings of Marx, was rapidly growing within their ranks.
Hitler admitted that when he first came to Vienna he was attracted to the socialism of the Social Democrats. The relentless materialist approach of Marxism overshadowed its other liberal objectives and no doubt appealed to the young and financially insecure Hitler. Nearly all people of the lower classes cannot help but push for the redistribution of wealth--the one Marxist ideal with great appeal. But, as Hitler would later write, after living in Vienna for two years he came to see the "new" Marxist party as a "whore covered with a mask of social virtue and brotherly love."
Hitler, who indisputably read the Communists Manifesto and other works of Marx, saw that when the economic ideals of Marx are removed, nearly everything remaining clashes with most people's thinking. He turned against the Social Democrats and began to hate everything their organization or their leaders stood for. As he would later write:
In time, not believing that Germans came to hate their nation, religion, law, and the concept of morality on their own, Hitler "discovered," as he put it, from reading newspapers from cover to cover, that the Social Democrats and other liberals were poisoning the minds of the common man through their newspapers. He was amazed that men read newspapers and took everything as fact without any consideration as to who owned or edited the paper.
Unlike most men who read only one paper, Hitler was slowly acquiring an understanding of how different news groups distort the same story to conform to their viewpoints or enhance the standing of their sacred cows. Hitler, like Schonerer, realized that the news media cast a strong opinion on the thoughts of others. His passion for reading had not abated and he would consume three or four newspapers at a morning sitting. He became so obsessed with reading different points of view of the same story that, if he had read all the papers in the reading room at the Mannerheim, and someone came in with another, he would wait to read it also.
Like millions of others throughout Europe, Hitler saw voting as a joke. He believed that the Marxists, borrowing and building on democratic and constitutional convictions laid down by the middle classes, were working under the Socialist banner to achieve Marx's goal. He believed that the Socialists used their press to glorify representative government so as to win "the favor of the crowd" which, considering their numbers, would lead to the ultimate triumph of Socialism and the destruction of the nations with their traditional, historical and moral values.
"Representative government" or "western democracy, " as Hitler called it, "is the forerunner of Marxism [and] is the breeding-ground in which the Marxist plague can grow and spread." He saw the Social Democrats as "the deadliest enemy of our nationality,"* which, "spurred me on to a greater love for my country than ever before."*
Hitler blamed the growth of the Socialists on the stupid and immoral actions of the wealthy and their representatives who refused to give in to "humanly justified" social demands because they couldn't obtain "any advantages for themselves." (The italics are Hitler's).* He thought that it was only a matter of time till the Marxists won over the crowd because of the lack of action by the "political bourgeoisie," as he called them, who refused to carry out tasks of "vital importance."
Along with Hitler, most traditional Germans saw the new "Socialism" as a front for the old Marxism. They saw the Marxists as enemies of nationality, Christianity, tradition, family, law, order, and decency. It was these people, especially outside the large cities, all over Western and Central Europe whose vote did much to curtail the liberal Communist vision.
Like many young men of the lower classes, Hitler held on to the traditional German dream of a strong leader who stood above politics and could immediately right the wrongs that existed. Hitler believed that, during bad times, representative and constitutional government was an obstacle to efficient social and economic leadership because of its built-in checks and counterchecks of command. Hitler also believed that in complicated affairs, like economics or foreign policy, "five hundred elected ... incompetent ... narrow-minded, vainglorious, and arrogant amateurs," who "lack all qualifications for the task," are supposed to decide issues "of the gravest importance for the future." Yet he states, not one of them would have the courage to admit that he, or his fellow representatives, knew anything about a subject under consideration because the other representatives would never "permit the game to be spoiled by such an honest ass." As to the objection that the representatives had "experts" and "special committees" to advise them, Hitler asked: "Why are five hundred elected ... ?"*
Like Voltaire (the 18th century philosopher, who favored a type of enlightened despotism where rational laws guaranteed "natural rights"), Hitler also had his model in Frederick the Great of Prussia. Frederick was the greatest of the enlightened "despots" and because of his reign, unlimited power vested in a single ruler of benevolent disposition was seen as the best foundation of a state by many of the Enlightenment intellectuals.
Hitler could also look to Germany where Otto von Bismarck, the creator of the Second Reich, had also been in complete control of domestic policy. Under his administration, limitations of the work week were instituted along with provisions to ensure safe and sanitary conditions in the work place. Free medical and hospital services, accident insurance, and old age and invalids insurance were also instituted, even before Hitler was born. The leaders of the democratic nations scorned these pioneering social laws as nothing but sops to ensure the status of royalty. The workers of the "free world," however, would not see such social progress for decades. (In the United States, for example, comparable legislation would not be introduced for another fifty years.*) For all Bismarck did for German workers, however, Hitler was wise enough to know that Bismarck, because of his personality, methods and visions, would never have appealed to voters of any class. As Hitler would later write: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a great man to be 'discovered' by an election."* Since he felt that the wealthy middle classes were only concerned with themselves and that the majority of workers were tools of the Marxists, he was firmly against voting as a means of choosing the leadership of the nation. He believed that both "western democracy" and "Marxism" repudiated the "aristocratic principle."
At this time, Hitler considered the nobility as a group "superior"* and saw them as "a sort of noble race that would forever remain preeminent."* He believed they could handle matters better than a bunch of bickering representatives and felt they should lead, or appoint a leader like Bismarck to run the state. Such a leader (a Fuhrer) would stand above politics and have almost unlimited power to appoint whom he wanted to help run the state. He would not be answerable to a representative body, but, like a Wagnerian hero, would be "obliged to accept full responsibility for his actions and .... for those decisions he pledges all he has in the world and even his life."* Hitler felt that if the nation found itself with an unworthy or "cowardly" leader, the nobility would replace him. (Hitler continued to support a monarchy for years to come. As he would remark in 1942: "I must, however, quite frankly confess that in 1920, if the monarchy had been restored...we [National Socialists] should have supported it. It was only later that we gradually realized that a monarchy had outlived its times."* When Hitler published Mein Kampf (after his failed putsch) in 1925, he discarded the monarchy, and using a combination of ancient German history, myth, and nationalistic ideals of a mystical strong man to lead the German Volk, gave into the idea of a "free election"* since he knew it was his only way to power.*) Later he would come to despise the nobility as much as he despised the bourgeoisie.
Those at the Mannerheim who didn't share Hitler's opinions thought he was "strange" or "odd." He was aware of those who considered him "eccentric," but he was also aware of those who found substance in his views. As one resident would later remark: "I believe that Hitler was the only one among us who had a clear vision of his future way."*
Because rent had to be paid and food purchased, Hitler would sooner or later put his political visions aside and return to his painting. He admitted that he worked only enough to "avoid starvation," and one of his favorite remarks was: "Oh, to hell with the money!" As time passed, nevertheless, his funds improved and his life style appeared very respectable. He was still thin and frail, but he began to eat and dress better. Because of his artistic ability he was soon living as good as anyone in the Mannerheim. He was now making over 70 Kronen a month from his painting and also had his pension. He was very close to exceeding the 1,400 Kronen annual income limit set by the Mannerheim.
In December of 1910, Hitler's aunt Johanna, Klara's sister, knowing her time was short withdrew her savings from the bank and gave Hitler a large share of it. She, like most of Hitler's other relatives, had opposed his idea of becoming an artist. She nevertheless had corresponded with him on occasion and apparently had a change of heart. She gave him the money for the purpose of pursuing his career as an artist.* Five months after receiving this "windfall," and a month after Johanna's death, Angela, Hitler's step-sister, inquired at the Linz court as to whether Hitler was still entitled to his share of the orphan's pension since he now appeared self-supporting. Angela's husband had died the previous August, and with a daughter and son of her own, she now wanted Hitler's share of the pension to revert to the 15 year old Paula whom she was still raising. In May, 1911, at age 22 Hitler made the trip to Linz and according to Paula, "voluntarily" gave up the right to his share of the pension. According to court records Hitler stated he was "able to maintain himself and...[agrees] that the full amount of the orphan's pension should be put to the use of his sister."* Mayor Mayrhofer, Hitler's guardian, believed that Hitler had again acted "decently" and heard no complaints about Hitler's actions.* ( In later years when reporters and historians began making inquires, Mayrhofer, who knew the young Hitler as well as anyone, never found anything bad to say about him.)
Exactly how much Hitler received from his aunt is a mystery, other than to report that it had been a "considerable sum." What Hitler did with the money is even a bigger mystery. Since there was little change in his life style, some feel he lost the money in some financial scheme. Since he never reported his windfall to the management, others feel he shrewdly doled it back to himself in small amounts as he had done with his inheritance when his mother died. Other's believe he may have squandered it away or (most unlikely) took a trip to Munich.** Actually, he may have taken a trip to the countryside that May before he returned to Vienna. As Hitler would later recount:
Nonetheless, after Hitler returned to Vienna he resumed his painting. He produced landscapes and portraits in ink, watercolor and oils. With the warmer weather, and his Jewish contacts, he was able to sell everything he painted.
Hitler knew and admitted to friends that his work was not masterful because he did not have the proper training. Although many of his later pictures are pleasant to look at and are the type the average person appreciates, they are not what the avant-garde or experts consider "art" (not enough "depth," they say).
Technically, however, much of his work was "quite professional"* and pleasing. Though he, like many artists, never completely mastered perspective, Hitler knew that his real talent lay in architectural renderings. Although many of his works were dashed off quickly for profit, he often did detailed sketches of certain scenes and buildings before painting them. He had "an undeniable eye for structure;"* most of his street scenes are often "technically excellent;"* and many of his buildings were executed with "genuine dexterity."* Like many untrained artist, he could not draw figures within the context of his paintings and they were usually out of proportion or stood unnatural when he did.** Understanding his own shortcomings, Hitler normally painted architectural structures and left people out.**
The large number of street artists in Vienna made it impossible for Hitler to dredge out more than a meager living in the winter months. When sales dropped off he occasionally switched from street paintings to painting posters and rough advertisements for local businesses. His ad depicting Santa Claus holding "colored candies," or the one depicting the spire of St Stephen's rising out of a mountain of "soap-suds" have provided countless historians with fuel for condemnation. For advertising purposes, however, these ads had "depth" for their time. They also kept a roof over his head since he didn't have the financial support of wealthy relatives that most highborn "struggling" artists enjoy.
Like many artists, Hitler thought of switching to the less glamorous end of the artistic endeavor and working for businesses where the income is steady. He "undertook technically difficult work for reproductions in print (usually engravings), mainly for posters or illustrations for advertisements of cosmetics, face powder, footwear, shoe polish and ladies' underwear."* For a while he renewed his dream of becoming an architect and secured, from a construction company, assignments producing elementary architectural designs.*
Hitler was always looking for that "special mission" he thought he was to achieve. Almost everyone who met him was impressed by his ambition and energy at times. Between bouts of painting and reading, he would get an idea and throw himself into it for weeks or months at a time. After experimenting with model airplanes he attempted to design a full size airplane. After reading the science journals in the reading room about underwater exploration, his imagination was fired and he attempted to design water-diving equipment. He noted that paper money wore out too quickly and felt bills should be made smaller. He then attempted to come up with an idea for enclosing them in celluloid. He occasionally resumed his idea of writing a book and in many cases told people he was a writer.
What he was attempting to write at this time is not known. If anyone in the Mannerheim tried to look over his shoulder, he would hunch over and shield his writing with his arm. But, he read a number of books on philosophy, Eastern and Western religions, astrology, occultism, and ancient Greece and Rome which abounded with Gods. He was remarkably knowledgeable about the history of German antiquity and the numerous gods and heroes of its mythology. He also knew his Bible, being particularly well versed in the Old Testament.* He had also read Dante's Divine Comedy* which is religious in content (though its goals were ethical) and showed great sympathy for pre-Christians who had contributed philosophical ideals. Hitler's design may have been to write a book on religion, or a theme concerning Christianity again, which, as with his earlier "opera," had always appealed to him from a worldly point of view.
Just as quickly his interest would wane and he would abandon one idea after another. Friends would then marvel over his complete lack of activity. In a short time he would recover and return to his painting until another big idea dawned.
By such twists and turns however, he began to acquired information in many fields unknown to most men. His reading was far from the narrow confines accepted by most intellectuals. "With the indiscriminateness of the self-educated,"* his readings opened up a whole world of ideas. Unlike most intellectuals, academics and professionals (who spent a large part of their lives acquiring an expertise in one particular subject, and who are, consequently, surprisingly ignorant of nearly everything else outside their expertise) Hitler had a scope of interconnecting knowledge that was widening. He also had a "extraordinarily efficient memory" which retained what he read.* Although he was not an authority in anything, he was acquiring a vast general knowledge which was "nothing short of amazing."*
In addition, men of education usually keep within their own circles or class and are oblivious to other classes desires and beliefs. Hitler's changing life styles and locations since a youngster had exposed him to a wide range of social classes which laid the seeds of insight into the driving motivations of different classes. Mythology can also "open a window to a people's soul"* and Hitler's reading and knowledge of German Mythology had also given him special insights that few people understand. His habit of reading different newspapers with different perspectives also gave him a more realistic and discerning view of events. He knew when to "retain the essential and discard the non-essential [propaganda]." Unlike those trained in the academic tradition, he was not easily swayed by the opinions of others. He came to understand that the "educated classes" are just as blinded by their interests and in protecting their way of life and, consequently, are as predisposed, prejudiced, narrow-minded and unenlightened as any other class.
As even Marx noted, the place a person assumes in the economic order deeply influences his sense of identity. Hitler did not identify with the "have or satisfied" classes, but he did not identify with the lower strata of the industrialized working classes either. In the political discussions that continued in the reading room, which at times had twenty debaters, Hitler, over the course of a year, became the leading speaker for the people caught in between the two. Besides denouncing those of the upper classes, Hitler continued to rail against the Marxists and their trade union organizations which preached the brotherhood of man. As he would later state:
In a place like the Mannerheim, where the lowest to the higher strata of individuals resided, Hitler was exposed to all. He had learned that great differences exists between men, and he had nothing but contempt for those who blindly followed the Socialist creed--which in Austria was the most Marxist and leftist of all the Social Democratic parties of Europe. At times, the political discussions could get very heated and the conversation would be taken to the street or the green space behind the building to avoid the wrath of the Mannerheim administration. Although Hitler could debate in a logical and dignified manner, still somewhat disillusioned and angry, he could be very antagonizing. He was not beneath using vulgar and obscene language, and was particularly fond of the word, "shithead." There were those who found him crude or offensive. He reportedly once suffered a beating from two Social Democrat transport workers for calling them "idiots." For days, it was said, he nursed body bruises, a swollen face and a large lump on the head.*
Hitler remembered his father as a much respected official to whom people raised their hats and whose word carried weight. His father however, had earned this respect. In the big city, Hitler was nobody and unknown. He soon realized that to turn men's minds he needed a sound opposing argument to win them to his point of view. In time, as he would later state, "I learned to talk less and listen more to those whose opinions and objections were boundlessly primitive." At times he could still become belligerent, but he knew when he had gone too far. With a wave of his hand, he would abruptly cut short his remarks and return to his painting. At other times he would realize that he didn't know enough about the topic, break off the conversation and then spend the next day or two reading about it. He was learning that it was persuasion and tact that were needed to win men's minds to his views, not a temper which would draw their hostility. He would then return another day to resume the battle.
Mentally (as more than one philosopher has noted), most people are authentically who they are by the time they reach their early twenties. From then on they look only for confirmation of their views. Hitler was no different. His reading tended to be only from the perspective of finding confirmation of those principles and ideas he already had. After reading something that corresponded to his beliefs, he would often read it aloud to others and state: "You see, the man who wrote this is of exactly the same opinion."*
In time Hitler became one of the best debaters and most respected people in the Mannerheim reading room. Gone was the beard of the rebel. He learned to listen. He did not try to antagonize people. According to observers he was usually "polite," " friendly," " helpful," " goodhearted," "charming," and "wasn't proud or arrogant". He took an interest in his companions and would always stop to help or advise a friend. He contributed and even organized collections for men who had run out of money and needed a quick helping hand to stay another day. On the other hand, he still never became overly friendly and, unlike most men, seldom talked about himself. No one thought of taking his favorite chair near the window and most placed the distinctive "Herr" (referring to a gentleman) before his name. As one resident noted: "He seemed to understand everyone." In time, even the director of the Mannerheim would occasionally stop to talk with him--"an honor seldom granted a resident."*
Hitler however, was not satisfied. "A feeling of discontent seized me," he stated in Mein Kampf. Like many young people who find substance in posters and slogans that praise other places, over his bed hung one that glorified Germany. Germany was a land that had been beckoning to him for years. Although all of Europe was alive with counter-political beliefs, Vienna with its international flavor of warring parties and nationalities, did not play well against Hitler's ideas of a strong German nation. Hitler also believed the Habsburgs, in attempting to quell the unrest in Austria, were practicing an anti-German policy by unfairly giving in to the other nationalities and minorities which sooner or later would bring about the collapse of the empire. The lure of Germany finally won out. With some obscure ideal of hopefully finding a position "as a designer" for a large architectural firm,* he decided to return to the state of Bavaria where as a boy he had developed his dialect.
He had been at the Mannerheim for nearly three and a half years. In the end he had not only won the respect of most of the men there, but also their friendship. There were those who were sorry to see him go. On May 24, 1913, shortly after his 24th birthday, Hitler stuffed his few belongings into a single suitcase and headed for the railroad station (Westbahnhof). He purchased a one-way ticket to Munich, Germany.
(Interestingly, shortly before Hitler left Vienna, Joseph Stalin (at age 33 just an up and coming Bolshevik ) was sent to Vienna in January 1913 to study the "Austrian situation." He rented a room just off the NE corner of Schonbrunn Park for a month and while there, working with the German socialists, wrote a Marxist tract. Hitler continued to visit Schonbrunn Park at that time. Perhaps the two, who were to become adversaries exactly twenty years later, crossed paths.)
Footnotes: (One asterisk is for a footnote, two asterisks are for additional information)