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August Kubizek’s The Young Hitler I Knew

6,990 words

Suppose your best friend from when you were a young’un became the meanest hombre ever to leave boot-prints on the ground. It indeed happened, on the wild frontier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Had Attila the Hun been brought forward in time to meet him, he wouldn’t have challenged a gunslinger like that to a duel at twenty paces. The town of Linz might not be big enough for both of them, but the 5th-century “Scourge of God” would’ve known better than to tangle with the dastardly desperado of the Danube! August Kubizek’s Adolf Hitler, mein Jugendfreund (Graz – Stuttgart: Leopold Stocker Verlag, 1954) tells the tale of the early days of the most ferocious outlaw ever to twirl a six-shooter.

Introductory notes

More seriously, The Young Hitler I Knew is essential to understand the background of the famous former German chancellor. The account of his younger days brings to life his personality in ways that no TV docudrama will do. In the clarity, a believable figure emerges, more of a future Napoleon than a Snidely Whiplash. That’s a rare find, given the usual treatment of the subject. There’s a great difference between Hitler as he really was and the much more familiar legendary character in today’s Spaghetti Western-style Hollywood historiography.

Indeed, fact and myth parted ways a long time ago. As a highly notable American briefly working as a press correspondent in postwar Germany noted in a diary entry of August 1, 1945:

After visiting these places, you can easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.

The former Navy lieutenant who notated this had the stuff of legends too, for his name was John F. Kennedy. He also became known for a personal mystique as well as intense historical controversies. All told, young JFK’s predictions of the arrival of a balanced viewpoint were far too optimistic. Since he wrote that, seventy-five years of effort have been put into maintaining the image of Hitler as a ruthless tyrant. Although The Narrative is clearly overblown, one might still say that even dictators need some ruth.

The book is remarkable also for a lack of a negative slant. It portrays a “warts and all” figure, but not a black-hatted villain caricature. Out of the countless Hitler biographies one may choose from, the good ones are few and far between. Most of the rest suffer from misinformation, are profoundly biased, or even are outright hit pieces. The overall effect essentially amounts to the endless retelling of a secular morality play. Although it has become quite shopworn, it remains a powerful legend useful for enforcing ideological conformity across a broad range of subjects, even those having nothing to do with das Dritte Reich.

This sort of thing isn’t only a modern problem. Perceptions of some historical figures are shaped by the biases of the past. Disentangling myth from fact about the Tudor dynasty, for example, is no easy task, even though the events were well-documented and the major controversy cooled down long ago. To name one figure, trying to discover what Anne Boleyn’s personality really was like means choosing between hagiographical accounts and vilifications. The “common knowledge” story about the sixth finger is demonstrably false, a claim that she had nonstandard anatomy to malign her character implicitly. Catherine Howard’s true personality and motivations are even more mysterious. We won’t get closer to the truth about them unless new material surfaces.

Other than lacking an ax to grind, there’s another factor making the Kubizek book a standout. Namely, few people knew Hitler as well; and none other gave a lengthy written account. It also concerns the time well before he was a public figure, when relatively little documentary evidence was available. The only other comparable primary source regarding these early times was from Mein Kampf.

Version differences

The edition I’m working from has an introduction by Hugh Trevor-Roper, a British intelligence officer who became a historian. He weakens his case by giving at least partial credence to the transparently self-serving tall tales of Josef Greiner, a third-rate extortionist. Trevor-Roper does have a bias about the NS régime; in plain display here and more so in his own books. He’s known for slipping into purple prose about the former German chancellor sometimes, making a fine art of snooty condescension. (American axe-grinders would be at a loss to match such transcendental hauteur practically dripping with lime juice. Instead, the specialty of our hacks is along the lines of Hogan’s Heroes played seriously, with the flavor of fizzy soda and greasy popcorn.) Still, there’s a lot worse treatment of the subject matter out there muddying the waters of history, and Trevor-Roper did have his moments when he wrote about other subjects. All told, the introduction isn’t so helpful, but make of it what you will.

There have been multiple printings of The Young Hitler I Knew into English, and one is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster early in 2021. I have the text for the first, the “E. V. Anderson” translation of the mid-1950s. (This one ends with the last excerpt I quote here.) According to one online discussion, it’s abridged to contain about 70% of the original text, while the Geoffrey Brooks translation of 2006 contains approximately 80%. Although it’s more extensive, it ends before the author’s interrogation by American intelligence agents. I’m unaware of any other translations thus far. There have been some reprints since then, but incomplete and variant metadata make it uncertain which text was used. Ian Kershaw did the introduction for some of the newer printings; one is helpfully subtitled “The Definitive Inside Look at the Artist Who Became a Monster.” I can taste the sour lime juice already!

I compared my copy to the German original and found that it trimmed down a couple of beginning paragraphs discussing the author’s family. Although the end of this first translation is more complete, seven paragraphs got chopped off nonetheless. (It really ends soon after he decides he’ll write a memoir whenever he gets released and is free to tell his story objectively.) I haven’t had the opportunity to read the complete German text in full to see what else wasn’t included.

Which one is the best thus far? According to a reader’s opinion who also has the 1955 text, it’s the one that wasn’t edited for political correctness. Several other reviews — presumably most had newer versions — don’t speak of discovering surprising nuances clarifying the personality of a major figure in modern history. Instead, it seems as if the readers had watched an awful lot of television, and the book made no impression other than to reinforce the programming. Make of that what you will; perhaps it’s a case of “buyer beware.” Since a definitive English translation would need to be complete and objective, I’ll conclude that the German original should be considered authoritative.

The early days

The young August Kubizek grew up in Linz, a rural town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the other side of the river from Germany. He was the son of a poor upholsterer. Although he was encouraged to take that up as a career, and even at a young age clearly was pushing his luck with occupational pneumoconiosis, his aspirations instead were for music. He mastered the violin, then other instruments, and he ultimately hoped to become a conductor. (That was a more viable career path at the time; classical music was still thriving, not yet overtaken in popularity by other genres. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the eminently talented Eminem were decades away.) Late in 1904 while attending an opera, August met another young classical music enthusiast:

He was a remarkably pale, skinny youth, about my own age, who was following the performance with glistening eyes. I surmised that he came from a better-class home, for he was always dressed with meticulous care and was very reserved.

That’s Adolf, of course. He seemed a mystery at first, but they quickly got acquainted, and it turned out that they were kindred spirits. He didn’t want to become a civil servant like his late father any more than August wanted to make a living by stuffing upholstery. Instead, he was an aspiring artist.

I’ll add a few notes here. Just after the fin-de-siècle, before art became a specialty niche of very inconsistent quality, that too would’ve been a more attainable career than now. Some of the floral paintings he was coming out with about this time were rather reminiscent of the early collaborative works of Van Gogh and Gaugin. Then there were several excellent scenes of picturesque buildings — not quite Da Vinci, but pretty remarkable. He didn’t get too far into portraits, unlike George W. Bush, another artistically inclined politician who somehow gets the Left nearly as triggered. Some other Hitler paintings show tendencies toward French impressionism. Perhaps I could’ve gotten a stern lecture from the Gestapo for saying so back in the day.

Still, not everyone is impressed; following a 2006 exhibition in Israel, the mayor of Haifa at the time called these early works “kitschy.” I’ll respectfully have to differ with Yona Yahav’s prickly opinion; it’s entirely possible that this pursuit could’ve gone places. Later in the book, the two try to achieve their plans for upward mobility by breaking into artistic careers.

They began a close friendship based on common interests. This is a sort of connection that I fear has become increasingly rare with the younger generations today. Kids hanging out with their best friends and having long bull sessions might be a dying tradition. It’s difficult to overestimate how social media has made us less social.

Adolf proved to be strongly opinionated, just as August was a good listener. He was irascible sometimes, and had buckets of thumos. Still, he was considerate too and took care not to clash with his friend. (Even so, I sort of hoped that August would be a little more alpha and hold his ground more often.) Already young Adolf was delivering impassioned speeches with dramatic gestures before this audience of one. I’ll add that, as the story goes, Abraham Lincoln also got in lots of “speechifying” practice in his younger days.

Sometimes Adolf would try out his powers of oratory on me or on others. It always stuck in my memory how, when not yet eighteen, he convinced my father that he should release me from his workshop and send me to Vienna to the Conservatory. In view of the awkward and unforthcoming nature of my father this was a considerable achievement. From the moment I had this proof of his talent — for me so decisive — I considered that there was nothing that Hitler could not achieve by a convincing speech.

Although he spoke of Hitler’s great persuasiveness, and for years was a sounding-board for his opinions, Kubizek remained entirely apolitical. In that regard, he’s rather like an old friend who you’ve tried to Red Pill, but nothing shakes his apathy about politics.

He found that Adolf was pretty opinionated and hard-headed. (That’s not too surprising.) He also liked to read. Once a subject caught his interest, he’d research extensively and speak at length about his conclusions.

Then this might come as a shock for those expecting a juvenile delinquent:

Adolf set great store by good manners and correct behaviour. He observed with painstaking punctiliousness the rules of social conduct, however little he thought of society itself. He always emphasized the position of his father, who as a customs official ranked more or less with a captain in the army. Hearing him speak of his father, one would never have imagined how violently he disliked the idea of being a civil servant. Nevertheless, there was in his bearing something very precise. He would never forget to send regards to my people, and every postcard bore greetings to my “esteemed parents.”

Young Adolf liked to go on long hikes. This was for appreciation of nature, historical interest, or material for drawings and paintings. Some of them are still extant. (Other than that, I’m not sure who came up with the one about Hitler disliking being in the mountains. Why build the mountain retreat of Berchtesgaden then?) Indeed, there was much beauty to be admired in rural Austria. Really, it sounds pretty enchanting. This wasn’t entirely without hazards; a scene later in the book vividly describes an ambitious outing to the Rax where the weather got bad and they nearly froze.

Other than that, he had dropped out of school. (One Hitler biography states that he got drunk and used his diploma for toilet paper; we can put that legend to rest now.) He clearly had a lot of potential, particularly centered on art, architecture, music, history, and similar pursuits; clearly having a good memory for details. However, he strongly disliked the rote memorization of inconsequential factoids in most of his classes. For the aspiring painter, it seemed pointless, and he preferred to be an autodidact.

At the time, that much wasn’t as scandalous as it might seem now. In the USA at least, even as late as the 1940s, it was hardly remarkable to drop out of school in order to enlist, help with the family farm full time, work at a factory, or begin some other career. It was after the launch of Sputnik, finding ourselves late to the Space Race, that education got prioritized and dropping out became seen as a misfortune. Later, unschooling made a tepid reappearance, bundled with the dead-on-arrival 1970s “kid-lib” movement.

Hitler’s family

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Adolf had an older sister and brother by his father’s previous marriage. He also had a younger sister, Paula. There were four other siblings who died at a young age (three by diphtheria). Then the book describes Hitler’s lineage. I’ll add that for those wishing to look into that further, an excellent resource is Alfred Konder’s Adolf Hitler’s Family Tree (Salt Lake City: Preuss, 2001), which covers extensive research and also tackles some of the common myths.

He was very close to his mother. Klara had been through difficult times, and had some misgivings about her son’s career path as a starving artist. Other than that, by all accounts, she was a very nice lady. Unfortunately, she got cancer, which turned out to be fatal. It’s an exceedingly tragic part of the book.

The doctor was Jewish, but contrary to certain historical myths, Hitler did not hold it against him. Instead, he recognized that the doctor did the best he could. Other sources indicate that he put him on the “do not persecute” list. Unfortunately, later his wishes began to be disregarded by other officials, and August’s efforts to notify Hitler about it were intercepted by Martin Bormann. Kubizek’s recollections (as well as Dr. Bloch’s notes) refute the tall tale that Adolf skipped town before she died. Also, the fable that he watched his mother’s autopsy is demonstrably false. Really, Hitler is one of few figures a third-rate historian can make up any crazy smear about, or repeat it, with little risk of getting called out on it and incurring discredit.

By the time August met Adolf, the latter’s father Aloysius had died two years previously. According to the common mythology, he was a raging disciplinarian, and the two got along terribly. Naturally, that’s the usual sort of half-baked Freudian explanation for why the Führer was meaner than Mitt Romney. However, it turns out once again that The Narrative is a bit overrated. Aloysius seems like a fairly ordinary guy, not someone who’d be considered an outlier. On that note, Frederick the Great actually did have a remarkably bad relationship with his father (to say the least), and so did Alexander the Great. However, this never gets offered up as an explanation for the frequent warmongering of these two Greats.

The book once mentions quarrels ending in “a good hiding,” but that’s it. Still, what of it? Kids routinely got taken out to the woodshed back then, both at home and in school. (The young Winston Churchill frequently got his butt whipped with a birch switch, but apparently not enough.) Until attitudes slowly changed since the 1950s, refraining from spanking would’ve been unusual, perhaps considered eccentric or indulgent. Apparently young Adolf got over any hard feelings about corporal punishment. It’s difficult to find a teenager who never once said anything unkind about his father to his best friend:

Adolf spoke of his father with great respect. I never heard him say anything against him, in spite of their differences of opinion about his career. In fact he respected him more as time went on.

The only disagreement described was about his future vocation. As Kubizek indicated earlier, Hitler was proud of his late father’s status. Still, that certainly didn’t mean he wanted the same job. Pushing papers all day seemed to him like soul-crushing drudgery, and I find it difficult to argue the point. Ultimately Adolf didn’t escape the fate of working for the government, since of course he eventually got elected dictator. (Whether one considers it a case of “father knows best” is a matter of perspective.) Still, his aesthetic efforts remained a lifelong pursuit.

Hitler’s romantic interests

In the early days, Adolf was quite smitten by a girl who here is called Stefanie. His imagination went into overdrive, even planning out their life together. The problem was that he never introduced himself. Ultimately, she never knew he liked her. After much agonizing and indecision, nothing came of it. Perhaps “nothing ventured, nothing gained” was a lesson learned.

Although this got drawn out like something from Hamlet, he did have reasons for hesitation. There were still formal protocols concerning introductions. This was during the afterglow of the Victorian era, which necessitated finesse. (It’s not so different from present times, in which pearl-clutching feminists brought back the fainting couch, and badly received flirting might get plastered on #MeToo for the world to see.) More importantly, social class mattered a lot, and he figured that he first would have to gain better prominence or he’d miss his chance because he was only a starving artist so far. He was still holding out a little hope when he got to Vienna, but eventually concluded that it just wasn’t going to happen.

All this was rather surprising. This was someone who later delivered numerous speeches before tens of thousands, but in his early days, apprehension prevented him from introducing himself to a pretty girl. It’s a common condition known in the Manosphere as Approach Anxiety. (I’ve recovered from that, and even written at length on how to get over it, but I still have to struggle against stage fright before merely an audience of a couple dozen.) He also developed a case of what the Manosphere calls ONEitis, the belief that someone is the “one and only” soulmate, and that life will be meaningless if things don’t work out with this special someone.

Other than that, Hitler always did long for a woman’s companionship and a connection to the ewige Weiblichkeit. Still, not just anyone would do; although he got plenty of attention from Viennese coquettes, he didn’t try to pick them up. In his terminology:

The Flame of Life was the symbol of sacred love which is awakened between man and woman who have kept themselves pure in body and soul and are worthy of a union which would produce healthy children for the nation.

Reading between the lines somewhat, he had some very high standards. (From this book as well as other material, I gather that his preferred type was conventionally beautiful and demure.) This choosiness remained during later life, when he had every opportunity to go the route of groupie-chasing politicians. Eventually, of course, Eva Braun became his “one and only.”

What Hitler’s romantic interests were not

Another telling moment, one which should dispel some myths, happens during the Vienna episode. They met a rich confirmed bachelor who invited them out for supper. They chatted about classical music, one of their favorite subjects, and (as usual) Adolf couldn’t pass up an opportunity for pastries. However, as things developed, their host had some other agendas in mind. After they returned home:

There Adolf asked me if I liked the man. “Very much,” I replied. “A very cultured man, with pronounced artistic leanings.”

“And what else?” continued Adolf with an enigmatic expression on his face.

“What else should there be?” I asked, surprised.

“As apparently you don’t understand, Gustl, what it’s all about, look at this little card!”

“Which card?”

For, in fact, this man had slipped Adolf a card without my noticing it, on which he had scribbled an invitation to visit him at the Hotel Kummer.

“He’s a homosexual,” explained Adolf in a matter-of-fact manner.

August, none too worldly, didn’t even know what that meant. In the brief discussion that follows, Adolf considered it to be a problem contrary to nature, and avoided the type. The invite for Vienna wiener at the unfortunately-named Hotel Kummer went up in smoke. Other than that, Hitler remained generally Victorian and didn’t care for the various decadent vices of the cosmopolitan capital. He considered prostitution to be a dreadful misfortune, frequently calling it a sink of iniquity, another social problem that came to his attention. (Later, the situation in Weimar-era Berlin, where financial desperation made it a sex tourism hotspot, surely was greatly distressing.) He also disapproved of casual hookups.

That takes the wind out of the sails of The Pink Swastika, a transparently silly effort to make a reductio ad hitlerum argument against homosexuality, as well as similar fare. For some, it’s not enough to argue that Hitler had a bellicose foreign policy and a lousy human rights record. (There is something to that much, even if The Narrative stretches details greatly.) Such critics won’t merely stick to arguable topics; that isn’t enough, so they will accuse the Führer of being light in his loafers. Really, is that their best cheap shot? Does this ever get them served up a dose of PC medicine for “homophobia?”

For that matter, did warlords of the past get boilerplate accusations like this? Frederick the Great, who almost certainly was gay, merely got occasional innuendoes. On the other hand, did the British ever say Napoleon rode into battle in high heels and a feather boa? Did Catherine the Great get called a “pearl diver” by her enemies? (A French poem actually did fabricate a different salacious story about her, which still remains “common knowledge.”) This gets comical. Picture a Sioux brave sourly remarking to another after the Battle of Wounded Knee, “Me thinkum Custer two-spirit!” Imagine also a city turned to smoldering rubble by the Mongols, where the sole survivor cautiously crawls out of hiding long after the Golden Horde’s thundering hoof-beats fade away. He stands up amidst the ghastly devastation and defiantly yells, “Genghis Khan is queer!”

The evolution of Hitler’s political views

After venturing to the imperial capital of Vienna, it turned out to be a multicultural mishmash. Even in Linz, the future German chancellor wasn’t so enthusiastic about being an Austrian. His heart was in Germany, right across the river. As for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he regarded it as a dysfunctional mess. There’s something to that, and it would fall to pieces in the coming years. He believed that one people should be within one government. Therefore, Austria should be united with Germany on the basis of shared heritage, which he did bring about later.

This got undone, of course, but it might be just as well. Independence spared them from the misrule of Angela Merkel, the worst German leader in history, even beneath Erich Honecker. Although the government does leave some things to be desired, they’re better than average. Now, much to the dismay of Eurocrats and globalists, Austria forms part of a Central European shield, blocking hordes of incompatible alms-seeking “refugees” from invading Eastern Europe.

I’ll provide some further background. At the time, Austria was united with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and bits of several other nations. The arrangement worked as a front against Turkish aggression, but after the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire proved to be very unwieldy. A “walking on eggshells” atmosphere developed, similar to some of the results of political correctness today.

The Austrians and Hungarians were the only parties with much enthusiasm about the empire. The Czechoslovakians were fairly indifferent, at best. The other constituents — Romanians, Italians, Poles, Ukrainians, and the Yugoslavian populations — couldn’t have their national aspirations satisfied in that arrangement. The imperial government did institute measures attempting to accommodate the many nationalities and languages within it — the sort of thing we might consider as states’ rights in the broad sense — but ultimately with little success. The fuzzy borders problem didn’t help, with countless ethnic enclaves and areas lacking decisive pluralities, which would create future irredentist disputes.

Later, Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points should’ve brought about at least some normality. This didn’t work, because the postwar breakup was implemented with profound favoritism to the victors, fully taking the opportunity to kick the former Central Powers when they were down. The Treaty of Trianon, for example, deprived Hungary of tremendous amounts of land, much with Magyar majorities, to the benefit of neighboring countries. (In Germany’s case, if the borders had been settled sensibly and impartially, we could’ve avoided another World War.) Ultimately, even with the best of intentions, the lack of clear dividing lines between populations in the Austro-Hungarian Empire meant that it would’ve been impossible to redraw the map fairly into homogenous nations without making the boundaries look like the USA’s gerrymandered Congressional districts.

Other than the above-mentioned populations were the Jews. At first, Adolf didn’t have strong opinions about them. I’ll add that he was a lapsed Catholic whose religious feelings didn’t go beyond a general sense of the force of destiny. Religion had little to nothing to do with his negative opinion about Jews. It’s his most significant characteristic according to popular perception lately, but the specifics aren’t as frequently discussed. For one thing, the Jewish role in Marxist agitation, well-documented in Mein Kampf, was a major sore point. In Vienna, he increasingly came to feel that they didn’t belong. He also didn’t care for the chutzpah on full display there. For one of the examples:

A Handelee had been standing in front of the Gerngross store. The word “Handelee” was used to designate eastern Jews who, dressed in caftan and boots, sold shoe laces, buttons, braces and other small articles in the streets. The Handelee was the lowest stage in the career of those quickly assimilated Jews, who often occupied leading positions in Austria’s economic life. The Handelees were forbidden to beg. But this man had whiningly approached passers-by, his hand outstretched, and had collected some money. A policeman asked him to produce his papers. He began to wring his hands and said he was a poor, sick man who had only this little trading to live on, but he had not been begging. The policeman took him to the police station, and asked bystanders to act as witnesses. In spite of his dislike of publicity, Adolf had presented himself as a witness, and he saw with his own eyes that the Handelee had three thousand crowns in his caftan, conclusive evidence, according to Adolf, of the exploitation of Vienna by immigrant eastern Jews.

For reference, an American double eagle — back when we had real money — is nearly equivalent to a 100 Korona gold coin. Three thousand Austro-Hungarian crowns as such are 1017 grams of fine-grade gold (90% pure), or about 32.7 troy ounces. Gold prices at the time adjusted for present inflation would mean the bum’s stash was worth about $17,500, near as I can tell — poor guy! Since Adolf often went hungry during these times, surely crooked schnorrers like that were pretty galling. Even his friend admitted that they often ascended to occupy “leading positions in Austria’s economic life,” a detail that surely didn’t help matters. (Perhaps that had at least as much to do with ethnic networking as being good at business.) The book does discuss Adolf’s growing radicalization on Jewish matters. In a number of places, the author writes with profound unease about Hitler’s later policies regarding them.

To a lesser degree, it seems this was about time that Hitler was losing patience with the Czechs. (Still, he never held Kubizek’s ancestry against him, and he also got along quite well with their landlady Frau Zakreys.) Nationalist aspirations don’t have to be mutually antagonistic; the concept is really about distinct populations going their own way. Unfortunately, pan-Slavicism and national independence movements sometimes took a hostile footing. This carried on in some cases after these nations did achieve independence. These things would have repercussions later. The NS régime has a considerable reputation for being anti-Slavic, but The Narrative on this is stretched to a degree. The historical record shows antagonism toward some Slavic nations but alliances with others. The NS position, despite much rhetoric, turned out to be more pragmatic than doctrinaire.

Perhaps shrewder diplomacy and a more “hearts and minds”-oriented approach could’ve yielded better results. Unfortunately, anti-German sentiments worsened matters, to say the least. Moreover, behind-the-scenes activities such as Britain’s secret war guarantee to Poland, contrary to international law, didn’t help. Ultimately it didn’t do the Poles a whit of good after their government took the bait and fell for the “let’s you and him fight” trick. Winston Churchill accepting a hefty donation of payola from the Czechs also wasn’t conducive to peace. Numerous German attempts at negotiation — including even after the war began — came to nothing, but the usual history books tend to leave this out. For that matter, they seldom mention that Hitler was pro-British until the war broke out.

As for now, Europeans and their descendants abroad must avoid further troubles among ourselves. The globalists want all of us out of the way this time, and we must stand together.

The American experience seems favorable to that of Austria-Hungary, up to a certain point. Descendants of Germans, Hungarians, and Slavic peoples get along just fine, and generally left their Old Country disputes behind. This didn’t work in imperial Vienna, but does work in Chicago because they learned English, considered themselves Americans first, and otherwise became assimilated. The drawback is that the ethnic cultures got watered down mostly to superficial things such as cuisine. Also, civic nationalism only goes so far; assimilation doesn’t transcend much more profound racial divisions. A trip to Chicago’s famous South Side will reveal this, along with countless other bad neighborhoods in the USA’s big cities. Complicating things greatly, tens of millions who don’t fit in so well have arrived, thanks to the 1965 change in immigration policies to stuff the ballot box for the Democrats and dilute the white majority. In that light, maybe prewar Vienna’s dysfunction would be a refreshing break lately.

Architectural plans

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Other than art and music, Hitler was quite interested in architecture and urban planning, and Vienna especially brought it out in him. This ranged from the great to the small — from plans of overhauling neighborhoods to observing that an apartment’s windows were badly placed and didn’t let in any sunlight. In certain ways, he seems rather like a real-life Howard Roark. Adolf did want to get into architecture, but dropping out of school proved to be a barrier. It wasn’t completely insurmountable, but he wasn’t able to get further. This is one reason why he ended up as a dictator with lousy press rather than someone like Le Corbusier or (better yet) Antoni Gaudí.

When August asked where the funds to implement these ideas would come from, Adolf sometimes got grouchy about it, but the usual answer would be that things would become possible “in the storm of revolution.” (Curiously, that much is more commonly a Leftist characteristic. Still, he knew that Marxism was an enemy ideology, and he wasn’t about to swallow the buckets of contradictions in absolute egalitarianism.) One could, of course, regard all these ambitious imagined plans as exercises of building castles in the sky. On the other hand, in later times, the impossible did become possible. For example, the long-imagined upgrade of the Linz Bridge did come to pass, by the fellow who also brought us the Volkswagen and also the Autobahn megaproject that inspired the USA’s interstate highway system. Still, much more remained undone.

It’s quite likely that the Third Reich would’ve immersed itself with remodeling projects if it hadn’t inherited a geopolitical mess. It didn’t help, of course, that the Allied leaders (and various influential backers) shared a Captain Ahab complex since day one. If instead they’d wanted to preserve the peace, it would’ve been simple: don’t poke the wolf. In July 1940, even at the point when Germany’s war effort had been remarkably successful, Hitler lamented to his old friend:

This war is holding up our work of reconstruction for many years. It is a shame. After all I have not become the Chancellor of the Greater German Reich to make war. [. . .] This war is robbing me of my best years. You know my plans, Kubizek, you know how much I still want to build. That’s what I want to see in my lifetime, you understand? You know best how many projects I have made ever since I was young. And only a few of them have I been able to realise so far. I still have so infinitely much to do. Who else is there to do it? And here I have to stand by and watch the war robbing me of my best years. It is a shame.

This also accords with what Hitler said during an audience with Lothrop Stoddard around that time, recalled in a brief summary.

Life in Vienna and beyond

Hitler and Kubizek stayed in a cheap room furnished with a piano, sometimes going on hikes as before. He became interested in the technical aspects of theater and set design. He apparently became pretty well-versed in it after giving the subject his usual deep dive. He did have a chance to break into it. (Perhaps this could’ve led into film, and he might have become the fash version of Fritz Lang. Would Leni Riefenstahl have become the Führerin, or is that too far-fetched?) At the time, Hitler and Kubizek teamed up on an opera about Wieland, loosely a Teutonic analog to the Greco-Roman Hephaistos / Vulcan. However, the effort eventually sputtered out. Operas take a lot of doing, a little much for a newb project.

August had a successful recital at the Vienna Conservatory and went for a long trip back home. This includes two joyous months of boot camp for the imperial army reserves. After that, he lost contact with his old friend. Upon returning to Vienna, he found that Adolf moved out and was nowhere to be found, without leaving a clue to his whereabouts. Piecing things together from this and other sources, he’d gone to a flophouse. He survived by doing construction day labor (I’ve had fun times with that too) and selling hand-painted postcards which are worth quite a bit these days. Therefore, there’s something to the story about him being a “mere paper-hanger,” recited by snobs who look down on people who apply wallpaper so that they can afford food. They’d barely scratched by before, but this was a leaner existence yet, and Adolf wasn’t too happy about all that. August concludes:

He did not wish to have a friend, because he was ashamed of his own poverty. He wanted to go his way alone, and bear alone whatever destiny brought him. It was the road into the wilderness. I personally experienced, after that parting, that one is never so lonely as in the midst of the crowds of people in a big city.

As for August, his ambition to be a conductor eventually paid off, like he always wanted. Then just as he was breaking into the business and getting some classical music street cred, the rug got pulled out from under him.

I’ll summarize my take on that briefly. Some idiotic terrorist named Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke and his wife. War unfolded across the continent. To make matters worse, Woodrow Wilson — our first globalist President — stuck his proboscis into it too, prolonging the end and bringing about a century of perpetual war. Communism sprouted in Russia, later to erupt in a long string of fine messes. Western civilization had exited the first station on a long train ride to hell, ongoing for a little over a century now. Let’s get off before the final stop, shall we?

After barely surviving the war, he found that the classical music scene was a bust. The next that he’d heard of Hitler was during Germany’s Kampfzeit. At last, his friend had found his vocation. August, fundamentally apolitical, feared that they wouldn’t have much in common anymore. In 1933, right after the Machtergreifung, he wrote a letter. He didn’t expect a reply, since a head of state would be too busy to keep up with old friends. However, Adolf did write back. They met again, nearly a month after the Anschluss, and had a good chat. They did get together a couple of times in the next years. After that, it was difficult to keep in touch because of wartime conditions as well as certain officials getting in the way.

The end

Briefly, he describes the postwar days:

My first and most pressing worry in this respect was the safety of the Hitler papers I possessed. Come what may, they must be saved for posterity.

He packed them up and stashed them behind a cellar wall, and then:

It was only just in time as the very next day I was arrested and held for sixteen months in the notorious detention camp of Glasenbach. Naturally, an intensive search was made during my absence for the Hitler papers, but with no success.

If he hadn’t hidden his private property, the collection might be locked away and gathering dust in a forgotten vault even now. Allied intelligence services had teams of “experts” of questionable value to call upon for propaganda, personality profiling, policy analysis, and psyops. (The Frankfurt School culture distorter Herbert Marcuse and the double agent Franz Leopold Neumann were a couple of the interesting characters riding that particular gravy train.) Surely the OSS — the precursor to the CIA — was a sweet racket, and far preferable to dodging bullets in places like Normandy, Anzio, Tarawa, or Iwo Jima. Thus, if the Hitler correspondence hadn’t been hidden away, it certainly would’ve been stolen, combed over extensively by (((psychiatrists))) salivating at the chance to find a speck of dirt, then locked away in some obscure archive.

Other than that, I was embarrassed to read that the US Army held Mr. Kubizek captive for over a year without any good reason. It shouldn’t have taken that long to figure out that he didn’t care about politics, never was part of the NS régime, and didn’t own suspicious lampshades. My English edition wraps up describing the repetitive grilling sessions in the POW camp:

An American officer of the Central Intelligence Corps asked: “So you are a friend of Adolf Hitler’s. What did you get out of it?”

“Nothing.”

“But you admit that you were his friend. Did he give you money?”

“No.”

“Or food?”

“Neither.”

“A car, a house?”

“Not that either.”

“Did he introduce you to beautiful women?”

“Nor that.”

“Did he receive you again, later on?”

“Yes.” [. . .]

“So you could have killed him?”

“Yes, I could have.”

“And why didn’t you kill him?”

“Because he was my friend.”

If those were “intelligence” officers, it’s hard to imagine what the dumb ones were like. Under what circumstances would a similar scene make sense if roles were reversed, and a German interrogator found out that a captive GI had known the President? “So you vere friends as kids, and you visited him in ze Vhite House? Dummkopf! Vhy didn’t you murder FDR?” The monocle falls from the exasperated SS officer’s face, and the laugh track rolls on the set of another episode of Hogan’s Heroes.

All told, Kubizek got singled out for his association with Hitler — in his case, mostly far in the past — yet didn’t denounce him afterward. (This also is true of several others, with the notable exception of Albert Speer who thereby dodged the hangman’s noose during the Nuremberg show trials.) It’s somewhat surprising that his memoirs even got published by the mainstream press. If he’d lived to a very advanced age and written it recently, he probably would’ve gotten locked up for political charges again.

Surely he could’ve had a much better book deal if he’d invented lots of embarrassing anecdotes. He would’ve become a celebrity in certain circles. If he’d played his cards right, he could’ve had writing credits in a lurid docudrama that would still appear occasionally as a late-night TV rerun — you know the type.

However, friends don’t sell out.

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27 Comments

  1. Bernie
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I listened to this book online. A fascinating read (or listen).

    One scene had Hitler and “Gustl” – which is what he called his friend – looking to rent a cheap room. Hitler was inclined to accept one in particular but then the middle aged owner “accidentally” dropped her robe. Hitler was enraged (though said nothing to her) and decided against it. He was proper to a fault on most matters – even for his day.

    Hitler also sent a fruit basket to Gustl’s mother on her birthday up until his death. He was always appreciative of how she was kind to him after his mother had passed away. He was also loyal to a fault.

    • Autobot
      Posted November 6, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      This increases suspicion that he was gay. How did you listen to the book online?

      • Vauquelin
        Posted November 6, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        To be embarrassed by nudity one must first find it shamefully attractive.

      • Posted November 7, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        He did like women, but he didn’t care for inappropriate behavior. I’m just not seeing any evidence that he liked men, elsewhere or in the book In four years, he never made a move on his best friend or tried to see if he’d be down for that. He spoke about that disparagingly once, and that’s it.

        Other than that, it seems that OP had an audiobook.

  2. Alex
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    This is a great book

  3. Vehmgericht
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Is there not a legend that the future Führer attended primary school with the Austro-Jewish genius and saint-philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein?

    Of course the latter, in addition to having later also visited Manchester, had something else in common with Adolf — an interest in architecture.

    However, Wittgenstein achieved his project in that field, a modernist erection that survives to this day in Vienna, whereas the grandiose Hitler-Speer Germania never left the modelling table.

    One would not wish to come over all Freudian (here of all places) but is it possible that superior talents of his polymathic Ashkenazic schoolmate triggered an inferiority complex that sent the young Wolf’s ambitions in a megalomaniacal and singularly destructive direction?

    • James O'Meara
      Posted November 5, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      More than mere legend, it seems.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein#Jewish_background_and_Hitler

      Despite spending too many years in graduate school, including a couple courses that took up Wittgenstein, I never heard of this until I read about it Miles Mathis’s takedown of Wittgenstein and Russell. In my defense, the works cited for this info appeared long after my school days.

      http://mileswmathis.com/russ.pdf

      Apart from his usual obsessions, Miles brings out how suspicious all the details of Ludwig’s life are; they’re just supposed to be “odd” or “well, he’s a genius” etc. It makes a little more sense when you realize that far from an ascetic thinker, he was one of the richest men in Europe, and likely bought his way into everything, from his phony Cambridge degree to getting away with beating a pupil to death during his brief schoolteaching career. Money and ethnic networking allowed him to dilettante his way through various careers, means unavailable to Hitler. It probably wasn’t Ludwig himself but vast numbers of other rich Jewish dilettantes like him that eventually got Hitler’s goat.

      • Posted November 5, 2020 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        Good call on that. I’ve never gotten into Wittgenstein, despite some mild curiosity. Apparently then his reputation was built on puffery, enough to literally get away with murder. I’m tempted to give him a miss, but then again, blowing puffery to shreds is one of my specialties.

      • Vehmgericht
        Posted November 6, 2020 at 5:37 am | Permalink

        It is off topic, but other than the ‘De Selby’ style ruminations of Mr Mathis, full of absurdities, is there any source asserting that the boy beaten by Wittgenstein actually died from his injuries?

        For example the Paris Review sees the incident as only another step on Ludwig’s road to sainthood.

        The rural Austrian parents of the children under his charge were very backward and, one might imagine, even anti-Semitic. If Wittgenstein’s teaching discapline may seem to us severe, it was nothing out of the ordinary for the time, and the children were in any case privileged to access Genius at such an early age.

        Wittgenstein was in fact cleared of malfeasance by an inquiry and returned many years later to the village where he had taught in order to apologise in person as an exercise in self abnegation.

        All in all quite literally a case of goyishe kopf and naught to besmirch the reputation of a great — and very Jewish — philosopher?

        • Walter
          Posted November 6, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          What makes (or better: Who or what is) his genius? I’ve never read anything by Wittgenstein, but remember that his name was introduced in school (when I was about 18). The only memory I have is that what was said didn’t strike me as particularly important. It might have been my age, though, at 18 interests are different than at 28 or 38. Understanding of language was always an interest I had, so perhaps I’d find some of his propositions interesting now. Alas, he might also be one of these overly promoted people: Jewish; homosexual; a “refugee”, cosmopolitan, connected to the industry making and breaking reputations.

        • Autobot
          Posted November 6, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          There’s a Wikipedia page on the incident. Similar to Sylvester the child woke up. So say, Wit beat the students worse than was expected for the period and expected them to learn very advanced mathematics. He also hit girls and expected them to learn algebra, both which was unheard of at the time. The children rebelled by self inflicting nose bleeds and feigning unconsciousness when he hit them, Perhaps the boy was a case of that.

          I see it as a typical case of goyishe victimology and blaming their shortcomings on the Jews. 😉

      • Autobot
        Posted November 6, 2020 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Jeez, more info on beating the pupil please! Jj Sylvester, the Jewish mathematician once struck a student dead during a class in Virginia. He was fleeing the country when fortunately, the student woke up. Discipline! Story recounted in men of mathematics.

        What is Wittgenstein famous for, exactly? From what I can tell he’s brilliant for being brilliant, like some kardashian of philosophy. Or like popper, repackaging existing ideas and tethering them to liberal politics somehow. An explanation would be good.

  4. Luke
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing.

  5. Right_On
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Re “Britain’s secret war guarantee to Poland, contrary to international law” : was it the secrecy that violated the law?
    Given that Poland and the Irish Free State both gained their independence at about the same time – shortly after WWI – it’s always seemed implausible that Britain had the right to guarantee Polish sovereignty. Isn’t that as bizarre as if Hitler had decided to guarantee Irish sovereignty?
    Damned bad manners, I say. “Spheres of influence”, and all that.

    Re Vehmgericht’s post: did Hitler really visit Manchester or is that another urban legend?

    • Posted November 6, 2020 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Yes, secret military alliances were a big no-no, as they’d been a major contributing factor to WW1. That was one of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, but in the end, it didn’t stop anyone from breaking the rules.

      As for the analogy in reverse, Germany indeed wouldn’t have been in a good place to back the Irish. On the other hand, if Hitler had intended to stir up trouble and then munch popcorn while a border dispute in Ulster turned into a war, it would’ve served his purposes quite well.

  6. Walter
    Posted November 5, 2020 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I do possess Kubizek’s book, but have not read it yet, and this is a good reminder to do just that. I do in addition possess another important book about Hitler, Hermann Giesler’s Ein anderer Hitler, of which an English translation The Artist Within exists. It is a book by the architect Giesler and his meetings with Hitler when they had many conversations and discussions, much of them about architecture of course, Hitler’s ideas about it, his plans and designs, even the tomb he wanted to have built for himself, and a lot of other matters. I remember one such conversation they had about wide-gage railroads which Hitler wanted to see in Europe from the Ukraine to the Atlantic; he imagined transports of goods in containers with these trains and traveling for people would have been a most satisfactory and dignified way over long distances without being crammed and constricted as with aeroplanes in mass transport today. Giesler said that the concept of containers as easily movable units containing goods was an original idea of Hitler. They discussed the reconstruction of the train station in Munich (it was too small at the time), various NS buildings, and on occasion the war situation.
    It was fascinating reading and I think of it quite often, and as a book about this most talked-about man in history, it ought to be read by anyone interested in him and not in a caricature of the man.

    • Posted November 6, 2020 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      So the desperado of the Danube thought of cargo containers? I didn’t know about that. I do recall some controversy about the wide gauge rail, but I’m not sure of the details. I’ll say that even the 1.751 gauge system makes for a lot better ride than getting stuffed like sardines into a flying tin can.

      • Walter
        Posted November 6, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        This “controversy” was probably about yet another denunciatory instance of his purported megalomania. I am just waiting for the time when the Chinese or Indians will set up such a system with glowing approval of the One-Worlders.

  7. Peter Quint
    Posted November 6, 2020 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Good book, I have a 1st edition hardback.

    • Walter
      Posted November 7, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Since completeness and authenticity in the English translation is being discussed in the above article, I am wondering about the original length of the German version. How many pages does your first edition have? Subsequent editions to the third German one seem to all have either 293 or 294 pages (the fourth is the earliest edition I could find on sale).

      • Peter Quint
        Posted November 10, 2020 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        Mine, has 298 pp.

      • Posted November 10, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        Mine is from 2005, indicating “UNGEKÜRZTE SONDERAUSGABE” (unabridged special edition), 334 pages including front matter and pictures.

        • Walter
          Posted November 11, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Peter Quint & Beau Albrecht:
          Thank you for checking. The most interesting and relevant edition is always the first one which reflects the author’s original mindset in writing, i.e., before various alterations have been made for whatever reasons. Changes made in later impressions are not always restricted to simple corrections of the unavoidable printing errors, chasing down “the printing devil who has sneaked in” but to add and delete and to present a different picture. The so-called “spelling reform” in the German-speaking countries in 1998 had as a consequence that all pre-reform books had to be removed from libraries and replaced to conform to the new rules. It is to be suspected that this was used to not only eliminate a lot of books altogether, but also to introduce subtly altered texts to manipulatively put a new spin on the original’s text. The task would be enormous, but not impossible to carry out and not unprecedented and strongly motivated by the unending rewriting of the accounts given by contemporaries. (I read of one such alteration even concerning a text by Goethe about The Topic).
          In this 2005 edition, the marked increase in pages could be due to added pictures, a different layout and added “commentary” (as in the official German new edition of Mein Kampf which, if I remember correctly, has almost 1500 pages up from the original 700 pages, all due to “commentary”).

          • Peter Quint
            Posted November 12, 2020 at 6:45 am | Permalink

            I ordered my copy of “Mein Kampf” from National Vanguard Books back in the early 90s.

  8. Stephen Phillips
    Posted November 6, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    “… Still, not everyone is impressed; following a 2006 exhibition in Israel, the mayor of Haifa at the time called these early works “kitschy.”

    I guess they thought is didn’t measure up to the squares and rectangles of Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz.

    • Posted November 7, 2020 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      The way I see it, there are good ways to do abstract art. On the other hand, sometimes doing away with form ends up being a shortcut, and quality can suffer seriously. The “entartente Kunst” / “edgy to be edgy” stuff has been going on for a century. It’s time to reboot art and go back to form and grace again.

  9. Archie Bunker
    Posted November 11, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book. A quaint look at the early life of the 20th century’s most important figure.

    My English version has the Kershaw introduction. He tries his best to poison the well from the get-go, bringing Kubizek’s impartiality into question by “fact-checking” certain events, dates, etc.

    It seems that any attempt to humanize this “monster” will not be tolerated.

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