it seems to me providential that Fate should have chosen
Braunau on the Inn as my birthplace. For this little town
lies on the boundary between two German states which we
of the younger generation at least have made it our life
work to reunite by every means at our disposal.
must return to the great German mother country, and not
because of any economic considerations. No, and again no:
even if such a union were unimportant from an economic point
of view; yes, even if it were harmful, it must nevertheless
take place. One blood demands one Reich. Never will the
German nation possess the moral right to engage in colonial
politics until, at least, it embraces its own sons within
a single state. Only when the Reich borders include the
very last German, but can no longer guarantee his daily
bread, will the moral right to acquire foreign soil arise
from the distress of our own people. Their sword will become
our plow, and from the tears of war the daily bread of future
generations will grow. And so this little city on the border
seems to me the symbol of a great mission. And in another
respect as well, it looms as an admonition to the present
day. More than a hundred years ago, this insignificant place
had the distinction of being immortalized in the annals
at least of German history, for it was the scene of a tragic
catastrophe which gripped the entire German nation. At the
time of our fatherland's deepest humiliation, Johannes Palm
of Nuremberg, burgher, bookseller, uncompromising nationalist
and French hater, died there for the Germany which he loved
so passionately even in her misfortune. He had stubbornly
refused to denounce his accomplices who were in fact his
superiors. In thus he resembled Leo Schlageter. And like
him, he was denounced to the French by a representative
of his government An Augsburg police chief won this unenviable
fame, thus furnishing an example for our modern German officials
in Herr Severing's Reich.
this little town on the Inn, gilded by the rays of German
martyrdom, Bavarian by blood, technically Austrian, lived
my parents in the late eighties of the past century; my father
a dutiful civil servants my mother giving all her being to
the household, and devoted above all to us children in eternal,
loving care Little remains in my memory of this period, for
after a few years my father had to leave the little border
city he had learned to love, moving down the Inn to take a
new position in Passau, that is, in Germany proper.
those days constant moving was the lot of an Austrian customs
official. A short time later, my father was sent to Linz, and
there he was finally pensioned. Yet, indeed, this was not to
mean 'rest' for the old gentleman. In his younger days, as the
son of a poor cottager, he couldn't bear to stay at home. Before
he was even thirteen, the little boy laced his tiny knapsack
and ran away from his home in the Waldviertel. Despite the at
tempts of 'experienced' villagers to dissuade him, he made his
way to Vienna, there to learn a trade. This was in the fifties
of the past century. A desperate decision, to take to the road
with only three gulden for travel money, and plunge into the
unknown. By the time the thirteen-year-old grew to be seventeen,
he had passed his apprentice's examination, but he was not yet
content. On the contrary. The long period of hardship, endless
misery, and suffering he had gone through strengthened his determination
to give up his trade and become 'something better.' Formerly
the poor boy had regarded the priest as the embodiment of all
humanly attainable heights; now in the big city, which had so
greatly widened his perspective, it was the rank of civil servant.
With all the tenacity of a young man whom suffering and care
had made 'old' while still half a child, the seventeen-year-old
clung to his new decision - he did enter the civil service.
And after nearly twenty-three years, I believe, he reached his
goal. Thus he seemed to have fulfilled a vow which he had made
as a poor boy: that he would not return to his beloved native
village until he had made something of himself.
goal was achieved; but no one in the village could remember
the little boy of former days, and to him the village had
finally, at the age of fifty-six, he went into retirement,
he could not bear to spend a single day of his leisure in
idleness. Near the Upper Austrian market village of Lambach
he bought a farm, which he worked himself, and thus, in the
circuit of a long and industrious life, returned to the origins
of his forefathers.
was at this time that the first ideals took shape in my breast.
All my playing about in the open, the long walk to school,
and particularly my association with extremely 'husky' boys,
which sometimes caused my mother bitter anguish, made me the
very opposite of a stay-at-home. And though at that time I
scarcely had any serious ideas as to the profession I should
one day pursue, my sympathies were in any case not in the
direction of my father's career. I believe that even then
my oratorical talent was being developed in the form of more
or less violent arguments with my schoolmates. I had become
a little ringleader; at school I learned easily and at that
time very well, but was otherwise rather hard to handle. Since
in my free time I received singing lessons in the cloister
at Lambach, I had excellent opportunity to intoxicate myself
with the solemn splendor of the brilliant church festivals.
As was only natural the abbot seemed to me, as the village
priest had once seemed to my father, the highest and most
desirable ideal. For a time, at least, this was the case.
But since my father, for understandable reasons, proved unable
to appreciate the oratorical talents of his pugnacious boy,
or to draw from them any favorable conclusions regarding the
future of his offspring, he could, it goes without saying,
achieve no understanding for such youthful ideas. With concern
he observed this conflict of nature.
it happened, my temporary aspiration for this profession was
in any case soon to vanish, making place for hopes more stated
to my temperament. Rummaging through my father's library, I
had come across various books of a military nature among them
a popular edition of the Franco-German War of 1870-71. It consisted
of two issues of an illustrated periodical from those years,
which now became my favorite reading matter It was not long
before the great heroic struggle had become my greatest inner
experience. From then on I became more and more enthusiastic
about everything that was in any way connected with war or,
for that matter, with soldiering
in another respect as well, this was to assume importance for
me. For the first time, though as yet in a confused form, the
question was forced upon my consciousness: Was there a difference
- and if so what difference - between the Germans who fought
these battles and other Germans? Why hadn't Austria taken part
in this war; why hadn't my father and all the others fought?
we not the same as all other Germans?
we not all belong together? This problem began to gnaw at
my little brain for the first time. I asked cautious questions
and with secret envy received the answer that not every German
was fortunate enough to belong to Bismarck's Reich..
was more than I could understand.
It was decided that I should go to high school.
my whole nature, and to an even greater degree from my temperament,
my father believed he could draw the inference that the humanistic
Gymnasium would represent a conflict with my talents.
A Realschule seemed to him more suitable. In this opinion
he was especially strengthened by my obvious aptitude for
drawing; a subject which in his opinion was neglected in the
Austrian Gymnasiums. Another factor may have been his
own laborious career which made humanistic study seem impractical
in his eyes, and therefore less desirable. It was his basic
opinion and intention that, like himself, his son would and
must become a civil servant. It was only natural that the
hardships of his youth should enhance his subsequent achievement
in his eyes, particularly since it resulted exclusively from
his own energy and iron diligence. It was the pride of the
self-made man which made him want his son to rise to the same
position in life, or, of course, even higher if possible,
especially since, by his own industrious life, he thought
he would be able to facilitate his child's development so
was simply inconceivable to him that I might reject what had
become the content of his whole life. Consequently, my father
s decision was simple, definite, and clear; in his own eyes
I mean, of course. Finally, a whole lifetime spent in the
bitter struggle for existence had given him a domineering
nature, and it would have seemed intolerable to him to leave
the final decision in such matters to an inexperienced boy,
having as yet no Sense of responsibility. Moreover, this would
have seemed a sinful and reprehensible weakness in the exercise
of his proper parental authority and responsibility for the
future life of his child, and as such, absolutely incompatible
with his concept of duty.
yet things were to turn out differently.
barely eleven years old, I was forced into opposition for
the first time in my life. Hard and determined as my father
might be in putting through plans and purposes once conceived
his son was just as persistent and recalcitrant in rejecting
an idea which appealed to him not at all, or in any case very
did not want to become a civil servant.
persuasion nor 'serious' arguments made any impression on
my resistance. I did not want to be a civil servant no, and
again no. All attempts on my father's part to inspire me with
love or pleasure in this profession by stories from his own
life accomplished the exact opposite. I yawned and grew sick
to my stomach at the thought of sitting in an office, deprived
of my liberty; ceasing to be master of my own time and being
compelled to force the content of a whole life into blanks
that had to be filled out.
what thoughts could this prospect arouse in a boy who in reality
was really anything but 'good' in the usual sense of the word?
School work was ridiculously easy, leaving me so much free
time that the sun saw more of me than my room. When today
my political opponents direct their loving attention to the
examination of my life, following it back to those childhood
days and discover at last to their relief what intolerable
pranks this "Hitler" played even in his youth, I thank Heaven
that a portion of the memories of those happy days still remains
with me. Woods and meadows were then the battlefields on which
the 'conflicts' which exist everywhere in life were decided.
this respect my attendance at the Realschule, which
now commenced, made little difference.
But now, to be sure, there was a new conflict to be fought
long as my fathers intention of making me a civil servant
encountered only my theoretical distaste for the profession,
the conflict was bearable. Thus far, I had to some extent
been able to keep my private opinions to myself; I did not
always have to contradict him immediately. My own firm determination
never to become a civil servant sufficed to give me complete
inner peace. And this decision in me was immutable. The problem
became more difficult when I developed a plan of my own in
opposition to my father's. And this occurred at the early
age of twelve. How it happened, I myself do not know, but
one day it became clear to me that I would become a painter,
an artist. There was no doubt as to my talent for drawing;
it had been one of my father's reasons for sending me to the
Realschule, but never in all the world would it have
occurred to him to give me professional training in this direction.
On the contrary. When for the first time, after once again
rejecting my father's favorite notion, I was asked what I
myself wanted to be, and I rather abruptly blurted out the
decision I had meanwhile made, my father for the moment was
doubted my sanity, or perhaps he thought he had heard wrong
or misunderstood me. But when he was clear on the subject, and
particularly after he felt - the seriousness of my intention,
he opposed it with all the determination of his nature. His
decision was extremely simple, for any consideration of w at
abilities I might really have was simply out of the question.
no, never as long as I live!' But since his son, among various
other qualities, had apparently inherited his father' s stubbornness,
the same answer came back at him. Except, of course, that
it was in the opposite sense.
And thus the situation remained on both sides. My father did
not depart from his 'Never!' And I intensified my 'Oh, yes!'
consequences, indeed, were none too pleasant. The old man
grew embittered, and, much as I loved him, so did I. Ally
father forbade me to nourish the slightest hope of ever being
allowed to study art. I went one step further and declared
that if that was the case I would stop studying altogether.
As a result of such 'pronouncements,' of course, I drew the
short end; the old man began the relentless enforcement of
his authority. In the future, therefore, I was silent, but
transformed my threat into reality. I thought that once my
father saw how little progress I was making at the Realschule,
he would let me devote myself to my dream, whether he liked
it or not.
do not know whether this calculation was correct. For the
moment only one thing was certain: my obvious lack of success
at school. What gave me pleasure I learned, especially everything
which, in my opinion, I should later need as a painter. What
seemed to me unimportant in this respect or was otherwise
unattractive to me, I sabotaged completely. My report cards
at this time, depending on the subject and my estimation of
it, showed nothing but extremes. Side by side with 'laudable'
and 'excellent,' stood 'adequate' or even 'inadequate.' By
far my best accomplishments were in geography and even more
so in history. These were my favorite subjects, in which I
led the; class.
now, after so many years, I examine the results of this period,
I regard two outstanding facts as particularly significant:
I became a nationalist.
Second: I learned to understand and grasp the meaning
Austria was a 'state of nationalities.'
By and large, a subject of the German Reich, at that time
at least, was absolutely unable to grasp the significance
of this fact for the life of the individual in such a state.
After the great victorious campaign of the heroic armies in
the Franco-German War, people had gradually lost interest
in the Germans living abroad; some could not, while others
were unable to appreciate their importance. Especially with
regard to the German-Austrians, the degenerate dynasty was
only too frequently confused with the people, which at the
core was robust and healthy.
they failed to appreciate was that, unless the German in Austria
had really been of the best blood, he would never have had
the power to set his stamp on a nation of fifty-two million
souls to such a degree that, even in Germany, the erroneous
opinion could arise that Austria was a German state. This
was an absurdity fraught with the direst consequences, and
yet a glowing testimonial to the ten million Germans in the
Ostmark. Only a handful of Germans in the Reich had
the slightest conception of the eternal and merciless struggle
for the German language, German schools, and a German way
of life. Only today, when the same deplorable misery is forced
on many millions of Germans from the Reich, who under foreign
rule dream of their common fatherland and strive, amid their
longing, at least to preserve their holy right to their mother
tongue, do wider circles understand what it means to be forced
to fight for one's nationality. Today perhaps some can appreciate
the greatness of the Germans in the Reich's old Ostmark,
who, with no one but themselves to depend on, for centuries
protected the Reich against incursions from the East, and
finally carried on an exhausting guerrilla warfare to maintain
the German language frontier, at a time when the Reich was
highly interested in colonies, but not in its own flesh and
blood at its very doorstep.
everywhere and always, in every struggle, there were, in this
fight for the language in old Austria, three strata:
fighters, the lukewarm and the traitors.
sifting process began at school. For the remarkable fact about
the language struggle is that its waves strike hardest perhaps
in the school, since it is the seed-bed of the coming generation.
It is a struggle for the soul of the child, and to the child
its first appeal is addressed:
boy, do not forget you are a German,' and, 'Little girl, remember
that you are to become a German mother.'
who knows the soul of youth will be able to understand that
it is they who lend ear most joyfully to such a battle-cry.
They carry on this struggle in hundreds of forms, in their own
way and with their own weapons. They refuse to sing un-German
songs. The more anyone tries to alienate them from German heroic
grandeur, the wilder becomes their enthusiasm: they go hungry
to save pennies for the grown-ups' battle fund their ears are
amazingly sensitive to un-German teachers, and at the same time
they are incredibly resistant; they wear the forbidden insignia
of their own nationality and are happy to be punished or even
beaten for it. Thus, on a small scale they are a faithful reflection
of the adults, except that often their convictions are better
and more honest.
too, while still comparatively young, had an opportunity to
take part in the struggle of nationalities in old Austria. Collections
were taken for the Südmark and the school association;
we emphasized our convictions by wearing corn-flowers and red,
black, and gold colors; 'Heil' was our greeting, and instead
of the imperial anthem we sang 'Deutschland über Alles,'
despite warnings and punishments. In this way the child received
political training in a period when as a rule the subject of
a so-called national state knew little more of his nationality
than its language. It goes without saying that even then I was
not among the lukewarm. In a short time I had become a fanatical
'German Nationalist,' though the term was not identical with
our present party concept.
development in me made rapid progress; by the time I was fifteen
I understood the difference between dynastic 'patriotism'
and folkish 'nationalism'; and even then I was
interested only in the latter.
anyone who has never taken the trouble to study the inner
conditions of the Habsburg monarchy, such a process may not
be entirely understandable. In this country the instruction
in world history had to provide the germ for this development,
since to all intents and purposes there is no such thing as
a specifically Austrian history. The destiny of this state
is so much bound up with the life and development of all the
Germans that a separation of history into German and Austrian
does not seem conceivable. Indeed, when at length Germany
began to divide into two spheres of power, this division itself
became German history.
insignia of former imperial glory, preserved in Vienna, still
seem to cast a magic spell; they stand as a pledge that these
twofold destinies are eternally one.
elemental cry of the German-Austrian people for union with the
German mother country, that arose in the days when the Habsburg
state was collapsing, was the result of a longing that slumbered
in the heart of the entire people - a longing to return to the
never-forgotten ancestral home. But this would be in explicable
if the historical education of the individual German-Austrian
had not given rise to so general a longing. In it lies a well
which never grows dry; which, especially in times of forgetfulness,
transcends all momentary prosperity and by constant reminders
of the past whispers softly of a new future
in world history in the so-called high schools is even today
in a very sorry condition. Few teachers understand that the
aim of studying history can never be to learn historical dates
and events by heart and recite them by rote; that what matters
is not whether the child knows exactly when this or that battle
was fought, when a general was born, or even when a monarch
(usually a very insignificant one) came into the crown of
his forefathers. No, by the living God, this is very unimportant.
'learn' history means to seek and find the forces which are
the causes leading to those effects which we subsequently
perceive as historical events.
art of reading as of learning is this: to retain the essential
to forget the non-essential.
it affected my whole later life that good fortune sent me
a history teacher who was one of the few to observe this principle
in teaching and examining. Dr. Leopold Pötsch, my professor
at the Realschule in Linz, embodied this requirement
to an ideal degree. This old gentleman's manner was as kind
as it was determined, his dazzling eloquence not only held
us spellbound but actually carried us away. Even today I think
back with gentle emotion on this gray-haired man who, by the
fire of his narratives, sometimes made us forget the present;
who, as if by enchantment, carried us into past times and,
out of the millennial veils of mist, molded dry historical
memories into living reality. On such occasions we sat there,
often aflame with enthusiasm, and sometimes even moved to
made our good fortune all the greater was that this teacher
knew how to illuminate the past by examples from the present,
and how from the past to draw inferences for the present.
As a result he had more understanding than anyone else for
all the daily problems which then held us breathless. He used
our budding nationalistic fanaticism as a means of educating
use frequently appealing to our sense of national honor. By
this alone he was able to discipline us little ruffians more
easily than would have been possible by any other means.
teacher made history my favorite subject.
indeed, though he had no such intention, it was then that
I became a little revolutionary.
who could have studied German history under such a teacher
without becoming an enemy of the state which, through its
ruling house, exerted so disastrous an influence on the destinies
of the nation?
who could retain his loyalty to a dynasty which in past and
present betrayed the needs of the German people again and
again for shameless private advantage?
we not know, even as little boys, that this Austrian state
had and could have no love for us Germans?
historical knowledge of the works of the House of Habsburg
was reinforced by our daily experience. In the north and south
the poison of foreign nations gnawed at the body of our nationality,
and even Vienna was visibly becoming more and more of an un-German
city. The Royal House Czechized wherever possible, and it
was the hand of the goddess of eternal justice and inexorable
retribution which caused Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the most
mortal enemy of Austrian-Germanism, to fall by the bullets
which he himself had helped to mold. For had he not been the
patron of Austria's Slavization from above !
were the burdens which the German people were expected to bear,
inconceivable their sacrifices in taxes and blood, and yet anyone
who was not totally blind was bound to recognize that all this
would be in vain. What pained us most was the fact that this
entire system was morally whitewashed by the alliance with Germany,
with the result that the slow extermination of Germanism in
the old monarchy was in a certain sense sanctioned by Germany
itself. The Habsburg hypocrisy, which enabled the Austrian rulers
to create the outward appearance that Austria was a German state,
raised the hatred toward this house to flaming indignation and
at the same time - contempt.
in the Reich itself, the men who even then were called to power
saw nothing of all this. As though stricken with blindness,
they lived by the side of a corpse, and in the symptoms of rottenness
saw only the signs of 'new' life.
unholy alliance of the young Reich and the Austrian sham state
contained the germ of the subsequent World War and of the
collapse as well.
the course of this book I shall have occasion to take up this
problem at length. Here it suffices to state that even in
my earliest youth I came to the basic insight which never
left me, but Only became more profound:
Germanism could be safeguarded only by the destruction of
Austria, and, furthermore, that national sentiment is in no
sense Identical with dynastic patriotism; that above all the
House of Habsburg was destined to be the misfortune of the
then I had drawn the consequences from this realization ardent
love for my German-Austrian homeland state.
habit of historical thinking which I thus learned in school
has never left me in the intervening years. To an ever-increasing
extent world history became for me an inexhaustible source
of understanding for the historical events of the present,
in other words, for politics. I do not want to 'learn' it,
I want it to in instruct me.
at an early age, I had become a political 'revolutionary,' and
I became an artistic revolutionary at an equally early age.
provincial capital of Upper Austria had at that time a theater
which was, relatively speaking, not bad. Pretty much of everything
was produced. At the age of twelve I saw Wilhelm Tell
for the first time, and a few months later my first opera,
Lohengrin. I was captivated at once. My youthful enthusiasm
for the master of Bayreuth knew no bounds. Again and again
I was drawn to his works, and it still seems to me especially
fortunate that the modest provincial performance left me open
to an intensified experience later on.
this, particularly after I had outgrown my adolescence (which
in my case was an especially painful process), reinforced
my profound distaste for the profession which my father had
chosen for me. My conviction grew stronger and stronger that
I would never be happy as a civil servant. The fact that by
this time my gift for drawing had been recognized at the Realschule
made my determination all the firmer.
pleas nor threats could change it one bit.
wanted to become a painter and no power in the world could
make me a civil servant.
strange as it may seem, with the passing years I became more
and more interested in architecture.
that time I regarded this as a natural complement to my gift
as a painter, and only rejoiced inwardly at the extension
of my artistic scope.
did not suspect that things would turn out differently.
question of my profession was to be decided more quickly than
I had previously expected.
my thirteenth year I suddenly lost my father. A stroke of
apoplexy felled the old gentleman who was otherwise so hale,
thus painlessly ending his earthly pilgrimage, plunging us
all into the depths of grief His most ardent desire had been
to help his son forge his career, thus preserving him from
his own bitter experience. In this, to all appearances, he
had not succeeded. But, though unwittingly, he had sown the
seed for a future which at that time neither he nor I would
the moment there was no outward change.
mother, to be sure, felt obliged to continue my education
in accordance with my father's wish; in other words, to have
me study for the civil servant's career. I, for my part, was
more than ever determined absolutely not to undertake this
career. In proportion as my schooling departed from my ideal
in subject matter and curriculum, I became more indifferent
at heart. Then suddenly an illness came to my help and in
a few weeks decided my future and the eternal domestic quarrel.
As a result of my serious lung ailment, a physician advised
my mother in most urgent terms never to send me into an office.
My attendance at the Realschule had furthermore to
be interrupted for at least a year. The goal for which I had
so long silently yearned, for which I had always fought, had
through this event suddenly become reality almost of its own
over my illness, my mother finally consented to take me out
of the Realschule and let me attend the Academy.
were the happiest days of my life and seemed to me almost
a dream; and a mere dream it was to remain. Two years later,
the death of my mother put a sudden end to all my high-flown
was the conclusion of a long and painful illness which from
the beginning left little hope of recovery. Yet it was a dreadful
blow, particularly for me. I had honored my father, but my
mother I had loved.
and hard reality now compelled me to take a quick decision.
What little my father had left had been largely exhausted
by my mother's grave illness; the orphan's pension to which
I was entitled was not enough for me even to live on, and
so I was faced with the problem of somehow making my own living.
my hand a suitcase full of clothes and underwear; in my heart
an indomitable will, I journeyed to Vienna. I, too, hoped to
wrest from Fate what my father had accomplished fifty years
before; I, too, wanted to become 'something' - but on no account
a civil servant.