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German-Austria must return to the great German mother
TODAY 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.
German-Austria 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.
In 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.
In 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 "res"' 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.
His goal was achieved; but no one in the village could remember the little boy of former days, and to him the village had grown strange.
When 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.
It 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.
As 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 1870-7I 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
But 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?
Are we not the same as all other Germans?
Do 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..
This was more than I could understand.
It was decided that I should go to high school.
From 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 Realschol 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 hus 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, orJ 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 greatly.
It 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.
And yet things were to turn out differently.
Then 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 little.
I did not want to become a civil servant.
Neither 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.
And 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.
In 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 out.
As 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 struck speechless.
' Painter? Artist? '
He 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.
'Artist, 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!'
The 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.
I 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.
If now, after so many years, I examine the results of this period, I regard two outstanding facts as particularly significant:
First: I became a nationalist
Second: I learned to understand and grasp the meaning of history.
Old 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 importances Especially with regard to the GermanAustrians, the degenerate dynasty was only too frequently confused with the people, which at the core was robust and healthy.
What 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.
As everywhere and always, in every struggle, there were, in this fight for the language in old Austria, three strata:
The fighters, the lukewarm and the traitors.
This 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:
'German boy, do not forget you are a German,' and, 'Little girl, remember that you are to become a German mother.'
Anyone 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 unGerman 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.
I, too, while still comparatively young, had an opportunity to take part in the struggle of nationalities in old Austria. Collections were taken for the Sudmark I and the school association; we emphasized our convictions by wearing corn-flowers and red lack, and gold colors; 'Heil ' was our greeting, and instead of the imperial anthem we sang 'Deutschland uber 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.
This 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.
For 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.
The 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.
The 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 GermanAustrian 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
Instruction 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.
To 'learn' history means to seek and find the forces which are the causes leading to those effects which we subsequently perceive as historical events.
The art of reading as of learning is this: to retain the essential to forget the non-essential.
Perhaps 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 Potsch, 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 tears.
What 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.
This teacher made history my favorite subject.
And indeed, though he had no such intention, it was then that I became a little revolutionary.
For 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?
And 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?
Did we not know, even as little boys, that this Austrian state had and could have no love for us Germans?
Our 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 !
Immense 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.
Only 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 rotten-
ness saw only the signs of 'new' life.
The 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.
In 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:
That 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 German nation.
Even then I had drawn the consequences from this realization ardent love for my German-Austrian homeland state.
The 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.
Thus, at an early age, I had become a political ' revolutionary,' and I became an artistic revolutionary at an equally early age.
The 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.
All 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.
Neither pleas nor threats could change it one bit.
I wanted to become a painter and no power in the world could make me a civil servant.
Yet, strange as it may seem, with the passing years I became more and more interested in architecture.
At 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.
I did not suspect that things would turn out differently.
The question of my profession was to be decided more quickly than I had previously expected.
In 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 have comprehended.
For the moment there was no outward change.
My 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 accord.
Concerned over my illness, my mother finally consented to take me out of the Realschule and let- me attend the Academy.
These 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 highflown plans.
It 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.
Poverty 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.
In 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.
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