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The Mother of Adolf Hitler
WHEN my mother died, Fate, at least in one respect, had made its decisions.
In the last months of her sickness, I had gone to Vienna to take the entrance examination for the Academy. I had set out with a pile of drawings, convinced that it would be child's play to pass the examination. At the Realschule I had been by far the best in my class at drawing, and since then my ability had developed amazingly; my own satisfaction caused me to take a joyful pride in hoping for the best.
Yet sometimes a drop of bitterness put in its appearance: my talent for painting seemed to be excelled by my talent for drawing, especially in almost all fields of architecture. At the same time my interest in architecture as such increased steadily, and this development was accelerated after a two weeks' trip to Vienna which I took when not yet sixteen. The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest. For hours I could stand in front of the Opera, for hours I could gaze at the Parliament; the whole Ring Boulevard seemed to me like an enchantment out of -The Thousand-and-One-Nights.
Now I was in the fair city for the second time, waiting with burning impatience, but also with confident self-assurance, for the result of my entrance examination. I was so convinced that I would be successful that when I received my rejection, it struck me as a bolt from the blue. Yet that is what happened. When I presented myself to the rector, requesting an explanation for my non-acceptance at the Academy's school of painting, that gentleman assured me that the drawings I had submitted incontrovertibly showed my unfitness for painting, and that my ability obviously lay in the field of architecture; for me, he said, the Academy's school of painting was out of the question, the place for me was the School of Architecture. It was incomprehensible to him that I had never attended an architectural school or received any other training in architecture. Downcast, I left von Hansen's magnificent building on the Schillerplatz, for the first time in my young life at odds with myself. For what I had just heard about my abilities seemed like a lightning flash, suddenly revealing a conflict with which I had long been afflicted, although until then I had no clear conception of its why and wherefore.
In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect.
To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfill- ment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.
When after the death of my mother I went to Vienna for the third time, to remain for many years, the time which had mean-while elapsed had restored my calm and determination. My old defiance had come back to me and my goal was now clear and definite before my eyes. I wanted to become an architect, and obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken. I was determined to overcome these obstacles, keeping before my eyes the image of my father, who had started out as the child of a village shoemaker, and risen by his own efforts to be a government official. I had a better foundation to build on, and hence my possibilities in the struggle were easier, and what then seemed to be the harshness of Fate, I praise today as wisdom and Providence. While the Goddess of Suffering took me in her arms, often threatening to crush me, my will to resistance grew, and in the end this will was victorious.
I owe it to that period that I grew hard and am still capable of being hard. And even more, I exalt it for tearing me away from the hollowness of comfortable life; for drawing the mother's darling out of his soft downy bed and giving him 'Dame Care' for a new mother; for hurling me, despite all resistance, into a world of misery and poverty, thus making me acquainted with those for whom I was later to fight. In this period my eyes were opened to two menaces of which I had previously scarcely known the names, and whose terrible importance for the existence of the German people I certainly did not understand: Marxism and Jewry.
To me Vienna, the city which, to so many, is the epitome of innocent pleasure, a festive playground for merrymakers, represents, I am sorry to say, merely the living memory of the saddest period of my life.
Even today this city can arouse in me nothing but the most dismal thoughts. For me the name of this Phaeacian city I represents five years of hardship and misery. Five years in which I was forced to earn a living, first as a day laborer, then as a small painter; a truly meager living which never sufficed to appease even my daily hunger. Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard; he never left me for a moment and partook of all I had, share and share alike. Every book I acquired aroused his interest; a visit to the Opera prompted his attentions for days at a time; my life was a continuous struggle with this pitiless friend. And yet during this time I studied as never before. Aside from my architecture and my rare visits to the Opera, paid-for in hunger, I had but one pleasure: my books.
At that time I read enormously and thoroughly. All the free time my work left me was employed in my studies. In this way I forged in a few years' time the foundations of a knowledge from which I still draw nourishment today.
And even more than this:
In this period there took shape within me a world picture and a philosophy which became the granite foundation of all my acts. In addition to what I then created, I have had to learn little; and I have had to alter nothing.
On the contrary.
Today I am firmly convinced that basically and on the whole all creative ideas appear in our youth, in so far as any such are present. I distinguish between the wisdom of age, consisting solely in greater thoroughness and caution due to the experience of a long life, and the genius of youth, which pours out thoughts and ideas with inexhaustible fertility, but cannot for the moment develop them because of their very abundance. It is this youthful genius which provides the building materials and plans for the future, from which a wiser age takes the stones, carves them and completes the edifice, in so far as the so-called wisdom of age has not stifled the genius of youth.
The life which I had hitherto led at home differed little or not at all from the life of other people. Carefree, I could await the new day, and there was no social problem for me. The environment of my youth consisted of petty-bourgeois circles, hence of a world having very little relation to the purely manual worker. For, strange as it may seem at first glance, the cleft between this class, which in an economic sense is by no means so brilliantly situated, and the manual worker is often deeper than we imagine. The reason for this hostility, as we might almost call it, lies in the fear of a social group, which has but recently raised itself above the level of the manual worker, that it will sink back into the old despised class, or at least become identified with it. To this, in many cases, we must add the repugnant memory of the cultural poverty of this lower class, the frequent vulgarity of its social intercourse; the petty bourgeois' own position in society, however insignificant it may be, makes any contact with this outgrown stage of life and culture intolerable.
Consequently, the higher classes feel less constraint in their dealings with the lowest of their fellow men than seems possible to the 'upstart.'
For anyone is an upstart who rises by his own efforts from his previous position in life to a higher one.
Ultimately this struggle, which is often so hard, kills all pity. Our own painful struggle for existence destroys our feeling for the misery of those who have remained behind.
In this respect Fate was kind to me. By forcing me to return to this world of poverty and insecurity, from which my father had risen in the course of his life, it removed the blinders of a narrow petty-bourgeois upbringing from my eyes. Only now did I learn to know humanity, learning to distinguish between empty appearances or brutal externals and the inner being.
After the turn of the century, Vienna was, socially speaking, one of the most backward cities in Europe.
Dazzling riches and loathsome poverty alternated sharply. In the center and in the inner districts you could really feel the pulse of this realm of fifty-two millions, with all the dubious magic of the national melting pot. The Court with its dazzling glamour attracted wealth and intelligence from the rest of the country like a magnet. Added to this was the strong centralization of the Habsburg monarchy in itself.
It offered the sole possibility of holding this medley of nations together in any set form. But the consequence was an extraordinary concentration of high authorities in the imperial capital
Yet not only in the political and intellectual sense was Vienna the center of the old Danube monarchy, but economically as well. The host of high of officers, government officials, artists, and scholars was confronted by an even greater army of workers, and side by side with aristocratic and commercial wealth dwelt dire poverty. Outside the palaces on the Ring loitered thousands of unemployed, and beneath this Via Triumphalis of old Austria dwelt the homeless in the gloom and mud of the canals.
In hardly any German city could the social question have been studied better than in Vienna. But make no mistake. This 'studying' cannot be done from lofty heights. No one who has not been seized in the jaws of this murderous viper can know its poison fangs. Otherwise nothing results but superficial chatter and false sentimentality. Both are harmful. The former because it can never penetrate to the core of the problem, the latter because it passes it by. I do not know which is more terrible: inattention to social misery such as we see every day among the majority of those who have been favored by fortune or who have risen by their own efforts, or else the snobbish, or at times tactless and obtrusive, condescension of certain women of fashion in skirts or in trousers, who ' feel for the people.' In any event, these gentry sin far more than their minds, devoid of all instinct, are capable of realizing. Consequently, and much to their own amazement, the result of their social 'efforts' is always nil, frequently, in fact, an indignant rebuff, though this, of course, is passed off as a proof of the people's ingratitude.
Such minds are most reluctant to realize that social endeavor has nothing in common with this sort of thing; that above all it can raise no claim to gratitude, since its function is not to distribute favors but to restore rights.
I was preserved from studying the social question in such a way. By drawing me within its sphere of suffering, it did not seem to invite me to 'study,' but to experience it in my own skin. It was none of its doing that the guinea pig came through the operation safe and sound.
An attempt to enumerate the sentiments I experienced in that period could never be even approximately complete; I shall describe here only the most essential impressions, those which often moved me most deeply, and the few lessons which I derived from them at the time.
The actual business of finding work was, as a rule, not hard for me, since I was not a skilled craftsman, but was obliged to seek my daily bread as a so-called helper and sometimes as a casual laborer.
I adopted the attitude of all those who shake the dust of Europe from their feet with the irrevocable intention of founding a new existence in the New World and conquering a new home. Released from all the old, paralyzing ideas of profession and position, environment and tradition, they snatch at every livelihood that offers itself, grasp at every sort of work, progressing step by step to the realization that honest labor, no matter of what sort, disgraces no one. I, too, was determined to leap into this new world, with both feet, and fight my way through.
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler: Chapters Below.
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