History of the West

Central European History from Antiquity to the 20th Century

Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Adolf Hitler down and out in Vienna

Residency Card from Sechshauserstrasse, Summer 1909
Res­id­ency Card from Sech­shaus­er­strasse # 56, Sum­mer 1909

Pre­ced­ing Posts: In Aus­tria Before the War [Hitler’s Par­ents]

Adolf Hitler’s Boy­hood Friend [August Kubizek]

The Love God­dess [Stefanie Rabatsch, née Isak]

Soon: The Move to Vienna


New Videos: Amer­ic­an Video-Clip about the Putsch 1923 and A Kiss from a Fan at the Olympics 1936


Some­times a man feels as if the very for­tunes of his life are hinged upon a fra­gile pen­du­lum, which fol­lows wholly fore­or­dained yet enig­mat­ic move­ments. It is a mys­tery, the more con­fus­ing since we can­not determ­ine, at any giv­en time, our own pos­i­tion on this cos­mic scale without invari­ably chan­ging the oscillation’s peri­od or dir­ec­tion. In oth­er words, we may find out where we presently are, but not wheth­er we are mov­ing up or down on the scales of for­tune, for each of our actions or omis­sions has an impact on our future that we can­not truly cal­cu­late. When Adolf Hitler quit on his friend August Kubizek in the fall of 1908 and dis­ap­peared in the capital’s anonym­ous crowds, he chal­lenged For­tu­na by per­son­al defi­ance.

Robert Payne por­trays the impact of being on one’s own in a big town:

When a man sinks into poverty and misery in a vast city, many strange things hap­pen to him. If he is without fam­ily or friends and has no roots, he very quickly becomes the prey of delu­sions.

Mys­ter­i­ous voices speak to him, a stranger sud­denly glan­cing at him in the street will fill him with pan­ic, and he believes that a scrap of news­pa­per blown by the wind to his feet con­veys a mes­sage from some high­er powers.

In his loneli­ness and ter­ror, he learns that he has entered a sav­age coun­try of strange cus­toms and inex­plic­able cruel­ties, a coun­try in which he is a for­eign­er pos­sess­ing no right or priv­ileges, at the mercy of every­one and most of all at the mercy of offi­cials, a hunted creature who feels no secur­ity even when he is alone at night in the dark­ness of his own room.

We know much more about these lonely, ali­en­ated people than we did fifty years ago, per­haps because mod­ern soci­ety cre­ates more of them. We know the com­plic­ated con­triv­ances they invent to main­tain a sense of human dig­nity, and we can trace step by step how the shreds of human dig­nity are torn from them or salvaged in unpre­dict­able ways.

Pan­hand­ling Vet­er­ans

Such men are on the mercy of the sea­sons, for warm days give them a spuri­ous cour­age and winter reduces them to shiv­er­ing inco­her­ence. They talk inter­min­ably to them­selves, and cling des­per­ately to their fantas­ies. The blue stain on the wall, the stone picked up long ago, the string tied round the middle fin­ger, all these become fet­ishes without which life would become unen­dur­able.

We know too, that poverty has its own in-built com­pens­a­tions. In “Down and Out in Par­is or Lon­don”, George Orwell describes the strange, dull euphor­ia that comes with extreme poverty.

You dis­cov­er bore­dom and mean com­plic­a­tions and the begin­nings of hun­ger, but you also dis­cov­er the great redeem­ing future of poverty: the fact that it anni­hil­ates the future.

With­in cer­tain lim­its, it is actu­ally true that the less money you have, the less you worry. When you have a hun­dred francs in the world you are liable to the most craven pan­ics. When you have only three francs you are quite indif­fer­ent, for three francs will feed you till tomor­row, and you can­not think fur­ther than that.

You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, “I shall be starving in a day or two -shock­ing, isn’t it?” And then the mind wanders to oth­er top­ics. A bread and mar­gar­ine diet does, to some extent, provide its own ano­dyne.

But there are many con­sol­a­tions to poverty, and even apathy becomes exhaust­ing in time. For a nine­teen-year-old youth [Hitler] who dreamed of becom­ing a great artist, the con­sol­a­tion was more likely to be found in fantas­ies of his own tower­ing emin­ence in the arts, to the dis­com­fit­ure of all those who had hindered his pro­gress.” (1)

After hav­ing par­ti­cip­ated in the autum­nal man­oeuvres of his regi­ment, August Kubizek (Adolf´s only friend then) returned to Vienna in late Novem­ber 1908. He had of course informed his friend of his arrival and thus was baffled when Adolf nev­er showed up at the train sta­tion. Gustl con­cluded that only some­thing of utmost import­ance, without doubt some sort of emer­gency, could have com­pelled his friend’s absence and rushed to the Stump­er­gasse.

Vienna’s Academy of the Fine Arts, which rejec­ted Hitler twice, in 1907 and 1908, pos­sibly a third time in 1910 or 1911

Frau Zakreys, the land­lady, had no idea where Adolf was. He had giv­en her notice on Novem­ber 18, paid up the rent until the end of the month and dis­ap­peared without leav­ing a for­ward­ing address or mes­sage. She had already taken in anoth­er lodger. Gustl found a new dom­i­cile, in a nearby inn, and heard noth­ing more from his friend for many years to come. When he was in Linz over the Christ­mas hol­i­days, he vis­ited the Raubals, but Angela (Adolf´s half sis­ter) almost brusquely informed him that they had no idea where Adolf lived and blamed August for sup­port­ing Adolf’s artist­ic dreams. After this Kubizek had no more con­tact with the Hitler fam­ily until, twenty-five years later, his boy­hood pal had become the new chan­cel­lor of Ger­many.

Angela Hitler and her first hus­band Leo Raubal

At this time, and still today, every change in address had to be brought to the atten­tion of the police [FN1] – essen­tially as a means to keep track of the men of mil­it­ary age. Adolf registered his new address with the police on Novem­ber 19, 1908, as Room # 16, Fel­ber­strasse 22, c/o Frau Helene Riedl, in the XVth Dis­trict, right at the West­bahnhof, where he lived until August 21, 1909, as a “Stu­dent”. (2)

[FN1] Franz Jet­zinger et al. have argued that Gustl could have eas­ily found out Adolf’s new address via the Meldeamt, the Regis­tra­tion office. This is not entirely accur­ate, because these files were not pub­lic and gen­er­ally avail­able only to the police, courts and the mil­it­ary. Cf. Jones, J. Sydney, p. 291 [Infra]

It was obvi­ous that the second Aca­dem­ic rejec­tion had put Hitler in a funk, and it is quite pos­sible that he simply did not have the nerve to tell Gustl of the repeated fail­ure. One thing about the move, how­ever, remains a mys­tery: the new room was big­ger and thus more expens­ive than the hab­it­at at Frau Zakreys. It has been spec­u­lated that the sud­den flight from the Stump­er­gasse was pur­sued to hide some­thing or someone from Gustl, per­haps a girl. But for a dearth of proof we can only hypo­thes­ize about Hitler’s reas­ons, as we must when we face the ques­tion of whence the money came for the high­er rent.

This is the peri­od in Hitler’s life we know least about. Some­thing decis­ive must have occurred in addi­tion to the second Academy fiasco. We do know that he spent about eight months in the Fel­ber­strasse room, includ­ing his twen­ti­eth birth­day on April 20, 1909. Dec­ades later, a few of his neigh­bours have come for­ward with dim memor­ies of a polite young man who appeared some­what dis­tant, occu­pied with his own affairs. There was a café nearby he used to vis­it, the Café Kubata, and from there we have some vague indic­at­ors that he may have spent some time in female com­pany. Maria Wohlrab, née Kubata, said that she saw him often in the com­pany of a girl which was, per­haps, named “Wetti” or “Pepi”. Frau Christa Schroeder, from the 1920s on Hitler’s long-time sec­ret­ary, insisted that her chef had men­tioned to her, more than once, that he had a “beloved” at that time in Vienna named “Emilie”. The cash­ier at the Café Kubata later remembered that she liked the young man because “he was very reserved and quiet, and would read books and seemed very ser­i­ous, unlike the rest of the young men.” (3)

The cost of the Fel­ber­strasse apart­ment, wheth­er he used it alone or not, may have put too much of a strain on Hitler’s fin­ances, which were by now most prob­ably lim­ited to the twenty-five crowns orphan assist­ance he still received each month. He moved again, on August 21, 1909, this time as a “Writer”, to Sech­shaus­er­strasse 56, 2nd Floor, Room 21, c/o Frau Ant­onie Ober­lech­ner, in the XIVth Dis­trict. It was very close to the Fel­ber­strasse but prob­ably cheap­er, for the Sech­shaus­er­strasse was a thor­ough­fare with lots of street noise and trol­ley traffic. (4)

On the move – Novem­ber 1908 until Septem­ber 1909

Things did not improve, it seems. Less than four weeks later, on Septem­ber 16, 1909, he left Sech­shaus­er­strasse without regis­ter­ing a for­ward address. He must have been close to the end of the rope: for about three months his tracks are lost with­in the mul­ti­tudes of Vienna’s poor, in the anonym­ity of the home­less and indi­gent.

On Septem­ber 16, 1909, Hitler leaves Sech­shaus­er­straße 56 in the XIVth Dis­trict, c/o Mrs. Ant­onie Ober­lech­ner, where he had lived, and got lost amid Vienna’s home­less …

The days of his vag­rancy forced him, alike the myri­ads that shared his fate, to seek shel­ter from the cold of the impend­ing winter in parks, alleys, door­ways and ditches. A favour­ite place was Vienna’s amuse­ment park “Prater”, which was mostly inact­ive in winter and provided lots of benches, for which the com­pet­i­tion was intense. He may well, as many oth­ers did, have tried to sleep in cof­fee houses, bars or flop houses, in the wait­ing rooms of train sta­tions or the warm­ing rooms of the city’s char­it­ies. In Mein Kampf, he admit­ted that “even now I shud­der when I think of these piti­ful dens, the shel­ters and lodging houses, those sin­is­ter pic­tures of dirt and repug­nant filth and worse still.” (5) So ardu­ous was his pecu­ni­ary dis­tress that he had to sell his art mater­i­als and most of his cloth­ing; an endeav­our ill-suited to the fall­ing tem­per­at­ures. To add insult to injury, the winter of 1909/10 turned out the most fright­ful in dec­ades and one day Hitler had to admit defeat to Vienna’s weath­er gods: one cold Decem­ber even­ing, he showed up in the work­ers’ sub­urb of Meidling; more pre­cisely in the long row of derel­ict wretches who waited for admis­sion to the Asyl für Obdachlose, the “Asylum for the Home­less”.

The Asylum, Untere Meidlinger Street 3, built 1908

The Asylum, “which in con­sid­er­a­tion for the decent cit­izens was built behind the Meidlinger cemetery, far from the res­id­ents” (6) but near the south­ern rail­way sta­tion, had only been opened in 1908. Togeth­er with a sim­il­ar insti­tu­tion in the 3rd Dis­trict, it was oper­ated by the “Shel­ter Asso­ci­ation for the Home­less“, a char­ity which fin­anced itself by private dona­tions and received an annu­al sub­sidy from the city. (7) Yet the asso­ci­ation had to fight wind­mills in its con­stant struggle against the three related issues that plagued the poor: poverty res­ul­ted in home­less­ness, home­less­ness res­ul­ted in dis­ease, and dis­ease res­ul­ted in loss of employ­ment. Imper­i­al Vienna, we men­tioned it, was at that time a met­ro­pol­is of over two mil­lion inhab­it­ants, the sixth-biggest town on earth, and cer­tainly more than a quarter mil­lion of its den­iz­ens was releg­ated to per­petu­al poverty. Many of the losers came from the out­er provinces of the Empire, the East or the South, and lacked a suit­able com­mand of the Ger­man lan­guage, which in turn decreased their chances of employ­ment. Worse, they lacked the kind of sur­viv­al instincts that apply to a city, as opposed to those applic­able at their rur­al places of ori­gin.

The Meidlinger shel­ter was a sturdy affair, offer­ing refuge for about one thou­sand souls. Unlike oth­er char­it­ies it allowed occu­pants to stay for one week only (a stip­u­la­tion that could be cir­cum­ven­ted), but it offered an advant­age most oth­er places lacked: it would take in whole fam­il­ies and their chil­dren, not only single men. It pro­moted self-help as well: every­body, health per­mit­ting, was called upon to aid in the clean­ing and main­ten­ance of the build­ing, to keep oper­at­ing costs at a min­im­um. The build­ing was not too dreary, thanks to its recent ped­i­gree; there were wash­ing facil­it­ies, showers and numer­ous toi­lets, all of them kept spot­lessly clean. Two meals a day were sup­plied, soup and sand­wich, for break­fast and sup­per; the dorm­it­or­ies fea­tured the usu­al mil­it­ary-style cots, lined up with the pre­ci­sion of a bat­talion on parade. Dur­ing day­light hours the occu­pants were expec­ted to leave the shel­ter, prefer­ably in search of employ­ment; loiter­ing was frowned upon and could eas­ily lead to evic­tion.

One of Hitler’s bet­ter efforts – a scene on a lake

Much as he dis­liked it, Hitler had to pass through the ritu­al of admis­sion; estab­lish­ing mem­ber­ship in the com­munity of misery. The shiver­lings began to line up out­side of the main gate when dark­ness fell, around 5 pm, and when the doors of the insti­tu­tion opened, two rows of bod­ies filed in quietly: men to the right, woman and chil­dren to the left. Hitler received, as every­body else did, a tick­et that entitled him to the stat­utory one week of lodging and was assigned a brass cot in one of the dorm­it­or­ies. It must have been exceed­ingly oner­ous for a man who was used to his pri­vacy as much as Hitler was, to face one’s first exper­i­ence with pub­lic showers and delous­a­tion pro­ced­ures. His proud sense of indi­vidu­al­ity must have van­ished at the latest when he joined the herd of occu­pants head­ing to the mess hall for din­ner. As John Toland observed, “it would be dif­fi­cult for any­one but anoth­er recip­i­ent of insti­tu­tion­al­ized char­ity to under­stand the shame suffered by a proud young man on his first day with­in the gates of such an estab­lish­ment.” (8)

For a man so much accus­tomed to his free­dom, the asylum cer­tainly felt like a pris­on. One can ima­gine how he sat, com­pletely lost, on a cot in a large hall with hun­dreds of strangers, each of whom was more famil­i­ar with the situ­ation than he was. It was per­haps his imper­son­a­tion of a lost kit­ten that con­vinced his cot neigh­bour, an on-and-off ser­vant and waiter named Rein­hold Han­isch, to take care of him and to show him the ropes. Although Han­isch by him­self is a prob­lem as a wit­ness – when he met Hitler he had already been to jail more than once, lived habitu­ally under false names and doctored birth cer­ti­fic­ates, and in later years coun­ter­feited Hitler paint­ings – some parts of his mem­oir that the Amer­ic­an magazine The New Repub­lic prin­ted in 1939 – ­posthum­ously – under the title “Rein­hold Han­isch: I was Hitler’s Buddy”, ring true, among much that has been proven false or at least mis­lead­ing. [FN2] Unlike Hitler, Han­isch was a pro­fes­sion­al util­izer of char­ity-assisted life­styles, was famil­i­ar with the inner work­ings of the asylum and every oth­er such house in Vienna and also an expert in the gen­er­al sur­viv­al strategies of vag­rants. He proved his value instantly: one of the first tricks he taught Hitler was how to cir­cum­vent the lodging lim­it­a­tion; all one had to do was buy, for a few pen­nies, the unused por­tions of the admit­tance cards of those occu­pants who, for a vari­ety of reas­ons, left without hav­ing used up their allot­ment. Thus, the first danger of hav­ing to return into the cold was banned and Hitler began to appre­ci­ate his new acquaint­ance.

[FN2] Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn provides an excel­lent over­view about the sources on Hitler’s years in the Men’s Hostel, and dis­cusses in which instants Han­isch can be trus­ted and when not (“Hitler’s Vienna”, see quotes below, p. 184 ff.).

Rein­hold Han­isch came from the Sude­ten­land, the north­ern, Ger­man part of Bohemia, being born Janu­ary 27, 1884 at Grün­wald (Mšeno nad Nisou) near Gablenz, but had trav­elled extens­ively and thus was able to tell his new friend many stor­ies about Ger­many, Adolf’s prom­ised land. Han­isch also hedged a few dreams of becom­ing an artist and imme­di­ately recog­nized a related soul in Hitler. Han­isch had seen and could relate the tales of towns and castles, cathed­rals and mon­as­ter­ies, moun­tains and rivers.

To make things more enter­tain­ing for Adolf, it turned out that Han­isch had worked in Braunau for some time, and they began to exchange remin­is­cences of the town. As it fre­quently hap­pens, com­mon know­ledge and com­mon interests breed trust, and soon they talked incess­antly. That is, until Han­isch found a new job and moved, on Decem­ber 21, 1909, to Her­manngasse 16 in the IInd Dis­trict, and, on Feb­ru­ary 11, 1910, on to Herz­gasse 3/4, in the Xth Dis­trict. (9)

After a few days of listen­ing to Han­isch, Hitler had mem­or­ized the basic rules of street life, and they developed a kind of daily routine. In the morn­ing they set out on the rather long walk to St. Katherine’s Con­vent near Adolf’s old haunts at the West­bahnhof to queue up for the soup the nuns passed out at noon, then on to one of the warm­ing rooms oper­ated by the phil­an­throp­ic soci­et­ies or into the rel­at­ive warmth of a rail­way sta­tion. In the after­noon, they would be try­ing to sneak up a snack at the Sal­va­tion Army before head­ing back to the asylum in time to be among the first in the wait­ing line. Occa­sion­ally men were sought for a day or two of work in ditch dig­ging, snow shov­el­ling or lug­gage hand­ling at a train sta­tion, but Han­isch quickly real­ized that Hitler was too weak for these incid­ent­al jobs. Neither did Adolf have any tal­ent for beg­ging, although he acquired from an asylum com­rade the addresses of “soft touches”, pro­spect­ive donors. He received “spe­cif­ic instruc­tions for each cus­tom­er; for example he was to greet an old lady on the Schot­ten­ring with a “Praised be Jesus Christ”, and then say he was an unem­ployed church paint­er or a wood­cut­ter of holy fig­ures. Usu­ally she gave two Kron­en for such a story, but Hitler only got reli­gious plat­it­udes for his trouble.” (10) The nuns of St. Katherine’s were one of the few reli­able addresses in town.

À la longue, Han­isch real­ized that, while prac­tic­ally all the out­casts of the cap­it­al did beg, very few did paint, and derived a plan how to profit from Adolf’s artist­ic abil­it­ies. We do not know exactly when the idea came up; either dur­ing the two months Hitler spent at the Asylum in Meidling or later at the Men’s Hostel in the Mel­de­mannstrasse, but, at any rate, Han­isch con­vinced his friend that the best way to make some dire needed cash was to paint small scenes or post­cards and sell them. When Hitler objec­ted that he had no more paint­ing utensils, was too shab­bily dressed to sell any­thing and not a great sales­man to boot, the plan was amended and the labour divided: Adolf would do the paint­ing and Han­isch the selling, for a fifty per cent com­mis­sion. (11)

There was the tricky issue that the two pro­spect­ive entre­pren­eurs did not have a licence, but Han­isch assured his friend that such petty reg­u­la­tions could be out­flanked by mov­ing their point of sale into the dim and grey, smoke-filled tav­erns of the city, of which Han­isch, hav­ing worked in many, had an encyc­lo­paed­ic know­ledge. In regard to the paint­ing mater­i­als, Han­isch pro­posed to apply to the gen­er­os­ity of Adolf’s fam­ily. The Café Arthaber, con­veni­ently loc­ated near the Meidling train sta­tion, was known to provide pen and paper for the vag­rants if they paid the uni­ver­sal entry fee – the price of a cup of cof­fee. Adolf wrote a let­ter, either to Aunt Johanna or to Angela, and a few days later a fifty crown note arrived poste rest­ante. (12) “The money prob­ably saved his life, for it gave him renewed hope at a time when he had little to hope for.” (13)

All the petty pos­ses­sions he had accu­mu­lated in the pre­ced­ing years had long since dis­ap­peared. It is quite pos­sible that an irate land­lady seized some in lieu of rent, but in his piti­ful state of exist­ence before the asylum, he may simply have lost most of them – out of sight, out of mind. All the books, manu­scripts, paint­ings, sketches, maps and draw­ings were lost; gone were the dressy over­coat, top hat and walk­ing stick. Had August met this des­ti­tute fig­ure, he might not have recog­nized him. The young, almost eleg­ant Bohemi­an had van­ished; all that was left was a piece of human flot­sam; the debris of the young boy that had urged his play­mates to chase the red­skins. Only frag­ments remained of the son Klara had so loved.

The crash of his dream world sent pulses, like ripples, to the out­er rims of his con­scious­ness; the rem­nants of his former self may have caught glimpses of unfa­mil­i­ar sur­round­ings, see­ing but not real­iz­ing how he had arrived there. As if arising from hiberna­tion, Adolf found him­self in a place of per­plex­ing strange­ness and laboured to re-estab­lish the men­tal cohe­sion of time and place. In a 1913 let­ter he wrote: “The autumn of 1909 was for me an inter­min­ably bit­ter time. I was a young man with no exper­i­ence, without fin­an­cial assist­ance, and too proud to accept it from just any­one, let alone beg for it.” (14) The bit­ter feel­ing was real enough, but the last clause was a lie: his true prob­lem with beg­ging was that it did not work for him.

Yet in a sense the marks of this winter nev­er van­ished. In the descrip­tion of their friend­ship, August had painted the por­trait of a slightly strange, some­what exot­ic, a little awk­ward and some­times viol­ent young man, who was non­ethe­less per­man­ently act­ive, if only self-centred; writ­ing, com­pos­ing an opera, draw­ing, paint­ing and rebuild­ing Linz. Now, less than twelve months later, his friend was des­ti­tute of mind and body. He had lost weight and his health was doubt­ful. It has been advoc­ated and indeed seems pos­sible that the innu­mer­able ail­ments, big and small, that plagued him in later years were rooted in this cold winter, which exacer­bated his earli­er afflic­tion of the lung and may have weakened his immune sys­tem as well.

But not only was he phys­ic­ally exhausted, his spir­it had suffered as well. For long spells he retained the stare com­mon to vis­ion­ar­ies and beg­gars; con­cen­tra­tion was sporad­ic, reas­on elu­sive, his pas­sions dull, unless some­thing bothered him. Then he could still erupt in flames, in fierce and bit­ing cres­cendo arguing, rant­ing, raging; only to sink back quickly into the com­fort­ing ano­dyne of apathy. He was on the verge of defeat when Han­isch picked him up, but he even­tu­ally adap­ted to the out­cast life and gradu­ally things improved.

The Meidlinger asylum how­ever, while hav­ing provided a safety net in the days of calam­ity and ire, was no place to start Hitler & Han­isch, Post­cards Un-Incor­por­ated. A loc­a­tion had to be found which not only allowed long-time ten­ure but also provided a space where Hitler could paint dur­ing the day. Han­isch iden­ti­fied such a place in the Män­ner­heim, the Men’s Hostel, in Bri­git­tenau, Vienna’s new­est, the XXth Dis­trict.

The Männerheim at Meldemannstraße 25 - 29, Vienna
The Män­ner­heim at Mel­de­mannstraße 25 – 29, Vienna

We shall ask Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn (“Hitler’s Vienna”, 1st Ed. Oxford UP 1999, Taur­is Parks 2010, ISBN 978−1−84885−277−8) to intro­duce us to the facil­ity where Adolf Hitler was to live from Feb­ru­ary 9, 1910 to May 24, 1913. She cites from a report by Vien­nese journ­al­ist Ernst Kläger, who, dis­guised as a beg­gar, spent a night at the hostel and wrote an art­icle about it. The area between down­town Vienna and Bri­git­tenau, bey­ond the Danube Canal, was des­ol­ate. Finally, Kläger found the new hostel.

The six-story men’s hostel in Vienna-Bri­git­tenau, 25 – 29 Mel­de­mannstrasse, was among the most mod­ern in Europe. Opened in 1905, it was fun­ded by the private Emper­or Fran­cis Joseph Anniversary Found­a­tion for Pub­lic Hous­ing and Char­it­able Insti­tu­tions, which was fin­anced through dona­tions, receiv­ing sig­ni­fic­ant con­tri­bu­tions from Jew­ish fam­il­ies, par­tic­u­larly from Bar­on Nath­aniel Roth­schild and the Gut­mann fam­ily. The hostel was admin­istered by the City of Vienna. The first blue­prints caused a stir dur­ing an exhib­i­tion in the Künst­ler­haus (Artists’ House). The hostel was not to have com­mon sleep­ing areas but indi­vidu­al com­part­ments for each of its up to 544 guests, excel­lent hygien­ic con­di­tions, and many social events to enhance “edu­ca­tion and soci­ab­il­ity.”

Bri­git­tenau, at the out­skirts of the city, had many new indus­tri­al plants, a great need for labour­ers, and the most rap­id pop­u­la­tion growth in all of Vienna’s dis­tricts. Its pop­u­la­tion increased from 37,000 in 1890 to 101,000 in 1910. Most new res­id­ents were young single men who worked in the new factor­ies and, because there were no cheap apart­ments, found places to spend the night as lodgers in over­crowded work­ers’ apart­ments.

This new men’s hostel was sup­posed to decrease the num­ber of lodgers and thus pro­tect the com­prom­ised mor­als of their host fam­il­ies. The foundation’s prin­cip­al trust­ee, Prince Carl Auer­sperg, poin­ted this out on the occa­sion of Emper­or Franz Joseph’s vis­it in 1905: “In par­tic­u­lar, this men’s hostel seeks to give an actu­al example of the ... chance to effect­ively fight the per­ni­cious phe­nomen­on of lodging, to offer single labour­ers a home instead of the dull and over­crowded emer­gency quar­ters, provid­ing not only an afford­able place to stay but also provid­ing the oppor­tun­ity to nour­ish body and mind.”

Rent for one sleep­ing place was only 2.5 Kron­en per week, an amount a single handy­man or crafts­man with an annu­al income of 1,000 Kron­en [doubt­ful, see FN1] could afford. In Vienna the hostel was thus praised as “a mir­acle of a divine lodging place on earth” and “a mar­vel of eleg­ance and afford­ab­il­ity.”

[FN1] The aver­age monthly wage in 1910 was 54 Kron­en (Aus­tri­an Nation­al Bank). Wern­er Maser gives the fol­low­ing examples of salar­ies: “At that time a lawyer’s salary, after one year’s prac­tice in court, was 70 crowns per month, that of a teach­er dur­ing the first five years of his career, 66 crowns. A post office offi­cial earned 60 crowns, while an assist­ant teach­er in a Vienna sec­ond­ary school before 1914 received a monthly salary of 82 crowns.” (Wern­er Maser, Adolf Hitler: Legend, Myth and Real­ity, NY 1971, p.43)

A large elec­tric arc lamp over the gate guides those who are stum­bling up the hill of dug-up soil. Com­pared to the oth­er, smal­ler houses around and the bare fact­ory build­ings in the back, the shel­ter looks proud. I open the door and to my sur­prise find myself in a ves­ti­bule which no good hotel would put to shame. I am embraced by com­fort­able warm air.” The men’s hostel had both elec­tric and gas lights and was heated by a mod­ern, cent­ral low-pres­sure steam heat­er. At the counter the report­er had no dif­fi­culty in obtain­ing a tick­et for one night for thirty Kreuzers (sixty Hellers; one Krone had 100 Hellers, i.e. cents). Kläger described the din­ing room in the upper mezzan­ine: “Again I am pleas­antly sur­prised by the eleg­ance of the room, which is lighted by two arc lamps and whose walls are covered halfway up with pale green tiles.”

Then he tried the dirt-cheap food and found the meals “all very good.” The occu­pants spent only an aver­age of half a Krone per day for food in the hostel – for break­fast, din­ner, and snacks – in oth­er words, only approx­im­ately fif­teen Kron­en per month.

Kläger watched the lodgers: “The door opens con­stantly, and someone in a bad suit, usu­ally a bag under his arm, enters. One could tell that most occu­pants were incred­ibly tired.” Because most of them worked dur­ing the day, it was quiet in the after­noon. Yet in the even­ing “it was lively, gregari­ous, but by no means bois­ter­ous, until around ten-thirty.”

There were kit­chenettes with gas rings and kit­chen utensils for those who wanted to pre­pare their own food. Cook­ing teams were formed: one of the unem­ployed would remain in the hostel, go shop­ping, and cook for some of the labour­ers, and in return could eat for free. Ini­tially Hitler tried to cook, but with little suc­cess, for accord­ing to Rein­hold Han­isch, the Upper Aus­tri­an milk soup he proudly offered had curdled and turned out more like cheese.

Kläger made his rounds through the shel­ter and repor­ted: “Right next to the din­ing room is a large, very nicely fur­nished read­ing room with two sec­tions, one for smokers and one for non-smokers. It has dailies and a nice lib­rary which is avail­able to the lodgers. Most books are easy-to-digest nov­els and writ­ings on pop­u­lar sci­ence. There are also desks with the neces­sary utensils for doing one’s cor­res­pond­ence.” On Sunday after­noons there was enter­tain­ment plus the oppor­tun­ity for con­tinu­ing edu­ca­tion through con­certs and lec­tures. On the lower mezzan­ine there were laun­dry and shoe-shin­ing rooms, lug­gage and bicycle racks, and a cob­bler and tail­or room.

Hygien­ic con­di­tions were exem­plary: a house doc­tor prac­ticed for free, offer­ing out­pa­tients ser­vices in a “sick room” for minor ill­nesses. As in all shel­ters, there was a dis­in­fec­tion room for delous­ing the new­comers. Apart from lav­at­or­ies, there were also a shav­ing room and a shower room with six­teen showers, twenty-five foot­baths, and four bathtubs. One bath was twenty-five Heller, about a third of the price in a pub­lic bath. All this bore fruit in the chol­era year of 1910; the dreaded dis­ease spared the fully occu­pied men’s hostel.

The sleep­ing wing, com­pris­ing the four top floors, was opened at 8:00 pm and had to be vacated by 9:00 am. It con­sisted of long rows of tiny, sep­ar­ate sleep­ing com­part­ments, each meas­ur­ing 4.6 × 6.9 feet. There was enough room for a bed, a small table, a clothes rack, and a mir­ror. Per­man­ent guests had their sheets changed every sev­en days, and one-night guests every day, as in hotels. As an extra con­veni­ence, each com­part­ment had a door with a lock and a light bulb. It was prob­ably the first time Hitler had elec­tric light in his room. (15)

Hitler, how­ever, was not prone to sing the praises of the hostel in his later years, for the Führ­er legend had him sleep­ing in parks and ditches, which he had done, but only for a few months before mov­ing into the hostel and soon doing com­par­at­ively well. For the basic dif­fer­ence between the asylum and the hostel was that the former was the last step, per­haps, before starving or freez­ing to death, while in the lat­ter, at least in the­ory, a man could con­vince him­self that he was on the way to a bet­ter future. One might be poor but still har­bour a ray of hope.

Here we must return to the prob­lem of Rein­hold Han­isch’s vera­city. He claimed that he fol­lowed Hitler into the hostel a few days later, and since Hitler had filed his new address at the Män­ner­heim with the police on Feb­ru­ary 9, Han­isch would have to have arrived soon after­wards. We do know that Han­isch was fre­quently seen in the hostel, and did indeed pick up Hitler’s paint­ings to sell them, but he was still registered at that time at Herz­gasse 3/4 in the dis­tant Xth Dis­trict. The records for Adolf are clear: with one small inter­rup­tion, he stayed at the Män­ner­heim from Feb­ru­ary 9, 1910 to May 24, 1913, thirty-nine months. He might have left on errands here and there, but for more than three years the build­ing on Mel­de­mannstrasse was his home – for about six Kron­en food and lodging per week. Poor as the occu­pants undoubtedly were, the admin­is­tra­tion tried hard to keep up their dig­nity. The men could take cor­res­pond­ence courses, apply for the Social Demo­crat­ic Party’s job place­ment pro­gram, or read the bibles provided by the Cath­ol­ic Home­less Asso­ci­ation. “Ruhe and Ord­nung”, silence and order, were strictly enforced, as was a dress code. All in all, the Män­ner­heim provided a calm, mon­ast­ic atmo­sphere in which Hitler nicely fit in, except for some polit­ic­al argu­ments.

Staircase
Stair­case

Wheth­er resid­ing in the hostel or not, Han­isch set up their busi­ness. The first step was to place Adolf and the art mater­i­als recently obtained through Angela’s or Aunt Johanna’s char­ity into the read­ing room, non-smoker sec­tion. There was a long oak table close to the win­dow, which provided the nat­ur­al light Adolf needed. The com­pany now sup­plied the “mar­ket for post­card-sized paint­ings to be sold in tav­erns or to art deal­ers, who acquired them not so much for their artist­ic value as for filling empty frames.” (16) Soon Hitler had real­ized which motifs were in demand, mostly loc­al sights and nature, and his post­cards and small paint­ings sold rather quickly.

For a few months, the part­ner­ship blos­somed. Han­isch was eas­ily able to find buy­ers in the maze of the back­streets, the lanes that meandered between dark tav­erns and paltry shops, news­stands and tobac­con­ists, but also in the wine gar­dens of the Prater, and the art shops in the bet­ter quar­ters of the cap­it­al. The sums real­ized ini­tially hovered between five and ten Kron­en, which were split fifty-fifty. A busi­ness routine slowly estab­lished itself and Hitler’s life sta­bil­ized, although he still pos­sessed only a single change of cloth­ing.

The read­ing rooms were the place where the more edu­cated occu­pants met, of which there were quite a few former stu­dents of the Aus­tri­an schools and col­leges. They dis­cussed polit­ics and art, money and women, as lonely men do. Some tried to entice neo­phytes to whatever polit­ic­al cause they believed in, and work­ers were tol­er­ated in the dis­cus­sions if they appeared sal­vage­able from the pois­on of social­ism. Some­times Hitler tried to mod­er­ate the debates, as arbit­er eleg­an­tiar­um; this was per­haps a fam­ily trait, for we remem­ber his father’s obit­u­ary men­tion­ing that Alois was wont to “pro­nounce author­it­at­ively on any mat­ter that came to his notice.” At oth­er times he just listened, hulked over his work on the long oak table. ...

After a couple of months in which the post­card oper­a­tion worked as planned, some­thing went wrong, but, alas, we do not know what truly happened. Out of the blue, one day Han­isch failed to find his asso­ci­ate at the oak table. Hitler had left the build­ing accom­pan­ied by his Jew­ish friend Josef Neu­mann: rumour had it that they planned to emig­rate to Ger­many. When they even­tu­ally returned, a week later, Hitler avowed that they had only been on a pro­trac­ted sight­see­ing trip through the cap­it­al. It would seem pos­sible that Hitler and Neu­mann had tried to open a busi­ness side­line: due to the latter’s famili­ar­ity with the Jew­ish side of Vienna’s art trade, Neu­mann might have been a bet­ter busi­ness agent than Han­isch. After a week they were back, but Hitler appeared pen­ni­less and self-absorbed, as if shocked. His per­son­al rela­tions to both Han­isch and Neu­mann, who left the hostel on July 12, 1910, were to end soon. (29)

Could the incid­ent be explored, it might offer tan­tal­iz­ing insights. Helene Han­f­stae­ngl, soci­ety-sage and wife of Hitler’s first for­eign-press agent Ernst Han­f­stae­ngl, and a no-non­sense woman in her own right, repor­ted that Hitler told her more than once that his loath­ing of Jews was “a per­son­al thing”, and that the gen­es­is of this hate occurred in Vienna. Adolf’s sis­ter Paula later test­i­fied to her opin­ion that his “fail­ure in paint­ing was only due to the fact that trade in works of art was in Jew­ish hands.” (30)

Per­haps this is the prop­er place to inquire into the real­ity of Hitler’s anti-Semit­ism dur­ing the Män­ner­heim years. Han­isch reports, not hap­pily, that at least three Jew­ish hostel occu­pants were Hitler’s friends, the afore­men­tioned Neu­mann, Simon Robin­son, born 1864 in Galicia, a locksmith’s assist­ant, and Siegfried Löffn­er, born 1872 in Moravia, a sales­man. (31) Anoth­er wit­ness from the men’s hostel, Karl Hon­isch [with ‘o’, not to be con­fused with Han­isch] men­tions anoth­er Jew­ish man, Rudolf Red­lich from Moravia, as an acquaint­ance of Hitler. (32) Hanisch’s dis­con­tent was clearly based upon the fact that they all helped Hitler in selling his paint­ings. Even worse, Hitler soon began to sell his works dir­ectly to art deal­ers, and thus Han­isch was out of game and money. Many of the traders who bought Hitler’s paint­ings were Jew­ish (or of Jew­ish ori­gin): Jakob Alten­berg, who con­ver­ted to Chris­tian­ity in Vienna and even­tu­ally became a rich frame man­u­fac­turer, (33) Samuel Mor­gen­stern, who always dealt dir­ectly with Hitler and also intro­duced him to the law­yer Dr. Josef Fein­gold, who became a steady buy­er, and anoth­er deal­er, named Lands­ber­ger. (34) As Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn sums it up, it would appear that Han­isch was the anti-Semite in these years, not Hitler. It is true that from Mein Kampf onwards, Hitler knit­ted the legend of his early dis­cov­ery of the dam­nable role of the Jews, and the hagi­o­graphy of the Third Reich elev­ated this doc­trine to the status of Holy Writ, but, indeed, the sources before 1919 are either silent on Hitler’s pre­sumed anti-Semit­ism or actu­ally con­tra­dict the dogma. It is true that Hitler learned from the social­ists that polit­ic­al pro­pa­ganda can­not allow for ambi­gu­ity: there must be one enemy and only one. Yet it would appear, as we will see later, that Hitler did not begin to devel­op a coher­ent anti-Semit­ic concept until 1919 at the earli­est.

It would seem that in this autumn of 1910 Adolf gave the Academy anoth­er shot. He secured an appoint­ment with Pro­fess­or Ritschel, the cur­at­or, and brought examples of his work, but noth­ing came of it; either because the pro­fess­or denied him entry or because Adolf did not have the funds for a renewed applic­a­tion. (35)

From the little we know, the third rejec­tion per­haps did not sur­prise him any more, but for a time deepened his funk; he became even more of a recluse, neither liked nor dis­liked by the oth­er hostel occu­pants, liv­ing in a dis­son­ant uni­verse of his own design. ...

Mean­while, he had become an insti­tu­tion him­self, a part of the hostel’s invent­ory. His demean­our had changed some­what, and he had recovered some of his old con­fid­ence: to the fel­low occu­pants that clustered around the oak table and admired his work in statu nas­cendi, he con­fessed that he was only toy­ing around; that he had not yet learned how to paint prop­erly, that they should not take these efforts too ser­i­ously. In 1944, he admit­ted to pho­to­graph­er Hein­rich Hoff­mann that “Even today these things [i.e. paint­ings] shouldn’t cost more than 150 or 200 Reichs­mark. It is insane to spend more than that on them. After all, I didn’t want to become an artist, I painted the stuff only to make a liv­ing and afford to go to school.” (37) If he sought artist­ic pleas­ure, he did archi­tec­tur­al draw­ings, not water­col­ours. In some way, the work gave his life back the ele­ment of struc­ture that it had lost when he ditched school; now he spent his days in the sort of depend­ab­il­ity developed by men who neither fear nor hope for change.

Vienna Opera House “Bur­gtheat­er

Yet occa­sion­ally the tran­quil­lity was inter­rup­ted. One of the reas­ons for Hanisch’s tem­por­ary dis­ap­pear­ance from the hostel had been money: Hitler had fin­ished a bet­ter than usu­al paint­ing of the par­lia­ment build­ing, which Han­isch, as usu­ally, did sell but, inex­plic­ably, for­got to give Hitler the share and van­ished without a trace. On August 4, 1910, Siegfried Löffn­er, who knew about the affair, recog­nized Han­isch on the street, and, after attempt­ing to con­vince Han­isch to pay his debt, an argu­ment ensued. Even­tu­ally, the police arrived, and Han­isch was detained because he could not estab­lish his iden­tity. Löffn­er then filed the fol­low­ing state­ment at the Wieden, IVth Dis­trict, police sta­tion:

Siegfried Löffn­er, Agent, XXth Dis­trict, 27 Mel­de­mannstrasse, states: “I learned from a paint­er at the men’s hostel that the arres­ted man [Han­isch] sold pic­tures for him and had mis­ap­pro­pri­ated the money. I do not know the name of the paint­er, I only know him from the men’s hostel, where he and the arres­ted man always used to sit next to each oth­er.” (38)

A day later, August 5, 1910, Hitler was asked to appear at the loc­al police sta­tion in Bri­git­tenau to give a state­ment. Mean­while, the police had found forged iden­tity papers in Hanisch’s pos­ses­sion that gave his name as Wal­ter Fritz. Adolf test­i­fied:

Adolf Hitler, artist, b. 4-20-1889 in Braunau, res­id­ent of Linz, Cath., single, XXth Dis­trict, registered at 27 Mel­de­mannstrasse, states:It is not true that I advised Han­isch to register as Wal­ter Fritz, all I ever knew him as was Wal­ter Fritz. Since he was indi­gent, I gave him the pic­tures I painted, so he could sell them. I reg­u­larly gave him 50% of the profit. For the past approx­im­ately two weeks Han­isch has not returned to the hostel and mis­ap­pro­pri­ated my paint­ing Par­lia­ment,worth c. Kron­en 50, and a water­col­our worth Kron­en 9. The only doc­u­ment of his that I saw was his workman’s pass­book issued to the name Fritz Wal­ter. I know Han­isch from the hostel in Meidling, where I once met him. Adolf Hitler.” (39)

The tri­al took place on August 11. It was the first time Adolf Hitler was present in a crim­in­al court as a wit­ness. His beef with Han­isch, how­ever, had been over the alleged embez­zle­ment, not a false iden­tity. That he did testi­fy against Han­isch in the false papers mat­ter was simple retali­ation, and his testi­mony played a mater­i­al role in the iden­tity count of which Han­isch was con­victed and received a sev­en-day jail sen­tence. But on the embez­zle­ment charge Han­isch had to be acquit­ted, per­haps because the money trail or its absence could not be proven either way, which raises the sus­pi­cion that Hitler may have lied in his state­ment of August 5. Summa sum­mar­um, Hitler first engage­ment in a court of justice included per­jury and fraud, not an aus­pi­cious begin­ning to his rela­tion with the law.

Oil Paint­ing “Karl­skirche
Old Court in Munich, by Adolf Hitler

By now he sold everything he painted. His choice of sub­jects had always been clas­sic­ally con­ser­vat­ive, some might say bor­ing, and this taste remained with him all through his life. There are few instances in which his small bour­geois out­look on the world becomes as obvi­ous as in his taste in art, and although he lived in a time that revo­lu­tion­ized the arts, he did not pay any atten­tion. He des­pised or was ignor­ant of the Seces­sion­ist paint­ers, Egon Schiele, Gust­av Klimt, or Oskar Kokosch­ka; he dis­liked the com­pos­i­tions of Arnold Schön­berg, Ant­on von Webern or Alban Berg, who intro­duced twelve-tone music and seri­al­ism; he nev­er read Rilke, Zweig or Hof­mannsth­al. All his life he remained a cap­tive of the artist­ic per­cep­tions of the nine­teenth cen­tury. Yet his taste coin­cided with what the good burgh­ers of Vienna coveted, and so his paint­ings fol­lowed the etern­al laws of demand and sup­ply.

We do con­trast here a few examples of the mas­ters men­tioned above – strik­ingly reveal­ing how deep Hitler was stuck in the aes­thet­ics of the past cen­tury.

Egon Schiele – Two Women
Egon Schiele – Female with Tow­el (Weib­lich­er Akt mit gel­bem Handtuch)- 1917
The Kiss, by Gust­av Klimt
Gust­av Klimt 1907, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, until 2017 the most expens­ive paint­ing world­wide
'Bride of the Wind" by Oskar Kokoschka,a self portrait expressing his unrequited love for Alma Mahler (widow of composer Gustav Mahler) 1913
‘Bride of the Wind” by Oskar Kokoschka,a self-por­trait express­ing his unre­quited love for Alma Mahler (wid­ow of com­poser Gust­av Mahler) 1913
Oskar Kokoschka - The Prometheus Tryptich "Apokalypsis"
Oskar Kokosch­ka – The Pro­meth­eus Tryptich “Apokalypsis”

As one would assume, the part of the con­ver­sa­tion in the hostel’s read­ing rooms that did not revolve around women centred on polit­ics. As far as the former top­ic is con­cerned, his old flame Stefanie might still haunt his dreams, or per­haps the elu­sive Emilie (see below), but he had no interest to mingle in the con­ver­sa­tions of lonely men fab­u­lat­ing about the women they’ve known and the mon­ies they’ve squandered, ingredi­ents of fad­ing memor­ies, sol­it­ary men mourn­ing irre­triev­able losses. Polit­ics was a dif­fer­ent thing alto­geth­er. Since Bri­git­tenau was a work­er dis­trict, the Social Demo­crats com­manded a clear major­ity and their sym­path­izers were well rep­res­en­ted in the Män­ner­heim. Yet as far as Hitler’s polit­ic­al ideas, if any, in Vienna are con­cerned, the little our sources report is con­tra­dict­ory, and Hitler’s asser­tions in Mein Kampf, again, not truly cred­ible. He claimed to have “learned to orate less, but listen more to those with opin­ions and objec­tions that were bound­lessly prim­it­ive,” (41) which would seem to char­ac­ter­ize his opin­ion of the social­ists. But no doc­u­ments sug­gest that Hitler was at this time truly inter­ested in polit­ics, and, except for his Pan-Ger­man­ism, what he truly thought of Jews and social­ists we do not know.

In early 1913, a young man from Moravia, Karl Hon­isch, took up res­id­ence at the hostel and became acquain­ted with Hitler. He was approached by the NSDAP in the 1930s to write up his memor­ies. Clearly, the res­ult must be taken cum grano salis, for he could not allow him­self to write any­thing neg­at­ive. As it would be expec­ted, he por­trays an abund­antly politi­ciz­ing Hitler, yet is silent on details.

But if finally the opin­ions he heard really rubbed him the wrong way, he all of a sud­den had to con­tra­dict. It then fre­quently happened that he would jump up from his chair, throw brush or pen­cil across the table, and explained his views in an extremely hot-tempered way, not even shy­ing away from strong expres­sions; his eyes were ablaze, and again and again he threw back his head to throw back his hair, which kept fall­ing over his fore­head.” (42)

Hon­isch felt called upon to point out the good sides of his then-com­rade, who was now head of the gov­ern­ment and cer­tainly not a man one would want to affront.

[Hitler] ... used to sit in his place day by day with almost no excep­tion and was only absent for a short time when he delivered his work; and because of his pecu­li­ar per­son­al­ity. Hitler was, on the whole, a friendly and charm­ing per­son, who took interest in the fate of every com­pan­ion.” (43)

And fur­ther:

Nobody allowed him­self to take liber­ties with Hitler. But Hitler was not proud or arrog­ant; on the con­trary, he was good-hearted and help­ful ... and [if a com­rade needed a short-term loan] I saw him sev­er­al times start­ing such col­lec­tions with a hat in his hand.” (44)

It was per­haps in late 1912 that sev­er­al cir­cum­stances caused Hitler to con­tem­plate a change of res­id­ence. One reas­on was the new Aus­tri­an army law that, although redu­cing the oblig­a­tions of new draftees to two years of peace­time ser­vice, plus ten years in the reserves, increased the yearly intake of recruits from 103,000 in 1912 to 159,000 in 1914 and thereby was likely to prompt increased activ­it­ies of the loc­al draft boards. (45) It is clear that, by mov­ing to Vienna, Hitler had evaded his draft board in Linz since 1909, when, at twenty years of age, he had been required to present him­self for mil­it­ary ser­vice. It is obvi­ous that he had no inten­tion to serve in the forces of the detested Habs­burg mon­archy, and it seems that in this peri­od his plans for an even­tu­al emig­ra­tion to Ger­many in gen­er­al and to München in par­tic­u­lar – he had talked about such a move as early as 1910 to Han­isch and Neu­mann – approached mat­ur­a­tion.

Anoth­er reas­on was that he was through with Vienna; he knew the city inside out, like the face of a long-time lov­er, from the pol­ished eleg­ance of the build­ings along the Ring­straße to the slums of the out­er dis­tricts. He saw the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Habs­burg Empire, kept from drop­ping only by the emperor’s fra­gile health. But why not set out for the Holy Grail right now? Hitler had a third, excel­lent reas­on to wait; as Ian Ker­shaw reports, at the occa­sion of his twenty-fourth birth­day on April 20, 1913, he became eli­gible to receive his pat­ri­mony.

On 16 May 1913 the Dis­trict Court in Linz con­firmed that he should receive the size­able sum, with interest added to the ori­gin­al 652 Kron­en, of 819 Kron­en 98 Heller, and that this would be sent by post to the “artist” Adolf Hitler at Mel­de­mannstrasse, Vienna. With this long-awaited and much-wel­come prize in his pos­ses­sion, he needed to delay his depar­ture for München no longer. (46)

In Feb­ru­ary 1913, the nine­teen-year-old phar­ma­ceut­ic­al appren­tice Rudolf Häusler took up res­id­ence at the Män­ner­heim and made Hitler’s acquaint­ance in the read­ing room. (47) Häusler was inter­ested in music and the arts, had painted him­self, and Hitler took the youth under his wings. As Adolf had, Häusler had suffered under a tyr­an­nic­al fath­er who, in the bar­gain, was a Cus­toms offi­cial, as Alois Hitler had been. The sire had thrown the off­spring out of his house and Rudolf could only vis­it his moth­er, whom he, like Adolf had, adored, and his sib­lings in the old man’s absence. To these sneaky vis­its he even­tu­ally brought his older friend Adolf, who, it would appear, made a good impres­sion upon the moth­er, as Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn found out:

Ida Häusler, who was fifty at the time, a self-con­fid­ent, edu­cated woman from a good fam­ily, was glad that her unruly son had found a well-bred older friend, trus­ted Hitler, and was sup­port­ive of their friend­ship. Fur­ther­more, she gen­er­ously invited the obvi­ously des­ti­tute young man to eat with them. Häusler’s sev­en­teen-year-old sis­ter Milli [Emilie] soon had a crush on Adi, who liked the com­fort­able, clean bour­geois atmo­sphere which resembled that of his former home in Linz. Fath­er Häusler remained invis­ible. (48)

That we knew little about Rudolf Häusler until 1999, when Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn loc­ated his daugh­ter Mari­anne Kop­pler, née Häusler, inter­viewed her and pub­lished her finds in the book “Hitler’s Vienna” [see below], shines the pro­ver­bi­al light on the com­plete­ness and reli­ab­il­ity of our sources on the early years; all the more so for Häusler appar­ently was the closest friend Adolf had since August Kubizek. [FN2] Not sur­pris­ingly, the fact that Hitler met an Emilie in the Häusler house­hold, Rudolf’s sis­ter, has led to spec­u­la­tion wheth­er this Emilie could be identic­al with the girl Hitler’s sec­ret­ary Christa Schroeder referred to in her mem­oirs; when she once opined that Emilie was an ugly name, Hitler allegedly said: “Don’t say that. Emilie is a beau­ti­ful name; that was the name of my first love!” (53)

[FN2] Ant­on Joachim­sthaler dis­covered the earli­est record of Rudolf Häusler in art­icles writ­ten by Thomas Orr for the München “Revue” Magazine, vols. 37/1952 to 8/1953. (49) Orr had learned of and inter­viewed a few alleged wit­nesses in Hitler’s old München neigh­bour­hood and men­tions Häusler but did not make the con­nec­tion to Frau Kop­pler. For reas­ons that are not clear until today, Hitler nev­er men­tioned Häusler, nor did the Popps, the land­lords of the room in which he lived togeth­er with Hitler in München for almost nine months. This has promp­ted Bri­gitte Ham­a­nn to spec­u­late wheth­er the two friends and the Popps, for unknown motives, con­cluded a pact of silence. (50) Häusler had early con­tacts with the Nazis: Joachim­sthaler has him as a mem­ber of the NSDAP since June 1933 [the Aus­tri­an NSDAP since Septem­ber 1, 1938], (51) although Frau Ham­a­nn cites an affi­davit from the Aus­tri­an Min­istry of the Interi­or that he had only been a mem­ber­ship can­did­ate from 1938 to 1944. (52) Clear is that he worked for the DAF, the Nazi labour uni­on, from Decem­ber 1938 on, and was the man­ager of the Vienna NSDAP office from 1940 to 1945. He died in Vienna on July 26, 1973.

If true, this could indic­ate that the rela­tion with Emilie was some­what more, say, sub­stan­tial than his earli­er infatu­ation with Stefanie; on the oth­er hand, giv­en his pen­chant for tele­path­ic love affairs, con­ceiv­ably any Emilie in Vienna could have been the tar­get of his super­nat­ur­al affec­tions. Frau Kop­pler repor­ted that Emilie was the shy­est, quietest and most sens­it­ive of the sib­lings, and “gave the impres­sion of being fear­ful and in need of pro­tec­tion.” (54) That she, being sel­dom out­side of the house and not mak­ing many acquaint­ances, developed a crush on her brother’s eld­er friend seems entirely pos­sible; reportedly she asked him to draw some­thing for her scrap­book and received, as Frau Kop­pler, who saw the draw­ing in her youth, remem­bers, a Ger­man­ic war­ri­or in front of an oak tree, signed “A.H.”. (55) A few post­cards by Hitler were later found in the fam­ily papers.

Two reas­ons, how­ever, argue against Emilie hav­ing been Hitler’s phys­ic­al lov­er. One, the girl would not be allowed to leave the house without a chap­er­one, and it seems unlikely that Hitler were to breach the trust he received from the moth­er. Two, the time frame seems to be the wrong one, for Frau Wohlrab’s and the Café Kubata cash­ier girl’s memor­ies [supra] place the rela­tion with the mys­ter­i­ous girl­friend into the time when Hitler lived at Fel­ber­strasse, from Novem­ber 1908 to August 1909, not the early spring of 1913, when he met the Häuslers.

Even­tu­ally, Adolf con­vinced Rudolf to accom­pany him to München, or, rather, Rudolf’s moth­er, as he had five years earli­er con­vinced Her­rn Kubizek to release August to Vienna. Around May 20 Hitler must have received the pat­ri­mony and around this time they paid a farewell vis­it to the Häusler fam­ily. On May 24 they informed the Vienna police of their leav­ing the men’s hostel, without, how­ever, provid­ing a for­ward­ing address. More likely than not this was Hitler’s idea, a cau­tion­ary meas­ure to evade the atten­tion of his home draft board in Linz. But because he had not only not registered in the fall of 1909, but also failed to present him­self for recruit­ment in the spring of 1910, when due, nor in 1911 or 1912, the Linz police issued a war­rant for eva­sion of his mil­it­ary ser­vice duty on August 11, 1913. (56)

The next day, Sunday, May 25, 1913, Karl Hon­isch and a few old hands from the Män­ner­heim accom­pan­ied the two friends to the West­bahnhof, where not only the trains to Linz ori­gin­ated but those to Bav­aria and thus München as well. Quite prob­ably, the two friends bought the cheapest tick­ets, third class, Wien West­bahnhof – München Haupt­bahnhof (Vienna, West­ern Rail­way Sta­tion — München, Cent­ral Rail­way Sta­tion), 5 Kron­en 80 Heller each. (57)

Adolf Hitler left noth­ing and no one in the city that he felt had betrayed him, and set out for Ger­many – the Prom­ised Land.


Ham­a­nn, Bri­gitte, Hitler’s Vienna, 1st Ed. Oxford UP 1999, Taur­is Parks 2010, ISBN 978−1−84885−277−8 / Quo­ta­tion Num­ber see Page(s): (2) 134 (6) 152 (7) 153 (13) 156 (15) 158 – 61 (29) 164 (31) 164 (32) 350 (33) 173 – 74 (34) 350 (38) 275 (39) 172 (42) 381 (45) 393 (46) 397 (47) 395 (48) 396 (50) 192 (52) 192 (53) 364 (54) 364 (55) 192

Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf [US Edi­tion], Houghton Miff­lin 1942, (5) 28

Joachim­sthaler, Ant­on, Hitler’s Weg begann in München 1913 – 1923, F.A. Herb­ig, München 2000, ISBN 3−7766−2155−9, (4) 46 (9) 268 (49) 330, n. 277 (51) 323 (56) 27

Jones, Sydney J., Hitler in Vienna 1907 – 1913, Cooper Square Press 2002, ISBN 0 – 8154-1191-X, (11) 141 (37) 275

Ker­shaw, Ian, The Hitler of His­tory, Vin­tage Books 1998, ISBN 0−375−70113−3, (46) 68

Öster­reichis­che Bundes­bahnen (57) https://www.oebb.at/

Payne, Robert, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, Prae­ger Pub­lish­ers 1973, Lib. Con. 72 – 92891, (1) 79 – 80 (12) 82 – 3 (14) 83 (16) 85

Smith, Brad­ley F., Adolf Hitler – Fam­ily, Child­hood and Youth, Hoover Insti­tu­tion Press 1979, ISBN 0−8179−1622−9, (35) 140 – 41

Toland, John, Adolf Hitler, Anchor Books 1992, ISBN 0−385−42053−6, (3) 39 (8) 40 (10) 41 – 2 (30) 46 (41) 49 (43) 50 (44) 50


Next: Adolf Hitler arrives in Munich

The Ger­man Work­ers’ Party

Adolf Hitler joins the Party


(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2015/19) Trans­la­tions by author

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2 Comments

  1. Desert Sage

    Quite inter­est­ing. I nev­er knew much about this time of Hitler’s life.

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