This story takes place at Urfahr, a little township at the Danube River, which is today a part of Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Mentioned in documents from 1492 on, it was at the time (1882 – 1919) an independent little town, connected to the capital by a wooden, after 1872 an iron bridge.
Let us now discuss the subject properly. When we consider Adolf Hitler’s strange personality, it might not surprise us that the relation to the girl he idolized through puberty in Linz – Stefanie Rabatsch née Isak (28 December 1887 into the 1970s) – was based solely on a form of telepathic contact he claimed he shared with her. As far as we know he never spoke to her, but talked about her at length to his boyhood chum August Kubizek.
Kubizek reported in his memoirs: “One evening in the spring of 1905, as we were taking our usual stroll, Adolf gripped my arm and asked me excitedly what I thought of that slim blonde girl walking along the Landstrasse arm-in-arm with her mother. ‘You must know, I’m in love with her,’ he added resolutely.”
Adolf declined to approach her, telling August he would do so “tomorrow“. In the meantime, he sent his friend on intelligence-gathering missions about Stephanie. Kubizek was able to report that she came from a solid middle-class family, living in the Urfahr quarter of Linz, that her father had been a public servant before his death and that she was “a distinguished-looking girl, tall and slim. She had thick fair hair, which she mostly wore swept back in a bun. Her eyes were very beautiful”.
Every evening she strolled, on the arm of her mother, around Landstrasse in Linz, where the young girls could trade looks through the store windows with the young men who orbited them, flutter their eyelashes, or acidentally drop a handkerchief.
As the author pointed out in “The Little Drummer Boy”: “Many societies know forms of organized yet unofficial courtship, essentially, like the Spanish paseo, essentially concourses d’elegance, and Imperial Austria had made a science out of it. Even nowadays the annual Wiener Hofball, the Vienna Court Ball, introduces the debutantes of the better families into society, with a lot of ado and white frills on the former royal dance floor. Adolf, however, was not the man to address his longings directly; he pointed out that he had not been introduced to her.”
“When August, in a sudden attack of practical thought, suggested that becoming introduced to her might expedite matters, Adolf chickened. ‘What am I to say if the mother wants to know my profession?’ Indeed, what could he say? That he was an unemployed painter or architect-to-be, a rural hayseed, compared to the young men who orbited Stefanie, being officers, or heirs to shops or factories?”
“Adolf’s condition was serious. Not only did he suffer from an acute attack of adolescent adoration of a pretty pair of legs and a shapely bosom; according to Gustl’s report he instantly developed a neurosis. His sense of reality, which was not his strong suit in the first place, abandoned him completely. He declined to talk to her, or send a letter; he never even waved to her when he saw her in the street; his exertions were limited to sending her enquiring glances. “
Yet then one day the“The Miracle” occurred. Kubizek reports:
“For Adolf came that happiest of days in June 1906, which I am sure remained in his memory as clearly as it did in mine. Summer was approaching and a flower festival was held in Linz. As usual, Adolf waited for me outside the Carmelite church, where I used to go every Sunday with my parents; then we took up our stand at the Schmiedtoreck. The position was extremely favourable, as the street here is narrow and the carriages in the festival parade had to pass quite close to the pavement. The regimental band led the string of flower-decked carriages, from which young girls and ladies waved to the spectators.
But Adolf had neither eyes nor ears for any of this; he waited feverishly for Stefanie to appear. I was already giving up hope of seeing her, when Adolf gripped my arm so violently that it hurt. Seated in a handsome carriage, decorated with flowers, mother and daughter turned into the Schmiedtorstrasse. I still have the picture clearly in my mind.
The mother, in a light grey silk dress, holds a red sunshade over her head, through which the rays of the sun seem to cast, as though by magic, a rosy glow over the countenance of Stefanie, wearing a pretty silk frock. Stefanie has adorned her carriage, not with roses as most of the others, but with simple, wild blossoms – red poppies, white marguerites and blue cornflowers. Stefanie holds a bunch of the same flowers in her hand. The carriage approaches – Adolf is floating on air. Never before has he seen Stefanie so enchanting. Now the carriage is quite close to us. A bright glance falls on Adolf. Stefanie sends him a beaming smile and, picking a flower from her posy, throws it to him.
Never again did I see Adolf as happy as he was at that moment. When the carriage had passed he dragged me aside and with emotion he gazed at the flower, this visible pledge of her love. I can still hear his voice, trembling with excitement, ‘She loves me! You have seen! She loves me!'”
What did Stephanie think of the whole affair? “Franz Jetzinger was able to track down the flower festival committee, found Stefanie in their files, and contacted her. The Love Goddess had eventually married one of the officers, and showed considerable surprise at being interviewed about a boy she barely remembered, and professed not to have any idea of the young man’s infatuation. But after some time she remembered a small but instructive detail: in this summer she had received a letter from an admirer, who had not only declared his undying love but also informed her that he was going to study at the Academy of Arts in Vienna. After his graduation he would return to Linz and ask for her hand. Unfortunately, the letter was not signed, and so she had remained ignorant of the suitor’s identity.”
As it was perhaps to be expected, some “psychohistorians” found ground for speculation based on her birth name, Isak, whom they purported to be Jewish and fabulated on theories that the doomed love affair was instrumental in creating Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, Stefanie was not Jewish (there was no Jewish population worth mentioning in Linz and her father, who was a higher government official, could not have gained the post if he were Jewish) and Hitler at that time expressed no anti-Semitism – hence the bottom fell out of such speculation for good.
We know that Stefanie remained in his thoughts at least until the summer of 1906 when Adolf visited Vienna for the first time and mentioned her – under the codename “Benkieser” – in a postcard to his friend August Kubizek.
When Hitler finally returned to Linz about four weeks later, he was melancholy and depressive, and at times wandered around town alone. He seemed conflicted about the direction his life was to take, and for a few weeks, Gustl was unable to help his friend. Even the renewed sight of Stefanie failed to introduce a rapid healing, for Adolf at length seemed to accept a quantum of reality. He told Gustl that “If I introduce myself to Stefanie and her mother, I will have to tell her at once what I am, what I have and what I want. My statement would bring our relations abruptly to an end.”
The year 1907 was taken up – family wise – by Klara’s suffering from breast cancer. She died December 21, and after all the subsequent affairs were set, Adolf left to live in Vienna in February 1908. His relations to Stefanie thereafter are lost in the mists of time.
(© John Vincent Palatine 2015/18)