The first time I went to visit him at home, his room was littered with sketches, drawings, blueprints. Here was "The New Theatre," there the Mountain Hotel on the Lichtenberg. It was like an architect's office. Watching him at work at the drawing board – he was more careful then and more precise in details than he used to be in moments of happy improvisation – I was convinced that he must long since have acquired all the technical and specialised skill necessary for his work. I simply could not believe that it was possible to set down such difficult things on the spur of the moment, and that everything I saw was improvised.
The number of these works
is sufficient to allow one to form a judgment of Adolf Hitler's talents.
There is, in the first place, a water colour – rather, water colour is
not the right term, as it is a simple pencil drawing coloured with tempera.
But just the rapid catching of an atmosphere, of a certain mood, which
is so typical of a water colour and which, with its delicate touch, imparts
to it freshness and liveliness – this was missing completely in Adolf's
work. Just here, where he might have worked with fast, intuitive strokes,
he has daubed with painstaking precision.
All I can say about Adolf's artistic activity refers to his first attempts, and the only water colour of his I possess is one of these. It is still very clumsy, impersonal and really primitive, though perhaps this gives it a special attraction. In vivid colours it depicts the Pöstlingberg, the landmark of Linz. I still remember when Adolf gave it to me.
One cannot expect any artistic revelations from this water colour and the hundreds which followed it. His intention was not to express any of his own emotions, but just to paint pleasant little pictures. So he chose popular subjects, for preference architecture and, rarely, landscapes. If these postcards and pictures had not been painted by Adolf Hitler, no one would have bothered about them.
His drawings are a different matter, but there are only a few of them in existence. Although he gave me several, only one of them is left, a purely architectural drawing with little meaning. It shows a villa at No. 7 Stockbauerstrasse. It had just been built and it appealed to Adolf. So he drew it and made me a present of it. Apart from revealing his love for architecture, it is of no significance.
Casting my thoughts back to those years, I have to say this: Adolf never took painting seriously; it remained rather a hobby outside his more serious aspirations. But building meant much more to him. He gave his whole self to his imaginary building and was completely carried away by it. Once he had conceived an idea he was like one possessed. Nothing else existed for him – he was oblivious to time, sleep and hunger. Although it was a strain for me to follow him, those moments remain unforgettable. There he stood, with me, in front of the new Cathedral, this pallid, skinny youth, with the first dark brown showing on his upper lip, in his shabby pepper-and-salt suit, threadbare at the elbows and collar, with his eyes glued to some architectural detail, analysing the style, criticising or praising the work, disapproving of the material – all this with such thoroughness and such expert knowledge as though he were the builder and would have to pay for every shortcoming out of his own pocket. Then he would get out his drawing pad and the pencil would fly over the paper. This way, and no other, was the manner of solving this problem, he would say. I had to compare his idea with the actual work, had to approve or disapprove, and all this with a passion as though both our lives depended on it.
Here he could give full vent to his mania for changing everything, because a city always has good buildings and bad. He could never walk through the streets without being provoked by what he saw. Usually he carried around in his head half a dozen different building projects, and sometimes I could not help feeling that all the buildings of the town were lined up in his brain like a giant panorama. As soon as he had selected one detail, he concentrated on this with all his energy. I remember one day when the old building of the bank for Upper Austria and Salzburg on the central square was demolished. With feverish impatience he followed the rebuilding. He was terribly worried lest the new building should not fit into its surroundings. When, in the middle of the rebuilding, he had to leave for Vienna be asked me to give him periodical reports on the progress of the work. In his letter of July 21, 1908, he wrote, "As soon as the Bank is completed, please send me a picture postcard." As there was no picture postcard available, I got out of it by procuring a photograph of the new building and sending it to him. Incidentally, the building met with his approval.
There were a lot of such houses in which he took a constant interest. He dragged me along wherever there was a building going up. He felt responsible for everything that was being built. But even more than with these concrete examples was he taken up with the vast schemes that he himself originated. Here his mania for change knew no limit. At first I watched these goings-on with some misgiving and wondered why he so obstinately occupied himself with plans which, I thought, would never come to anything. The more remote the realisation of a project was, the more did he steep himself in it. To him these projects were in every detail as actual as though they were already executed and the whole town rebuilt according to his design. I often got confused and could not distinguish whether he was talking about a building that existed or one that was to be created. But to him it did not make any difference; the actual construction was a matter of only secondary importance.
Nowhere is his unshakable consistency more evident. What the fifteen-year-old planned, the fifty-year-old carried out, often, as for instance in the case of the new bridge over the Danube, as faithfully as though only a few weeks, instead of decades, lay between planning and execution. The plan existed; then came influence and power and the plan became reality. This happened with uncanny regularity, as though the fifteen-year-old had taken it for granted that one day he would possess the necessary power and means. This is just too much for me to take in. I cannot conceive that such a thing is possible. One is tempted to use the word "miracle," because there is no rational explanation for it.
Indeed, the plans which that unknown boy had drawn up for the rebuilding of his home town Linz are identical to the last detail with the town planning scheme which was inaugurated after 1938. I am almost afraid of giving, in the following pages, my account of these early plans, lest my veracity should be suspected. And yet every single syllable of what I am going to recount is true.
On my eighteenth birthday, August 3, 1906, my friend presented me with a sketch of a villa. Similar to that planned for Stefanie, it was in his favourite Italian Renaissance style. By good luck, I have preserved the sketches. They show an imposing, palazzo-like building, whose frontage is broken up by a built-in tower. The ground plan reveals a well-thoughtout arrangement of rooms, which are pleasantly grouped around the music room. The spiral staircase, a delicate architectural problem, is shown in a separate drawing, and so is the entrance hall, with its heavy beamed ceiling. The entrance is outlined with a few brisk strokes in a separate sketch. Adolf and I also selected a fitting site for my birthday present; it was to stand on the Bauernberg. When, later, I met Hitler in Bayreuth, I took good care not to remind him of this imaginary house. He would have been capable of actually giving me a villa on the Bauernberg, which presumably would have been finer than the original idea, and very much in the taste of the epoch.
More impressive are two sketches still in my possession, samples of his numerous designs for a new concert hall in Linz. The old theatre was inadequate in every respect, and some art lovers in Linz had founded a society to promote the construction of a modern theatre. Adolf immediately joined this society and took part in a competition for ideas.. He worked for months on his plans and drafts and was seriously convinced that his suggestions would be accepted. His anger was beyond measure when the society smashed all his hopes by giving up the idea of a new building and, instead, had the old one renovated.
I refer to his biting remarks in the letters he sent me on August 17, 1908. "It seems they intend to patch up once more the old junk heap."
Full of fury, he said that what he would like to do best would be to wrap up his manual of architecture and send it off to the address of this "Theatre – Rebuilding – Society – Committee – for – the – Execution – of – the – Project – for – the – Rebuilding – of – the – Theatre." How well did this monster title express his rage!
My two sketches, on either side of one sheet, date from that period. The one side shows the auditorium. Columns break up the walls and the boxes are placed in between them. The balustrade is adorned by various statues. A mighty domed ceiling covers the hall. On the back of this bold project, Adolf explained to me the acoustic conditions of the intended building, in which I, as a musician, was particularly interested. It clearly shows how the sound waves, rising from the orchestra, are reflected from the ceiling in such a way as to be, so to speak, poured over the audience below. Adolf took a great interest in acoustic problems. I remember, for instance, his suggestion to remodel the Volksgarten Hall, whose bad acoustics always annoyed us, by structural alterations of the ceiling.
And now for the rebuilding of Linz! Here his ideas were legion, yet he did not change them indiscriminately, and indeed held fast to his decisions once they were taken. That is why I remember so much about it. Every time we passed one spot or another, all his plans were ready immediately.
The wonderfully compact main square was a constant delight to Adolf, and his only regret was that the two houses nearest to the Danube disturbed the free vista on to the river and the range of hills beyond. On his plans, the two houses were pushed apart sufficiently to allow a free view on to the new, widened bridge without, however, substantially altering the former aspect of the square, a solution which later he actually carried out. The Town hall, which stood on the square, he thought unworthy of a rising town like Linz. He visualised a new, stately town hall, to be built in a modern style, far removed from that neo-Gothic style which at that time was the vogue for town halls, in Vienna and Munich, for instance. In a different way, Hitler proceeded in the remodeling of the old Castle, an ugly, boxlike pile which overlooked the old city. He had discovered an old print by Merian depicting the castle as it was before the great fire. Its original appearance should be restored and the castle turned into a museum.
Another building which never failed to rouse his enthusiasm was the Museum, built in 1892. We often stood and looked at the marble frieze which was 110 metres long and reproduced scenes from the history of the country in relief. He never got tired of gazing at it. He extended the museum beyond the adjoining convent garden and enlarged the frieze to 220 metres to make it, as he asserted, the biggest relief frieze on the Continent. The new cathedral, then in course of construction, occupied him constantly. The Gothic revival was, in his opinion, a hopeless enterprise, and he was angry that the Linzers could not stand up to the Viennese. For the height of the Linz spire was limited to 134 metres out of respect for the 138-metre-high St. Stephen's spire in Vienna. Adolf was greatly pleased with the new Corporation of Masons which had been founded in connection with the building of the cathedral, as he hoped this would result in the training of a number of capable masons for the town. The railway station was too near the town, and with its network of tracks impeded the traffic as well as the town's development. Here, Adolf found an ingenious solution which was far ahead of his time. He removed the station out of the town into the open country and ran the tracks underground across the town. The space gained by the demolition of the old station was designated for an extension of the public park. Reading this, one must not forget that the time was 1907, and that it was an unknown youth of eighteen, without training or qualification, who propounded these projects which revolutionised town planning, and which proved how capable he was, even then, of brushing aside existing ideas.
In a similar way, Hitler also reconstructed the surroundings of Linz. An interesting idea dominated his plans for the rebuilding of Wildberg Castle. Its original state was to be restored and it was to be developed as a kind of open-air museum with a permanent population – quite a new idea. Certain types of artisans and workmen were to be attracted to the place. Their trades had to be partly in the medieval tradition, but should also partly serve modern purposes, a tourist industry, for instance. These inhabitants of the Castle were to dress in ancient fashion. The traditions of the old guilds should rule, and a Master Singer School was to be established. This "Island where the centuries had stood still" (these were his very words) would become a place of pilgrimage for all those who wanted to study life as it was lived in a medieval stronghold. Improving upon Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg, Wildberg would not only show architecture but real life. Visitors would have to pay a toll at the gates, and so contribute to the upkeep of the local inhabitants. Adolf gave much thought to the choice of suitable artisans and I remember that we discussed the subject at great length. After all, I was just about to take my Master's examination and was, therefore, entitled to have my say.
Quite a different project, of absolutely modern design, was the tower on the Lichtenberg. A mountain railway should run up to the peak, where a comfortable hotel would stand. The whole was dominated by a tower three hundred metres high, a steel construction which kept him very busy. The gilded eagle on the top of St. Stephen's in Vienna could be seen on clear days through a telescope from the highest platform of the tower. I think I remember seeing a sketch of this project.
The boldest project, however, which put all the others in the shade, was the building of a grandiose bridge which would span the Danube at a great height. For this purpose he planned the construction of a high-level road. This would start at the Gugl, then still an ugly sandpit, which could be filled in with the town's refuse and rubbish, and provide the space for a new park. From there, in a broad sweep, the new road would lead up to the Stadtwald. (Incidentally, the city engineers went thus far some time ago, without knowing Hitler's plans. The road which has meanwhile been built corresponds exactly to Hitler's projects.)
The Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Warte in the Jagermayerwald – it is still standing – was to be demolished and replaced by a proud monument. In a Hall of Fame there would be assembled the portrait busts of all the great men who had deserved well of the Province of Upper Austria; from the top of the hall one would have a magnificent view over a vast expanse of country; and the whole edifice was to be crowned by a statue of Siegfried, raising aloft his sword, Nothung. (The Hall of Liberation at Kehlheim and the Hermann Monument in the Teutoburger Wald were obvious models.) From this spot the bridge sweeps in one arch to the steep slope of the opposite bank. Adolf got his inspiration for this from the legend of a daring horseman who, pursued by his enemies, is said to have jumped from this point into the appalling depths below, to swim across the Danube and reach the other side. My imagination boggled at the dimensions of this bridge. The span of the arch was calculated to be more than 500 metres. The summit was 90 metres above the level of the river. I much regret that no sketches of this really unique project survive.. This bridge across the deep valley, my friend declared, would give Linz an edifice without rival in the whole world. When we stood on one bank of the river, or the other, Adolf would explain to me all the details of the scheme.
These bold, far-reaching plans made a strange impression on me, as I still clearly remember. Although I saw in the whole thing nothing but a figment of the imagination, I could, nevertheless, not resist its peculiar fascination. What exercised my friend's mind, and was hastily jotted down on scraps of paper, was more than nebulous fantasticism; these apparently absurd conceptions contained something compelling and convincing – a sort of superior logic. Each idea had its natural sequel in another, and the whole was a clear and rational chain of thought. Purely romantic conceptions, such as the "Medieval Revival of Wildberg Castle," obviously betrayed Richard Wagner's paternity. They were linked to extremely modern technical devices, such as the replacement of level crossings by underground railway tracks. This was no unbridled wallowing in sheer fantasy, but a well-disciplined, almost systematic process. This "Architecture set to Music" attracted me, perhaps, just because it seemed fully feasible – although we two poor devils had no possibility of realising these plans. But this did not disturb my friend in the least, His belief, that one day he would carry out all his tremendous projects, was unshakable. Money was of no importance – it was only a matter of time, of living long enough. This absolute faith was too much for my rational way of thinking. What was our future? I might become, at best, a well-known conductor. And Adolf? A gifted painter or draughtsman, perhaps a famous architect. But how far distant were these professional goals from that standing and reputation, those riches and power necessary for the rebuilding of an entire city! And who knows whether my friend, with his incredible flights of fancy and impulsive temperament, would stop at the rebuilding of Linz, for he was incapable of keeping his hands off anything within reach. Consequently I had grave doubts and occasionally I dared to remind him of the undeniable fact that all our worldly possessions put together did not amount to more than a few crowns – hardly enough to buy drawing paper. Usually Adolf brushed my objections impatiently aside, and I still remember his grim expression and his disdainful gesture on such occasions. He took it for granted that one day the plans would be executed with the greatest of exactitude, and prepared for this moment accordingly. Even the most fantastic idea was thought out in the greatest detail. How was the material to be transported for the bridge across the Danube? Should it be stone or steel? How were the foundations for the end abutments to be laid? Would the rock stand the weight? These questions were, in part, quite irrelevant for the expert, in part, however, very much to the point. Adolf lived so much in his vision of the future Linz that he adapted his day-to-day habits to it; for instance, we would visit the Hall of Fame, the Memorial Temple or our "Medieval Open-air Museum."
One day when I interrupted the bold flow of his ideas for the National Monument and asked him soberly how he proposed to finance this project, his first reply was a brusque, "Oh, to hell with money!" But apparently my query had disturbed him. And he did what other people do who want to get rich quickly – he bought a lottery ticket. And yet there was a difference between the way Adolf bought a lottery ticket and the way other people did. For other people only hope, or rather, dream of getting the first prize, but Adolf was sure he had won from the moment of buying the ticket and had only forgotten to collect the money. His only possible worry was how to spend this not inconsiderable sum to the best advantage.
It was typical of him that he often mingled his most fantastic ideas with the coolest calculations, and the same thing happened with the purchase of the lottery ticket. While he was already, in his imagination, spending his winnings, he carefully studied the lottery conditions and worked out our chance with the greatest precision. Adolf invited me to go shares with him in this venture. He was quite systematic about it. The price of the ticket was ten crowns, of which I had to find five. He stipulated, however, that these five crowns should not be given to me by my parents, but I had to earn them myself. At that time I earned some pocket money and also got occasional tips from the customers. Adolf insisted on knowing exactly where these five crowns came from, and when he was satisfied that my contribution was really my own, we went together to the office of the State Lottery to buy the ticket. It took him a long time to make up his mind, and I still don't know what considerations prompted his choice. As he was absolutely skeptical about occultism and more than rational in these matters, his behaviour remained a mystery to me. But in the end he found his winner. "Here it is!" he said, and put the ticket carefully away in the little, black notebook in which he wrote his poems.
The time that elapsed before the draw was for me the happiest period of our friendship. Love and enthusiasm, great thoughts, lofty ideas, all that we bad already. The only thing that was lacking was money. Now we had that, too. What more could we want?
Although the first prize represented a lot of money, my friend was by no means tempted to spend it thoughtlessly. On the contrary. He went about it in the most calculating and economical way. It would have been senseless to invest the whole sum in one of the projects, say the rebuilding of the museum, for this would only have been a small part within the framework of the great town-planning scheme. It was more reasonable to use the money for our own benefit, to help us to a standing in public life which would enable us to progress further towards our ultimate aims.
It would have been too expensive to build a villa for ourselves; it would have swallowed up so much of our fortune that we would have moved into this splendour quite penniless. Adolf suggested a compromise: we should rent a flat, he said, and adapt it to our purpose. After long and careful examination of the various possibilities, we selected the second floor of No. 2 Kirchengasse in Urfahr; for this house was in a quite exceptional position. Near the bank of the Danube, it had a view over the pleasant green fields which culminated in the Pöstlingberg. We crept into the house secretly, looked at the view from the staircase window, and Adolf made a sketch of the ground plan.
Then we moved in, so to speak. The larger wing of the flat should be for my friend, the smaller one was reserved for me. Adolf arranged the rooms so that his study was as far removed as possible from mine, so that he, at his drawing board, would not be disturbed by my practising.
My friend also saw to the furnishing of the rooms, drawing each single piece of furniture to scale on the ground plan. The furniture was of most beautiful and superior quality, made by the town's leading craftsmen, by no means cheap, mass-produced stuff. Even the decorations for the walls of each single room were designed by Adolf. I was only allowed to have a say about the curtains and draperies, and I had to show him how I. suggested dealing with the rooms he had given me. He was certainly pleased with the self-assured manner in which I co-operated with the arrangement of the flat. We had no doubt that the first prize was ours. Adolf's own faith had bewitched me into believing as he did. I, too, expected to move into No. 2 Kirchengasse very soon.
Although simplicity was to be the keynote of our home, it was nevertheless imbued with a refined, personal taste. Adolf proposed to make our home the centre of a circle of art lovers. I would provide the musical entertainment. He would recite something, or read aloud, or expound his latest work. We would make regular trips to Vienna to attend lectures and concerts, and to go to the theatre. (I realised then that Vienna played an important part in my friend's world of ideas. Strange that he had opted for the Kirchengasse in Urfahr.)
Winning the first prize would not alter our mode of life. We would remain simple people, wearing clothes of good quality, but certainly not ostentatious. With regard to our dress, Adolf had a delicious idea which delighted me immeasurably. We should both dress in exactly the same way, he suggested, so that people would take us for brothers. I believe that, for me, this idea alone made it worthwhile to win the Lottery. It shows how our mere theatre acquaintance had ripened into a deep, romantic friendship.
Of course I would have to leave my parents' home and give up my trade. My future musical studies would leave me no time for such things; for as our studies progressed, our understanding for artistic experiences increased and engrossed us completely.
Adolf thought of everything, even the running of the household, which was necessary as the day of the draw was approaching. A refined lady should preside over our home and run it. It had to be an elderly lady, to rule out any expectations or intentions which might interfere with our artistic vocation. We also agreed on the staff that this big household would need. Thus, everything was prepared. This image remained with me for a long time to come: an elderly lady, with greying hair, but incredibly distinguished, standing in the brilliantly lit hall, welcoming, on behalf of her two young, gifted gentlemen of seventeen and eighteen years, the guests who formed their circle of select, lofty-minded friends.
During the summer months we were to travel. The first and foremost destination was Bayreuth, where we were to enjoy the perfect performances of the great master's music dramas. After Bayreuth, we were to visit famous cities, magnificent cathedrals, palaces and castles, but also industrial centres, shipyards and ports. "It shall be the whole of Germany," said Adolf. This was one of his favourite sayings.
The day of the draw arrived.
Adolf came rushing wildly round to the workshop with the list of results. I have rarely heard him rage so madly as then. First he fumed over the State Lottery, this officially organised exploitation of human credulity, this open fraud at the expense of docile citizens. Then his fury turned against the state itself, this patchwork of ten or twelve, or God knows how many nations, this monster built up by Hapsburg marriages. Could one expect other than that two poor devils should be cheated out of their last few crowns?
Never did it occur to Adolf to reproach himself for having taken it for granted that the first prize belonged to him by right; and this in spite of the fact that he had brooded for hours over the conditions of the Lottery and calculated exactly how small our chances were in view of the number of tickets in existence and the number of prizes offered. I could find no explanation for this contradiction in his character. But there it was.
For the first time he had been deserted by his will power which always seemed to move matters that concerned him in the desired direction. This he could not bear, for it was worse than the loss of the money and having to give up the flat and the lady-housekeeper receiving our guests with distinguished nonchalance.
It seemed to Adolf more reasonable to rely on himself and build his own future, rather than trust government institutions like lotteries. This would spare him from such setbacks. Thus, after a short period of utter depression, he returned to his earlier projects.
One of his favourite plans was the replacement of the bridge which linked Linz and Urfahr. We used to cross this bridge daily, and Adolf was particularly fond of this walk. When the floods of May 1868 destroyed five supports of the old wooden bridge, it was decided to build an iron bridge, which was completed in 1872. This rather ugly bridge was far too narrow for the traffic, although in those days there were not even any motorcars; and it was always overcrowded to a frightening degree.
Adolf liked to listen to the cursing drivers, who with wild oaths and much cracking of the whip, would try to make a way for themselves. Although generally he showed little interest in the thing at hand and preferred to take the long view for his projects, he suggested here a provisional solution to remedy the existing state of affairs. Without altering the bridge itself, to either side should be added a footpath, two metres wide, which would carry the pedestrian traffic and thus relieve the roadway.
Naturally, nobody in Linz listened to the suggestions this young dreamer, who could not even produce decent school reports. All the more enthusiastically did Adolf now occupy himself with the complete rebuilding of the bridge.
The ugly iron structure must be demolished. The new bridge must be so proportioned as to give the visitor who approached the Danube from the main square the impression of seeing, not a bridge, but a broad, impressive street. Mighty statues would underline the artistic aspect of the whole.
It is greatly to be regretted that, so far as I know, none of the numerous sketches which Hitler then made for the new bridge has been preserved; for it would be very interesting to compare these sketches with the plans which, thirty years later, Adolf Hitler prepared for this bridge and ordered to be executed. We owe it to his impatience to see the new Linz built that, in spite of the outbreak of war in 1939, that structure, being the central project of the Linz town planning, actually was completed.