That was good news, which pleased me, too, for Adolf had not written to me about his activities in Vienna. Our correspondence was mainly concerned with "Benkieser" – otherwise Stefanie. But his mother, of course, must not be told of that. I asked Frau Klara how she was. Not at all well, she said; she had a lot of bad pain, and very often could not sleep at night. But she warned me not to write to Adolf about it, for perhaps she would soon be better. When we parted, she asked me to come to see her soon.
We were then very busy in the workshop, indeed business had never before been as good as in that year, and orders came in regularly and often. Yet in spite of this heavy work, I devoted every moment of leisure to my musical training, I played the viola both in the Music Society and the great Symphony Orchestra. So the weeks passed, and it was late in November when at last I found time to visit Frau Hitler. I was shocked when I saw her. How wilted and worn was her kind, gentle face! She was lying in bed and stretched out her pale, thin hand to me. Little Paula pushed a chair up beside her. She started at once to talk about Adolf and was happy about the hopeful tone of his letters. I asked her if she had informed him of her illness, and offered to do so for her in case writing was too great an effort. But she hastily refused. If her condition did not improve, she said, she would have to send for Adolf from Vienna. She was sorry she had to tear him away from his hard work – but what else could she do? The little one had to go to school every day, Angela had enough worries of her own (she was expecting a second baby) and on her son-in-law, Raubal, she could not rely at all. Since she had taken Adolf's side and supported him in his decision to go to Vienna, Raubal had been angry with her and now never showed up; he had even prevented his wife from looking after her. So, she said, there was nothing left but to go to the hospital – as the doctor had advised. The Hitlers' family doctor was the very popular Dr. Bloch, known in the town as the "poor people's doctor," an excellent physician and a man of great kindness, who sacrificed himself for his patients. If Dr. Bloch had advised Mrs. Hitler to go to the hospital, her condition must be grave. I was wondering whether it was not, after all, my duty to inform Adolf. Frau Klara said how awful it was for her that Adolf was so far away. I never realised as clearly as on that visit how devoted she was to her son. She thought and planned for his welfare with all the strength that was left to her. In the end, she promised me that she would tell Adolf of her condition.
When I took leave of her that evening, I was very dissatisfied with myself. Was there no way of helping the poor woman? I knew how devoted Adolf was to his mother; something had to be done. If his mother really needed help, little Paula was too clumsy, too frightened to be of any use. When I got home, I talked to my mother. She offered at once to look after Frau Hitler, although she was a complete stranger. But this was vetoed by my father who, with his exaggerated ideas of correct behaviour, thought it was bad manners to offer one's help without being asked. A few days later I went again to see Frau Klara. I found her up, busy in the kitchen. She felt somewhat better and she was already regretting that she had told Adolf about her illness. I stayed with her a long time that evening; she was more talkative than usual and, quite contrary to her habit, she began to tell me about her life. Some of it I understood, and a lot I guessed at, though much was left unsaid; nevertheless, the story of a life of suffering was disclosed to a young man then in the full hopes of his nineteen years.
But in the workshop time was pressing, and my father was a strict boss. Even concerning my artistic ambitions he used to say: Work first – then music. And with a special performance coming on, there was one orchestral rehearsal after another. Sometimes I literally didn't know how to cram in everything. Then one morning, as I was energetically filling a mattress, Adolf suddenly appeared in the room. He looked terrible. His face was so pale as to be almost transparent, his eyes were dull and his voice hoarse. I felt that a storm of suffering must be hidden behind his icy demeanour. He gave me the impression that he was fighting for life against a hostile fate.
There was hardly a greeting, no question about Stefanie, nothing about what he had been doing in Vienna.
"Incurable, the doctor says" – this was all he could utter. I was shocked by the unequivocal diagnosis. Probably Dr. Bloch had told him of his mother's condition. Perhaps he had called in another doctor for consultation; and he couldn't reconcile himself to this cruel verdict.
His eyes blazed, his temper flared up. "Incurable – what do they mean by that?" he screamed. "Not that the malady is incurable, but that the doctors aren't capable of curing it. My mother isn't even old. Forty-seven isn't an age where you give up hope. But as soon as the doctors can't do anything, they call it incurable."
I was familiar with my friend's habit of turning everything he came across into a problem. But never had he spoken with such bitterness, with such passion as now. Suddenly it seemed to me as though Adolf, pale, excited, shaken to the core, stood there arguing and bargaining with Death, who remorselessly claimed his victim.
I asked Adolf if I could help him. He didn't hear me – he was too busy with this settling of accounts. Then he interrupted himself and declared in a sober, matter-of-fact voice: "I shall stay in Linz and keep house for my mother." "Can you do that?" I asked. "One can do anything, when one has to." And he said no more.
I went with him as far as the street. Now, I thought, he would certainly ask after Stefanie; perhaps he had not liked to mention her in the workshop. I would have been glad if he had, because I had carried out my instructions faithfully and could tell him a good deal, even though the expected conversation had not taken place. I also hoped that Adolf, in his deep spiritual affliction, would find comfort in the thought of Stefanie. And it certainly was so. Stefanie meant more to him in those dark weeks than ever before. But he stifled any mention of her, so deeply engrossed was he in his preoccupation with his mother.
I cannot recollect exactly when Adolf returned from Vienna. It was perhaps late in November, but possibly even December. But the weeks that follow remain indelibly in my memory; they were in a certain sense the most beautiful, the most intimate weeks of our friendship. How deeply these days impressed me can be gathered from the mere fact that from no other period of our association do so many details stand out in my memory. He was as though transformed. So far I had been certain that I knew him thoroughly and in all his aspects. After all, we had lived together for more than three years in an exclusive friendship that did not permit of any secrets. Yet in those weeks it seemed to me that my friend had become a different person.
Gone were the problems and ideas which used to agitate him so much, gone all thoughts of politics. Even his artistic interests were hardly noticeable. He was nothing but his mother's faithful and helpful son.
I had not taken Adolf very seriously when he said that he would now take over the household in the Blütengasse, for I knew Adolf's low opinion of such monotonous chores, necessary though they were. And so I was skeptical as to his good intentions and imagined that they would not exceed a few well-meant gestures.
But I was profoundly mistaken. I did not understand that side of Adolf sufficiently, and had not realized that his unbounded love for his mother would enable him to carry out this unaccustomed domestic work so efficiently that she could not praise him enough for it. Thus one day, on my arrival at the Blütengasse, I found Adolf kneeling on the floor. He was wearing a blue apron and scrubbing out the kitchen, which bad not been cleaned for a long time. I was really immensely surprised and I must have shown it, for Frau Klara smiled in spite of her pain and said to me: "There, you see, Adolf can do anything." Then I noticed that Adolf had changed the furniture around. His mother's bed now stood in the kitchen because that was heated during the day. The kitchen cupboard had been moved into the living room, and in its place was the couch, on which Adolf slept, so that he could be near her during the night as well. The little one slept in the living room. I could not refrain from asking how he managed the cooking. "As soon as I've finished the scrubbing, you can see for yourself," said Adolf. But, before I did, Frau Klara told me that every morning she discussed the dinner with Adolf. He always chose her favourite dishes, and prepared them so well that she herself couldn't have done better. She enjoyed her food immensely, she insisted, and she had never eaten with such good appetite as since Adolf came home,
I looked at Frau Klara, who had sat up in bed. The fervour of her words had coloured her usually pale cheeks. The pleasure of having her son back and his devotion to her had transfigured the serious, worn face. But behind this mother's joy were the unmistakable signs of suffering. The deep lines, the drawn mouth and the sunken eyes showed how right the doctor had been.
To be sure, I should have known that my friend would net fail, even in this out-of-the-ordinary task, for whatever he did, he did thoroughly. Seeing the seriousness with which he carried out the running of the household, I suppressed a chaffing remark, although Adolf, who was always so punctilious about his neat dress, certainly looked comical in his old clothes with the apron tied around him. Nor did I utter a word of appreciation, so touched was I by his changed attitude, knowing how much self-restraint this work was costing him.
Frau Klara's condition was changeable. Her son's presence improved her general state and cheered her up. Sometimes she would even get up in the afternoon and sit in the arm. chair. Adolf anticipated her every wish and took the most tender care of her. I had never before seen in him such loving tenderness. I didn't trust my own eyes and ears. Not a cross word, not an impatient remark, no violent insistence on having his own way. He forgot himself entirely in those weeks, and lived only for his mother. Although Adolf, according to Frau Klara, had inherited many of his father's traits, I realised then how much his nature resembled his mother's. Certainly this was partly due to the fact that he had spent the last four years of his life alone with her. But, over and above that, there was a peculiar spiritual harmony between mother and son which I have never since come across. All that separated them was pushed into the background. Adolf never mentioned the disappointment which he had suffered in Vienna. For the time being, cares for the future no longer seemed to exist. An atmosphere of relaxed, almost serene contentment surrounded the dying woman.
Adolf, too, seemed to have forgotten everything that had preoccupied him. Only once, after I had said goodbye to Frau Klara, did he come to the door with me and ask me if I had seen Stefanie. But this question was now put in a different tone. It no longer expressed the impatience of the impetuous lover, but the secret anxiety of a young man who feared that fate would now deprive him of the last thing that made life worth living. I gathered from his hasty question how much this girl meant to him in those grave days, more perhaps than if she bad actually been as close to him as he would have wished. I reassured him; I often met Stefanie, with her mother, going over the bridge, and everything seemed unaltered.
December was cold and unfriendly. For days on end, damp, heavy mist hung over the Danube; the sun shone rarely, and when it did, so feebly as to give no warmth at all. His mother's condition deteriorated visibly and Adolf asked me to come. only every other day. As often as I entered the kitchen Frau Klara greeted me by lifting her hand a little and stretching it out towards me, and a faint smile would pass over her face, now distorted with pain. I remember a small but significant incident. Going through Paula's exercise books, Adolf had noticed that she was not getting on in school as well as her mother expected. Adolf took her by the hand and led her to their mother's bed and there made her swear always to be a diligent and well-behaved pupil. Perhaps Adolf wanted to show his mother by this little scene that he had meanwhile realised his own faults. If he had stayed on at the Technical School until matriculation, he would have avoided the disaster in Vienna. No doubt this decisive event which, as he said later, had for the first time put him at variance with himself was at the back of his mind during those terrible days and added to his depression.
When I returned to the Blütengasse two days later and knocked softly on the door, Adolf opened it immediately, came out into the corridor and closed the door behind him. He told me that his mother was not at all well and was in terrible pain. Even more than his words, his emotion made me realise the seriousness of the situation. I thought it better to leave and Adolf agreed with me. We silently shook hands, and I departed.
Christmas was approaching. Snow had fallen at last and the town had assumed a festive garb. But I didn't feel like Christmas. I walked across the Danube bridge to Urfahr. I learned from the people in the house that Frau Hitler had already received Extreme Unction. I wanted to make my visit as short as possible. I knocked, and Paula opened the door. I entered hesitantly. Frau Klara was sitting up in bed. Adolf had his arm around her shoulders to support her, as, while she was sitting up, the terrible pain was less severe.
I remained standing by the door. Adolf signed to me to go. As I was opening the door, Frau Klara waved to me with her outstretched hand. I shall never forget the words which the dying woman then uttered in a whisper. "Gustl," she said – usually she called me Mr. Kubizek, but in that hour she used the name by which Adolf always called me – "go on being a good friend to my son when I'm no longer here. He has no one else."
With tears in my eyes I promised, and then I went. This was the evening of December 20.
The next day Adolf came to see us at home. He looked worn out and we could tell from his distraught face what had happened. His mother had died in the early hours of the morning, he said. It was her last wish to be buried by the side of her husband in Leonding. Adolf could hardly speak, so deeply shaken was he by the loss of his mother.
My parents expressed their sympathy, but my mother realised that the best thing was to turn to practical matters straight away. Arrangements had to be made for the funeral. Adolf had already seen the undertakers and the funeral was fixed for December 23 at 9 A.M. But there was much else to be seen to. The removal of the body to Leonding had to be arranged, the necessary documents procured and the funeral announcements printed. All this helped Adolf to get over his emotional shock, and he calmly made the necessary preparations.
On December 23, 1907, I went with my mother to the house of mourning. The weather had changed; it was thawing and the streets were covered in slush. The day was damp and misty, and one could hardly see the river. We entered the apartment to take leave of the dead with flowers, as was customary. Frau Klara was laid out on her bed. Her waxen face was transfigured. I felt that death had come to the dead woman as a relief from terrible pain. Little Paula was sobbing, but Adolf restrained himself. Yet a glance at his face was sufficient to know how he had suffered in those hours. Not only had he now lost both his parents, but with his mother he had lost the only creature on earth on whom he had concentrated his love, and who had loved him in return.
My mother and I went down into the street. The priest came. The body had been laid in the coffin, which was brought down to the hall. The priest blessed the dead and then the small cortège moved off. Adolf followed the coffin. He wore a long black overcoat, black gloves, and carried in his hand, as was customary, a black top hat. The dark clothing made his white face seem even paler. He looked stern and composed. On his left, also in black, was his brother-inlaw, Raubal, and between them the eleven-year-old Paula. Angela, who was well advanced in pregnancy, followed the mourners in a closed carriage. The whole funeral made a wretched impression on me. In addition to my mother and myself, there were only a few tenants of No. 9 Blütengasse, and a few neighbours and acquaintances from their former home in the Humboldtstrasse. My mother, too, felt how miserable this cortege was, but in the kindness of her heart she immediately defended those who had stayed away. Tomorrow was Christmas, she said, and it was quite impossible for many women, with the best will in the world, to get away.
At the church door the coffin was taken from the hearse and carried inside. After the Mass, the second blessing took place. As the body was to be taken to Leonding, the funeral cortege then went through the Urfahr Hauptstrasse. The church bells were ringing as it approached. Instinctively, I raised my eyes to the windows of the house where Stefanie lived. Perhaps my ardent wish that she should not desert my friend in this, his gravest hour had called her. I can still see how the window opened, a young girl appeared, and Stefanie looked down, interestedly, at the little procession that was passing beneath. I glanced at Adolf; his face remained unchanged, but I did not doubt that he, too, had seen Stefanie. He told me, later, that this was indeed so, and confessed bow much in that painful hour the sight of the beloved had comforted him. Was it by intention or was it by chance that Stefanie came to the window at that moment? Perhaps it was just that she had heard the church bells and wondered why they were ringing so early in the morning. Adolf, of course, was convinced that she wanted to show him her sympathy.
In the Hauptstrasse, a second closed carriage was waiting, which Adolf and Paula entered, while the procession broke up. Raubal joined his wife. Then the hearse and the two carriages started off to Leonding for the interment.
On the following morning, December 24, Adolf came to my house. He looked worn out, as though any minute he might collapse. He seemed to be desperate, quite empty, with no spark of life in him. As he felt how worried my mother was about him, he explained that he had not slept for days. My mother asked him where he was going to spend Christmas Eve. He said that the Raubals had invited him and his sister; Paula had already left, but he had not made up his mind yet whether he would go or not. My mother exhorted him to help to make Christmas a peaceful occasion, now that all the members of the family had suffered the same loss, Adolf listened to her in silence. But when we were alone he said to me brusquely: "I shall not go to Raubal's."
"Where else will you go?" I asked him impatiently. "After all, it's Christmas Eve."
I wanted to ask him to join us. But he did not even let me finish, and shut me up quite energetically, in spite of his sorrow.
Suddenly he pulled himself together and his eyes became bright.
"Perhaps I shall go to Stefanie," he said.
This answer was doubly characteristic of my friend: first, because he was capable of forgetting completely in such moments that his relationship with Stefanie was nothing but wishful thinking, a beautiful illusion, and secondly, because even when he realised this he would, after sober reflection, prefer to stick to his wishful thinking rather than unbosom himself with real people.
Later he confessed to me that he had really been determined to go to Stefanie, although he knew very well that such a sudden visit, without a previous appointment, without even having been introduced to her, and moreover on Christmas Eve, was contrary to good manners and social convention and would probably have meant the end of his relationship with her. But, he told me, on his way he had seen Richard, Stefanie's brother, who was spending his Christmas holiday in Linz. This unexpected meeting had made him give up the idea, for it would have been painful for him if Richard, as was inevitable, had been present at the interview. I did not ask any more questions; it really did not matter whether Adolf was deceiving himself with this pretext, or whether he only offered it to me as an excuse for his behaviour. Certainly I, too, had seen Stefanie at the window, and the sympathy which showed on her face was undoubtedly genuine. However, I doubt very much if she recognised Adolf at all in his extraordinary attire and in these peculiar circumstances. But of course I did not express this doubt to him, because I knew that it would only have robbed my friend of his last hope.
I can well imagine what Adolf's Christmas Eve in the year 1907 was really like. That he did not want to go to Raubal I could understand. I could also understand that he did not want to disturb our quiet little family celebration, to which I had invited him. The serene harmony of our home would have made him feel his loneliness even more. Compared with Adolf, I considered myself fortune's favourite, for I had everything that he had lost: a father who provided for me, a mother who loved me and a quiet home which welcomed me into its peace.
But he? Where should he have gone that Christmas Eve? He had no acquaintances, no friends, nobody who would have received him with open arms. For him the world was hostile and empty.
So he went – to Stefanie. That is to say – to his dream.
All he ever told me of that Christmas Eve was that he had wandered around for hours. Only towards morning had he returned to his mother's home and gone to sleep. What he thought, felt and suffered, I never knew.