The Young Hitler I Knew – August Kubizek
Chapter 16 –
Solitary Study and Reading.

There can be no doubt that Adolf was, at that time, convinced that he was destined to become an architect. How he would ever find his way into practice, even with this thorough private study, unable as he was to produce any testimonials and diplomas – this never caused him any worry. We hardly ever spoke about it, for my friend was absolutely sure that by the time he had concluded his studies, circumstances would have changed (either peacefully or with violence, as a consequence of his Storm of the Revolution) to such an extent that formal qualifications would no longer matter, but only actual ability.

Thus, Adolf saw his future clearly before him. Back in Linz he had already defeated what he called his school's biased, unjust and idiotic treatment of him, by throwing himself heart and soul into the study of a subject of his own choosing, so he had no difficulty in doing the same here in Vienna, where a similar situation confronted him. He cursed the old-fashioned, fossilized bureaucracy of the Academy where there was no understanding for true artistry. He spoke of the trip-wires which had been cunningly laid – I remember his very words! – for the sole purpose of ruining his career. But he would show these incompetent, senile fools that he could go ahead without them! From his salvoes of abuse of the Academy, I gained the impression that these teachers, by rejecting the young man, had involuntarily engendered in him more eagerness and energy than their teaching would ever have done.

But my friend had to face another problem: What was he to live on during his years of study? Many years would pass before he could make himself a position as an architect. Personally, I doubted if, indeed, anything would ever come of my friend's private studies. Admittedly he studied with incredible industry and a determination which one would have thought beyond the strength of his undernourished and weakened body. But his pursuits were not directed towards any practical goal. On the contrary, every now and again he got lost in vast plans and speculations. Drawing a comparison with my musical studies, which were progressing absolutely according to plan, I could only conclude that Adolf was casting his nets far too wide and dragging in anything that had even the remotest connection with architecture; and he did it, moreover, with the greatest thoroughness and precision. How could all that ever lead to any conclusion – not to mention the fact that more and more new ideas assailed him and distracted him from his professional training.

The contrast between his boundless, unsystematic labours and my precisely regulated studies at the Conservatory did nothing to help our friendship, if only because our respective work at home necessarily led to friction. When, on top of this, Professor Boschetti sent me some private pupils, our disagreements became sharper. Now one could see, he said, that bad luck was pursuing him; there was a great conspiracy against him-he had no possibility of earning any money.

One evening – I suppose it was after a pupil of mine had been in for a lesson-I seized the opportunity to try to persuade him to look around for some remunerative work. Of course, if one is lucky, one can give lessons to young ladies, he began. I told him that without my taking the initiative, Professor Boschetti had sent me these pupils – it was a pity that they had to be taught harmonics rather than architectture. Incidentally, I went on more firmly, if I were as gifted as he was, I would have long since looked around for some part-time job.

He listened with interest, almost as though the whole thing did not refer to him at all, and then I let him have it: drawing, for instance, that was something he really could do, as even his teachers had admitted. What about looking for a job with a newspaper or in a publishing firm? Perhaps he could illustrate books, or do sketches for newspapers. He answered evasively that he was glad I credited him with such skill, but anyhow this kind of newspaper illustration was best left to the photographers, for not even the best artist could be as quick as a photographer.

Then what about a job as a dramatic critic, I continued?

This was a job which he was actually doing, because after every visit to the theatre he came home to me with a very severe and radical, yet interesting and comprehensive review. Why should I remain the only inhabitant of Vienna ever to hear his opinions? He should try to get in touch with an influential paper. But he would have to take care not to show too much bias. What did I mean by that, he wanted to know? The Italian, Russian and French operas, too, had their right to exist, I replied. One had to accept foreign composers as well, for art has no national frontiers. We started a heated argument, as whenever music was the topic under discussion I stood my ground; for I did not speak for myself alone, but felt that I was the representative of the Institute whose pupil I was. Although I fully shared Adolf's enthusiasm for Richard Wagner, I could nevertheless not bring myself to reject all the rest. But he stuck uncompromisingly to his point. I still remember well that in my excitement I flung at Adolf the words from the final Chorus of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, "Seid umschlungen Millionen, diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt." The work of the artist must belong to the whole world. So there was trouble even before he took the job of an opera critic, remarked Adolf. And so this plan, too, was buried.

Adolf wrote a great deal during this period. I had discovered that it was mainly plays, dramas actually. He took the plots from the Germanic Mythology or German history. But hardly any of these plays were really finished. Nevertheless, it might have been possible to make some money out of them. Adolf showed me some of his drafts, and I was struck by the fact that he attributed much importance to magnificent staging. Except for the drama about the coming of Christianity, I cannot remember any one of these plays, but only that they all required an enormous production. Wagner had accustomed us to the idea of pretentious productions, but Adolph's ideas dwarfed anything devised by the Master. I knew a thing or two about operatic production and was not slow to utter my doubts. With his settings ranging through Heaven and Hell, I explained to him, no producer would accept any one of his plays. He should be much more modest in all that concerned his scenery. Altogether it would be best for him not to write operas at all, but rather simple plays, comedies perhaps, which were popular with the public. The most profitable thing would be to write some unpretentious comedy. Unpretentious? This was all that was needed to make him furious. So this attempt, too, ended in failure.

Gradually I came to realise all my efforts were wasted. Even if I had managed to persuade Adolf to submit his drawings or his literary work to a newspaper editor or a publisher, he would soon have quarreled with his employer, for he could never tolerate any interference with his work, and it would presumably make no difference that he was getting paid for it. He simply could not bear taking orders from people, for he received enough orders from himself.

So I chose another way. Through the generosity of my parents and through the private lessons I gave, I was financially better off than he was, and therefore I helped him wherever I could, preferably without his realising it at all, for he was very touchy and sensitive in these matters, Only on our walks and excursions did he consent to be my guest.

Later, when we had already parted, Adolf found, in Vienna, a very characteristic solution for this problem, which enabled him to make a modest living and still remain his own master. As his talent was best suited to drawing works of architecture rather than the human figure, he made most accurate and neat sketches of famous Vienna buildings, such as the Karlskirche, the House of Parliament and similar subjects, coloured them and sold them whenever he could.

Having no expert knowledge, I cannot give any opinion on the special studies Adolf was then pursuing. Moreover, I was too busy myself to get any real idea of his work. What I noticed, however, was that he surrounded himself increasingly with technical books. I recall especially a big history of architecture because he loved to choose one of its pictures at random, cover the caption, and tell me what it was, Chartres Cathedral, for instance, or the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. His memory was prodigious; it never failed him and was, of course, a great advantage in his work.

He worked tirelessly on his drawings. I had the impression that he had already learnt, in Linz, the basic principles of draughtsmanship, though only from books. I do not remember Adolf ever having tried to apply in practice what he had learnt, or ever attending classes in architectural drawing

He never showed any desire to mix with people who shared his own professional interests, or to discuss with them common problems. Rather than meet people of specialised knowledge, he would sit alone on his bench in the Schönbrunn Park, holding imaginary conversations with himself about the subject matter of his books. This extraordinary habit of studying a certain subject and penetrating deeply into its very essence, while anxiously avoiding any contact with its practical application, this peculiar self-sufficiency, reminded me of Adolf's relationship with Stefanie. His boundless love of architecture, his passionate interest in building remained fundamentally a mere intellectual pastime. Just as he used to rush to the Landstrasse to see Stefanie when he needed some tangible confirmation of his feelings, so he would escape from the overpowering effects of his theoretical studies into the Ringstrasse, and recover his inner equilibrium among its splendours.

As time went on, I came to understand my friend's one-sided preference for the Ringstrasse, although, to my mind, the impact of such buildings as St. Stephen's, or the Belvedere – older and more original in their style – was stronger and more convincing. But Adolf altogether disliked Baroque, as it was too ornate for his taste. The Ringstrasse buildings had been constructed after the demolition of the city's fortifications; that is to say, in the second half of the past century, and were anything but uniform in style. On the contrary! Almost every style was represented. The House of Parliament was in the Classic, or rather pseudo-Hellenic style, the Town Hall neo-Gothic, and the Burg Theatre, an object of Adolf's special admiration, late Renaissance. Yet they had one thing in common which was especially attractive for my friend-their ostentation. But the real motive for his unceasing preoccupation with these buildings, his use of the Ringstrasse as his professional training ground, was the fact that these buildings of the preceding generation enabled him to study without difficulty the history of their construction, to redraw their plans, to re-erect, so to speak, by his own effort every single structure, and to recall the life and achievements of the great architects of that epoch – Theophil Hansen, Semper, Hasenauer, Siccardsburg and van der Null.

I discovered with apprehension that new ideas, experiences and projects disorganised my friend's professional studies. As long as these new interests had some connection with architecture, they became just part of his general education, but there was much that was diametrically opposed to his professional plans, and, moreover, politics gained an increasingly firm hold on him. I asked Adolf, occasionally, what connection there was between the remote problems which we encountered during our visits to Parliament and his professional preparation. He would answer, "You can build only when you have first created the political conditions for it." Sometimes his answers were rather rude. Thus I remember him once answering my question as to how he proposed to solve a certain problem, "Even if I had found the solution to this problem, I wouldn't tell it to you because you wouldn't understand it." But although he was often brusque, moody, unreliable and far from conciliatory, I could never be angry with him because these unpleasant sides of his character were overshadowed by the pure fire of an exalted soul.

I stopped asking him questions about his profession. It was much better for me to go quietly my own way and show him my own ideas of how to reach one's goal. After all, I had not even reached the lower classes of the technical school and had only been to a council school, but just the same, I was now a student at the Conservatory, as good as any boy who had matriculated. But my friend's studies took just the opposite course to mine. While normally, training for a profession grows more and more specialised in the course of time, Adolf's studies became more general, more diffuse, more abstract and remote from anything practical. The more tenaciously he repeated his own slogan, "I want to become an architect," the more nebulous did this goal become in reality. It was the typical attitude of a young man who would actually be hindered by a profession in reaching what he feels is his true vocation. That was always the case with my friend.

Books were his whole world. In Linz, in order to procure the books he wanted, he had subscribed to three libraries. In Vienna he used the Hof Library so industriously that I asked him once, in all seriousness, whether he intended to read the whole library through, which of course earned me some rude remarks. One day he took me to the library and showed me the big reading room. I was almost overwhelmed by these enormous masses of books, and I asked him how he managed to get what he wanted. He began to explain to me the use of the catalogue, which confused me even more.

Hardly anything would disturb him when he was reading. But sometimes be disturbed himself, for as soon as he opened a book he started talking about it, and I had to listen patiently whether I was interested in the subject or not. Every now and then, in Linz even more frequently than in Vienna, he would thrust a book into my hands and demand that I, as his friend, should read it. It did not matter so much to him that I should widen my own horizon as that he should have somebody with whom he could discuss the book, even though that somebody was only a listener.

As I have mentioned before, outstanding among his books were the German heroic legends. Whatever his mood or external circumstances, he always came back to them and read them again, although he already knew them all by heart. The volume which he had in Vienna was, I believe, entitled Legends of Gods and Heroes: the Treasures of Germanic Mythology.

Already in Linz, Adolf had started to read the classics. Of Goethe's Faust he once remarked that it contained more than 'the human mind could grasp. Once he saw, at the Burg Theatre, the rarely performed second part, with Joseph Kainz in the title role. Adolf was very moved and spoke of it for a long time. It is natural that, of Schiller's works, Wilhelm Tell affected him most deeply. On the other hand, strange to relate, he did not like Die Räuber very much. He was profoundly impressed by Dante's Divine Comedy although, to my mind, he was much too young when he read it. I know that be was interested in Herder, and we saw together Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm. He liked Stifter, partly perhaps because he encountered in his writings the familiar picture of his native landscape, while Rosegger struck him, as he once put it, as too "popular."

Every now and then he would choose books which were Then in vogue, but in order to form a judgment of those who read them rather than of the books themselves. Ganghofer meant nothing to him, while he greatly praised Otto Ernst, with whose works he was familiar. Of modem plays we saw Frank Wedekind's Frühlingserwachen, and Der Meister von Palmyra by Wilbrandt. Adolf read Ibsen's plays in Vienna without being very much impressed by them.

As for philosophical works, he always had his Schopenhauer by him, later Nietzsche, too. Yet I knew little about these, for he regarded these philosophers as, so to speak, his own personal affair – private property which he would not share with anybody. This reticence was possibly also due to the fact that we shared a love of music and this provided us with common ground more rewarding than that of philosophy, which for me was rather a remote subject.

In conclusion I should like to stress the same point with regard to my friend's reading that I have mentioned before, in describing his professional studies: he read prodigiously and, with the help of his extraordinary memory, stored up an amount of knowledge which was far above the normal standard of a twenty-year-old-but he avoided any factual discussion about it.

When he urged me to read a certain book he knew in advance that I would never be his equal in any argument, and it is even possible that he selected the books which he recommended me to read with this thought in mind. He was not interested in "another opinion," nor in any discussion of the book.

His attitude to books was the same as his attitude to the world in general. He absorbed with fervour everything he could lay his hands on, but he took great care to keep at a safe distance from anything that might put him to the test.

He was a seeker, certainly, but even in his books he found only what suited him. One day when I asked him if he really intended to complete his studies by the aid of books alone, he looked at me, surprised, and barked: "Of course, you need teachers, I can see that. But for me they are superfluous." In the further course of this conversation he called me an "intellectual scrounger" and a "parasite at other people's tables." I never felt, and particularly not in those days when we were living together in Vienna, that he was seeking anything concrete in his piles of books, such as principles and ideas for his own conduct; on the contrary, he was looking only for confirmation of those principles and ideas he already had. For this reason his reading, except perhaps the German Mythology, was not a matter of edification, but a sort of check-up on himself.

I remember him in Vienna expounding his many problems and usually winding up with a reference to some book, "You see, the man who wrote this is of exactly the same opinion."