I was all the more surprised at this as Adolf did nothing to provoke this behavior; on the contrary, he hardly noticed the ladies' encouraging glances, or, at most, would make an annoyed comment about them to me. But these observations were enough to prove to me that my friend undoubtedly found favour with the opposite sex, although, to my amazement, he never took advantage of this. Did he not understand these unequivocal invitations, or did he not want to understand them? I gathered it was the latter, as Adolf was too sharp and critical an observer not to see what was going on around him, especially if it concerned himself. Then why did he not seize these opportunities?
That comfortless, boring life in the back room in the Mariahilf suburb, which he himself called a "dog's life," how much more beautiful it would have been made by a friendship with an attractive, intelligent girl! Was not Vienna known as the city of beautiful women? That this was true, we needed no convincing. What was it, then, that held him back from doing what was normal for other young men? That he had never considered this possibility was proved by the very fact that, at his suggestion, we shared a room together. He did not ask me at the time whether that suited me or not. As was his habit, he took it for granted that I should be willing to do what he considered to be the right thing. As far as girls were concerned, he was doubtless quite pleased about my shyness, if only for the reason that it left me with more free time to spare for him.
One small episode has stayed in my memory. One evening at the Opera, as we went back to our places in the Promenade, a liveried attendant came up to us and, plucking Adolf by the sleeve, handed him a note. Adolf, in no way surprised but as though this were an everyday happening, took the note, thanked him and hastily read it. Now, I thought, I was on the track of a great secret, or at least the beginning of a romantic one. But all Adolf said, contemptuously, was, "Another one," and passed the note over to me. Then, with a semi-mocking glance, he asked me whether perhaps I would like to keep the suggested appointment. "It's your affair, not mine," I replied, a bit sharply, "and anyhow I wouldn't like the lady to be disappointed."
Each time when it had to do with members of the fair sex, it was "his affair, not mine," no matter to what class the woman in question might belong. Even in the street my friend was shown preference. When, at night, we came home from the Opera or the Burg Theatre, now and again one of the streetwalkers would approach us, in spite of our poor appearance, and ask us to come home with her. But here again it was only Adolf who got the invitation.
I remember quite well that in those days I used to ask myself what the girls found so attractive about Adolf. He was certainly a well-set-up young man, with regular features, but not at all what is understood by a "handsome" man. I had seen handsome men often enough on the stage to know what women meant by that. Perhaps it was the extraordinarily bright eyes that attracted them. Or was it the strangely stern expression of the ascetic countenance? Or perhaps it was just his obvious indifference to the opposite sex that invited them to test his resistance. Whatever it was, women seemed to sense something exceptional about my friend – as opposed to men, such as, for instance, his teachers and professors.
The presentiment of decay that existed in those years in the Hapsburg Empire had produced in Vienna a shallow, easygoing atmosphere, whose empty moral sense was covered by the famous Viennese charm. The slogan then so much in vogue, "Sell my clothes, I'm going to Heaven," drew even the solid bourgeois classes into the superficiality of the morbid "higher circles." That sultry eroticism which held sway in Arthur Schnitzler's plays set the tone of society. The then famous saying, "Austria is going to the bad through her women," certainly seemed to be true as far as Viennese society was concerned. In the midst of this brittle milieu, whose persistent, erotic undertone insinuated itself everywhere, my friend lived in his self-imposed asceticism, regarding girls and women with lively and critical sympathy, while completely excluding anything personal, and handled matters which other young men of his age turned into their own experiences, as problems for discussion. And this he would do in his evening talks, as coldly and factually as though he himself were quite remote from such things.
As in all the other chapters of this book, so in this one dealing with Adolf's attitude to women during our friendship, I am concerned with keeping entirely to my own personal experience. From the autumn of 1904 to the summer of 1908, that is, for almost four years, I lived side by side with Adolf. In these decisive years when he grew from a boy of fifteen to a young man, Adolf confided to me things that he had told to no one, not even his mother. As far back as the days in Linz, our friendship was so intimate that I should have noticed if he had actually made the acquaintance of a girl. He would have had less time for me, his interests would have taken a different direction, and there would have been many similar signs. Yet, apart from his dream-love for Stefanie, no such thing happened. I cannot give any information about May and June 1906, nor the Autumn of 1907, the periods when Adolf was alone in Vienna. But I can only imagine that any really serious love affair would have continued into the period when we were living together. I think I can say, with certainty, Adolf never met a girl, either in Linz or in Vienna, who actually gave herself to him.
My own personal experience from living with him, based on small, apparently insignificant, details, was confirmed by the profound and penetrating discussions which Adolf used to have with me on all questions concerning the relations between the sexes. I knew from previous experience that between what Adolf preached and what he practised there was indeed no difference. His social and moral conduct was not governed by his own desires and feelings, but by his knowledge and judgment. In this respect, he displayed the utmost self-control. He could not bear the shallow superficiality of certain circles in Vienna, and I cannot remember a single occasion when he let himself go in his attitude to the other sex. At the same time, I must categorically assert that Adolf, in physical as well as sexual respects, was absolutely normal. What was extraordinary in him was not to be found in the erotic or sexual spheres, but in quite other realms of his being.
When he used to describe to me in vivid terms the necessity of early marriage, which alone was capable of ensuring the future of the people; when he used to set forth for my benefit measures for increasing the number of children per family, measures which later were actually put into practice; when he expounded to me the connection between healthy housing and a healthy family life and described how, in his Ideal State, the problems of love, sexual relations, of marriage, of family, of children would be solved, I would think of Stefanie; for, after all, what Adolf was laying down here in such a convincing manner was really only the dreamed-of, ideal life with her, transported to a political and social plane. He had wanted Stefanie for his wife, for him she was the ideal of German womanhood personified. From her he hoped for children, for her he had planned that beautiful country house, which had become for him a model of the abode for the ideal family life.
But all this was illusion, wishful thinking. He had not seen Stefanie for several months, and spoke less and less of her. Even when I left for Linz for my call-up, he did not ask me to find out about Stefanie. Did she still mean anything to him? Had the enforced separation convinced Adolf that the most practical course was to forget Stefanie altogether? Just as I had persuaded myself that this was so, there would be certain to come another tempestuous outburst to prove to me that he still clung to Stefanie with every fibre of his being.
In spite of this, it was clear to me that Stefanie was losing her reality for Adolf more and more, and becoming purely an ideal. He could no longer rush to the Landstrasse to convince himself of the existence of the beloved. He received no further news about her. His feelings for Stefanie were plainly losing real foundation. Was this, then, the end of a love that had begun with such great hopes?
Yes and no! It was the end in so far as Adolf was no longer the sentimental youth who, with the usual extravagance of the adolescent, compensated for the slightness of his hopes by a boundless conceit in himself. And yet, on the other hand, I could not understand how Adolf, now a young man with very concrete ideas and aims, could, nevertheless, still cling so firmly to this hopeless love; to such an extent, indeed, that it was sufficient to render him immune to the temptations of the big city.
I knew the very strict ideas of my friend about the relations between men and women, and had often wondered how Adolf came to be possessed of this strict moral attitude. His conceptions of love and marriage were definitely not those of his father, and while his mother loved him dearly, she certainly had not influenced him much in this respect; nor was such influence needed, as she could see that Adolf was quite correct in his behaviour towards girls. Adolf's background was that of an Austrian civil servant's family and a bourgeois household. Consequently, my only explanation of his strict views-which I shared with him to a certain degree, without being dogmatic about them, was his passion for social and political problems. His ideas of morality were based not upon experience, but on abstract, logical conclusions.
In addition, he still looked upon Stefanie, although she had become unattainable for him, as the ideal model of German womanhood, unrivalled by anything he saw in Vienna. When a woman made a strong impression on him, I often noticed how he immediately began to talk about Stefanie and to draw comparisons which were always in her favour.
Incredible as it may sound, the "distant beloved," who did not even know the name of the young man whose love she was supposed to return, exercised such a strong influence over Adolf that not only did he find his own ideas of morality confirmed in his relations with her, but he regulated his life in accordance with them as seriously and consistently as a monk who has consecrated his life to God. In Vienna, this sink of iniquity, where even prostitution was made the object of the artist's glorification – this was an exception indeed!
Actually, Adolf had written to Stefanie once during that period. It can no longer be established whether this letter was sent before or during our time together in Vienna. The letter itself is lost, and I came to hear about it in a curious manner, I told a friend of mine, an archivist, who is working on a biography of Adolf Hitler and of whose scientific soundness I am assured, about Adolf's love for Stefanie. The scholar ascertained the address of the old lady, the widow of a colonel, living in Vienna, called on her and laid before her his peculiar request-that she should tell him about her youthful acquaintance with a young, pale student from the Humboldtstrasse, who later moved to the Blütengasse in Urfahr. He used to stand and wait for her at the Schmiedtoreck every evening, he added, accompanied by his friend. Upon this, the old lady began telling him about balls, excursions, carriage trips and so on which she had enjoyed with young men, mostly officers, but with the best will in the world she could not recollect this strange young man; even when, to her astonishment, she learnt his name. But suddenly a memory awoke within her. Didn't she once receive a letter, written in a confused manner, which spoke of a solemn vow, begged her to keep faith and only to expect further news of the writer when he had finished his training as an artist and had an assured position? The letter was not signed. From its style, it can almost certainly be concluded that it was Adolf who sent it. And that was all the old lady could tell him.
When the thought of his beloved became too much for him, he no longer spoke directly of Stefanie, but threw himself headlong, with a great display of feeling, into dissertations about early marriages to be promoted by the State, about the possibility of helping working girls to get their trousseaus by means of a loan, and assisting young families with many children to acquire a house and garden, I remember that here, on one particular point, we had the most violent arguments. Adolf suggested the establishment of State furniture factories, in order that young married couples should be able to furnish their homes cheaply. I was strongly against this idea of mass-produced furniture. After all, on this subject I was qualified to speak. Furniture must be of good, high-quality craftsmanship, not machine made. We made our calculations and economised in other ways, so that the newly married couple could have fine, good-quality furniture in their home, soft featherbeds, cloth-covered chairs and couches in good taste, so that one could see there still existed master upholsterers who knew their job.
Much that Adolf used to tell me in those long nightly talks is concentrated into one particular phrase in my memory, and in this case, that which connotes these passionate discussions is the strange cliché, "The Flame of Life." Whenever the questions of love, marriage or sex relations were raised, this magic formula would crop up. To keep the Flame of Life pure and unsullied would be the most important task of that Ideal State with which my friend occupied himself in his lonely hours. With my inherent preference for precision, I was not quite sure what Adolf meant by this Flame of Life, and occasionally the phrase would change its meaning. But I think, in the end, I did understand him aright. The Flame of Life was the symbol of sacred love which is awakened between man and woman who have kept themselves pure in body and soul and are worthy of a union which would produce healthy children for the nation.
Such phrases, impressively delivered and repeated again and again – and Adolf had a large stock of these expressions – had quite a queer effect on me. When I heard them solemnly proclaimed for the first time they seemed to me rather pathetic, and I smiled inwardly at these bombastic formulas which were in such contrast to our insignificant existence, But despite that, the words stayed in my memory. Just as a thistle clings to one's sleeve with a hundred barbs, so did this phrase cling. I could not get rid of it. Then, if I found myself in a situation which had only the remotest connection with this theme – I would meet a girl as I went along the Mariahilferstrasse, let us say, alone in the evening; a pretty young lady she seemed to me, a little flighty perhaps, for she turned round very openly to look at me. At least, this time I was sure it was I in whom she was interested! As a matter of fact, she must have been very flighty, because she waved to me invitingly! But then, suddenly, the words "Flame of Life" would appear before me – one single, thoughtless hour and this holy flame is extinguished forever! – and even though I was annoyed by these moralisings, nevertheless, in such moments, they worked. One phrase was linked to another. It began with the "Storm of the Revolution," and went on through countless political and social slogans to the "Holy Reich of all the Germans." Perhaps Adolf found a certain number of these phrases in books, but others I knew he coined himself.
Gradually, these single statements evolved into one compact system. As everything that happened was of interest to Adolf, each new phenomenon of the times was examined to see how it would fit into his political philosophy.
Sometimes my memory indulges in strange juxtapositions; so that immediately following the holy, unapproachable Flame of Life would come the Sink of Iniquity, although in my friend's world of ideas this expression represented the lowest grade. Of course, in the Ideal State there was no longer any Sink of Iniquity. With these words Adolf described the prostitution which was then rife in Vienna. As a typical phenomenon of those years of general moral decadence, we would come across it in the most varied forms, both in the elegant streets of the centre, and in the slums of the suburbs. All this filled Adolf with boundless rage. But for this spreading prostitution he blamed not only those actually practising it, but those responsible for the prevailing social and economic conditions. A "Monument to the Shame of our Times," he called this prostitution. Ever and again he tackled the problem and searched for a solution whereby in the future any kind of "commercial love" would be rendered impossible.
There was one evening that I have never forgotten. We had been to a performance of Wedekind's Frühlingserwachen and, as an exception, had stayed for the last act. Then we made our way across the Ring homewards and turned down into the Siebensterngasse. Then Adolf took my arm and said, unexpectedly, "Come, Gustl. We must see the Sink of Iniquity once." I do not know what had given him the idea, but he had already turned into the small, ill-lit Spittelberggasse.
So there we were. We walked along past the low, one-story houses. The windows, which were on street level, were lighted so that we could see directly into the rooms. The girls sat there, some behind the windowpane, some at the open window; a few of them were still remarkably young, others prematurely aged and faded. In their scanty and slovenly attire they sat there, making up their faces or combing their hair or looking at themselves in the mirror, without, however, for one moment losing sight of the men strolling by. Here and there a man would stop, lean towards the window to look at the girl of his choice; a hasty, whispered interchange would take place. Then, as a sign that the deal was concluded, the light would be turned out. I still remember how this custom in particular struck me, as one could tell by the darkening of the windows how trade was going. Among the men, it was the accepted convention not to stand before the unlighted windows.
We, for our part, did not even stand in front of the lighted windows, but made our way along to the Burggasse at the other end of the street. Arrived there, however, Adolf made an about-turn and we walked once more along the Sink of Iniquity. I was of the opinion that the one experience would have sufficed, but Adolf was already dragging me along to the lighted windows.
Perhaps these girls, too, had noticed the "something special" about Adolf, perhaps they had realised that here they had to deal with men of moral restraint, such as came sometimes from the religious countryside to the unholy city; at any rate, they thought it necessary to redouble their efforts. I recall how one of these girls seized just the moment when we were passing her window to take off her chemise, presumably to change it, while another busied herself with her stockings, showing her naked legs. I was genuinely glad when this exciting running of the gantlet was over and we finally reached the Westbahnstrasse, but I said nothing, while Adolf grew angry at the prostitutes' tricks of seduction.
At home, Adolf started on a lecture on his newly acquired impressions, with a cold objectivity as though it were a question of his attitude towards the fight against tuberculosis, or towards cremation. I was amazed that he could speak about it without any inner emotion. Now he had learnt the customs of the market for commercial love, he declared, and thus the purpose of his visit was fulfilled. The origin lay in the fact that man felt the necessity for sexual satisfaction, while the girls in question thought only of their earnings; earnings with which, possibly, they kept one man whom they really loved, always assuming that these girls were capable of love. In practice, the Flame of Life in these poor creatures was long since extinct.
There is another incident I should like to recount. One evening, at the corner of Mariahilferstrasse-Neubaugasse, a well-dressed, prosperous-looking man spoke to us and asked us about ourselves. When we told him that we were students ("My friend studies music," explained Adolf, "and I architecture"), he invited us to supper at the Hotel Kummer. He allowed us to order anything we pleased and for once Adolf could eat as many tarts and pastries as he could manage. Meanwhile, he told us that he was a manufacturer from Vöcklabruck and did not like anything to do with women, as they were only gold diggers. I was especially interested in what he said about the chamber music which appealed to him. We thanked him, he came out of the restaurant with us, and we went home.
There Adolf asked me if I liked the man. "Very much," I replied. "A very cultured man, with pronounced artistic leanings."
"And what else?" continued Adolf with an enigmatic expression on his face.
"What else should there be?" I asked, surprised.
"As apparently you don't understand, Gustl, what it's all about, look at this little card!"
For, in fact, this man had slipped Adolf a card without my noticing it, on which he had scribbled an invitation to visit him at the Hotel Kummer.
"He's a homosexual," explained Adolf in a matter-of-fact manner.
I was startled. I had never even heard the word, much less had I any conception of what it actually meant. So Adolf explained this phenomenon to me. Naturally this, too, had long been one of his problems and, as an abnormal practice, he wished to see it fought against relentlessly, and he himself scrupulously avoided all personal contact with such men. The visiting card of the famous manufacturer from Vöcklabruck disappeared into our stove.
It seemed to me quite natural that Adolf should turn with disgust and repugnance from these and other sexual aberrations of the big city, that he refrained from masturbation which was commonly indulged in by youths, and that in all matters of sex he obeyed those strict rules that he laid down for himself and for the future state. But then why did he not try to escape from his loneliness, to make friends and find stimulus in serious, intelligent and progressive company? Why did he always remain the lone wolf, who avoided any contact with people, although he was passionately interested in all human affairs? How easy it would have been for him, with his obvious talents, to win himself a place in those social circles in Vienna which held themselves aloof from the general decadence, from which he would not only have gained new insight and enlightenment, but which would have wrought a change in his lonely life. There were many more thoroughly decent people in Vienna than the other kind, though they were less in evidence. So he had no reason to avoid people on moral grounds. As a matter of fact, it was not arrogance that held him back. It was rather his poverty, and the consequent sensitiveness, that caused him to live on his own. Moreover, he thought he was lowering himself if he went to a social gathering, or any kind of distraction. He had too high an opinion of himself for a superficial flirtation or for a merely physical relation with a girl. For that matter, he would never have allowed me to indulge in such affairs. Any step in this direction would have meant the inevitable end of our friendship, as, apart from the distaste with which Adolf viewed such connections, he would never have tolerated my having any interest in other people. As always, our friendship had to be utterly exclusive of all other interests.
One day, although I knew how opposed Adolf was to all social activities, I nevertheless attempted to arrange something for him. The opportunity which occurred seemed to me too good to be missed.
Sometimes music lovers came to the office of the Conservatory looking for students to take part in a musical evening at their houses. This meant not only much-needed extra money – we usually received a fee of five crowns, as well as supper – but also brought a little social glamour into my humble student's life. As a good viola player, I was much sought after, and it was through this that I came to know the family of a wealthy manufacturer in the Heiligenstädterstrasse, Dr. Jahoda. They were people with a deep appreciation of art, of very cultivated tastes, a really intellectual group of the kind that flourished only in Vienna, who traditionally enriched the artistic life of the city. When, at table, the opportunity arose, I mentioned my friend, and was invited to bring him with me the next time. This was what I had been aiming at, and now I was content.
And Adolf did indeed go with me, and he enjoyed himself very much. He was particularly impressed with the library, which for Adolf was a real yardstick for judging these people. What pleased him less, however, was that throughout the whole evening he had to remain a silent listener, although he himself had chosen this role. On the way home, he said he would have got on quite well with these people, but as he was not a musician he had not been able to join in the conversation. Nevertheless, he also came with me to musical evenings in one or two other houses, where it was only his inadequate dress that upset him.
In the midst of this corrupt city, my friend surrounded himself with a wall of unshakable principles which enabled him to build up an inner freedom, in spite of all the dangers around. him. He was afraid of infection, as he often said. Now I understand that he meant, not only venereal infection, but a much more general infection, namely, the danger of being caught up in the prevailing conditions and finally being dragged down into the vortex of corruption. It is not surprising that no one understood him, that they took him for an eccentric, and that those few who came in contact with him called him presumptuous and arrogant.
But he went his way, untouched by what went on around him, but also untouched by a really great, consuming love. He remained a man alone and guarded – an odd contradiction – in strict monklike asceticism, the holy Flame of Life.