The Young Hitler I Knew – August Kubizek
Chapter 23 –
The Lost Friendship.

The competitive examinations at the Conservatory were over, and I had come out of them very well. Now I had only to conduct the end-of-term concert in the Johannessaal which, in view of the stagefright of the performers-and the conductor-was not an easy task. But everything went well. Much more exciting for me was the second evening when the singer, Rossi, sang three songs I had composed, and two movements from my sextet for strings were performed for the first time. Both compositions met with great success. Adolf was in the artists' room when Professor Max Jentsch, my composition teacher, congratulated me. The Head of the Conductors' School, Gustav Gutheil, also added his congratulations and, to crown all, the Director of the Conservatory came into the artists' room and shook me warmly by the hand. This was a little too much for me, who only a year ago had been working in the dusty upholsterer's workshop. Adolf glowed with enthusiasm and seemed genuinely proud of his friend. But I could well imagine what he was thinking in his heart of hearts. Certainly, he had never realised with such bitterness the futility of his time in Vienna as when he saw me in the midst of my resounding triumphs with my feet firmly planted on the road which led to my ultimate goal.

Only a few more days and the term would end. I was looking forward with great pleasure to going home, as, in spite of my successful studies, the dire feeling of homesickness had never left me throughout the time I had been in Vienna.

Adolf had no home and did not know where he would go, We discussed how we should pass the coming months. Frau Zakreys joined us in our room and hesitantly asked us what our plans were.

"Whatever happens we shall stay together," I declared immediately; I did not mean only that I should stay with Adolf – that seemed to me a matter of course – but also that we should both go on lodging with Frau Zakreys, with whom we got on so well. Moreover, my plans were quite decided. Immediately after the end of term I would go to Linz and stay with my parents till the autumn, when I would undergo my eight weeks' training with the Army Reserve. At the latest, I wanted to be back in Vienna by the second half of November. I promised to send my share of the rent regularly to Frau Zakreys so that she could keep the room for us.

Frau Zakreys, too, wanted to go to visit relatives in Moravia during the next few days, and she was worried about leaving the flat empty. But Adolf soon reassured the old dear. He would stay there and wait until she came back. Then he could still go for a few days to his mother's family in the Waldviertel.

Frau Zakreys was very pleased with this solution, and assured us that we had been most satisfactory lodgers: two such nice young gentlemen, who paid their rent punctually and never brought girls home, you wouldn't find anywhere else in Vienna.

When I was alone with Adolf, I told him that I would try to get an engagement as a viola player with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra during the next school year. Then I would be so much better off that I would be able to help him substantially as well. Adolf, who in those days was very irritable, made no response to my suggestion. Neither did he tell me a word of his future plans, but in view of my own success, I did not take offence at this. Moreover, to my great astonishment, I was not instructed to keep him informed about Stefanie. Nevertheless, I made up my mind to write him all that I could find out about her. Adolf promised to write often and keep me informed of everything of interest to me that went on in Vienna.

The parting was hard for both of us; its date, the beginning of July 1908, is of particular significance. Although it had not always been easy, in spite of my compliant nature, to get on with Adolf, yet our friendship had always triumphed over personal difficulties. We had known each other now for nearly four years and had got used to each other's ways. The rich treasure of artistic experiences enjoyed together in Linz, as well as the joy of lovely excursions, had been increased and deepened by our time together in Vienna. In Vienna, Adolf was like a bit of home for me; he had shared the most beautiful impressions of my boyhood, and knew me better than anybody else. It was him I had to thank for the fact that I was at the Conservatory.

This feeling of gratitude, strengthened by a friendship springing from shared experiences, bound me firmly to him. I was more than willing, in the future, to put up with any of the peculiarities caused by his impulsive temperament. With growing maturity and discernment, my appreciation of Adolf as my friend increased, as is proved by the fact that in spite of our cramped quarters and the divergence of our interests, we had got on much better together in Vienna than in Linz. I was prepared, for his sake, to go not only to Parliament, and to a Synagogue, but even to the Spittelberggasse, and God knows where, and was already looking forward to spending my next year with him.

Naturally, I meant far less to Adolf than he did to me. That I had come with him to Vienna from his home town only served to remind him, perhaps unwillingly, of his own difficult family background and the apparent hopelessness of his boyhood, though, to be sure, my presence also reminded him of Stefanie. Above all, he had learnt to appreciate me as an eager audience. He could not wish for a better public as, because of his overwhelming gift of persuasion, I agreed with him even when in my heart I held a completely different opinion. For him, and with what he had in mind, however, my views were quite unimportant. He needed me just to talk to, for, after all, he could not sit on the bench in the Schönbrunn and make long speeches to himself. When he was full of an idea and had to unburden himself, then he needed me as a soloist needs an instrument to give expression to his feelings. This, if I may use the expression, "instrumental character" of our friendship rendered me of more value to him than my own modest nature merited.

So we said goodbye. Adolf assured me, for the hundredth time, how little he wanted to be left alone. I could imagine, he said, how dull it would be for him alone in the room we had shared. Had I not already written the date of my arrival to my parents, perhaps, in spite of my attacks of grievous homesickness, I might have stayed in Vienna another couple of weeks.

He accompanied me to the West Bahnhof; I stowed away my luggage and joined him on the platform. Adolf hated sentimentality of any kind. The more anything touched him, the cooler he became. So now, he just took both my hands – two hands was most unusual for him – and pressed them firmly. Then he turned and made for the exit, perhaps a little overhastily, without once turning round. I was feeling wretched. I got onto the train and was glad that it started right away and prevented me from changing my mind.

My parents were delighted to have their son home again. In the evening, I had to tell them all about the end-of-term concert; my mother's eyes, shining with happiness, were my greatest reward. When, the next morning, I appeared in the workshop in my blue apron with my shirt sleeves rolled up and set to work, my father, too, was satisfied. Without more ado, he asked me to carry out an important order commissioned by the government.

In my free time I missed Adolf sadly. I would have liked to write him about Stefanie, although he had not asked me to do so, but I never managed to see her. Probably she had gone on holiday with her mother.

As there were still some things to be settled in Vienna, I wrote to Adolf and asked him to deal with them. There were my dues to be paid to Riedl, the treasurer of the Musician's Union, and I also wished him to collect my Member's book and send on to me all the Union's publications.

Adolf attended to all this most conscientiously, and on a picture postcard dated July 15, 1908, depicting the so-called "Graben," he confirms this, The card reads:

Dear Gustl,

I called on Riedl three times and never found him in and it was not until Thursday evening that I could pay him. My heartiest thanks for your letter and particularly your postcard. It looks very prosaic, I mean the fountain. I've been working very hard since you left, sometimes till two or three in the morning. I'll write you when I'm leaving. I'm not very keen on it if my sister is coming, too. It is not warm here now, and it even rains occasionally. I am sending you your newspapers and also the little book. Kindest regards to you and your esteemed parents.

ADOLF HITLER

The fountain which Adolf describes as very "prosaic" had been erected in the public park. The sculpture that was supposed to adorn it was by the sculptor Hanak and was called "The Joy of Beauty," a description which Adolf, in view of the dullness of the work, considered ironical.

The remark concerning his sister is interesting; he means Angela Raubal. Adolf was not at all pleased with the idea that his sister should also go to the Waldviertel, as, after his violent quarrel with her husband, he did not wish to meet her again.

A few days later another card arrived from Adolf dated July 19, 1908, showing a picture of the airship Zeppelin. It read:

Dear Friend,

My best thanks for your kindness. You don't need to send me butter and cheese now. But I thank you most gratefully for the kind thought. Tonight I am going to see Lohengrin. Kindest regards to you and your esteemed parents.

ADOLF HITLER

Around the edge is written, "Frau Zakreys thanks you for the money and send regards to you and parents."

I had told my mother how hard up my friend was and that he sometimes went hungry. That was enough for my dear mother. Without saying a word to me she had sent Adolf, during that summer of 1908, a number of food parcels. The reason he asked her not to send any more was because of his forthcoming trip to the Waldviertel. But more important than all this was the fact that he could see Lohengrin. I was with him in this.

I wondered what he would be doing alone in our room, and I often thought of him. Perhaps he took advantage of the fact that he now had the room to himself to start, once again, on his big building plans. He had long ago decided to rebuild the Vienna Hofburg. On our strolls through the centre of the city he was always coming back to this project, the ideas for which were already formulated and needed only to be put on paper. It annoyed him that the old Hofburg and the court stables were built of brick. Bricks, according to him, were not a solid enough material for monumental buildings. So these buildings must come down and be rebuilt in a similar style in stone. In addition, Adolf wanted to match the wonderful semicircle of columns of the new Burg with a corresponding one on the opposite side, and thus magnificently enclose the Heldenplatz. The Burgtor should remain. Across the Ring, two mighty triumphal, arches – the question which "triumphs" they should commemorate Adolf very wisely left unanswered – should bring the wonderful square and the Hof Museum into one design. The old court stables should be demolished and be replaced by a monumental building equal to the Hofberg and linked by two other triumphal arches to the whole complex. Thus, according to my friend, Vienna would have a square worthy of a metropolis.

But I was mistaken. Adolf was not concerned about Vienna, but about Linz. Perhaps this was for him the best way to still that bitter feeling which the loss of his parental home and the estrangement from his home town had roused in him. Linz, where he had suffered such cruel blows from Fate, should now learn how much be loved her.

A letter arrived, a rarity for Adolf for, if only to save the postage, he used only to write postcards. Although he has no idea what he can "dish up" for me, he feels the urge to chat with me about his hermit's life. The letter is dated July 21, 1908, and reads:

Dear Friend,

Perhaps you have wondered why I haven't written for so long. The answer is simple. I didn't know what I could dish up for you and what would be of particular interest to you. First, I am still in Vienna and will stay here. I am alone here because Frau Zakreys is at her brother's. Nevertheless, I'm getting on quite well in my hermit's life. There's only one thing I miss. Until now, Frau Zakreys always banged on my door early in the morning and I got up and started work, whereas now I have to depend on myself. Has anything happened in Linz? One doesn't hear any more of the Society for Rebuilding the Theatre. When the bank is finished, please send me a picture postcard. And now I have two favours to ask of you. First, would you be so good as to buy for me the Guide to the Danube City of Linz, not the Wöhrl, but the actual Linz one published by Krakowitzer. On the cover there is a picture of a Linz girl, and the background shows Linz from the Danube, with the bridge and castle. It costs 60 hellers which I enclose in postage stamps. Please send it to me immediately, either postage paid, or collect. 1 will repay you the expense. But be sure that the timetable of the steamship company, as well as the map of the town, are both there. I need a few figures which I have forgotten and which I can't find in the Wöhrl. And secondly, I would ask you, when you go on the boat again, to get me a copy of the guide you had this year. This "pay-what-you-wish" cost I will refund to you. So, you will do this for me, won't you? There is no other news, except that this morning I caught an army of bugs which were soon swimming in my blood, and now my teeth are chattering with the "heat."

I think there have been very few summers with such cold days as this. It's the same with you, isn't it? Now with kindest regards to you and your esteemed parents, and once more repeating my requests, I remain your friend.

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf was so keenly interested in his new plans for rebuilding Linz that he spared from his scanty means sixty hellers for me to buy the Krakowitzer edition of the Town Guide. The "bank" he refers to is the building of the Bank for Upper Austria and Salzburg. Adolf was very worried lest this building should detract from the compact appearance of the Linz main square. I could understand that he awaited impatiently for definite news of the Theatre Building Society because the theatre, together with the Danube bridge, were his favourite building projects.

How conscientious Adolf was, in spite of his desperate poverty, is shown not only by the enclosure to pay for the Guide, but by the remark that he would repay me the small sum I might spend for the "pay-what-you-wish" Guide that was obtainable on board the steamers.

And, oh, the bugs! That spiteful trick of fate's. I myself was practically immune, while Adolf was terribly afflicted by them. When I used to sleep through his nightly bug hunt, how often the next morning would he show me, carefully spiked on a pin, the result of his night's activity. At that time many houses in Vienna suffered from bugs. Well, another army of them had paid the extreme penalty.

For some time I did not hear from him. But then there came a lovely letter, dated August 17, 1908, probably the most revealing letter that he ever sent me. It reads:

Good Friend,

First I must ask you to forgive me for not having written for so long. This had its own good – or rather bad – reasons; I didn't know what I could find to tell you. That I am writing you now only shows how long I had to search before I could collect together a little news. First, our land-lady, Zakreys, thanks you for the money. And secondly, 1 want to thank you heartily for your letter. Probably Frau Zakreys finds writing letters difficult (her German is so bad) but she has asked me to thank you and your esteemed parents for the money. I have just got over a sharp attack of bronchial catarrh. It seems that your Musician's Union is facing a crisis. Who actually published the newspaper that I sent you last time? I had already paid the money long since. Do you know anything more about it? We're having nice fine weather now; it's pouring rain. And this year, with the baking heat we've had, that's really a blessing from heaven. But I shall only be able to enjoy it for a little while now. Probably Saturday or Sunday I shall have to leave. Shall let you know exactly. Am writing quite a lot lately, mostly afternoons and evenings, Have you read the latest decision of the Council with regard to the new theatre? It seems to me they intend to patch up the old junk heap once more. It can't go on like this any longer, because they won't get the permission from the authorities. In any case, the whole claptrap of these highly respected and all-powerful people shows that they understand about as much about building a theatre as a hippopotamus does of playing the violin. If my architect's manual didn't look so shabby, I would like to pack it up and send it to them with the following address: Theatre – Rebuilding – Society – Committee – for – the – Execution – of – the – Project – for – the – Rebuilding – of – the – Theatre. To the local, highly well-born, most strict and archlaudable committee for the eventual construction and required decoration! ...

And with this I close. With kindest regards to you and your esteemed parents, I remain, your friend, ADOLF HITLER

This is absolutely typical of Adolf. Even the unusual opening, "Good Friend," shows that he is in an emotional state. Then follows the long-winded introduction corresponding to that characteristic "take-off" of his which he always used for his nocturnal orations in order to get going.

The joke about "pleasant rainy weather," which already appears in another guise in his letter of April 20 of the same year, is warmed up to loosen the hesitant pen. To begin with, our good old landlady, with her melodious accent, is pulled to pieces. Then Adolf has a go at the Musician's Union. But these are only preliminary skirmishes, just to sharpen up the sword, for now he slashes out with all his own special vehemence against the Linz Theatre Society, which is not putting up a new building, but which proposes to renovate the "old junk heap." Bitterly he denounces these retrograde philistines who are mucking up his favourite project, one that has occupied him for years. Reading this letter I could, so to speak, see Adolf pacing up and down between the door and the piano, going bald-headed for these bureaucratic city councillors. He did actually go on the journey that he mentions in this letter, as on August 20, that is, three days later, he sent me a picture postcard of Weitra Castle from the Waldviertel. He does not seem to have liked it at his relatives', as very soon there comes a card from Vienna, congratulating me on my Saint's Day.

So everything went according to plan. Frau Zakreys went to Moravia, Adolf to the Waldviertel. While life in the Stumpergasse was once again running on its accustomed lines, I – greatly to my distress – had to report at the barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment No. 2. What I had to do in those, eight weeks – or to be more precise, what was done with me in this period of training – I prefer to leave unrecorded. These eight weeks represent, so to speak, a complete void in my life. But even they came to an end and finally, on November 20, I was able to inform Adolf of my arrival in Vienna.

I had, as I wrote him, taken the early train to save time, and arrived at the West Bahnhof at three o'clock in the afternoon. He would be waiting, I thought, at the usual spot, the platform barrier. Then he could help me to carry the heavy case which also contained something for him from my mother. Had I missed him? I went back again, but he was certainly not at the barrier. I went into the waiting room. In vain I looked around me; Adolf was not there. Perhaps he was ill. He had indeed written me in his last letter that he was still being plagued by his old trouble, bronchial catarrh. I put my case in the left-luggage office and, very worried, hastened to the Stumpergasse. Frau Zakreys was delighted to see me, but told me immediately that the room was taken. "But Adolf, my friend?" I asked her astonished.

Frau Zakreys stared at me with wide open eyes from her lined, withered face. "But don't you know that Herr Hitler has moved out?"

"No, I didn't know."

"Where has he moved to?" I asked.

"Herr Hitler didn't tell me that."

"But he must have left a message for me-a letter perhaps, or a note. How else shall I get hold of him?"

The landlady shook her bead. "No, Herr Hitler didn't leave anything."

"Not even a greeting?"

"He didn't say anything."

I asked Frau Zakreys if the rent had been paid. Yes, Adolf had duly paid his share. Frau Zakreys gave me back the money that was due to me, as I had already paid my rent until November. She was very sorry to lose us both, but nothing could be done about it, and she gave me a makeshift bed for the night.

The next morning I went to look for another room, found a pleasant, light little room in the Glasauerhof, and hired an upright piano.

Nevertheless, I missed Adolf very much, although I was convinced that some day he would turn up again at my lodgings. To make it easier for him I left my new address with Frau Zakreys. Now Adolf had three ways of getting into touch with me-through Frau Zakreys, through the Office of the Conservatory or through my parents. He would certainly adopt one of these ways if he wanted to see me again. That I could have found him through the Central Registration Office at Police Headquarters naturally did not occur to me. But days went by. A week, another week – Adolf still did not come. What had happened to him? Had something come between us which made him leave me?

In my thoughts I went over again the last weeks we had spent together. Of course there had been differences of opinion and rows, but with Adolf this was quite normal. It had always been the same with him. However much I pondered, I could not discover the slightest reason for his silence. After all, he himself had said many times that when I came back to Vienna in the autumn, we should live together again. He had never so much as hinted at our parting, even in moments of anger. In these four years, our friendship had become so close that it was taken for granted, and so was our resolve to stay together in the future.

When I thought back over the last weeks we had spent together I could only establish, on the contrary, that our relationship had been better than ever before, closer and more full of meaning. Yes, those last few weeks in Vienna, when we had so many marvellous experiences at the Opera, at the Burg Theatre, and on the adventurous trip to the Rax, had indeed been the climax of our friendship.

What could have made Adolf leave me without a word or a sign?

The more I racked my brain about it, the more I realised how much Adolf had meant to me. I felt deserted and alone, and with the constant memory of our friendship in my mind, I just could not decide to turn elsewhere for companionship. Although I appreciated that my studies would gain by it, yet my whole life now seemed to me so ordinary, almost boring. It certainly was some consolation to hear beautiful performances at concerts and at the Opera. But it was depressing to have no one to share them with. At every concert and every opera I went to, I hoped to see Adolf. Perhaps he would be standing at the exit at the end of the performance, waiting for me, and I should hear again his familiar, impatient voice saying, "Oh, come on, Gustl!"

But all my hopes of seeing Adolf again proved vain, and meanwhile something became clear: he did not want to come back to me. It was not by chance that he had left, neither was it the outcome of a passing mood or a series of mishaps. Had he wanted to find me, he certainly could have done so.

It distressed me that he should want to break off this friendship, that had meant so much to me, without a sign of thanks, a token of future meetings. So, the next time I was in Linz, I went to see Frau Raubal in the Bürgergasse, to get his address from her.

She was alone, and received me with perceptible coolness. I asked her where Adolf was now living in Vienna. She did not know, she answered crossly, Adolf had never written to her again. So here, once more, I met with failure. And when Frau Raubal began to reproach me, saying that it was partly through my artistic ambitions that Adolf, now twenty years of age, still had no profession and no position, I told her plainly what I thought and defended Adolf vigorously, for, after all, Angela was only repeating her husband's opinion. And my opinion of the latter was no better than Adolf's. As the conversation was growing more and more unpleasant, I rose and took my leave abruptly.

The year came to an end, without my having heard or seen anything of Adolf. It was from a Linz archivist's research into Adolf Hitler's life that I was to learn, forty years later, that my friend had moved out of the Stumpergasse because the rent was too much for him and had found much cheaper accommodations at a so-called Men's Hostel in the Meldemannstrasse. Adolf had disappeared into the shadowy depths of the metropolis. Then began for him those years of bitter misery of which he himself says little, and concerning which there is no reliable witness; for one thing is certain, that in this most difficult phase of his life, he no longer had a friend. I can now understand his behaviour at that time. He did not wish to have a friend, because he was ashamed of his own poverty. He wanted to go his way alone, and bear alone whatever destiny brought him. It was the road into the wilderness. I personally experienced, after that parting, that one is never so lonely as in the midst of the crowds of people in a big city.

Thus, our fine adolescent friendship came to an end that was anything but beautiful. But, with the passing of time, I became reconciled. Indeed, I came to feel that this sudden termination of our friendship by Adolf was of much more significance than if it had finished through our growing indifference towards each other, or if I had ceased to mean anything to him. Certainly such an end would have been harder for me to bear than that forced farewell, which was really not a farewell at all.