One night, after a first performance of Eva, the director called me to his box and introduced me to the Head of the Klagenfurt Municipal Theatre, who was looking for an opera conductor. He was, apparently, so impressed by my performance that he engaged me on the spot for the next season. So in the early summer of 1914, at the close of the season in Marburg, on my way home to Linz I broke my journey in Klagenfurt and made some enquiries about my future sphere of activities. A good orchestra, forty strong, a nice house, a modern stage, and all this in the capital city of Carinthia, renowned for its love of music. Here I could give Lohengrin, perhaps even the Meistersinger. What more could I ask? Truly the heavenly violins were, almost literally, already playing for me.
Then, so near to their fulfillment, my youthful dreams disappeared in the fire of the Russian batteries when, a few months later, as a reservist of the Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment No. 2, I experienced my baptism of fire on the Galician front. This was not the music I had dreamed of. Although I was so unsuited to soldiering, I tried, like all my comrades, to do my duty. This endeavour brought me, after the frightful winter of 1915 in the Carpathians, to the wretched field hospital of Eperjes in Hungary.
The sick and severely wounded were taken to Budapest, a terrible journey of seven days; at all the larger stations the dead were unloaded. I had given up hope and had already calculated at which station they would dump me. By a miracle I survived all the horrors and miseries of this journey – but my strength was gone forever.
When, after months of sickness, I was so much improved as to be able to visit my parents again, there too I found everything changed. My father, worn out by work and betrayed in his fond hope of handing over to his only son the firm he had so painstakingly built up had given up the business in 1916 and had bought a small farm at Fraham, near Eferding. There he sought to regain his health, but in vain, and, while I was at the front for a second time in September 1918, he died in all the misery and despair that filled those days. How I wish I could have made his old age happier!
The end of the war came while I was with a transport formation in Vienna and here, on November 8, 1918, I was demobilised. What should I do now? All the provincial theatres were closed, so I travelled to Vienna to look for some kind of job. To be sure, both the state theatres were still open, but it was hopeless to try to get a position in one. The orchestra in which for many years, while studying, I had earned my keep as a cellist had been disbanded. Nothing remained but a few dance bands in the big cafes. No, that was no good for me. For some while I conducted a six-piece band in one of the new cinemas, a band that was supposed to "provide the musical illustration" for the silent films, but I got no satisfaction out of this. I tried to get a job as a cellist or at least to get some occasional engagements of this kind, but with no success. Nor was there any demand for private lessons.
I was at the end of my tether when a letter came from my mother. She wrote me that in the town of Eferding they were advertising for a Secretary to the Council. With all her mother's guile she knew how to make this far from attractive job seem more palatable to me. She had told the Mayor of my musical ability and added that, in addition, they would like the future Council Secretary to reorganise the Music Society that had broken up during the war and to undertake its direction.
I went home and looked into the proposition; the salary was small and the artistic possibilities seemed very limited. But meanwhile I had given up hope of becoming a professional conductor and, mainly to please my mother, I sent in my application. Then I returned to Vienna still hoping to get into an orchestra. There, in January 1920, I received a notification from the Mayor advising me that the job of Secretary to the Council had been awarded to me out of a list of thirty-eight applicants. Thus I became a civil servant.
Gradually I became familiar with the work and some years later I passed the Upper Austrian State examination for municipal employees. It was a humble job but it left me free to give myself up to my music. I built up a respectable orchestra and soon the musical life of the little town began to develop very well indeed. What with the quiet chamber music of a string quartet, the open-air performances of the brass band and the gala performances of the choral society there was much satisfying and successful work for me.
Throughout all this period I never succeeded in getting any news of the friend of my earlier years who had deserted me in such a strange fashion and I had finally given up trying. Besides, I had no idea how to try to find out about him. His brother-in-law Raubal was long since dead. Angela, his sister, was no longer living in Linz. Anything might have happened to my friend. That he was a better soldier than I had been, I was convinced; perhaps he, like so many of our generation, had been killed.
Now and again I would hear talk of a German politician who was called Adolf Hitler. But I thought it must refer to some other man who happened to have the same name. After all, the name of Hitler was not so uncommon. I imagined that if ever again I heard of my erstwhile friend it would be to learn that he had become an important architect, or at least an artist, not just some insignificant politician, least of all in Munich.
Then one evening, as I was crossing our quiet market square, for no particular reason I stopped to look into the bookshop. There in the show window lay the Münchner Illustrierte. On the front page was the picture of a man in about the middle thirties with small, pale features – I recognised him the very first moment. That was Adolf; he had hardly changed at all. I reckoned how long it was since the days when we had lived together in the Stumpergasse – fifteen years! The face seemed to have become sterner, more mature, more manly, but hardly any older.
The caption read, "The well-known National Socialist orator, Adolf Hitler." So my friend was in fact one and the same as that politician of whom there was so much talk. I was very sorry that he, like myself, had not been able to achieve an artistic career. I knew only too well what it meant to bury all one's hopes and dreams. And now he had to earn his living by making speeches at meetings. A hard job, although he was indeed a good and convincing speaker – I had had proof of that often enough. I could also understand his interest in politics, but politics was a thankless task as well as being dangerous. I was glad that, if only through my professional position, I was obliged to hold myself aloof from political events as, now being Town Clerk, I had to work in the interests of all the townsfolk alike, without any distinction. But my friend went full steam ahead into politics and I was not at all surprised that his stormy activities of which I read in the papers landed him in jail at Landsberg.
But he turned up again and the press gave him more space than ever. His political ideas, which gradually found supporters in Austria too, did not surprise me in the least because, fundamentally, they were the same as those he used to expound to me, admittedly still confused and exaggerated, in Vienna. When I read his speeches I could actually see him in front of me, striding up and down in the gloomy back room in the Stumpergasse between the door and the piano, holding forth unceasingly. In those days I was his only listener; now his audience was counted in thousands. One heard his name everywhere and soon they were asking, "Where does he come from, this Hitler?"
Well, I was certainly in a better position than many others to tell them. Did I not still have letters and drawings of his? I had forgotten all about them, but now I climbed up to the loft and there it still stood, the old wooden chest that had remained in my parents' house at Fraham until the time my mother sold the little farm and moved in with me, bringing It with her. I found the key and unlocked the chest. And, in fact, there lay a large blue envelope bearing the name "Adolf Hitler," written in my hand. I could not recollect this envelope. In the frightful happenings of the war and the misery that followed I had completely forgotten about it, just as my friend, too, would have faded slowly from my mind if he had not appeared again as a politician.
I opened the envelope; there were my friend's postcards, letters and drawings, though certainly only a part of those I had received from him. But nevertheless, some well worthy of interest; I reread his cards and letters. What should I do with them? Should I send him back the whole correspondence. But why? He had other things to do now than to warm up old boyhood memories. Perhaps he had long since forgotten the lanky, music-mad carpenter's apprentice whom he had met in the Linz Theatre. Should I write to him? That, too, seemed to me pointless, as even in those days he had scorned me for my feeble interest in politics and now he would be more than ever disappointed in me.
So I contented myself with reading what the newspapers said about him. His supporters could now be counted by the million. Without stepping onto Austrian soil he managed, with his radical conceptions and ideas, to bring excitement and unrest to our shrunken little Austria, and this was even more reason for me to keep quiet.
It might seem incomprehensible that, after Adolf had made himself a name as a politician, I did not immediately try to get in touch with him. But yet, looking back, I must say this: our boyhood friendship had sprung from our common interest in art; politics had no attraction for me and so I no longer felt drawn towards Adolf who, in turn, could not be expected to have any interest in me.
Then on January 30, 1933, I heard the news that Adolf Hitler had become Reichs Chancellor. Immediately I thought back to that night on the Freinberg when Adolf had described to me how he, like Rienzi, would rise to be the Tribune of the people. What the sixteen-year-old had seen then in a visionary's trance had really come to pass. So I sat down and wrote a few lines to "The Reichs Chancellor Adolf Hitler in Berlin."
I didn't expect any reply. A chancellor had more important things to do than to answer the letter of one August Kubizek from Eferding with whom he had been friendly a quarter of a century earlier. But it seemed to me, politics apart, the right thing to do as a former friend to congratulate him on the position he had reached.
But one day to my great astonishment I received the following letter:
To the Town Clerk Mr. AUGUST KUBIZEK Eferding, Upper Austria
Munich, August 4, 1933 The Brown House
My dear Kubizek,
I have only just been shown your letter of February 2. In view of the hundreds of thousands of letters I have received since January this is not to be wondered at. So much the greater was my pleasure to receive news of you after so many years and to have your address. I should be very glad – once the period of my hardest struggles is past – to revive once more with you those memories of the best years of my life. Perhaps you could come to visit me. With all good wishes to you and your mother, I remain, in memory of our old friendship.
Yours, ADOLF HITLER
So be had not forgotten me. That in spite of all the strain of his work he remembered me made me very happy. He called the years we had spent together the "best years" of his life. So he had already forgotten the misery that went with them and only the exuberance of his youth remained a fond memory. But the end of the letter caused me some embarrassment. "Perhaps you could come to visit me," he wrote. That was easier said than done. I couldn't just simply go up to his house on the Obersalzberg and say "Here I am." Besides, this reunion would only have been a nuisance to him. What could I have told him? My own life, compared with his, was unimportant and uninteresting; to tell him about Eferding would only bore him. And for the rest I had nothing to relate. So I let the matter rest and persuaded myself that this friendly invitation was just a formal courtesy, like the stereotyped greetings at the end of his letters; twenty-five years ago to my parents, now only for my mother.
Of course it is very nice when a friend is so consistent in his behaviour, but I thought it was nonsense to be equally consistent in the continuance of our friendship, as fate had only too obviously cast us into paths so widely divergent.
On March 12, 1938, however, on the very spot where his father had once served as a customs official, Adolf Hitler crossed the frontier. The German Army marched into Austria. On the evening of March 12 Adolf Hitler addressed the assembled populace from the balcony of the Linz Town Hall, which was still as modest and as shabby as it had been in our youth. I should have liked to have gone to hear him speak, but I was so busy with the billeting of the German troops that I could not leave Eferding. But when Hitler came again to Linz, on April 8, and stayed at the Hotel Weinzinger after a political demonstration at the Kraus locomotive works, I did make an attempt to see him. The Square in front of the hotel was crammed with people, but I made my way through to the cordon of S.A. men and told them that I would like to speak to the Chancellor. At first they gave me a queer look, probably thinking I was mad. Only after I had shown them one of Hitler's letters did they prick up their ears. They called over an officer and when he too had seen the letter he let me through immediately and conducted me to the entrance hall of the hotel. But in there it was like a beehive; generals were standing around in groups waiting and discussing events. Ministers of State whom I recognised from the illustrated papers, high-up Party leaders and other uniformed personalities came and went. A.D.C.s, recognisable by their gleaming shoulder tabs, strode busily about. And all this exciting activity centred around the man to whom I, too, wished to speak. I became quite giddy and realised that it had been foolish of me to come. I had to accept the fact that my erstwhile friend had become Reichs Chancellor and this highest position in the State had created between us an unbridgeable gulf. The years when I had been the only one to whom he gave his friendship and when he had confided to me the most intimate affairs of his heart, were definitely over.
Therefore the best thing I could do was to disappear quietly and not be a nuisance to these high-ranking gentlemen who undoubtedly were there on most important missions.
One of the senior A.D.C.s, Albert Bormann to whom I had confided my request, soon approached me and told me that the Reichs Chancellor was not very well and would not be receiving anybody else that day; would I come again tomorrow at lunchtime. Bormann then invited me to sit down for a moment as there were things he wished to ask me. Had the Chancellor in his youth always gone to bed so late? he inquired plaintively; he never went to bed before midnight and slept far into the morning, whereas his entourage who were obliged to stay up late with him in the evening had to be up and about early the next day. Bormann went on to complain about Hitler's outbursts of temper which nobody could cope with and about his queer diet, which consisted of meatless dishes, puddings and fruit juices. Had the Chancellor always eaten thus?
I said yes, only adding that in his youth he had still been fond of meat. With this I took my leave. This Albert Bormann was a brother of the well-known Martin Bormann.
The next day again I went to Linz. Everybody was out in the streets, which were packed with people, and the closer I got to the Hotel Weinzinger the thicker became the throng. Finally I managed to fight my way through to the hotel and once more took up my obscure position in the foyer. The excitement and agitation was even greater than the previous day. For this was the eve of the plebiscite in Austria.
It can be imagined that all big decisions had to be taken by Hitler himself. At any rate I could not have chosen a more unfortunate moment for our reunion than this. I recalled that at the beginning of July, 1908, we had said goodbye in the hall of the Westbahnhof; today was April 9, 1938. So almost exactly thirty years had passed between our abrupt separation and today's meeting – always supposing this did take place. Thirty years – a whole lifetime! And what world-shaking events these thirty years had brought.
I had no illusions about what would happen if Hitler did see me. A brief handshake, perhaps a familiar clap on the shoulder, a few friendly, hasty words in passing – I would have to be satisfied with this modest portion. For my part, I had prepared a few suitable words but I was somewhat worried about the form of address. I couldn't possibly call the Reichs Chancellor "Adolf." I knew what a stickler for form he was. It would be best to keep to the formal mode of address. But then, I didn't even know if I would get as far as making the little speech.
The memory of what really did happen is naturally influenced by my deep emotional feelings at the time.
As Hitler suddenly came out of one of the hotel rooms, he recognised me immediately and with the joyful cry, "Gustl!" he left his entourage standing there and came and took me by the arm. I still remember how he took my outstretched right hand in both of his and held it firmly and how his eyes, which were still as bright and as piercing as ever, gazed into mine. He was obviously moved, just as I was. I could hear it in his voice.
The worthy gentlemen in the hall looked at each other. Nobody knew this curious civilian whom the Führer and Chancellor greeted with such warmth.
Then I pulled myself together and delivered myself of the speech I had prepared. He listened attentively, smiling slightly. When I had finished he nodded at me, as if to say, You've learnt it well, Gustl, or perhaps even, And now my boyhood friend talks to me just like all the others. But to me, any familiarity on my part seemed out of place.
After a little pause he said, "Come with me," using the formal mode of address "Sie." Perhaps through my prepared speech I had forfeited that familiar "Du" which he had used in his letter of 1933. But, to tell the truth, I was relieved to hear him use "Sie."
The Chancellor preceded me to the lift. We went up to the second floor where he had his rooms; the A.D.C. opened the door. We entered; the A.D.C. left. We were alone. Once more Hitler took my hand, gazed at me for a long time and said, "You are just the same as you always were, Kubizek. I should have recognised you immediately anywhere. You have not changed at all, just got older."
Then he led me to the table and invited me to take a seat. He assured me how glad he was to see me once again after so long. He had been particularly pleased with my congratulations, as nobody knew better than I what a hard fight he had had. The present moment was not suitable for a heart-to-heart talk, but he hoped to have an opportunity for it in the future. He would let me know; it was not advisable to write to him direct as such letters often never even reached him, and all had to be carefully gone through to save his time.
"I no longer have a private life as in those days, and can't do just what I want like other people."
With these words he rose and went over to the window which looked out onto the Danube. The old iron bridge which, even in his boyhood, used to annoy him still stood there. As was to be expected, he started immediately:
"That ugly thing," he exclaimed, "still there! But not for much longer, you can be sure of that, Kubizek."
And then he turned to me again and smiled. "Just the same I'd like to stroll across the old bridge with you once again. But that's no longer possible. Wherever I go I'm surrounded. But believe me, Kubizek, I've got a lot of plans for Linz."
Nobody knew that better than I. As I expected, he propounded once again all the plans which had occupied him in his youth as though not thirty years, but at the most three years had passed since then.
Shortly before he received me, he had driven through the streets of the town to find out what alterations there had been. Now he went through each single plan. The new Danube bridge, which was to be called the Nibelungs Bridge, was to be a masterpiece. He described to me in detail the shape of the two bridgeheads. Then he went on to talk – I knew in advance in which order he would discuss things – of the theatre which, above everything, was going to be equipped with a modern stage. When the new Opera House, to be built on the site of the ugly station, was ready, that theatre would only be used for plays and operettas. In addition to this Linz needed a modern concert hall if it were to be worthy to be known as the "City of Bruckner." "I want Linz to have a leading place in culture and I will see that everything is done to this end."
I thought that now the interview was finished. But then Hitler began to speak of setting up a grand symphony orchestra in Linz and, with this, the conversation suddenly took a more personal turn.
"Now tell me, Kubizek, what have you become?"
I told him that since 1920 I had been a municipal employee and at that moment had the job of Town Clerk.
"Town Clerk," he asked, "what's that?"
I was a bit embarrassed. How could I describe to him briefly what this job really involved? While I was still searching for suitable words he broke in. "So you've become a civil servant, a pen-pusher! That's not the right thing for you. What has happened to your music?"
I answered truthfully that the war we had lost had completely ruined my career. I had to get a different job, or starve.
He nodded grimly and said, "Yes, the war we lost." Then, looking at me he said, "You won't end your days as a pen-pusher, Kubizek." Moreover, he would like once to have a look at this Eferding place I had mentioned.
I asked him if he really meant it.
"Of course I will come to see you, Kubizek," he remarked, "but my visit will be for you alone. Then we will go strolling along the Danube. I can't manage it here – they don't leave me alone."
He wanted to know if I was still so keen on music.
And now I was off on my hobby-horse and I told him at length of the musical activities in our little town. Considering the weighty and world-shaking problems that he had to deal with, I was afraid that my recital would bore him; but I was mistaken. If, to save time, I mentioned something only cursorily, he interrupted me immediately.
"What, Kubizek, you even give symphonies in this little Eferding! But that's marvellous. Which symphonies have you played?"
I recounted, Schubert's Unfinished, Beethoven's Third, Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, Beethoven's Fifth.
He wanted to know how many strong my orchestra was and how it was composed, was amazed at the details I gave him and congratulated me on my success.
"This is where I must help you, Kubizek," he exclaimed. "Make me out a report and tell me what you need. And how are you getting on, personally; you are not hard up?"
I replied that while my job brought in only a modest income it was enough for my needs and consequently I had no personal requests.
Astonished, he glanced up; it was obviously new to him that one should have no personal wishes.
"Have you any children, Kubizek?"
"Yes, three sons."
"Three sons," he shouted, impressed. He repeated it several times with a most earnest expression. "So you've got three sons, Kubizek. I have no family. I am alone. But I should like to look after your sons."
I had to tell him all about my boys – he wanted to know every detail. He was pleased that they were all three musically gifted and that two of them were also clever draughtsmen.
"I shall make myself responsible for the training of your three sons, Kubizek," he said to me. "I don't want gifted young people to have such a hard time of it as we had. You know best what we had to go through in Vienna. But the worst time came for me later on, after we bad parted. Young talent must no longer be allowed to perish through sheer poverty. Wherever I can help personally, I do, and all the more when it's a question of your children, Kubizek!"
I hasten to add here that the Chancellor did indeed arrange for the musical studies of my three sons at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz to be paid through his office, and on his orders the drawings of my son Rudolf were examined by a Professor of the Academy in Munich.
I had reckoned on a hasty handshake, and here we were sitting together for a good hour.
The Chancellor rose. I thought the interview was now at an end and I rose too. But he only called in his A.D.C. and gave him instructions concerning my sons; the A.D.C. took the opportunity of reminding him of his youthful letters which were still in my possession.
And now I had to spread the letters, postcards and drawings out on the table. He was greatly surprised to see the number of mementoes I had and asked how these papers had come to be preserved. I told him of the black-painted trunk in the attic with the pocket in the lid and the envelope bearing the words, "Adolf Hitler." He paid particular attention to the water colour of the Pöstlingberg. He explained to me that there were certain clever painters who could copy his water colours so exactly that they couldn't be distinguished from the original. These people carried on a flourishing business and could always find fools ready to be taken in; the safest thing was never to let the original out of my hands.
As there had already been attempts to get this material from me, I asked the Chancellor his opinion. "These documents are your own personal property, Kubizek," he answered, "No one can claim them."
This led him to speak of Rabitsch's book. Rabitsch had attended the Linz Technical School a couple of years after Hitler and, certainly with the best of intentions, had written a book about Hitler's school years. But Hitler was very angry about it because Rabitsch had never known him personally. "You see, Kubizek, from the very beginning I was not in favour of this book being written; only those who really know me should write about me. If anybody is indicated for it, it is you, Kubizek," and turning to his A.D.C. he added, "Make a note of that immediately."
Then he once more gripped my hand, "See, Kubizek, it's really necessary that we should meet more often. As soon as it's possible I will send for you."
The meeting was over; in a state of numbness I left the hotel. Unrest entered into my quiet, retired life during the following days and I was to discover that it was not all honey to have been the boyhood friend of such a famous man. Although I had told hardly anybody about it and was determined to be even more discreet in the future, I was soon to experience the drawbacks of having been a friend of Hitler's. Already in the previous March I had had a taste of what was in store for me. Hardly had Austria become part of the German Reich, than one day a motorcar drew up at my house in Eferding. The three men in uniform who got out of it had come direct from Berlin. They had instructions from the Führer to collect from me all the documents relative to his youth and to take them to the Chancellery so that they could be kept in safety. Luckily I did not allow myself to be taken in. As was now clear to me Hitler, at the time that attempt at confiscation had been made, had no idea that I was in possession of these papers. It was the independent move of some Party Office which had learned of my existence. In any case I refused to hand over the papers to the three S.S. men, which seemed to them hardly believable. Evidently they had expected to find the people in Austria more pliable than I was. Their brusque manner did not make the desired impression – and to make matters worse this obstinate civilian wasn't even a member of the Party! Extraordinary what queer fish the Führer had chosen for friends in his youth, they must have thought, as they went off with empty hands.
It was lucky that I had stood firm against this first attack. Those that followed were easier to parry as I could quote Hitler's own words, that these documents were my own personal property.
In the following months the various Party Offices tried to outdo each other. As I now learned, often, when among his intimates the conversation turned on his youth, Hitler would refer them to me. "Ask Gustl" was the stereotyped reply they would get for anything that concerned his youthful experiences. But now this "Gustl," who had previously been more or less out of reach, had with the Anschluss suddenly become a German citizen and well within the grasp of all the political departments.
Reichs Minister Goebbels sent a very likable young man to me. His name was Karl Cerff, but his rank and position I have forgotten. Cerff explained to me that they were preparing the publication of a great biography of the Führer, of which I was to be in charge of the period 1904-1908. At the appropriate time I would be called to Berlin so that I could carry out this work with the help of acknowledged specialists., Meanwhile they would like me to make a start with detailed notes of my memoirs. I explained to the young man that I could not possibly find the time then as, since the Anschluss, we municipal employees were overwhelmed with work. He realised that I didn't wish to bind myself and was very, amused at my way of putting it. But he exhorted me not to underrate my "unique responsibility to History," as he expressed it. If I so wished, he could easily get me leave of absence. This I refused definitely. So he departed, promising to come at a "better moment." But as the future only brought "worse moments," I never saw Karl Cerff again. In any case, he had tried to carry out his ticklish job with tact and charm.
Much more insistent and unpleasant were the instructions that reached me from Martin Bormann, who seemed to feel himself solely responsible for me and my affairs and kept an anxious watch that no one else should come in contact with me. His letters and orders read as though he had taken a lease on the life of Adolf Hitler and nobody must say or write one word about it without its being examined and agreed on by him. When he failed in his attempts to get these documents from me to deposit them with the Party Central Office "where they belonged," as he wrote, he sent me strict orders that these papers should never be given up without his permission and that no outsider should be permitted a glimpse of them. For this I certainly didn't need Martin Bormann's admonition – this had always been my intention. But when he instructed me to write out immediately the memoirs of my youthful friendship with Adolf Hitler and submit the draft to him, then I replied that I should have first to talk this over with Hitler himself. This method was a decided success. In future when I was being pressed by any of these bullying gentlemen, I had only to say, "Excuse me, but I must first discuss your suggestions with the Chancellor personally ... what was the name again?" This changed their attitude completely and I was then handled with the utmost delicacy and care.
In contrast to this, I recollect my meeting with Rudolf Hess with pleasure. He had come to Linz and invited me to call on him; he sent a car for me which took me to the Bergbahn Hotel on the Pöstlingberg. Reichs Minister Hess greeted me warmly. "So this is Kubizek!" he exclaimed, beaming. "The Führer has told me so much about you." I sensed immediately that this friendliness was really genuine and heartfelt.
Also, through this visit I was able to confirm an impression I had that the closer to the Chancellor a person stood, the more he had been told about me. Rudolf Hess and Frau Winifred Wagner were the most fully informed about Hitler's youth and, consequently, about me. The Minister invited me to lunch which was served on the beautiful terrace of the hotel. After the meal I had to recount to him all my memories in great detail. He frequently commented and again and again asked me questions. I had the feeling that, in a real, human way, Rudolf Hess was much closer to Hitler than many others and I was glad about this. The other gentlemen, too, who were at the table joined in and we had an animated and unrestrained conversation, markedly different from those dealings with the officials of the Party Central Office. I was particularly glad that from this wonderful spot high above the city I could point out to the Minister the position of all the places of which we spoke as they lay before us.
Rudolf Hess made a good impression on me with his simple, straightforward manner which differed so much from the behaviour of other, far less important political personalities. I was only sorry that he appeared so ill.
Meanwhile, in my own country, too, they seemed to have become aware of me. To be sure I was still not a Party member, which seemed strange to many, as in their opinion .the boyhood friend of Hitler's should actually have been Party member No. 2. But even in those days, politically I had always been a dubious supporter of my friend, not exactly because I actively disagreed with his politics, but politics did not interest me; or rather, I did not understand them.
Naturally, too, I was soon flooded with requests for help and support from people who, for one reason or another, were in trouble and wanted me to intercede for them. I was willing to help, although I had no illusion about my actual influence over political decisions and it was soon made clear to me that being "a boyhood friend of Adolf Hitler's" was not sufficient title to warrant an active interference in these affairs. It was pointed out to me, politely but firmly, that this or that particular matter was quite outside my sphere.
As I expected, the visit to Eferding that Hitler had planned did not take place. Then, suddenly, my state of resignation, induced more by common sense than by sentiment, was broken into by the unexpected arrival of a registered letter from the Reichs Chancellery. My heart was thudding as I opened the envelope. There in its full glory, printed on the finest handmade paper stood what was to become the greatest joy of my whole life. By the command of the Reichs Chancellor I was invited to be present at this year's Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. I was to report to Herr Kannenberg in Haus Wahnfried on July 25, 1939.
It had always been my greatest desire to make the pilgrimage to Bayreuth to experience a performance of the great Master there. But I was not well off and with my humble position could never even contemplate such a journey. And now suddenly I was going!
I arrived in good time for the performance; the Festival in 1939 opened with the Flying Dutchman. An orchestra 132 strong – I was bewitched.
The next day they gave Tristan and Isolde, an unforgettable performance. Thursday, July 27, Parsifal was presented. I had already prepared myself for this at home, had studied the piano score and read all the relative literature. The soft strains of the Abendmahl motif were heard, the world around me changed and I lived through the most happy hours of my earthly existence.
With Götterdämmerung on Wednesday, August 2, my stay in Bayreuth came to an end. I prepared for my journey home and went once more to Herr Kannenberg to thank him for his care of me. "Must you really leave?" he asked me with a meaning smile. "It would be a good idea if you could stay another day." I understood his hint immediately and stayed in Bayreuth till August 3.
At two o'clock in the afternoon an S.S. officer came to fetch me; it was not far to Haus Wahnfried. In the hall Obergruppenführer Julius Schaub was waiting for me and he led me to a large salon where many people, whom I recognised from the former Linz visit or from the illustrated papers, were present. There stood Frau Winifred Wagner in lively conversation with Reichs Minister Hess. Obergruppenführer Brückner was chatting with Herr von Neurath and several generals. Indeed there was a preponderance of military personalities present and it struck me that the general situation was very strained, in particular with regard to Poland, and there was even talk of a resort to arms. I felt very out of place in this tense atmosphere and the same sinking feeling, like stagefright, that I had experienced in the Hotel Weinzinger in Linz came back to me. Probably the Reichs Chancellor wanted to exchange a few friendly words with me before he went back to the capital. With my heart beating wildly I prepared a few words of thanks. On the far side of the hall were large double folding doors.
Suddenly the A.D.C. standing by these doors signals to Obergruppenführer Schaub, whereupon he leads me forward. The A.D.C. opens both doors and steps aside. Obergruppenführer Schaub steps in with me and announces, "Mein Führer, here is Herr Kubizek." Saying which, he steps back and closes the doors behind him. I am alone with the Reichs Chancellor.
His bright eyes shine with the pleasure of seeing me again and be comes towards me with a beaming face. Nothing in his behaviour betrays the immense responsibility which rests on his shoulders; he seems to me just like any ordinary visitor to the Festival. He, too, shares that happy atmosphere which pervades Bayreuth. Now he takes my right hand in both of his and wishes me welcome. This heartfelt greeting on this holy spot moves me so much that I can hardly speak.
My expressions of gratitude must have sounded very awkward and I was much relieved when his friendly "Well, let's sit down" released me from my confusion.
I had to tell him all about my journey to Bayreuth, my visits to the various places associated with Wagner and, of course in the greatest detail, what I thought of the Festival performances. In doing this I recovered my self-control and now we were talking in just the same way as we had done in our youth about all that enchanted us. And this brought him round to the Wagner performances we had seen in Linz and Vienna and he exposed to me his plan to make the work of Richard Wagner available to the greatest possible number of the German people. Ah, how well I knew these plans from long ago! In his talks of nearly thirty-five years ago their fundamentals were already determined. But now it was no longer mere fantasy. Six thousand people, he told me, who had previously never been able to afford it were this year, as a result of excellent organisation, among the guests at the Bayreuth Festival. I replied that I myself was among the number. He laughed and said-I remember his words exactly – "Now I have you as my witness in Bayreuth, Kubizek, for you were the only one present when as a poor, unknown person I first gave utterance to these ideas. In those days you used to ask me how these plans could be realised. And now you can see what has come of it." He went on to describe to me all that had been done up till then and what was still going to be done for Bayreuth, almost as though he had to render account to me.
But now I had a very concrete problem. In my pocket was a large bundle of postcards, bearing his picture. In Eferding and Linz there were a great number of worthy people whom I could make happy with a photograph with Hitler's autograph. For some time I hesitated to bring out the cards as my desire seemed then very commonplace. On the other hand Hitler was just sitting there at his desk; if I missed this opportunity, perhaps I should never get such a one again. I thought of the people at home and plucked up courage.
He took the cards and, as he looked for his glasses, I handed him my fountain pen. Then he signed and I helped him by drying the signatures with the blotting pad. In the midd!e of signing the cards he looked up, and seeing me standing by with the uplifted blotter, said smilingly, "One can see that you're a pen-pusher, Kubizek. But I just don't understand how you can stick to that job. In your place I'd have cut loose long ago. And, incidentally, why didn't you come and see me much earlier?"
I was very embarrassed and searched for a suitable excuse. "Seeing that you wrote me on the fourth of August, 1933, that you would like to revive our common memories but only when the period of sternest struggle was over," I said, "I wanted to wait until then. Besides, until 1938, as an Austrian subject I would have needed a passport to come to Germany. And I certainly should not have got that if I had revealed the true purpose of my visit." He laughed heartily and answered, "Yes, politically you were always a child." I too laughed now because I had expected him to use a different word. The "fool" of the Stumpergasse had meanwhile become a "child."
Then the Reichs Chancellor packed the cards together and got up. I thanked him and put them carefully in my coat pocket. Now, I thought, the interview was at an end. Then he said solemnly, "Come!"
He opened the french windows and preceded me into the garden down the stone steps. Well-tended paths brought us to a high, wrought-iron gate. He opened it. There were flowers and shrubs in full bloom, and the mighty trees, forming a roof above us, threw the place into semi-darkness. A few more paces and we stood in front of Richard Wagner's tomb.
Hitler took my hand and I could feel how moved he was.
It was quite still; nothing disturbed the solemn peace.
Hitler broke the silence, "I am happy that we have met once more on this spot which always was the most venerable place for us both."
I pondered on the inscrutable ways of destiny.
Whoever had known us both in those days in Vienna must have been certain that my future was, to all intents and purposes, predictable. After finishing at the Conservatory I would start my career as an opera conductor, a career to which my early successes pointed. It must have seemed equally certain that Adolf, with his purposeless studies and his disdain for all professional training, would turn out a failure. Now fate had given its verdict. Here at Richard Wagner's tomb stood, hand in hand, the two poor unknown students from the dark back room of the Stumpergasse. And what were they now? The "dead cert" was a little insignificant clerk in a small Austrian town who also dabbled in music, and the other whose future had been so much in doubt had risen to be the Chancellor of the Reich. And what did the future have in store for us? Only one thing could be safely predicted: while the one would remain in his obscurity, whatever might happen the other would go down in history.
Afterwards the Reichs Chancellor showed me round Haus Wahnfried. Wieland Wagner, Frau Winifred's son and the Master's grandson, was waiting for us at the garden entrance. He unlocked the various rooms for us and the Chancellor showed me all the relics. We started our tour with the old building, whose rooms were already familiar to me from pictures. In the music room there was the grand piano at which the Master had worked; it was left open, a gesture which moved me deeply. I saw also the magnificent library. Then Wieland left us and the Chancellor introduced me to Frau Wagner, who was obviously pleased to meet me. When our conversation turned on the youthful enthusiasm with which we had dedicated ourselves to the works of the Master, I recalled again that memorable Rienzi performance in Linz. And now Hitler evoked for Frau Wagner the unique experience of that night, concluding with the words that have remained engraved in my memory, "In that hour it began."
Before we parted, Hitler gave me a few more words of advice. On my way home, he said, I should stop in Munich and hear the Reichs Symphony Orchestra, which had been so much on our minds when we were young, and I should also visit the great German Art Exhibition. He thought it would not be a good thing for us to meet in his home on the Obersalzberg, so he had given orders that I should always be able to come to Bayreuth when he was there. "I should like you to be always here with me," he said, and shook me by the hand. He stood at the garden gate and waved to me as I went. Soon I heard the cheers of the crowds greeting him in the RichardWagner-Strasse – the Chancellor was leaving Bayreuth to fly to Berlin.
When, on July 8, 1940, I received the tickets for the first cycle of the Richard Wagner Festival which the Chancellor's office had sent me, I was faced with a dilemma. War had brought changes to our service and duties at home, too; would it not be irresponsible of me to leave my urgent tasks to go to Bayreuth? True the Chancellor had expressed the desire to have me there with him. But there was a war on, and nobody was more occupied with it than Hitler himself. Would he even be able to come?
Unlike the previous year, apart from the Flying Dutchman, only The Ring was performed. Frau Wagner informed me that she had spoken to the Führer on the telephone and confirmed that he would be flying straight from his Headquarters to the performance of Götterdämmerung but had to return immediately afterwards. "He asked me whether you were here, Herr Kubizek," she added. "He wants to talk to you during the interval."
On Tuesday, July 23, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the trumpets – provided for the occasion by the Wehrmacht – sounded the Siegfried motif, announcing the beginning of the opera. I took my seat and shortly after, Hitler entered his box. The Awakening Motif, the solemn, fateful tones swelled out. I forgot my surroundings and gave myself up to the magic of the wonderful work.
During the first interval Wolfgang Wagner came hurriedly to tell me that the Führer wanted to see me. We went to the drawing room where there were about twenty people standing around in groups engaged in lively conversation. I could not spot Hitler immediately as he was no longer in civilian clothes but in uniform. But his personal A.D.C. had already told him of my presence and he came towards me with both hands outstretched. He wore a simple grey-green tunic and his face was fresh and sunburnt. His delight at seeing me seemed to be even deeper, more heartfelt. Perhaps the war had made him even more serious. And I represented for him one who had known his youth, a friend who had been at his side during one period of his life.
Hitler took me aside and we stood alone while the other guests continued their conversations at a distance.
"This year this is the only performance which I can see," he said. "But it can't be helped, there's a war on." And then with an undertone of anger in his voice: "This war is holding up our work of reconstruction for many years. It is a shame. After all I have not become the Chancellor of the Greater German Reich to make war."
I was astonished to hear the Chancellor speak in this way after the great military victories in Poland and France. Perhaps he was influenced by the fact that my presence reminded him of his age; for we had been young together, and as he noticed in me the unmistakable signs of the advancing years, he must have realised that the years must also have left their mark on him, although in all the time of our acquaintance I had never seen him looking so strong and healthy.
"This war is robbing me of my best years. You know my plans, Kubizek, you know how much I still want to build. That's what I want to see in my lifetime, you understand? You know best how many projects I have made ever since I was young. And only a few of them have I been able to realise so far. I still have so infinitely much to do. Who else is there to do it? And here I have to stand by and watch the war robbing me of my best years. It is a shame. Time doesn't stand still. We are growing older, Kubizek. Not many more years – and it will be too late to do what remains to be done."
And with that strangely excited voice so familiar to me from our early years, vibrating with impatience, he began to detail for me his great plans for the future, the development of the Autobahnen, of canals, the modernisation of the railways and much else. I was hardly able to follow. But once again, as in the previous year, I felt that he wanted to justify himself before me, the witness of his youthful ideas.
I tried to turn the conversation to the experiences we had shared in our youth. He immediately picked up a remark of mine and said, "Poor students, that's what we were. And, Heaven knows, we starved. Off we used to go with only a crust of bread in our pocket. But all this has changed now. It was only last year that young people went to Madeira in our ships."
And so Hitler came to speak of his cultural plans. The crowds in front of the Festival Theatre were wanting to see him. But he had worked himself up to such a state that it was not possible to interrupt him, perhaps because he felt, just as in our conversations in the gloomy room of Frau Zakreys, that I followed him with full enthusiasm whenever he spoke of art and its problems.
"I am still tied up by the war. But, I hope it won't last much longer and then I'll be able to build again and to carry out what remains to be done. When that moment comes I shall call you, Kubizek, and then you must stay with me always," he concluded.
Outside the trumpets sounded to remind us that the performance was about to continue. I thanked the Chancellor for this demonstration of his friendship and wished him luck and success for the future.
The Götterdämmerung came to an end; it was a performance that moved me to the core. I walked slowly down the drive leading from the theatre and noticed that the street was roped off. I stopped at the comer of Adolf-Hitler-Strasse to see the Chancellor once more. A few minutes later a motor column approached along the street. Hitler stood erect in his car; on either side, close to the ropes, moved the cars of his entourage.
I shall never forget what happened during the next few moments. General Music Director Elmendorf with Frau Lange and Sister Susi, and an old lady, a painter, whose name I don't remember – she was living in the Haus Wahnfried – stood with me and congratulated me. I didn't really know why. But now the motor column had reached us and was passing at a slow pace. I was standing near the cordon and I saluted. At this moment the Chancellor recognised me and made a sign to the driver. The column halted and his car approached me. Hitler smiled at me, leaned out of his car and, taking my hand, shook it heartily, saying, "Auf Wiedersehen." And as the car moved off, Hitler turned round and waved farewell. Then the column proceeded to the airfield.
Pandemonium broke out around me. The bystanders wanted to know who that strange civilian was to whom Hitler had paid so much attention in public. I myself was hardly able to utter a word. The shouting and pushing grew frightening. Up to this moment my meetings with the Chancellor had always been in private or, at the most, in the presence of a limited number of people, which had preserved the personal and intimate character of our friendship. But now it had become, so to speak, a matter of public interest, and only now did I fully understand how much this friendship of my youth really meant. Everybody wanted to shake hands with me. My friends tried to give some explanations to the crowd-in vain! they were unable to make themselves heard. I was being pushed and knocked about-everybody wanted to see me. Heaven knows what the people thought I was. Perhaps a foreign diplomat who had come to offer peace – this at least would have made the pushing worth while. At long last I could breathe more freely. "Ladies and gentlemen," I shouted, "let me go – I'm only a boyhood friend of his!"
On that twenty-third of July, 1940, I saw Hitler for the last time. The war went on, grew more widespread and bitter. There was no end in sight.
I was fully occupied by my work in the municipal administration. The war heaped ever more burdens on the population with the result that my tasks increased. I was hardly able to cope with the work. Personal worries were added; my sons were called up.
In 1942 I joined the National Socialist Party. Not that I had changed my basic ideas about politics. But my superiors were of the opinion that, now the struggle had become one of life and death, everyone must avow his principles. Of course, I was a follower of Adolf Hitler, but not in any political sense – rather in a much wider and deeper way, namely as a friend of his early years. I could easily have refused to join the Party with the usual formula, "I would like to talk this over with Hitler personally." But we were in the midst of a war and I did not wish to claim any special position for myself.
The Mayor of my town wanted to know: "Did the Führer never ask you about your Party membership?" Of course not – I was his friend, and that was all. Had he not shown clearly enough that he valued me as a friend and as a human being although I was – as he had now come to term it – politically "a child"? So I told the Mayor that Hitler had never asked me why I had not joined his party.
Yet I remember an episode in which Hitler seemed to be hinting at this matter. When, on the occasion of my visit in 1939, Hitler introduced me to Frau Winifred Wagner, he pointed smilingly at me, unadorned as I was with any Party badge or decoration and, knowing that I represented the Linz branch of the Richard Wagner Union of German Women, he remarked, "And this is Herr Kubizek. He is a member of your Union of German Women. Isn't that charming!" What he probably meant was – The only organisation to which my friend belongs is – a women's organisation. This shows you just what kind of fellow he is!
The shadows of the war were darkening. To the general distress and preoccupations were added disappointments and bitter experiences of a personal kind. It was especially the case of Dr. Bloch which made me think. This kind "poor man's doctor," as he was called in the town, lived in Linz, a very old man, and wrote to me through an intermediary, Professor Huemer who had been Hitler's form master; he asked me to intercede for him with the Chancellor so that he, who was a Jew, would not be molested. He had been, he pointed out, the doctor of Adolf Hitler's mother. To me this request seemed only fair. Far back in the Vienna days I had had frequent arguments with my friend about the Jewish problem because I did not share his radical views in this matter. I remembered that he had once been very rude to me when I, quite innocently, had brought him in touch with a Jewish journalist. I was convinced that Hitler would be reasonable as far as Dr. Bloch was concerned. I had never met the old gentleman personally, but I wrote at once to the Reichs Chancellery and enclosed the letter which I had received from Dr. Bloch. After some weeks I got a reply from Bormann who strictly forbade me to intercede in future for any third person; as for Bloch, he had to inform me that the case would be dealt with in the same way as any other of its kind; these were the Führer's express orders. Thus, I did not even know if the case had really been brought to Hitler's attention. As far as I was able to find out, Dr. Bloch was left in peace; but this alone did not allay my misgivings. For what struck me most was that I had no access to Hitter as long as I was unable to meet him in person; and this was out of the question for the duration of the war.
The end came; the war was lost. Even though I, a fundamentally unpolitical individual, had always kept aloof from the political events of the period which ended forever in 1945, nevertheless no power on earth could compel me to deny my friendship with Adolf Hitler.
My first and most pressing worry in this respect was the safety of the Hitler papers I possessed, Come what may, they must be saved for posterity. Years before I had carefully put the letters, postcards and drawings in cellophane covers to protect them from wear as I showed them around. Now I locked them up in a solid leather case. Then I removed several bricks in the deep, vaulted cellar of my house in Eferding, thrust the case into the cavity and filled in the hole again so carefully that not the slightest trace of this work remained. It was only just in time as the very next day I was arrested and held for sixteen months in the notorious detention camp of Glasenbach. Naturally, an intensive search was made during my absence for the Hitler papers, but with no success.
In the beginning I was often questioned, first in Eferding, then in Gmunden. These interrogations all ran on the same lines; something like:
"You are a friend of Adolf Hitler's?"
"What do you mean by that? At that time he was nobody."
"Nevertheless, I was his friend."
"How could you be his friend when he was still a nobody?"
An American officer of the Central Intelligence Corps asked: "So you are a friend of Adolf Hitler's. What did you get out of it?"
"But you admit that you were his friend. Did he give you money?"
"A car, a house?"
"Not that either."
"Did he introduce you to beautiful women?"
"Did he receive you again, later on?"
"Did you see him often?"
"How did you manage to see him?"
"I just went to him."
"So you were with him. Really? Quite close?"
"Yes, quite close."
"Without any guard?"
"Without any guard."
"So you could have killed him?"
"Yes, I could have."
"And why didn't you kill him?"
"Because he was my friend."