Part Six Munich
1913 May 25: Having left Vienna the day before, 24-year-old Adolf Hitler arrives, in the company of his 19 year-old friend, Rudolf Haeusler, at the Hauptbahnhof, in the Bavarian city of Munich. Carrying all his worldly possessions in a small, black suitcase, Hitler is walking past a long line of boarding houses, fronted by small retail shops on Munich's Schleissheimerstrasse, when a small handwritten sign on the front window of a tailor shop catches his eye: "Furnished rooms to let for respectable gentleman." Since this is just what he is looking for on this beautiful spring Sunday, he enters.1
The premises at 34 Schleissheimerstrasse consist of a three-story house owned by a tailor, Josef Popp, whose shop takes up the ground floor. Popp's family: his wife and their two children, Peppi and Liesel, occupy the second floor. The third floor, accessed by a dark and narrow staircase, leads to a series of rooms that the Popp's rent to various tenants. Hitler is shown a small room furnished with a bed, a table, a sofa, a chair, and displaying two oleographs, (an oleograph is a chromolithograph printed with oil paint on canvas in imitation of an actual original oil painting) on the wall. The landlady, Frau Popp, the tailor's wife, will later recall: "The young man and I soon came to terms. He said it would do him all right, and he paid a deposit." She asks him to fill out a registration form, and he writes: "Adolf Hitler, Architectural painter from Vienna." Rudolf Haeusler will share the room with him until mid-February, 1914.2
The city itself was as familiar to me as if I had lived for years within its walls. This was because my studies in architecture had been constantly turning my attention to the metropolis of German art. One must know Munich if one would know Germany, and it is impossible to acquire a knowledge of German art without seeing Munich.
All things considered, this pre-war sojourn was by far the happiest and most contented time of my life. My earnings were very slender but, after all, I did not live for the sake of painting. I painted in order to get the bare necessities of existence, while I continued my studies. I was firmly convinced that I should finally succeed in reaching the goal that I had marked out for myself. And this conviction alone was strong enough to enable me to bear the petty hardships of everyday life, without worrying very much about them.
Moreover, almost from the very first moment of my sojourn there, I came to love that city more than any other place known to me. "A German city!" I said to myself. How different from Vienna. It was with a feeling of disgust that my imagination reverted to that Babylon of races. Another pleasant feature here was the way the people spoke German, which was much nearer my own way of speaking, than the Viennese idiom. The Munich idiom recalled the days of my youth, especially when I spoke with those who had come to Munich from Lower Bavaria. There were a thousand or more things that I inwardly loved, or which I came to love during the course of my stay. But what attracted me most was the marvelous wedlock of native folk-energy with the fine artistic spirit of the city, that unique harmony from the Hofbraeuhaus to the Odeon, from the October Festival to the Pinakothek, etc. The reason why my heart's strings are entwined around this city, as around no other spot in this world, is probably because Munich is‑-and will remain‑-inseparably connected with the development of my own career; and the fact that, from the beginning of my visit, I felt inwardly happy and contented is to be attributed to the charm of the marvelous Wittelsbach capital, which has attracted probably everybody who is blessed with a feeling for beauty, instead of commercial instincts.3
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Perchtoldsdorg Church Castle by Hitler
Hitler's relations with the Popp's is, by all accounts, very good indeed. Years later, Frau Popp will be asked what she remembered about her lodger; an "Austrian charmer" was how she described him. "You couldn't tell what he was thinking . . . . He camped in his room like a hermit, with his nose stuck in those thick, heavy books," said Frau Popp, mostly "political stuff and how to get on in Parliament." When she expressed her curiosity as to why an artist would spend so much of his time reading, he replied: "Dear Frau Popp, does anyone know what is and what isn't likely to be of use to him in life?"4
Next morning [May 26, 1913], my Herr Hitler went out; and came back again in no time, with an easel he had picked up somewhere. He began his painting straight away, and stuck to his work for hours. In a couple of days I saw two lovely pictures finished and lying on the table, one of the cathedral [the Frauenkirche‑-Cathedral of Our Dear Lady‑-at Marienplatz] and the other of the Theatinerkirche [the Roman Catholic Theatine Church of St. Cajetan at the Odeonsplatz]. After that, my lodger used to go out early of a morning, with his portfolio under his arm, in search of customers.6
Frau Popp will testify that he mostly kept to himself and had no friends‑-except for Haeusler for the first few months‑-though he did occasionally receive a letter from somebody she gathered was a sister in Vienna. While he was friendly with her two children, who liked their boarder very much, he resisted invitations to dine with the Popps, and spent most of his time holed up in his room, either reading, painting, or drawing.7
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Courtyard of the Old Residency by Hitler
Herr Adolf Hietler [sic], born 1889, domiciled Linz am Donau, presently staying in Munich care of Popp, Schleissheimerstrasse 34/III, is hereby summoned to present himself for military registration at Linz, at 30 Kaiserin Elizabeth Quay, on January 20, 1914; and in the event of his failure to comply with this summons, he will be liable to prosecution under paragraphs 64 and 66 of the Law regarding Military Service of the year 1912.10To ensure that Hitler will heed the summons, he arrests him and hauls him off to a Munich police station for the night.11
This is a very serious development for the young artist. Should he be convicted of evading the draft, he will be subject to a fine of up to 2,000 kronen and a possible sentence of one year in jail. After serving out his sentence, he would then still have to perform his military service to a nation he professes to despise: Austria-Hungary. Hitler quickly hires a lawyer, Ernst Hepp, who advises that he appeal to the court that his neglect to register was inadvertent; that he had been living in Vienna, not Linz, and that his papers had not caught up with him; and that his status as an orphan and his dire financial situation make him worthy of special consideration.12
In the summons, I am described as an artist. I bear this title by right, but it is only relatively accurate. I earn my living independently as a painter, being totally deprived of income (my father was a civil servant), and I work only in order to further my education. Only a small portion of my time can be spent in earning a living, for I am still educating myself to become an architectural painter. My income, therefore, is just enough to cover my expenses.
As testimony, I refer you to my income tax statement, which is enclosed, and I would be grateful if it could be returned to me. It will be seen that my income is estimated at 1,200 marks, which is rather more than I really earn, and does not mean that I actually make 100 marks a month . . . .
With regard to my failure to report for military service in the autumn of 1909, I must say that this was for me an endlessly bitter time. I was then a young man without experience, receiving no financial assistance from anyone, and too proud to accept financial assistance from others, let alone to beg for it. Without support, compelled to depend on my own efforts, I earned only a few kronen, and often only a few farthings from my labors, and this often insufficient to pay for a night's lodging. For two long years I had no other mistress than sorrow and need, no other companion than eternally unsatisfied hunger. I never knew the beautiful word "youth." Even today, five years later, I am constantly reminded of those experiences, and the reminders take the form of frost-blisters on my fingers, hands, and feet. And yet I cannot remember those days without a certain pleasure, now that these vexations have been surmounted. In spite of great want, amid often dubious surroundings, I nevertheless kept my name clean, had a blameless record with the law, and possessed a clear conscience, (except for that one constantly remembered fact that I failed to register for military service). This is the one thing I feel responsible for. It would seem that a moderate fine would be ample penance, and of course I would pay the fine willingly.
I am sending this letter independently of the testimony, which I signed today at the Consulate. I request that any further orders should be transmitted to me through the Consulate, and beg you to believe that I shall fulfill them promptly. All the declarations made by me concerning my case have been verified by the Consular authorities. They have been exceedingly generous, and have given me hope that I may be able to fulfill my military duties at Salzburg. Although I cannot dare to hope for such a thing, I request that this affair not be made unduly difficult for me.
I request that you take the present letter under consideration, and I sign myself
Hitler is studying quietly in his room, when he hears confused shouting in the street below. Heading down the narrow stairs, he encounters an excited Frau Popp shouting: "The Austrian heir to the throne has just been murdered!" Hitler makes his way past her to the street, joining the crowds around the giant posters announcing the assassination. At first, he is apprehensive, fearing that the event was perpetrated by German students. But soon, to his great relief, he learns that the Serbs are responsible.17
It was lucky for Germany that the war of 1914 broke out with Austria as its direct cause, for thus, the Habsburgs were compelled to participate. Had the origin of the War been otherwise, Germany would have been left to her own resources. The Habsburg State would never have been ready or willing to take part in a war, for the origin of which Germany was responsible.18
Hitler, an ardent German nationalist and voracious reader of newspapers, may have been surprised by the assassination itself, but he could hardly have been taken too unawares by subsequent events. Nationalist feelings had for years been fomenting among the various disparate peoples of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, and anyone keeping up with the current events of the time could have predicted that matters would one day come to a head. Hitler is very excited by the rapidly moving events of the following weeks, absolutely convinced that ethnic Germans will come out on top and realize their long delayed aspirations to form a greater German state, independent of the Habsburg Empire he hates. These occurrences also offer him an opportunity to escape his humdrum hand-to-mouth existence and to participate in historic events unequaled in his twenty-five years. The "most memorable period" of his life had finally arrived.
When the news came to Munich that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been murdered, I had been at home all day, and did not get the particulars of how it happened. At first I feared that the shots may have been fired by some German-Austrian students who had been aroused to a state of furious indignation by the persistent pro-Slav activities of the Heir to the Habsburg Throne, and therefore wished to liberate the German population from this internal enemy. It was quite easy to imagine what the result of such a mistake would have been. It would have brought on a new wave of persecution, the motives of which would have been 'justified' before the whole world. But soon afterwards, I heard the names of the presumed assassins, and also that they were known to be Serbs. I felt somewhat dumbfounded in the face of the inexorable vengeance which Destiny had wrought. The greatest friend of the Slavs had fallen a victim to the bullets of Slav patriots.191914 July 5: Kaiser William II pledges German support for Austria against Serbia.
For me, these hours came as a deliverance from the distress that had weighed upon me during the days of my youth. I am not ashamed to acknowledge today that I was carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, and that I sank down upon my knees and thanked Heaven, out of the fullness of my heart, for the favor of having been permitted to live in such a time.241914 August 4: Hitler's own account of his emotions, and his request to enlist in the Bavarian army, and the response.25
On August 3rd, 1914, I presented an urgent petition to His Majesty, King Ludwig III, requesting to be allowed to serve in a Bavarian regiment. In those days, the Chancellery had its hands quite full, and I was, therefore, all the more pleased when I received the answer, a day later, that my request had been granted. I opened the document with trembling hands; and no words of mine could now describe the satisfaction I felt, on reading that I was instructed to report to a Bavarian regiment. Within a few days I was wearing that uniform which I was not to put off again for nearly six years.24
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Munich's Arch of Triumph by Hitler
For me, as for every German, the most memorable period of my life now began. Face to face with that mighty struggle, all the past fell away into oblivion. With a wistful pride, I look back on those days, especially because we are now approaching the tenth anniversary of that memorable happening. I recall those early weeks of war, when kind fortune permitted me to take my place in that heroic struggle between the nations.26
End of Part Six.
Written by Walther Johann von Löpp Copyright © 2011-2016 All Rights Reserved Edited by Levi Bookin — Copy Editor European History and Jewish Studies