Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
Volume One: A Reckoning
Chapter II: Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna
WHEN my mother died, Fate, at least in one respect, had made its decisions.
In the last months of her sickness, I had gone to Vienna to take the entrance examination for the Academy. I had set out with a pile of drawings, convinced that it would be child's play to pass the examination. At the Realschule I had been by far the best in my class at drawing, and since then my ability had developed amazingly; my own satisfaction caused me to take a joyful pride in hoping for the best.
Yet sometimes a drop of bitterness put in its appearance: my talent for painting seemed to be excelled by my talent for drawing, especially in almost all fields of architecture. At the same time my interest in architecture as such increased steadily, and this development was accelerated after a two weeks' trip to Vienna which I took when not yet sixteen. The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest. For hours I could stand infront of the Opera, for hours I could gaze at the Parliament; the whole Ring Boulevard seemed to me like an enchantment out of The Thousand-and-One-Nights.
Now I was in the fair city for the second time, waiting with burning impatience, but also with confident self-assurance, for the result of my entrance examination. I was so convinced that I would be successful that when I received my rejection, it struck me as a bolt from the blue. Yet that is what happened. When I presented myself to the rector, requesting an explanation for my non-acceptance at the Academy's school of painting, that gentleman assured me that the drawings I had submitted incontrovertibly showed my unfitness for painting, and that my ability obviously lay in the field of architecture; for me, he said, the Academy's school of painting was out of the question, the place for me was the School of Architecture. It was incomprehensible to him that I had never attended an architectural school or received any other training in architecture. Downcast, I left von Hansen's magnificent building on the Schillerplatz, for the first time in my young life at odds with myself. For what I had just heard about my abilities seemed like a lightning flash, suddenly revealing a conflict with which I had long been afflicted, although until then I had no clear conception of its why and wherefore.
In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect.
To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studiesI had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.
When after the death of my mother I went to Vienna for the third time, to remain for many years, the time which had meanwhile elapsed had restored my calm and determination. My old defiance had come back to me and my goal was now clear and definite before my eyes. I wanted to become an architect, and obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken. I was determined to overcome these obstacles, keeping before my eyes the image of my father, who had started out as the child of a village shoemaker, and risen by his own efforts to be a government official. I had a better foundation to build on, and hence my possibilities in the struggle were easier, and what then seemed to be the harshness of Fate, I praise today as wisdom and Providence. While the Goddess of Suffering took me in her arms, often threatening to crush me, my will to resistance grew, and in the end this will was victorious.
I owe it to that period that I grew hard and am still capable of being hard. And even more, I exalt it for tearing me away from the hollowness of comfortable life; for drawing the mother's darling out of his soft downy bed and giving him 'Dame Care' for a new mother; for hurling me, despite all resistance, into a world of misery and poverty, thus making me acquainted with those for whom I was later to fight.
In this period my eyes were opened to two menaces of which I had previously scarcely known the names, and whose terrible importance for the existence of the German people I certainly did not understand: Marxism and Jewry.
To me Vienna, the city which, to so many, is the epitome of innocent pleasure, a festive playground for merrymakers, represents, I am sorry to say, merely the living memory of the saddest period of my life.
Even today this city can arouse in me nothing but the most dismal thoughts. For me the name of this Phaeacian city I represents five years of hardship and misery. Five years in which I was forced to earn a living, first as a day laborer, then as a small painter; a truly meager living which never sufficed to appease even my daily hunger. Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard; he never left me for a moment and partook of all I had, share and share alike. Every book I acquired aroused his interest; a visit to the Opera prompted his attentions for days at a time; my life was a continuous struggle with this pitiless friend. And yet during this time I studied as never before. Aside from my architecture and my rare visits to the Opera, paid for in hunger, I had but one pleasure: my books.
At that time I read enormously and thoroughly. All the free time my work left me was employed in my studies. In this way I forged in a few years' time the foundations of a knowledge from which I still draw nourishment today.
And even more than this:
In this period there took shape within me a world picture and a philosophy which became the granite foundation of all my acts. In addition to what I then created, I have had to learn little; and I have had to alter nothing.
On the contrary.
Today I am firmly convinced that basically and on the whole all creative ideas appear in our youth, in so far as any such are present. I distinguish between the wisdom of age, consisting solely in greater thoroughness and caution due to the experience of a long life, and the genius of youth, which pours out thoughts and ideas with inexhaustible fertility, but cannot for the moment develop them because of their very abundance. It is this youthful genius which provides the building materials and plans for the future, from which a wiser age takes the stones, carves them and completes the edifice, in so far as the so-called wisdom of age has not stifled the genius of youth.
The life which I had hitherto led at home differed little or not at all from the life of other people. Carefree, I could await the new day, and there was no social problem for me. The environment of my youth consisted of petty-bourgeois circles, hence of a world having very little relation to the purely manual worker. For, strange as it may seem at first glance, the cleft between this class, which in an economic sense is by no means so brilliantly situated, and the manual worker is often deeper than we imagine. The reason for this hostility, as we might almost call it, lies in the fear of a social group, which has but recently raised itself above the level of the manual worker, that it will sink back into the old despised class, or at least become identified with it. To this, in many cases, we must add the repugnant memory of the cultural poverty of this lower class, the frequent vulgarity of its social intercourse; the petty bourgeois' own position in society, however insignificant it may be, makes any contact with this outgrown stage of life and culture intolerable.
Consequently, the higher classes feel less constraint in their dealings with the lowest of their fellow men than seems possible to the 'upstart.'
For anyone is an upstart who rises by his own efforts from his previous position in life to a higher one.
Ultimately this struggle, which is often so hard, kills all pity. Our own painful struggle for existence destroys our feeling for the misery of those who have remained behind.
In this respect Fate was kind to me. By forcing me to return to this world of poverty and insecurity, from which my father had risen in the course of his life, it removed the blinders of a narrow petty-bourgeois upbringing from my eyes. Only now did I learn to know humanity, learning to distinguish between empty appearances or brutal externals and the inner being.
After the turn of the century, Vienna was, socially speaking, one of the most backward cities in Europe.
Dazzling riches and loathsome poverty alternated sharply. In the center and in the inner districts you could really feel the pulse of this realm of fifty-two millions, with all the dubious magic of the national melting pot. The Court with its dazzling glamour attracted wealth and intelligence from the rest of the country like a magnet. Added to this was the strong centralization of the Habsburg monarchy in itself.
It offered the sole possibility of holding this medley of nations together in any set form. But the consequence was an extraordinary concentration of high authorities in the imperial capital
Yet not only in the political and intellectual sense was Vienna the center of the old Danube monarchy, but economically as well. The host of high of officers, government officials, artists, and scholars was confronted by an even greater army of workers, and side by side with aristocratic and commercial wealth dwelt dire poverty. Outside the palaces on the Ring loitered thousands of unemployed, and beneath this Via Triumphalis of old Austria dwelt the homeless in the gloom and mud of the canals.
In hardly any German city could the social question have been studied better than in Vienna. But make no mistake. This 'studying' cannot be done from lofty heights. No one who has not been seized in the jaws of this murderous viper can know its poison fangs. Otherwise nothing results but superficial chatter and false sentimentality. Both are harmful. The former because it can never penetrate to the core of the problem, the latter because it passes it by. I do not know which is more terrible: inattention to social misery such as we see every day among the majority of those who have been favored by fortune or who have risen by their own efforts, or else the snobbish, or at times tactless and obtrusive, condescension of certain women of fashion in skirts or in trousers, who feel for the people.' In any event, these gentry sin far more than their minds, devoid of all instinct, are capable of realizing. Consequently, and much to their own amazement, the result of their social 'efforts' is always nil, frequently, in fact, an indignant rebuff, though this, of course, is passed off as a proof of the people's ingratitude.
Such minds are most reluctant to realize that social endeavor has nothing in common with this sort of thing; that above all it can raise no claim to gratitude, since its function is not to distribute favors but to restore rights.
I was preserved from studying the social question in such a way. By drawing me within its sphere of suffering, it did not seem to invite me to 'study,' but to experience it in my own skin. It was none of its doing that the guinea pig came through the operation safe and sound.
An attempt to enumerate the sentiments I experienced in that period could never be even approximately complete; I shall describe here only the most essential impressions, those which often moved me most deeply, and the few lessons which I derived from them at the time.
The actual business of finding work was, as a rule, not hard for me, since I was not a skilled craftsman, but was obliged to seek my daily bread as a so-called helper and sometimes as a casual laborer. I adopted the attitude of all those who shake the dust of Europe from their feet with the irrevocable intention of founding a new existence in the New World and conquering a new home. Released from all the old, paralyzing ideas of profession and position, environment and tradition, they snatch at every livelihood that offers itself, grasp at every sort of work, progressing step by step to the realization that honest labor, no matter of what sort, disgraces no one. I, too, was determined to leap into this new world, with both feet, and fight my way through. I soon learned that there was always some kind of work to be had, but equally soon I found out how easy it was to lose it. The uncertainty of earning my daily bread soon seemed to me one of the darkest sides of my new life.
The 'skilled' worker does not find himself out on the street as frequently as the unskilled; but he is not entirely immune to this fate either. And in his case the loss of livelihood owing to lack of work is replaced by the lock-out, or by going on strike himself. In this respect the entire economy suffers bitterly from the individual's insecurity in earning his daily bread.
The peasant boy who goes to the big city, attracted by the easier nature of the work (real or imaginary), by shorter hours, but most of all by the dazzling light emanating from the metropolis, is accustomed to a certain security in the matter of livelihood. He leaves his old job only when there is at least some prospect of a new one. For there is a great lack of agricultural workers, hence the probability of any long period of unemployment is in itself small. It is a mistake to believe that the young fellow who goes to the big city is made of poorer stuff than his brother who continues to make an honest living from the peasant sod. No, on the contrary: experience shows that all those elements which emigrate consist of the healthiest and most energetic natures, rather than conversely. Yet among these 'emigrants' we must count, not only those who go to America, but to an equal degree the young farmhand who resolves to leave his native village for the strange city. He, too, is prepared to face an uncertain fate. As a rule he arrives in the big city with a certain amount of money; he has no need to lose heart on the very first day if he has the ill fortune to find no work for any length of time. But it is worse if, after finding a job, he soon loses it. To find a new one, especially in winter, is often difficult if not impossible. Even so, the first weeks are tolerable. He receives an unemployment benefit from his union funds and manages as well as possible. But when his last cent is gone and the union, due to the long duration of his unemployment, discontinues its payments, great hardships begin. Now he walks the streets, hungry; often he pawns and sells his last possessions; his clothing becomes more and more wretched; and thus he sinks into external surroundings which, on top of his physical misfortune, also poison his soul. If he is evicted and if (as is so often the case) this occurs in winter, his misery is very great. At length he finds some sort of job again. But the old story is repeated. The same thing happens a second time, the third time perhaps it is even worse, and little by little he learns to bear the eternal insecurity with greater and greater indifference. At last the repetition becomes a habit.
And so this man, who was formerly so hard-working, grows lax in his whole view of life and gradually becomes the instrument of those who use him only for their own base advantage. He has so often been unemployed through no fault of his own that one time more or less ceases to matter, even when the aim is no longer to fight for economic rights, but to destroy political, social, or cultural values in general. He may not be exactly enthusiastic about strikes, but at any rate he has become indifferent.
With open eyes I was able to follow this process in a thousand examples. The more I witnessed it, the greater grew my revulsion for the big city which first avidly sucked men in and then so cruelly crushed them.
When they arrived, they belonged to their people; after remaining for a few years, they were lost to it.
I, too, had been tossed around by life in the metropolis - in my own skin I could feel the effects of this fate and taste them with my soul. One more thing I saw: the rapid change from work to unemployment and vice versa, plus the resultant fluctuation of income, end by destroying in many all feeling for thrift, or any understanding for a prudent ordering of their lives. It would seem that the body gradually becomes accustomed to living on the fat of the land in good times and going hungry in bad times. Indeed, hunger destroys any resolution for reasonable budgeting in better times to come by holding up to the eyes of its tormented victim an eternal mirage of good living and raising this dream to such a pitch of longing that a pathological desire puts an end to all restraint as soon as wages and earnings make it at all possible. The consequence is that once the man obtains work he irresponsibly forgets all ideas of order and discipline, and begins to live luxuriously for the pleasures of the moment. This upsets even the small weekly budget, as even here any intelligent apportionment is lacking; in the beginning it suffices for five days instead of seven, later only for three, finally scarcely for one day, and in the end it is drunk up in the very first night. Often he has a wife and children at home. Sometimes they, too, are infected by this life, especially when the man is good to them on the whole and actually loves them in his own way. Then the weekly wage is used up by the whole family in two or three days; they eat and drink as long as the money holds out and the last days they go hungry. Then the wife drags herself out into the neighborhood, borrows a little, runs up little debts at the food store, and in this way strives to get through the hard last days of the week. At noon they all sit together before their meager and sometimes empty bowls, waiting for the next payday, speaking of it, making plans, and, in their hunger, dreaming of the happiness to come.
And so the little children, in their earliest beginnings, are made familiar with this misery.
It ends badly if the man goes his own way from the very beginning and the woman, for the children's sake, opposes him. Then there is fighting and quarreling, and, as the man grows estranged from his wife, he becomes more intimate with alcohol. He is drunk every Saturday, and, with her instinct of self-preservation for herself and her children, the woman has to fight to get even a few pennies out of him; and, to make matters worse, this usually occurs on his way from the factory to the barroom. When at length he comes home on Sunday or even Monday night, drunk and brutal, but always parted from his last cent, such scenes often occur that God have mercy!
I have seen this in hundreds of instances. At first I was repelled or even outraged, but later I understood the whole tragedy of this misery and its deeper causes. These people are the unfortunate victims of bad conditions! Even more dismal in those days were the housing conditions. The misery in which the Viennese day laborer lived was frightful to behold. Even today it fills me with horror when I think of these wretched caverns, the lodging houses and tenements, sordid scenes of garbage, repulsive filth, and worse.
What was - and still is - bound to happen some day, when the stream of unleashed slaves pours forth from these miserable dens to avenge themselves on their thoughtless fellow men?
For thoughtless they are!
Thoughtlessly they let things slide along, and with their utter lack of intuition fail even to suspect that sooner or later Fate must bring retribution, unless men conciliate Fate while there is still time. How thankful I am today to the Providence which sent me to that school! In it I could no longer sabotage the subjects I did not like. It educated me quickly and thoroughly.
If I did not wish to despair of the men who constituted my environment at that time, I had to learn to distinguish between their external characters and lives and the foundations of their development. Only then could all this be borne without losing heart. Then, from all the misery and despair, from all the filth and outward degeneration, it was no longer human beings that emerged, but the deplorable results of deplorable laws; and the hardship of my own life, no easier than the others, preserved me from capitulating in tearful sentimentality to the degenerate products of this process of development.
No, this is not the way to understand all these things!
Even then I saw that only a two-fold road could lead to the goal of improving these conditions:
The deepest sense of social responsibility for the creation of better foundations for our development, coupled with brutal determination on breaking down incurable tenors.
Just as Nature does not concentrate her greatest attention in preserving what exists, but in breeding offspring to carry on the species, likewise, in human life, it is less important artificially to alleviate existing evil, which, in view of human nature, is ninety-nine per cent impossible, than to ensure from the start healthier channels for a future development.
During my struggle for existence in Vienna, it had become clear to me that social activity must never and on no account be directed toward philanthropic flim-flam, but rather toward the elimination of the basic deficiencies in the organization of our economic and cultural life that must - or at all events can - lead to the degeneration of the individual.
The difficulty of applying the most extreme and brutal methods against the criminals who endanger the state lies not least in the uncertainty of our judgment of the inner motives or causes of such contemporary phenomena.
This uncertainty is only too well founded in our own sense of guilt regarding such tragedies of degeneration; be that as it may, it paralyzes any serious and firm decision and is thus partly responsible for the weak and half-hearted, because hesitant, execution of even the most necessary measures of self-preservation.
Only when an epoch ceases to be haunted by the shadow of its own consciousness of guilt will it achieve the inner calm and outward strength brutally and ruthlessly to prune off the wild shoots and tear out the weeds.
Since the Austrian state had practically no social legislation or jurisprudence, its weakness in combating even malignant tumors was glaring.
I do not know what horrified me most at that time: the economic misery of my companions, their moral and ethical coarseness, or the low level of their intellectual development.
How often does our bourgeoisie rise in high moral indignation when they hear some miserable tramp declare that it is all the same to him whether he is a German or not, that he feels equally happy wherever he is, as long as he has enough to live on!
This lack of 'national pride' is most profoundly deplored, and horror at such an attitude is expressed in no uncertain terms.
How many people have asked themselves what was the real reason for the superiority of their own sentiments?
How many are aware of the infinite number of separate memories of the greatness of our national fatherland in all the fields of cultural and artistic life, whose total result is to inspire them with just pride at being members of a nation so blessed?
How many suspect to how great an extent pride in the fatherland depends on knowledge of its greatness in all these fields?
Do our bourgeois circles ever stop to consider to what an absurdly small extent this prerequisite of pride in the fatherland is transmitted to the 'people'?
Let us not try to condone this by saying that 'it is no better in other countries,' and that in those countries the worker avows his nationality 'notwithstanding.' Even if this were so, it could serve as no excuse for our own omissions. But it is not so; for the thing that we constantly designate as 'chauvinistic' education; for example among the French people, is nothing other than extreme emphasis on the greatness of France in all the fields of culture, or, as the Frenchman puts it, of 'civilization.' The fact is that the young Frenchman is not brought up to be objective, but is instilled with the most subjective conceivable view, in so far as the importance of the political or cultural greatness of his fatherland is concerned.
This education will always have to be limited to general and extremely broad values which, if necessary, must be engraved in the memory and feeling of the people by eternal repetition.
But to the negative sin of omission is added in our country the positive destruction of the little which the individual has the good fortune to learn in school. The rats that politically poison our nation gnaw even this little from the heart and memory of the broad masses, insofar as this has not been previously accomplished by poverty and suffering.
Imagine, for instance, the following scene:
In a basement apartment, consisting of two stuffy rooms, dwells a worker's family of seven. Among the five children there is a boy of, let us assume, three years. This is the age in which the first impressions are made on the consciousness of the child. Talented persons retain traces of memory from this period down to advanced old age. The very narrowness and overcrowding of the room does not lead to favorable conditions. Quarreling and wrangling will very frequently arise as a result. In these circumstances, people do not live with one another, they press against one another. Every argument, even the most trifling, which in a spacious apartment can be reconciled by a mild segregation, thus solving itself, here leads to loathsome wrangling without end. Among the children, of course, this is still bearable; they always fight under such circumstances, and among themselves they quickly and thoroughly forget about it. But if this battle is carried on between the parents themselves, and almost every day in forms which for vulgarity often leave nothing to be desired, then, if only very gradually, the results of such visual instruction must ultimately become apparent in the children. The character they will inevitably assume if this mutual quarrel takes the form of brutal attacks of the father against the mother, of drunken beatings, is hard for anyone who does not know this milieu to imagine. At the age of six the pitiable little boy suspects the existence of things which can inspire even an adult with nothing but horror. Morally poisoned, physically undernourished, his poor little head full of lice, the young 'citizen' goes off to public school. After a great struggle he may learn to read and write, but that is about all. His doing any homework is out of the question. On the contrary, the very mother and father, even in the presence of the children, talk about his teacher and school in terms which are not fit to be repeated, and are more inclined to curse the latter to their face than to take their little offspring across their knees and teach them some sense. All the other things that the little fellow hears at home do not tend to increase his respect for his dear fellow men. Nothing good remains of humanity, no institution remains unassailed; beginning with his teacher and up to the head of the government, whether it is a question of religion or of morality as such, of the state or society, it is all the same, everything is reviled in the most obscene terms and dragged into the filth of the basest possible outlook. When at the age of fourteen the young man is discharged from school, it is hard to decide what is stronger in him: his incredible stupidity as far as any real knowledge and ability are concerned, or the corrosive insolence of his behavior, combined with an immorality, even at this age, which would make your hair stand on end.
What position can this man - to whom even now hardly anything is holy, who, just as he has encountered no greatness conversely suspects and knows all the sordidness of life - occupy in the life into which he is now preparing to emerge?
The three-year-old child has become a fifteen-year-old despiser of all authority. Thus far, aside from dirt and filth, this young man has seen nothing which might inspire him to any higher enthusiasm.
But only now does he enter the real university of this existence.
Now he begins the same life which all along his childhood years he has seen his father living. He hangs around the street corners and bars, coming home God knows when; and for a change now and then he beats the broken-down being which was once his mother, curses God and the world, and at length is convicted of some particular offense and sent to a house of correction.
There he receives his last polish.
And his dear bourgeois fellow men are utterly amazed at the lack of 'national enthusiasm' in this young 'citizen.'
Day by day, in the theater and in the movies, in backstairs literature and the yellow press, they see the poison poured into the people by bucketfuls, and then they are amazed at the low 'moral content,' the 'national indifference,' of the masses of the people.
As though trashy films, yellow press, and such-like dung could furnish the foundations of a knowledge of the greatness of our fatherland! - quite aside from the early education of the individual.
What I had never suspected before, I quickly and thoroughly learned in those years:
The question of the 'nationalization' of a people is, among other things, primarily a question of creating healthy social conditions as a foundation for the possibility of educating the individual. For only those who through school and upbringing learn to know the cultural, economic, but above all the political, greatness of their own fatherland can and will achieve the inner pride in the privilege of being a member of such a people. And I can fight only for something that I love, love only what I respect, and respect only what I at least know.
Once my interest in the social question was aroused, I began to study it with all thoroughness. It was a new and hitherto unknown world which opened before me.
In the years 1909 and 1910, my own situation had changed somewhat in so far as I no longer had to earn my daily bread as a common laborer. By this time I was working independently as a small draftsman and painter of watercolors. Hard as this was with regard to earnings - it was barely enough to live on - it was good for my chosen profession. Now I was no longer dead tired in the evening when I came home from work, unable to look at a book without soon dozing off. My present work ran parallel to my future profession. Moreover, I was master of my own time and could apportion it better than had previously been possible.
I painted to make a living and studied for pleasure.
Thus I was able to supplement my visual instruction in the social problem by theoretical study. I studied more or less all of the books I was able to obtain regarding this whole field, and for the rest immersed myself in my own thoughts.
I believe that those who knew me in those days took me for an eccentric.
Amid all this, as was only natural, I served my love of architecture with ardent zeal. Along with music, it seemed to me the queen of the arts: under such circumstances my concern with it was not 'work,' but the greatest pleasure. I could read and draw until late into the night, and never grow tired. Thus my faith grew that my beautiful dream for the future would become reality after all, even though this might require long years. I was firmly convinced that I should some day make a name for myself as an architect.
In addition, I had the greatest interest in everything connected with politics, but this did not seem to me very significant. On the contrary: in my eyes this was the self-evident duty of every thinking man. Anyone who failed to understand this lost the right to any criticism or complaint.
In this field, too, I read and studied much.
By 'reading,' to be sure, I mean perhaps something different than the average member of our so-called 'intelligentsia.'
I know people who 'read' enormously, book for book, letter for letter, yet whom I would not describe as 'well-read.' True they possess a mass of 'knowledge,' but their brain is unable to organize and register the material they have taken in. They lack the art of sifting what is valuable for them in a book from that which is without value, of retaining the one forever, and, if possible, not even seeing the rest, but in any case not dragging it around with them as useless ballast. For reading is no end in itself, but a means to an end. It should primarily help to fill the framework constituted by every man's talents and abilities; in addition, it should provide the tools and building materials which the individual needs for his life's work, regardless whether this consists in a primitive struggle for sustenance or the satisfaction of a high calling; secondly, it should transmit a general world view. In both cases, however, it is essential that the con tent of what one reads at any time should not be transmitted to the memory in the sequence of the book or books, but like the stone of a mosaic should fit into the general world picture in its proper place, and thus help to form this picture in the mind of the reader. Otherwise there arises a confused muddle of memorized facts which not only are worthless, but also make their unto fortunate possessor conceited. For such a reader now believes himself in all seriousness to be 'educated,' to understand something of life, to have knowledge, while in reality, with every new acquisition of this kind of 'education,' he is growing more and more removed from the world until, not infrequently, he ends up in a sanitarium or in parliament. Never will such a mind succeed in culling from the confusion of his 'knowledge' anything that suits the demands of the hour, for his intellectual ballast is not organized along the lines of life, but in the sequence of the books as he read them and as their content has piled up in his brain. If Fate, in the requirements of his daily life, desired to remind him to make a correct application of what he had read, it would have to indicate title and page number, since the poor fool would otherwise never in all his life find the correct place. But since Fate does not do this, these bright boys in any critical situation come into the most terrible embarrassment, cast about convulsively for analogous cases, and with mortal certainty naturally find the wrong formulas.
If this were not true, it would be impossible for us to understand the political behavior of our learned and highly placed government heroes, unless we decided to assume outright villainy instead of pathological propensities.
On the other hand, a man who possesses the art of correct reading will, in studying any book, magazine, or pamphlet, instinctively and immediately perceive everything which in his opinion is worth permanently remembering, either because it is suited to his purpose or generally worth knowing. Once the knowledge he has achieved in this fashion is correctly coordinated within the somehow existing picture of this or that subject created by the imaginations it will function either as a corrective or a complement, thus enhancing either the correctness or the clarity of the picture. Then, if life suddenly sets some question before us for examination or answer, the memory, if this method of reading is observed, will immediately take the existing picture as a norm, and from it will derive all the individual items regarding these questions, assembled in the course of decades, submit them to the mind for examination and reconsideration, until the question is clarified or answered.
Only this kind of reading has meaning and purpose.
An orator, for example, who does not thus provide his intelligence with the necessary foundation will never be in a position cogently to defend his view in the face of opposition, though it may be a thousand times true or real. In every discussion his memory will treacherously leave him in the lurch; he will find neither grounds for reinforcing his own contentions nor any for confuting those of his adversary. If, as in the case of a speaker, it is only a question of making a fool of himself personally, it may not be so bad, but not so when Fate predestines such a know-it-all incompetent to be the leader of a state.
Since my earliest youth I have endeavored to read in the correct way, and in this endeavor I have been most happily supported by my memory and intelligence. Viewed in this light, my Vienna period was especially fertile and valuable. The experiences of daily life provided stimulation for a constantly renewed study of the most varied problems. Thus at last I was in a position to bolster up reality by theory and test theory by reality, and was preserved from being stifled by theory or growing banal through reality.
In this period the experience of daily life directed and stimulated me to the most thorough theoretical study of two questions in addition to the social question.
Who knows when I would have immersed myself in the doctrines and essence of Marxism if that period had not literally thrust my nose into the problem!
What I knew of Social Democracy in my youth was exceedingly little and very inaccurate.
I was profoundly pleased that it should carry on the struggle for universal suffrage and the secret ballot. For even then my intelligence told me that this must help to weaken the Habsburg regime which I so hated. In the conviction that the Austrian Empire could never be preserved except by victimizing its Germans, but that even the price of a gradual Slavization of the German element by no means provided a guaranty of an empire really capable of survival, since the power of the Slavs to uphold the state must be estimated as exceedingly dubious, I welcomed every development which in my opinion would inevitably lead to the collapse of this impossible state which condemned ten million Germans to death. The more the linguistic Babel corroded and disorganized parliament, the closer drew the inevitable hour of the disintegration of this Babylonian Empire, and with it the hour of freedom for my German-Austrian people. Only in this way could the Anschluss with the old mother country be restored.
Consequently, this activity of the Social Democracy was not displeasing to me. And the fact that it strove to improve the living conditions of the worker, as, in my innocence, I was still stupid enough to believe, likewise seemed to speak rather for it than against it. What most repelled me was its hostile attitude toward the struggle for the preservation of Germanism, its disgraceful courting of the Slavic 'comrade,' who accepted this declaration of love in so far as it was bound up with practical concessions, but otherwise maintained a lofty and arrogant reserve, thus giving the obtrusive beggars their deserved reward.
Thus, at the age of seventeen the word 'Marxism' was as yet little known to me, while 'Social Democracy' and socialism seemed to me identical concepts. Here again it required the fist of Fate to open my eyes to this unprecedented betrayal of the peoples.
Up to that time I had known the Social Democratic Party only as an onlooker at a few mass demonstrations, without possessing even the slightest insight into the mentality of its adherents or the nature of its doctrine; but now, at one stroke, I came into contact with the products of its education and 'philosophy.' And in a few months I obtained what might otherwise have required decades: an understanding of a pestilential whore, cloaking herself as social virtue and brotherly love, from which I hope humanity will rid this earth with the greatest dispatch, since otherwise the earth might well become rid of humanity.
My first encounter with the Social Democrats occurred during my employment as a building worker.
From the very beginning it was none too pleasant. My clothing was still more or less in order, my speech cultivated, and my manner reserved. I was still so busy with my own destiny that I could not concern myself much with the people around me. I looked for work only to avoid starvation, only to obtain an opportunity of continuing my education, though ever so slowly. Perhaps I would not have concerned myself at all with my new environment if on the third or fourth day an event had not taken place which forced me at once to take a position. I was asked to join the organization.
My knowledge of trade-union organization was at that time practically non-existent. I could not have proved that its existence was either beneficial or harmful. When I was told that I had to join, I refused. The reason I gave was that I did not understand the matter, but that I would not let myself be forced into anything. Perhaps my first reason accounts for my not being thrown out at once. They may perhaps have hoped to convert me or break down my resistance in a few days. In any event, they had made a big mistake. At the end of two weeks I could no longer have joined, even if I had wanted to. In these two weeks I came to know the men around me more closely, and no power in the world could have moved me to join an organization whose members had meanwhile come to appear to me in so unfavorable a light.
During the first days I was irritable.
At noon some of the workers went to the nearby taverns while others remained at the building site and ate a lunch which, as a rule was quite wretched. These were the married men whose wives brought them their noonday soup in pathetic bowls. Toward the end of the week their number always increased, why I did not understand until later. On these occasions politics was discussed.
I drank my bottle of milk and ate my piece of bread somewhere off to one side, and cautiously studied my new associates or reflected on my miserable lot. Nevertheless, I heard more than enough; and often it seemed to me that they purposely moved closer to me, perhaps in order to make me take a position. In any case, what I heard was of such a nature as to infuriate me in the extreme. These men rejected everything: the nation as an invention of the 'capitalistic' (how often was I forced to hear this single word!) classes; the fatherland as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working class; the authority of law as a means for oppressing the proletariat; the school as an institution for breeding slaves and slaveholders; religion as a means for stultifying the people and making them easier to exploit; morality as a symptom of stupid, sheeplike patience, etc. There was absolutely nothing which was not drawn through the mud of a terrifying depths
At first I tried to keep silent. But at length it became impossible. I began to take a position and to oppose them. But I was forced to recognize that this was utterly hopeless until I possessed certain definite knowledge of the controversial points. And so I began to examine the sources from which they drew this supposed wisdom. I studied book after book, pamphlet after pamphlet.
From then on our discussions at work were often very heated. I argued back, from day to day better informed than my antagonists concerning their own knowledge, until one day they made use of the weapon which most readily conquers reason: terror and violence. A few of the spokesmen on the opposing side forced me either to leave the building at once or be thrown off the scaffolding. Since I was alone and resistance seemed hopeless, I preferred, richer by one experience, to follow the former counsel.
I went away filled with disgust, but at the same time so agitated that it would have been utterly impossible for me to turn my back on the whole business. No, after the first surge of indignation, my stubbornness regained the upper hand. I was determined to go to work on another building in spite of my experience. In this decision I was reinforced by Poverty which, a few weeks later, after I had spent what little I had saved from my wages, enfolded me in her heartless arms. I had to go back whether I wanted to or not. The same old story began anew and ended very much the same as the first time.
I wrestled with my innermost soul: are these people human, worthy to belong to a great nation?
A painful question; for if it is answered in the affirmative, the struggle for my nationality really ceases to be worth the hardships and sacrifices which the best of us have to make for the sake of such scum; and if it is answered in the negative, our nation is pitifully poor in human beings.
On such days of reflection and cogitation, I pondered with anxious concern on the masses of those no longer belonging to their people and saw them swelling to the proportions of a menacing army.
With what changed feeling I now gazed at the endless columns of a mass demonstration of Viennese workers that took place one day as they marched past four abreast! For neatly two hours I stood there watching with bated breath the gigantic human dragon slowly winding by. In oppressed anxiety, I finally left the place and sauntered homeward. In a tobacco shop on the way I saw the Arbeiter-Zeitung, the central organ of the old Austrian Social Democracy. It was available in a cheap people's cafe, to which I often went to read newspapers; but up to that time I had not been able to bring myself to spend more than two minutes on the miserable sheet, whose whole tone affected me like moral vitriol. Depressed by the demonstration, I was driven on by an inner voice to buy the sheet and read it carefully. That evening I did so, fighting down the fury that rose up in me from time to time at this concentrated solution of lies.
More than any theoretical literature, my daily reading of the Social Democratic press enabled me to study the inner nature of these thought-processes.
For what a difference between the glittering phrases about freedom, beauty, and dignity in the theoretical literature, the delusive welter of words seemingly expressing the most profound and laborious wisdom, the loathsome humanitarian morality - all this written with the incredible gall that comes with prophetic certainty - and the brutal daily press, shunning no villainy, employing every means of slander, lying with a virtuosity that would bend iron beams, all in the name of this gospel of a new humanity. The one is addressed to the simpletons of the middle, not to mention the upper, educated, 'classes,' the other to the masses.
For me immersion in the literature and press of this doctrine and organization meant finding my way back to my own people. What had seemed to me an unbridgable gulf became the source of a greater love than ever before.
Only a fool can behold the work of this villainous poisoner and still condemn the victim. The more independent I made myself in the next few years the clearer grew my perspective, hence my insight into the inner causes of the Social Democratic successes. I now understood the significance of the brutal demand that I read only Red papers, attend only Red meetings, read only Red books, etc. With plastic clarity I saw before my eyes the inevitable result of this doctrine of intolerance.
The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak.
Like the woman, whose psychic state is determined less by grounds of abstract reason than by an indefinable emotional longing for a force which will complement her nature, and who, consequently, would rather bow to a strong man than dominate a weakling, likewise the masses love a commander more than a petitioner and feel inwardly more satisfied by a doctrine, tolerating no other beside itself, than by the granting of liberalistic freedom with which, as a rule, they can do little, and are prone to feel that they have been abandoned. They are equally unaware of their shameless spiritual terrorization and the hideous abuse of their human freedom, for they absolutely fail to suspect the inner insanity of the whole doctrine. All they see is the ruthless force and brutality of its calculated manifestations, to which they always submit in the end.
If Social Democracy is opposed by a doctrine of greater truth, but equal brutality of methods, the latter will conquer, though this may require the bitterest struggle.
Before two years had passed, the theory as well as the technical methods of Social Democracy were clear to me.
I understood the infamous spiritual terror which this movement exerts, particularly on the bourgeoisie, which is neither morally nor mentally equal to such attacks; at a given sign it unleashes a veritable barrage of lies and slanders against whatever adversary seems most dangerous, until the nerves of the attacked persons break down and, just to have peace again, they sacrifice the hated individual.
However, the fools obtain no peace.
The game begins again and is repeated over and over until fear of the mad dog results in suggestive paralysis.
Since the Social Democrats best know the value of force from their own experience, they most violently attack those in whose nature they detect any of this substance which is so rare. Conversely, they praise every weakling on the opposing side, sometimes cautiously, sometimes loudly, depending on the real or supposed quality of his intelligence.
They fear an impotent, spineless genius less than a forceful nature of moderate intelligence.
But with the greatest enthusiasm they commend weaklings in both mind and force.
They know how to create the illusion that this is the only way of preserving the peace, and at the same time, stealthily but steadily, they conquer one position after another, sometimes by silent blackmail, sometimes by actual theft, at moments when the general attention is directed toward other matters, and either does not want to be disturbed or considers the matter too small to raise a stir about, thus again irritating the vicious antagonist.
This is a tactic based on precise calculation of all human weaknesses, and its result will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty unless the opposing side learns to combat poison gas with poison gas.
It is our duty to inform all weaklings that this is a question of to be or not to be. I achieved an equal understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses.
Here, too, the psychological effect can be calculated with precision.
Terror at the place of employment, in the factory, in the meeting hall, and on the occasion of mass demonstrations will always be successful unless opposed by equal terror.
In this case, to be sure, the party will cry bloody murder; though it has long despised all state authority, it will set up a howling cry for that same authority and in most cases will actually attain its goal amid the general confusion: it will find some idiot of a higher official who, in the imbecilic hope of propitiating the feared adversary for later eventualities, will help this world plague to break its opponent.
The impression made by such a success on the minds of the great masses of supporters as well as opponents can only be measured by those who know the soul of a people, not from books, but from life. For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance.
The more familiar I became, principally with the methods of physical terror, the more indulgent I grew toward all the hundreds of thousands who succumbed to it.
What makes me most indebted to that period of suffering is that it alone gave back to me my people, taught me to distinguish the victims from their seducers.
The results of this seduction can be designated only as victims. For if I attempted to draw a few pictures from life, depicting the essence of these 'lowest' classes, my picture would not be complete without the assurance that in these depths I also found bright spots in the form of a rare willingness to make sacrifices, of loyal comradeship, astonishing frugality, and modest reserve, especially among the older workers. Even though these virtues were steadily vanishing in the younger generation, if only through the general effects of the big city, there were many, even among the young men, whose healthy blood managed to dominate the foul tricks of life. If in their political activity, these good, often kind-hearted people nevertheless joined the mortal enemies of our nationality, thus helping to cement their ranks, the reason was that they neither understood nor could understand the baseness of the new doctrine, and that no one else took the trouble to bother about them, and finally that the social conditions were stronger than any will to the contrary that may have been present. The poverty to which they sooner or later succumbed drove them into the camp of the Social Democracy.
Since on innumerable occasions the bourgeoisie has in the clumsiest and most immoral way opposed demands which were justified from the universal human point of view, often without obtaining or even justifiably expecting any profit from such an attitude, even the most self-respecting worker was driven out of the trade-union organization into political activity.
Millions of workers, I am sure, started out as enemies of the Social Democratic Party in their innermost soul, but their resistance was overcome in a way which was sometimes utterly insane; that is, when the bourgeois parties adopted a hostile attitude toward every demand of a social character. Their simple, narrow-minded rejection of all attempts to better working conditions, to introduce safety devices on machines, to prohibit child labor and protect the woman, at least in the months when she was bearing the future national comrade under her heart, contributed to drive the masses into the net of Social Democracy which gratefully snatched at every case of such a disgraceful attitude. Never can our political bourgeoisie make good its sins in this direction, for by resisting all attempts to do away with social abuses, they sowed hatred and seemed to justify even the assertions of the mortal enemies of the entire nation, to the effect that only the Social Democratic Party represented the interests of the working people.
Thus, to begin with, they created the moral basis for the actual existence of the trade unions, the organization which has always been the most effective pander to the political party.
In my Viennese years I was forced, whether I liked it or not, to take a position on the trade unions.
Since I regarded them as an inseparable ingredient of the Social Democratic Party as such, my decision was instantaneous and mistaken.
I flatly rejected them without thinking.
And in this infinitely important question, as in so many others, Fate itself became my instructor.
The result was a reversal of my first judgment.
By my twentieth year I had learned to distinguish between a union as a means of defending the general social rights of the wage-earner, and obtaining better living conditions for him as an individual, and the trade union as an instrument of the party in the political class struggle.
The fact that Social Democracy understood the enormous importance of the trade-union movement assured it of this instrument and hence of success; the fact that the bourgeoisie were not aware of this cost them their political position. They thought they could stop a logical development by means of an impertinent 'rejection,' but in reality they only forced it into illogical channels. For to call the trade-union movement in itself unpatriotic is nonsense and untrue to boot. Rather the contrary is true. If trade-union activity strives and succeeds in bettering the lot of a class which is one of the basic supports of the nation, its work is not only not anti-patriotic or seditious, but 'national' in the truest sense of the word. For in this way it helps to create the social premises without which a general national education is unthinkable. It wins the highest merit by eliminating social cankers, attacking intellectual as well as physical infections, and thus helping to contribute to the general health of the body politic.
Consequently, the question of their necessity is really superfluous.
As long as there are employers with little social understanding or a deficient sense of justice and propriety, it is not only the right but the duty of their employees, who certainly constitute a part of our nationality, to protect the interests of the general public against the greed and unreason of the individual; for the preservation of loyalty and faith in a social group is just as much to the interest of a nation as the preservation of the people's health.
Both of these are seriously menaced by unworthy employers who do not feel themselves to be members of the national community as a whole. From the disastrous effects of their greed or ruthlessness grow profound evils for the future.
To eliminate the causes of such a development is to do a service to the nation and in no sense the opposite.
Let no one say that every individual is free to draw the consequences from an actual or supposed injustice; in other words, to leave his job. No! This is shadow-boxing and must be regarded as an attempt to divert attention. Either the elimination of bad, unsocial conditions serves the interest of the nation or it does not. If it does, the struggle against them must be carried on with weapons which offer the hope of success. The individual worker, however, is never in a position to defend himself against the power of the great industrialist, for in such matters it cannot be superior justice that conquers (if that were recognized, the whole struggle would stop from lack of cause) - no, what matters here is superior power. Otherwise the sense of justice alone would bring the struggle to a fair conclusion, or, more accurately speaking, the struggle could never arise.
No, if the unsocial or unworthy treatment of men calls for resistance, this struggle, as long as no legal judicial authorities have been created for the elimination of these evils, can only be decided by superior power. And this makes it obvious that the power of the employer concentrated in a single person can only be countered by the mass of employees banded into a single person, if the possibility of a victory is not to be renounced in advance.
Thus, trade-union organization can lead to a strengthening of the social idea in its practical effects on daily life, and thereby to an elimination of irritants which are constantly giving cause for dissatisfaction and complaints.
If this is not the case, it is to a great extent the fault of those who have been able to place obstacles in the path of any legal regulation of social evils or thwart them by means of their political influence.
Proportionately as the political bourgeoisie did not understand, or rather did not want to understand, the importance of trade-union organization, and resisted it, the Social Democrats took possession of the contested movement. Thus, far-sightedly it created a firm foundation which on several critical occasions has stood up when all other supports failed. In this way the intrinsic purpose was gradually submerged, making place for new aims.
It never occurred to the Social Democrats to limit the movement they had thus captured to its original task.
No, that was far from their intention.
In a few decades the weapon for defending the social rights of man had, in their experienced hands? become an instrument for the destruction of the national economy. And they did not let themselves be hindered in the least by the interests of the workers. For in politics, as in other fields, the use of economic pressure always permits blackmail, as long as the necessary unscrupulousness is present on the one side, and sufficient sheeplike patience on the other.
Something which in this case was true of both sides
By the turn of the century, the trade-union movement had ceased to serve its former function. From year to year it had entered more and more into the sphere of Social Democratic politics and finally had no use except as a battering-ram in the class struggle. Its purpose was to cause the collapse of the whole arduously constructed economic edifice by persistent blows, thus, the more easily, after removing its economic foundations, to prepare the same lot for the edifice of state. Less and less attention was paid to defending the real needs of the working class, and finally political expediency made it seem undesirable to relieve the social or cultural miseries of the broad masses at all, for otherwise there was a risk that these masses, satisfied in their desires could no longer be used forever as docile shocktroops.
The leaders of the class struggle looked on this development with such dark foreboding and dread that in the end they rejected any really beneficial social betterment out of hand, and actually attacked it with the greatest determination.
And they were never at a loss for an explanation of a line of behavior which seemed so inexplicable.
By screwing the demands higher and higher, they made their possible fulfillment seem so trivial and unimportant that they were able at all timesto tell the masses that they were dealing with nothing but a diabolical attempt to weaken, if possible in fact to paralyze, the offensive power of the working class in the cheapest way, by such a ridiculous satisfaction of the most elementary rights. In view of the great masses' small capacity for thought, we need not be surprised at the success of these methods.
The bourgeois camp was indignant at this obvious insincerity of Social Democratic tactics, but did not draw from it the slightest inference with regard to their own conduct. The Social Democrats' fear of really raising the working class out of the depths of their cultural and social misery should have inspired the greatest exertions in this very direction, thus gradually wrestling the weapon from the hands of the advocates of the class struggle.
This, however, was not done.
Instead of attacking and seizing the enemy's position, the bourgeoisie preferred to let themselves be pressed to the wall and finally had recourse to utterly inadequate makeshifts, which remained ineffectual because they came too late, and, moreover, were easy to reject because they were too insignificant. Thus, in reality, everything remained as before, except that the discontent was greater.
Like a menacing storm-cloud, the 'free trade union' hung, even then, over the political horizon and the existence of the individual.
It was one of the most frightful instruments of terror against the security and independence of the national economy, the solidity of the state, and personal freedom.
And chiefly this was what made the concept of democracy a sordid and ridiculous phrase, and held up brotherhood to everlasting scorn in the words: 'And if our comrade you won't be, we'll bash your head in-one, two,three!'
And that was how I became acquainted with this friend of humanity. In the course of the years my view was broadened and deepened, but I have had no need to change it. The greater insight I gathered into the external character of Social Democracy, the greater became my longing to comprehend the inner core of this doctrine. The official party literature was not much use for this purpose. Insofar as it deals with economic questions, its assertions and proofs are false; insofar as it treats of political aims, it lies. Moreover, I was inwardly repelled by the newfangled pettifogging phraseology and the style in which it was written. With an enormous expenditure of words, unclear in content or incomprehensible as to meaning, they stammer an endless hodgepodge of phrases purportedly as witty as in reality they are meaningless. Only our decadent metropolitan bohemians can feel at home in this maze of reasoning and cull an 'inner experience' from this dung-heap of literary dadaism, supported by the proverbial modesty of a section of our people who always detect profound wisdom in what is most incomprehensible to them personally. However, by balancing the theoretical untruth and nonsense of this doctrine with the reality of the phenomenon, I gradually obtained a clear picture of its intrinsic will.
At such times I was overcome by gloomy foreboding and malignant fear. Then I saw before me a doctrine, comprised of egotism and hate, which can lead to victory pursuant to mathematical laws, but in so doing must put an end to humanity.
Meanwhile, I had learned to understand the connection between this doctrine of destruction and the nature of a people of which, up to that time, I had known next to nothing.
Only a knowledge of the Jews provides the key with which to comprehend the inner, and consequently real, aims of Social Democracy.
The erroneous conceptions of the aim and meaning of this party fall from our eyes like veils, once we come to know this people, and from the fog and mist of social phrases rises the leering grimace of Marxism.
Today it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to say when the word 'Jew ' first gave me ground for special thoughts. At home I do not remember having heard the word during my father's lifetime. I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded any special emphasis on this term as cultural backwardness. In the course of his life he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent.
Likewise at school I found no occasion which could have led me to change this inherited picture.
At the Realschule, to be sure, I did meet one Jewish boy who was treated by all of us with caution, but only because various experiences had led us to doubt his discretion and we did not particularly trust him; but neither I nor the others had any thoughts on the matter.
Not until my fourteenth or fifteenth year did I begin to come across the word 'Jew,' with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions. This filled me with a mild distaste, and I could not rid myself of an unpleasant feeling that always came over me whenever religious quarrels occurred in my presence.
At that time I did not think anything else of the question.
There were few Jews in Linz. In the course of the centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanized and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans. The absurdity of this idea did not dawn on me because I saw no distinguishing feature but the strange religion. The fact that they had, as I believed, been persecuted on this account sometimes almost turned my distaste at unfavorable remarks about them into horror.
Thus far I did not so much as suspect the existence of an organized opposition to the Jews.
Then I came to Vienna.
Preoccupied by the abundance of my impressions in the architectural field, oppressed by the hardship of my own lot, I gained at first no insight into the inner stratification of the people in this gigantic city. Notwithstanding that Vienna in those days counted nearly two hundred thousand Jews among its two million inhabitants, I did not see them. In the first few weeks my eyes and my senses were not equal to the flood of values and ideas. Not until calm gradually returned and the agitated picture began to clear did I look around me more carefully in my new world, and then among other things I encountered the Jewish question.
I cannot maintain that the way in which I became acquainted with them struck me as particularly pleasant. For the Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. Consequently, the tone, particularly that of the Viennese anti-Semitic press, seemed to me unworthy of the cultural tradition of a great nation. I was oppressed by the memory of certain occurrences in the Middle Ages, whichI should not have liked to see repeated. Since the newspapers in question did not enjoy an outstanding reputation (the reason for this, at that time,I myself did not precisely know), I regarded them more as the products of anger and envy than the results of a principled though perhaps mistaken, point of view.
I was reinforced in this opinion by what seemed to me the far more dignified form in which the really big papers answered all these attacks, or, what seemed to me even more praiseworthy, failed to mention them; in other words, simply killed them with silence.
I zealously read the so-called world press (Neue Freie Presse, Wiener Tageblatt, etc.) and was amazed at the scope of what they offered their readers and the objectivity of individual articles. I respected the exalted tone, though the flamboyance of the style sometimes caused me inner dissatisfaction, or even struck me unpleasantly. Yet this may have been due to the rhythm of life in the whole metropolis.
Since in those days I saw Vienna in that light, I thought myself justified in accepting this explanation of mine as a valid excuse.
But what sometimes repelled me was the undignified fashion in which this press curried favor with the Court. There was scarcely an event in the Hofburg which was not imparted to the readers either with raptures of enthusiasm or plaintive emotion, and all this to-do, particularly when it dealt with the 'wisest monarch' of all time, almost reminded me of the mating cry of a mountain cock.
To me the whole thing seemed artificial.
In my eyes it was a blemish upon liberal democracy.
To curry favor with this Court and in such indecent forms was to sacrifice the dignity of the nation.
This was the first shadow to darken my intellectual relationship with the 'big' Viennese press.
As I had always done before, I continued in Vienna to follow events in Germany with ardent zeal, quite regardless whether they were political or cultural. With pride and admiration, I compared the rise of the Reich with the wasting away of the Austrian state. If events in the field of foreign politics filled me, by and large, with undivided joy, the less gratifying aspects of internal life often aroused anxiety and gloom. The struggle which at that time was being carried on against William II did not meet with my approval. I regarded him not only as the German Emperor, but first and foremost as the creator of a German fleet. The restrictions of speech imposed on the Kaiser by the Reichstag angered me greatly because they emanated from a source which in my opinion really hadn't a leg to stand on, since in a single session these parliamentarian imbeciles gabbled more nonsense than a whole dynasty of emperors, including its very weakest numbers, could ever have done in centuries.
I was outraged that in a state where every idiot not only claimed the right to criticize, but was given a seat in the Reichstag and let loose upon the nation as a 'lawgiver,' the man who bore the imperial crown had to take 'reprimands' from the greatest babblers' club of all time.
But I was even more indignant that the same Viennese press which made the most obsequious bows to every rickety horse in the Court, and flew into convulsions of joy if he accidentally swished his tail, should, with supposed concern, yet, as it seemed to me, ill-concealed malice, express its criticisms of the German Kaiser. Of course it had no intention of interfering with conditions within the German Reich - oh, no, God forbid - but by placing its finger on these wounds in the friendliest way, it was fulfilling the duty imposed by the spirit of the mutual alliance, and, conversely, fulfilling the requirements of journalistic truth, etc. And now it was poking this finger around in the wound to its heart's content.
In such cases the blood rose to my head.
It was this which caused me little by little to view the big papers with greater caution.
And on one such occasion I was forced to recognize that one of the anti-Semitic papers, the Deutsches Volksblatt, behaved more decently.
Another thing that got on my nerves was the loathsome cult for France which the big press, even then, carried on. A man couldn't help feeling ashamed to be a German when he saw these saccharine hymns of praise to the 'great cultural nation.' This wretched licking of France's boots more than once made me throw down one of these 'world newspapers.' And on such occasions I sometimes picked up the Volksblatt, which, to be sure, seemed to me much smaller, but in these matters somewhat more appetizing. I was not in agreement with the sharp anti-Semitic tone, but from time to time I read arguments which gave me some food for thought.
At all events, these occasions slowly made me acquainted with the man and the movement, which in those days guided Vienna's destinies: Dr. Karl Lueger I and the Christian Social Party.
When I arrived in Vienna, I was hostile to both of them.
The man and the movement seemed 'reactionary' in my eyes.
My common sense of justice, however, forced me to change this judgment in proportion as I had occasion to become acquainted with the man and his work; and slowly my fair judgment turned to unconcealed admiration. Today, more than ever, I regard this man as the greatest German mayor of all times.
How many of my basic principles were upset by this change in my attitude toward the Christian Social movement!
My views with regard to anti-Semitism thus succumbed to the passage of time, and this was my greatest transformation of all.
It cost me the greatest inner soul struggles, and only after months of battle between my reason and my sentiments did my reason begin to emerge victorious. Two years later, my sentiment had followed my reason, and from then on became its most loyal guardian and sentinel.
At the time of this bitter struggle between spiritual education and cold reason, the visual instruction of the Vienna streets had performed invaluable services. There came a time when I no longer, as in the first days, wandered blindly through the mighty city; now with open eyes I saw not only the buildings but also the people.
Once, as I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought.
For, to be sure, they had not looked like that in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form:
Is this a German?
As always in such cases, I now began to try to relieve my doubts by books. For a few hellers I bought the first anti-Semitic pamphlets of my life. Unfortunately, they all proceeded from the supposition that in principle the reader knew or even understood the Jewish question to a certain degree. Besides, the tone for the most part was such that doubts again arose in me, due in part to the dull and amazingly unscientific arguments favoring the thesis.
I relapsed for weeks at a time, once even for months.
The whole thing seemed to me so monstrous, the accusations so boundless, that, tormented by the fear of doing injustice, I again became anxious and uncertain.
Yet I could no longer very well doubt that the objects of my study were not Germans of a special religion, but a people in themselves; for since I had begun to concern myself with this question and to take cognizance of the Jews, Vienna appeared to me in a different light than before. Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. Particularly the Inner City and the districts north of the Danube Canal swarmed with a people which even outwardly had lost all resemblance to Germans.
And whatever doubts I may still have nourished were finally dispelled by the attitude of a portion of the Jews themselves.
Among them there was a great movement, quite extensive in Vienna, which came out sharply in confirmation of the national character of the Jews: this was the Zionists.
It looked to be sure, as though only a part of the Jews approved this viewpoint, while the great majority condemned and inwardly rejected such a formulation. But when examined more closely, this appearance dissolved itself into an unsavory vapor of pretexts advanced for mere reasons of expedience, not to say lies. For the so-called liberal Jews did not reject the Zionists as non-Jews, but only as Jews with an impractical, perhaps even dangerous, way of publicly avowing their Jewishness.
Intrinsically they remained unalterably of one piece.
In a short time this apparent struggle between Zionistic and liberal Jews disgusted me; for it was false through and through, founded on lies and scarcely in keeping with the moral elevation and purity always claimed by this people.
The cleanliness of this people, moral and otherwise, I must say, is a point in itself. By their very exterior you could tell that these were no lovers of water, and, to your distress, you often knew it with your eyes closed. Later I often grew sick to my stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers. Added to this, there was their unclean dress and their generally unheroic appearance.
All this could scarcely be called very attractive; but it became positively repulsive when, in addition to their physical uncleanliness, you discovered the moral stains on this 'chosen people.'
In a short time I was made more thoughtful than ever by my slowly rising insight into the type of activity carried on by the Jews in certain fields. Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it?
If you cut even cautiously into such an abscess, you found, like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the sudden light - a kike!
What had to be reckoned heavily against the Jews in my eyes was when I became acquainted with their activity in the press, art, literature, and the theater. All the unctuous reassurances helped little or nothing. It sufficed to look at a billboard, to study the names of the men behind the horrible trash they advertised, to make you hard for a long time to come. This was pestilence, spiritual pestilence, worse than the Black Death of olden times, and the people was being infected with it! It goes without saying that the lower the intellectual level of one of these art manufacturers, the more unlimited his fertility will be, and the scoundrel ends up like a garbage separator, splashing his filth in the face of humanity. And bear in mind that there is no limit to their number; bear in mind that for one Goethe Nature easily can foist on the world ten thousand of these scribblers who poison men's souls like germ-carriers of the worse sort, on their fellow men.
It was terrible, but not to be overlooked, that precisely the Jew, in tremendous numbers, seemed chosen by Nature for this shameful calling.
Is this why the Jews are called the 'chosen people'?
I now began to examine carefully the names of all the creators of unclean products in public artistic life. The result was less and less favorable for my previous attitude toward the Jews. Regardless how my sentiment might resists my reason was forced to draw its conclusions.
The fact that nine tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash, and theatrical idiocy can be set to the account of a people, constituting hardly one hundredth of all the country's inhabitants, could simply not be tanked away; it was the plain truth.
And I now began to examine my beloved 'world press' from this point of view.
And the deeper I probed, the more the object of my former admiration shriveled. The style became more and more unbearable; I could not help rejecting the content as inwardly shallow and banal; the objectivity of exposition now seemed to me more akin to lies than honest truth; and the writers were Jews.
A thousand things which I had hardly seen before now struck my notice, and others, which had previously given me food for thought, I now learned to grasp and understand.
I now saw the liberal attitude of this press in a different light; the lofty tone in which it answered attacks and its method of I killing them with silence now revealed itself to me as a trick as clever as it was treacherous; the transfigured raptures of their theatrical critics were always directed at Jewish writers, and their disapproval never struck anyone but Germans. The gentle pinpricks against William II revealed its methods by their persistency, and so did its commendation of French culture and civilization. The trashy content of the short story now appeared to me as outright indecency, and in the language I detected the accents of a foreign people; the sense of the whole thing was so obviously hostile to Germanism that this could only have been intentional.
But who had an interest in this?
Was all this a mere accident?
Gradually I became uncertain.
The development was accelerated by insights which I gained into a number of other matters. I am referring to the general view of ethics and morals which was quite openly exhibited by a large part of the Jews, and the practical application of which could be seen.
Here again the streets provided an object lesson of a sort which was sometimes positively evil.
The relation of the Jews to prostitution and, even more, to the white-slave traffic, could be studied in Vienna as perhaps in no other city of Western Europe, with the possible exception of the southern French ports. If you walked at night through the streets and alleys of Leopoldstadtat every step you witnessed proceedings which remained concealed from the majority of the German people until the War gave the soldiers on the eastern front occasion to see similar things, or, better expressed, forced them to see them.
When thus for the first time I recognized the Jew as the cold-hearted, shameless, and calculating director of this revolting vice traffic in the scum of the big city, a cold shudder ran down my back.
But then a flame flared up within me. I no longer avoided discussion of the Jewish question; no, now I sought it. And when I learned to look for the Jew in all branches of cultural and artistic life and its various manifestations, I suddenly encountered him in a place where I would least have expected to find him.
When I recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy, the scales dropped from my eyes. A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion.
Even in my daily relations with my fellow workers, I observed the amazing adaptability with which they adopted different positions on the same question, sometimes within an interval of a few days, sometimes in only a few hours. It was hard for me to understand how people who, when spoken to alone, possessed some sensible opinions, suddenly lost them as soon as they came under the influence of the masses. It was often enough to make one despair. When, after hours of argument, I was convinced that now at last I had broken the ice or cleared up some absurdity, and was beginning to rejoice at my success, on the next day to my disgust I had to begin all over again; it had all been in vain. Like an eternal pendulum their opinions seemed to swing back again and again to the old madness.
All this I could understand: that they were dissatisfied with their lot and cursed the Fate which often struck them so harshly; that they hated the employers who seemed to them the heartless bailiffs of Fate; that they cursed the authorities who in their eyes were without feeling for their situation; that they demonstrated against food prices and carried their demands into the streets: this much could be understood without recourse to reason. But what inevitably remained incomprehensible was the boundless hatred they heaped upon their own nationality, despising its greatness, besmirching its history, and dragging its great men into the gutter.
This struggle against their own species, their own clan, their own homeland, was as senseless as it was incomprehensible. It was unnatural.
It was possible to cure them temporarily of this vice, but only for days or at most weeks. If later you met the man you thought you had converted, he was just the same as before.
His old unnatural state had regained full possession of him.
I gradually became aware that the Social Democratic press was directed predominantly by Jews; yet I did not attribute any special significance to this circumstance, since conditions were exactly the same in the other papers. Yet one fact seemed conspicuous: there was not one paper with Jews working on it which could have been regarded as truly national according to my education and way of thinking.
I swallowed my disgust and tried to read this type of Marxist press production, but my revulsion became so unlimited in so doing that I endeavored to become more closely acquainted with the men who manufactured these compendiums of knavery.
From the publisher down, they were all Jews.
I took all the Social Democratic pamphlets I could lay hands on and sought the names of their authors: Jews. I noted the names of the leaders; by far the greatest part were likewise members of the 'chosen people,' whether they were representatives in the Reichsrat or trade-union secretaries, the heads of organizations or street agitators. It was always the same gruesome picture. The names of the Austerlitzes, Davids, Adlers, Ellenbogens, etc., will remain forever graven in my memory. One thing had grown dear to me: the party with whose petty representatives I had been carrying on the most violent struggle for months was, as to leadership, almost exclusively in the hands of a foreign people; for, to my deep and joyful satisfaction, I had at last come to the conclusion that the Jew was no German.
Only now did I become thoroughly acquainted with the seducer of our people.
A single year of my sojourn in Vienna had sufficed to imbue me with the conviction that no worker could be so stubborn that he would not in the end succumb to better knowledge and better explanations. Slowly I had become an expert in their own doctrine and used it as a weapon in the struggle for my own profound conviction.
Success almost always favored my side.
The great masses could be saved, if only with the gravest sacrifice in time and patience.
But a Jew could never be parted from his opinions.
At that time I was still childish enough to try to make the madness of their doctrine clear to them; in my little circle I talked my tongue sore and my throat hoarse, thinking I would inevitably succeed in convincing them how ruinous their Marxist madness was; but what I accomplished was often the opposite. It seemed as though their increased understanding of the destructive effects of Social Democratic theories and their results only reinforced their determination.
The more I argued with them, the better I came to know their dialectic. First they counted on the stupidity of their adversary, and then, when there was no other way out, they themselves simply played stupid. If all this didn't help, they pretended not to understand, or, if challenged, they changed the subject in a hurry, quoted platitudes which, if you accepted them, they immediately related to entirely different matters, and then, if again attacked, gave ground and pretended not to know exactly what you were talking about. Whenever you tried to attack one of these apostles, your hand closed on a jelly-like slime which divided up and poured through your fingers, but in the next moment collected again. But if you really struck one of these fellows so telling a blow that, observed by the audience, he couldn't help but agree, and if you believed that this had taken you at least one step forward, your amazement was great the next day. The Jew had not the slightest recollection of the day before, he rattled off his same old nonsense as though nothing at all had happened, and, if indignantly challenged, affected amazement; he couldn't remember a thing, except that he had proved the correctness of his assertions the previous day.
Sometimes I stood there thunderstruck.
I didn't know what to be more amazed at: the agility of their tongues or their virtuosity at lying.
Gradually I began to hate them.
All this had but one good side: that in proportion as the real leaders or at least the disseminators of Social Democracy came within my vision, my love for my people inevitably grew. For who, in view of the diabolical craftiness of these seducers, could damn the luckless victims? How hard it was, even for me, to get the better of this race of dialectical liars! And how futile was such success in dealing with people who twist the truth in your mouth who without so much as a blush disavow the word they have just spoken, and in the very next minute take credit for it after all.
No. The better acquainted I became with the Jew, the more forgiving I inevitably became toward the worker. In my eyes the gravest fault was no longer with him, but with all those who did not regard it as worth the trouble to have mercy on him, with iron righteousness giving the son of the people his just deserts, and standing the seducer and corrupter up against the wall.
Inspired by the experience of daily life, I now began to track down the sources of the Marxist doctrine. Its effects had become clear to me in individual cases; each day its success was apparent to my attentive eyes, and, with some exercise of my imagination, I was able to picture the consequences. The only remaining question was whether the result of their action in its ultimate form had existed in the mind's eye of the creators, or whether they themselves were the victims of an error.
I felt that both were possible.
In the one case it was the duty of every thinking man to force himself to the forefront of the ill-starred movement, thus perhaps averting catastrophe; in the other, however, the original founders of this plague of the nations must have been veritable devils - for only in the brain of a monster - not that of a man - could the plan of an organization assume form and meaning, whose activity must ultimately result in the collapse of human civilization and the consequent devastation of the world.
In this case the only remaining hope was struggle, struggle with all the weapons which the human spirit, reason, and will can devise, regardless on which side of the scale Fate should lay its blessing.
Thus I began to make myself familiar with the founders of this doctrine, in order to study the foundations of the movement. If I reached my goal more quickly than at first I had perhaps ventured to believe, it was thanks to my newly acquired, though at that time not very profound, knowledge of the Jewish question. This alone enabled me to draw a practical comparison between the reality and the theoretical flim-flam of the founding fathers of Social Democracy, since it taught me to understand the language of the Jewish people, who speak in order to conceal or at least to veil their thoughts; their real aim is not therefore to be found in the lines themselves, but slumbers well concealed between them.
For or me this was the time of the greatest spiritual upheaval I have ever had to go through.
I had ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and become an anti-Semite.
Just once more-and this was the last time-fearful, oppressive thoughts came to me in profound anguish.
When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there rose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable Destiny, perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation.
Was it possible that the earth had been promised as a reward to this people which lives only for this earth?
Have we an objective right to struggle for our self-preservation, or is this justified only subjectively within ourselves?
As I delved more deeply into the teachings of Marxism and thus in tranquil clarity submitted the deeds of the Jewish people to contemplation, Fate itself gave me its answer.
The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significance of nationality and race, and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and its culture. As a foundation of the universe, this doctrine would bring about the end of any order intellectually conceivable to man. And as, in this greatest of all recognizable organisms, the result of an application of such a law could only be chaos, on earth it could only be destruction for the inhabitants of this planet.
If, with the help of his Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men.
Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands.
Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
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A hard copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is available from National Vanguard Books. The link will take you to their catalog, where both English and German editions are offered under the Western Philosophy and Ideology section.