Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
Volume One - A Reckoning
Chapter I: In The House Of My Parents
TODAY it seems to me providential that Fate should have chosen
Braunau on the Inn as my birthplace. For this little town lies on the boundary
between two German states which we of the younger generation at least have
made it our life work to reunite by every means at our disposal.
German-Austria must return to the great German mother country,
and not because of any economic considerations. No, and again no: even if
such a union were unimportant from an economic point of view; yes, even
if it were harmful, it must nevertheless take place. One blood demands one
Reich. Never will the German nation possess the moral right to engage in
colonial politics until, at least, it embraces its own sons within a single
state. Only when the Reich borders include the very last German, but can
no longer guarantee his daily bread, will the moral right to acquire foreign
soil arise from the distress of our own people. Their sword will become
our plow, and from the tears of war the daily bread of future generations
will grow. And so this little city on the border seems to me the symbol
of a great mission. And in another respect as well, it looms as an admonition
to the present day. More than a hundred years ago, this insignificant place
had the distinction of being immortalized in the annals at least of German
history, for it was the scene of a tragic catastrophe which gripped the
entire German nation. At the time of our fatherland's deepest humiliation,
Johannes Palm of Nuremberg, burgher, bookseller, uncompromising nationalist
and French hater, died there for the Germany which he loved so passionately
even in her misfortune. He had stubbornly refused to denounce his accomplices
who were in fact his superiors. In thus he resembled Leo Schlageter. And
like him, he was denounced to the French by a representative of his government
An Augsburg police chief won this unenviable fame, thus furnishing an example
for our modern German officials in Herr Severing's Reich.
In this little town on the Inn, gilded by the rays of German
martyrdom, Bavarian by blood, technically Austrian, lived my parents in
the late eighties of the past century; my father a dutiful civil servants
my mother giving all her being to the household, and devoted above all to
us children in eternal, loving care Little remains in my memory of this
period, for after a few years my father had to leave the little border city
he had learned to love, moving down the Inn to take a new position in Passau,
that is, in Germany proper.
In those days constant moving was the lot of an Austrian customs
official. A short time later, my father was sent to Linz, and there he was
finally pensioned. Yet, indeed, this was not to mean "res"' for
the old gentleman. In his younger days, as the son of a poor cottager, he
couldn't bear to stay at home. Before he was even thirteen, the little boy
laced his tiny knapsack and ran away from his home in the Waldviertel. Despite
the at tempts of 'experienced' villagers to dissuade him, he made his way
to Vienna, there to learn a trade. This was in the fifties of the past century.
A desperate decision, to take to the road with only three gulden for travel
money, and plunge into the unknown. By the time the thirteen-year-old grew
to be seventeen, he had passed his apprentice's examination, but he was
not yet content. On the contrary. The long period of hardship, endless misery,
and suffering he had gone through strengthened his determination to give
up his trade and become ' something better. Formerly the poor boy had regarded
the priest as the embodiment of all humanly attainable heights; now in the
big city, which had so greatly widened his perspective, it was the rank
of civil servant. With all the tenacity of a young man whom suffering and
care had made 'old' while still half a child, the seventeen-year-old clung
to his new decision-he did enter the civil service. And after nearly twenty-three
years, I believe, he reached his goal. Thus he seemed to have fulfilled
a vow which he had made as a poor boy: that he would not return to his beloved
native village until he had made something of himself.
His goal was achieved; but no one in the village could remember
the little boy of former days, and to him the village had grown strange.
When finally, at the age of fifty-six, he went into retirement,
he could not bear to spend a single day of his leisure in idleness. Near
the Upper Austrian market village of Lambach he bought a farm, which he
worked himself, and thus, in the circuit of a long and industrious life,
returned to the origins of his forefathers.
It was at this time that the first ideals took shape in my breast.
All my playing about in the open, the long walk to school, and particularly
my association with extremely 'husky' boys, which sometimes caused my mother
bitter anguish, made me the very opposite of a stay-at-home. And though
at that time I scarcely had any serious ideas as to the profession I should
one day pursue, my sympathies were in any case not in the direction of my
father's career. I believe that even then my oratorical talent was being
developed in the form of more or less violent arguments with my schoolmates.
I had become a little ringleader; at school I learned easily and at that
time very well, but was otherwise rather hard to handle. Since in my free
time I received singing lessons in the cloister at Lambach, I had excellent
opportunity to intoxicate myself with the solemn splendor of the brilliant
church festivals. As was only natural the abbot seemed to me, as the village
priest had once seemed to my father, the highest and most desirable ideal.
For a time, at least, this was the case. But since my father, for understandable
reasons, proved unable to appreciate the oratorical talents of his pugnacious
boy, or to draw from them any favorable conclusions regarding the future
of his offspring, he could, it goes without saying, achieve no understanding
for such youthful ideas. With concern he observed this conflict of nature.
As it happened, my temporary aspiration for this profession
was in any case soon to vanish, making place for hopes more stated to my
temperament. Rummaging through my father's library, I had come across various
books of a military nature among them a popular edition of the Franco-German
War of 1870-7I It consisted of two issues of an illustrated periodical from
those years, which now became my favorite reading matter It was not long
before the great heroic struggle had become my greatest inner experience.
From then on I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was
in any way connected with war or, for that matter, with soldiering
But in another respect as well, this was to assume importance
for me. For the first time, though as yet in a confused form, the question
was forced upon my consciousness: Was there a difference -and if so what
difference-between the Germans who fought these battles and other Germans?
Why hadn't Austria taken part in this war; why hadn't my father and all
the others fought?
Are we not the same as all other Germans?
Do we not all belong together? This problem began to gnaw at
my little brain for the first time. I asked cautious questions and with
secret envy received the answer that not every German was fortunate enough
to belong to Bismarck's Reich..
This was more than I could understand.
It was decided that I should go to high school.
From my whole nature, and to an even greater degree from my
temperament, my father believed he could draw the inference that the humanistic
Gymnasium would represent a conflict with my talents. A Realschol seemed
to him more suitable. In this opinion he was especially strengthened by
my obvious aptitude for drawing; a subject which in his opinion was neglected
in the Austrian Gymnasiums. Another factor may have been his own laborious
career which made humanistic study seem impractical in his eyes, and therefore
less desirable. It was hus basic opinion and intention that, like himself,
his son would and must become a civil servant. It was only natural that
the hardships of his youth should enhance his subsequent achievement in
his eyes, particularly since it resulted exclusively from his own energy
and iron diligence. It was the pride of the self-made man which made him
want his son to rise to the same position in life, orJ of course, even higher
if possible, especially since, by his own industrious life, he thought he
would be able to facilitate his child's development so greatly.
It was simply inconceivable to him that I might reject what
had become the content of his whole life. Consequently, my father s decision
was simple, definite, and clear; in his own eyes I mean, of course. Finally,
a whole lifetime spent in the bitter struggle for existence had given him
a domineering nature, and it would have seemed intolerable to him to leave
the final decision in such matters to an inexperienced boy, having as yet
no Sense of responsibility. Moreover, this would have seemed a sinful and
reprehensible weakness in the exercise of his proper parental authority
and responsibility for the future life of his child, and as such, absolutely
incompatible with his concept of duty.
And yet things were to turn out differently.
Then barely eleven years old, I was forced into opposition for
the first time in my life. Hard and determined as my father might be in
putting through plans and purposes once conceived his son was just as persistent
and recalcitrant in rejecting an idea which appealed to him not at all,
or in any case very little.
I did not want to become a civil servant.
Neither persuasion nor 'serious' arguments made any impression
on my resistance. I did not want to be a civil servant no, and again no.
All attempts on my father's part to inspire me with love or pleasure in
this profession by stories from his own life accomplished the exact opposite.
I yawned and grew sick to my stomach at the thought of sitting in an office,
deprived of my liberty; ceasing to be master of my own time and being compelled
to force the content of a whole life into blanks that had to be filled out.
And what thoughts could this prospect arouse in a boy who in
reality was really anything but 'good' in the usual sense of the word?
School work was ridiculously easy, leaving me so much free time that the
sun saw more of me than my room. When today my political opponents direct
their loving attention to the examination of my life, following it back
to those childhood days and discover at last to their relief what intolerable
pranks this "Hitler" played even in his youth, I thank Heaven
that a portion of the memories of those happy days still remains with me.
Woods and meadows were then the battlefields on which the 'conflicts' which
exist everywhere in life were decided.
In this respect my attendance at the Realschule, which now commenced,
made little difference.
But now, to be sure, there was a new conflict to be fought out.
As long as my fathers intention of making me a civil servant
encountered only my theoretical distaste for the profession, the conflict
was bearable. Thus far, I had to some extent been able to keep my private
opinions to myself; I did not always have to contradict him immediately.
My own firm determination never to become a civil servant sufficed to give
me complete inner peace. And this decision in me was immutable. The problem
became more difficult when I developed a plan of my own in opposition to
my father's. And this occurred at the early age of twelve. How it happened,
I myself do not know, but one day it became clear to me that I would become
a painter, an artist. There was no doubt as to my talent for drawing; it
had been one of my father's reasons for sending me to the Realschule, but
never in all the world would it have occurred to him to give me professional
training in this direction. On the contrary. When for the first time, after
once again rejecting my father's favorite notion, I was asked what I myself
wanted to be, and I rather abruptly blurted out the decision I had meanwhile
made, my father for the moment was struck speechless.
' Painter? Artist? '
He doubted my sanity, or perhaps he thought he had heard wrong
or misunderstood me. But when he was clear on the subject, and particularly
after he felt-the seriousness of my intention, he opposed it with all the
determination of his nature. His decision was extremely simple, for any
consideration of w at abilities I might really have was simply out of the
'Artist, no, never as long as I live!' But since his son, among
various other qualities, had apparently inherited his father' s stubbornness,
the same answer came back at him. Except, of course, that it was in the
And thus the situation remained on both sides. My father did
not depart from his 'Never!' And I intensified my 'Oh, yes!'
The consequences, indeed, were none too pleasant. The old man
grew embittered, and, much as I loved him, so did I. Ally father forbade
me to nourish the slightest hope of ever being allowed to study art. I went
one step further and declared that if that was the case I would stop studying
altogether. As a result of such 'pronouncements,' of course, I drew the
short end; the old man began the relentless enforcement of his authority.
In the future, therefore, I was silent, but transformed my threat into reality.
I thought that once my father saw how little progress I was making at the
Realschule, he would let me devote myself to my dream, whether he liked
it or not.
I do not know whether this calculation was correct. For the
moment only one thing was certain: my obvious lack of success at school.
What gave me pleasure I learned, especially everything which, in my opinion,
I should later need as a painter. What seemed to me unimportant in this
respect or was otherwise unattractive to me, I sabotaged completely. My
report cards at this time, depending on the subject and my estimation of
it, showed nothing but extremes. Side by side with 'laudable' and 'excellent,'
stood 'adequate' or even 'inadequate.' By far my best accomplishments were
in geography and even more so in history. These were my favorite subjects,
in which I led the; class.
If now, after so many years, I examine the results of this period,
I regard two outstanding facts as particularly significant:
First: I became a nationalist
Second: I learned to understand and grasp the meaning of history.
Old Austria was a 'state of nationalities.'
By and large, a subject of the German Reich, at that time at
least, was absolutely unable to grasp the significance of this fact for
the life of the individual in such a state. After the great victorious campaign
of the heroic armies in the Franco-German War, people had gradually lost
interest in the Germans living abroad; some could not, while others were
unable to appreciate their importances Especially with regard to the GermanAustrians,
the degenerate dynasty was only too frequently confused with the people,
which at the core was robust and healthy.
What they failed to appreciate was that, unless the German in
Austria had really been of the best blood, he would never have had the power
to set his stamp on a nation of fifty-two million souls to such a degree
that, even in Germany, the erroneous opinion could arise that Austria was
a German state. This was an absurdity fraught with the direst consequences,
and yet a glowing testimonial to the ten million Germans in the Ostmark.
Only a handful of Germans in the Reich had the slightest conception of the
eternal and merciless struggle for the German language, German schools,
and a German way of life. Only today, when the same deplorable misery is
forced on many millions of Germans from the Reich, who under foreign rule
dream of their common fatherland and strive, amid their longing, at least
to preserve their holy right to their mother tongue, do wider circles understand
what it means to be forced to fight for one's nationality. Today perhaps
some can appreciate the greatness of the Germans in the Reich's old Ostmark,
who, with no one but themselves to depend on, for centuries protected the
Reich against incursions from the East, and finally carried on an exhausting
guerrilla warfare to maintain the German language frontier, at a time when
the Reich was highly interested in colonies, but not in its own flesh and
blood at its very doorstep.
As everywhere and always, in every struggle, there were, in
this fight for the language in old Austria, three strata:
The fighters, the lukewarm and the traitors.
This sifting process began at school. For the remarkable fact
about the language struggle is that its waves strike hardest perhaps in
the school, since it is the seed-bed of the coming generation. It is a struggle
for the soul of the child, and to the child its first appeal is addressed:
'German boy, do not forget you are a German,' and, 'Little girl,
remember that you are to become a German mother.'
Anyone who knows the soul of youth will be able to understand
that it is they who lend ear most joyfully to such a battle-cry. They carry
on this struggle in hundreds of forms, in their own way and with their own
weapons. They refuse to sing unGerman songs. The more anyone tries to alienate
them from German heroic grandeur, the wilder becomes their enthusiasm: they
go hungry to save pennies for the grown-ups' battle fund their ears are
amazingly sensitive to un-German teachers, and at the same time they are
incredibly resistant; they wear the forbidden insignia of their own nationality
and are happy to be punished or even beaten for it. Thus, on a small scale
they are a faithful reflection of the adults, except that often their convictions
are better and more honest.
I, too, while still comparatively young, had an opportunity
to take part in the struggle of nationalities in old Austria. Collections
were taken for the Sudmark I and the school association; we emphasized our
convictions by wearing corn-flowers and red lack, and gold colors; 'Heil
' was our greeting, and instead of the imperial anthem we sang 'Deutschland
uber Alles,' despite warnings and punishments. In this way the child received
political training in a period when as a rule the subject of a so-called
national state knew little more of his nationality than its language. It
goes without saying that even then I was not among the lukewarm. In a short
time I had become a fanatical 'German Nationalist,' though the term was
not identical with our present party concept.
This development in me made rapid progress; by the time I was
fifteen I understood the difference between dynastic ' patriotism' and folkish
"nationalism'; and even then I was interested only in the latter.
For anyone who has never taken the trouble to study the inner
conditions of the Habsburg monarchy, such a process may not be entirely
understandable. In this country the instruction in world history had to
provide the germ for this development, since to all intents and purposes
there is no such thing as a specifically Austrian history. The destiny of
this state is so much bound up with the life and development of all the
Germans that a separation of history into German and Austrian does not seem
conceivable. Indeed, when at length Germany began to divide into two spheres
of power, this division itself became German history.
The insignia of former imperial glory, preserved in Vienna,
still seem to cast a magic spell; they stand as a pledge that these twofold
destinies are eternally one.
The elemental cry of the German-Austrian people for union with
the German mother country, that arose in the days when the Habsburg state
was collapsing, was the result of a longing that slumbered in the heart
of the entire people-a longing to return to the never-forgotten ancestral
home. But this would be in explicable if the historical education of the
individual GermanAustrian had not given rise to so general a longing. In
it lies a well which never grows dry; which, especially in times of forgetfulness,
transcends all momentary prosperity and by constant reminders of the past
whispers softly of a new future
Instruction in world history in the so-called high schools is
even today in a very sorry condition. Few teachers understand that the aim
of studying history can never be to learn historical dates and events by
heart and recite them by rote; that what matters is not whether the child
knows exactly when this or that battle was fought, when a general was born,
or even when a monarch (usually a very insignificant one) came into the
crown of his forefathers. No, by the living God, this is very unimportant.
To 'learn' history means to seek and find the forces which are
the causes leading to those effects which we subsequently perceive as historical
The art of reading as of learning is this: to retain the essential
to forget the non-essential.
Perhaps it affected my whole later life that good fortune sent
me a history teacher who was one of the few to observe this principle in
teaching and examining. Dr. Leopold Potsch, my professor at the Realschule
in Linz, embodied this requirement to an ideal degree. This old gentleman's
manner was as kind as it was determined, his dazzling eloquence not only
held us spellbound but actually carried us away. Even today I think back
with gentle emotion on this gray-haired man who, by the fire of his narratives,
sometimes made us forget the present; who, as if by enchantment, carried
us into past times and, out of the millennial veils of mist, molded dry
historical memories into living reality. On such occasions we sat there,
often aflame with enthusiasm, and sometimes even moved to tears.
What made our good fortune all the greater was that this teacher
knew how to illuminate the past by examples from the present, and how from
the past to draw inferences for the present. As a result he had more understanding
than anyone else for all the daily problems which then held us breathless.
He used our budding nationalistic fanaticism as a means of educating use
frequently appealing to our sense of national honor. By this alone he was
able to discipline us little ruffians more easily than would have been possible
by any other means.
This teacher made history my favorite subject.
And indeed, though he had no such intention, it was then that
I became a little revolutionary.
For who could have studied German history under such a teacher
without becoming an enemy of the state which, through its ruling house,
exerted so disastrous an influence on the destinies of the nation?
And who could retain his loyalty to a dynasty which in past
and present betrayed the needs of the German people again and again for
shameless private advantage?
Did we not know, even as little boys, that this Austrian state
had and could have no love for us Germans?
Our historical knowledge of the works of the House of Habsburg
was reinforced by our daily experience. In the north and south the poison
of foreign nations gnawed at the body of our nationality, and even Vienna
was visibly becoming more and more of an un-German city. The Royal House
Czechized wherever possible, and it was the hand of the goddess of eternal
justice and inexorable retribution which caused Archduke Francis Ferdinand,
the most mortal enemy of Austrian-Germanism, to fall by the bullets which
he himself had helped to mold. For had he not been the patron of Austria's
Slavization from above !
Immense were the burdens which the German people were expected
to bear, inconceivable their sacrifices in taxes and blood, and yet anyone
who was not totally blind was bound to recognize that all this would be
in vain. What pained us most was the fact that this entire system was morally
whitewashed by the alliance with Germany, with the result that the slow
extermination of Germanism in the old monarchy was in a certain sense sanctioned
by Germany itself. The Habsburg hypocrisy, which enabled the Austrian rulers
to create the outward appearance that Austria was a German state, raised
the hatred toward this house to flaming indignation and at the same time
Only in the Reich itself, the men who even then were called
to power saw nothing of all this. As though stricken with blindness, they
lived by the side of a corpse, and in the symptoms of rotten-
ness saw only the signs of 'new' life.
The unholy alliance of the young Reich and the Austrian sham
state contained the germ of the subsequent World War and of the collapse
In the course of this book I shall have occasion to take up
this problem at length. Here it suffices to state that even in my earliest
youth I came to the basic insight which never left me, but Only became more
That Germanism could be safeguarded only by the destruction
of Austria, and, furthermore, that national sentiment is in no sense Identical
with dynastic patriotism; that above all the House of Habsburg was destined
to be the misfortune of the German nation.
Even then I had drawn the consequences from this realization
ardent love for my German-Austrian homeland state.
The habit of historical thinking which I thus learned in
school has never left me in the intervening years. To an ever-increasing
extent world history became for me an inexhaustible source of understanding
for the historical events of the present, in other words, for politics.
I do not want to 'learn' it, I want it to in instruct me.
Thus, at an early age, I had become a political ' revolutionary,'
and I became an artistic revolutionary at an equally early age.
The provincial capital of Upper Austria had at that time a theater
which was, relatively speaking, not bad. Pretty much of everything was produced.
At the age of twelve I saw Wilhelm Tell for the first time, and a few months
later my first opera, Lohengrin. I was captivated at once. My youthful enthusiasm
for the master of Bayreuth knew no bounds. Again and again I was drawn to
his works, and it still seems to me especially fortunate that the modest
provincial performance left me open to an intensified experience later on.
All this, particularly after I had outgrown my adolescence (which
in my case was an especially painful process), reinforced my profound distaste
for the profession which my father had chosen for me. My conviction grew
stronger and stronger that I would never be happy as a civil servant. The
fact that by this time my gift for drawing had been recognized at the Realschule
made my determination all the firmer.
Neither pleas nor threats could change it one bit.
I wanted to become a painter and no power in the world could
make me a civil servant.
Yet, strange as it may seem, with the passing years I became
more and more interested in architecture.
At that time I regarded this as a natural complement to my gift
as a painter, and only rejoiced inwardly at the extension of my artistic
I did not suspect that things would turn out differently.
The question of my profession was to be decided more quickly
than I had previously expected.
In my thirteenth year I suddenly lost my father. A stroke of apoplexy felled
the old gentleman who was otherwise so hale, thus painlessly ending his
earthly pilgrimage, plunging us all into the depths of grief His most ardent
desire had been to help his son forge his career, thus preserving him from
his own bitter experience. In this, to all appearances, he had not succeeded.
But, though unwittingly, he had sown the seed for a future which at that
time neither he nor I would have comprehended.
For the moment there was no outward change.
My mother, to be sure, felt obliged to continue my education
in accordance with my father's wish; in other words, to have me study for
the civil servant's career. I, for my part, was more than ever determined
absolutely not to undertake this career. In proportion as my schooling departed
from my ideal in subject matter and curriculum, I became more indifferent
at heart. Then suddenly an illness came to my help and in a few weeks decided
my future and the eternal domestic quarrel. As a result of my serious lung
ailment, a physician advised my mother in most urgent terms never to send
me into an office. My attendance at the Realschule had furthermore to be
interrupted for at least a year. The goal for which I had so long silently
yearned, for which I had always fought, had through this event suddenly
become reality almost of its own accord.
Concerned over my illness, my mother finally consented to take
me out of the Realschule and let- me attend the Academy.
These were the happiest days of my life and seemed to me almost
a dream; and a mere dream it was to remain. Two years later, the death of
my mother put a sudden end to all my highflown plans.
It was the conclusion of a long and painful illness which from
the beginning left little hope of recovery. Yet it was a dreadful blow,
particularly for me. I had honored my father, but my mother I had loved.
Poverty and hard reality now compelled me to take a quick decision.
What little my father had left had been largely exhausted by my mother's
grave illness; the orphan's pension to which I was entitled was not enough
for me even to live on, and so I was faced with the problem of somehow making
my own living.
In my hand a suitcase full of clothes and underwear; in my heart
an indomitable will, I journeyed to Vienna. I, too, hoped to wrest from
Fate what my father had accomplished fifty years before; I, too, wanted
to become 'something'-but on no account a civil servant.
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