Just as Adolf often enjoyed the hospitality of my parents' home, I went often to see his mother and on taking leave was unfailingly asked by Frau Hitler to come again. I considered myself as part of the family – there was hardly anybody else who visited them.
No. 31 Humboldtstrasse is a three-storied, not unpleasant tenement building. The Hitlers lived on the third floor. I can still visualise the humble apartment. The small kitchen, with green painted furniture, had only one window, which looked out on to the courtyard. The living room, with the two beds of his mother and little Paula, overlooked the street. On the side wall hung a portrait of his father, with a typical civil servant's face, impressive and dignified, whose rather grim expression was mitigated by the carefully groomed whiskers à la Emperor Franz Joseph. Adolf lived and studied in the closet, off the bedroom.
Paula, Adolf's little sister, was nine when I first met the family. She was a rather pretty girl, quiet and reserved. I never saw her gay. We got on rather well with each other but Adolf was not particularly close to her. This was due perhaps to the difference in age – he always referred to her as "the kid." Paula never married and now lives in Königssee, near Berchtesgaden.
Another acquaintance I made in the Hitler family was a striking-looking young woman of just over twenty, called Angela, whose place in the family puzzled me at first, although she addressed Klara Hitler as "Mother," just as Paula did. Later I learned the solution of the mystery. Angela, born on the twenty-eighth July, 1883, that is to say six years before Adolf, was a child of the father's previous marriage. Her mother, Franziska Matzelsberger, died the year after her birth. Five months later the father married Klara Pölzl. Angela, who naturally had no recollection of her own mother, looked upon Klara as her mother. In September 1903, a year before I became acquainted with Adolf, Angela had married a revenue official called Raubal. She lived with her husband nearby and often came to visit her stepmother, but never brought him with her; at any rate, I never met Raubal. Angela was quite unlike Frau Hitler, a jolly person who enjoyed life and loved to laugh. She brought some life into the family. She was very handsome with her regular features, and her beautiful hair which was as dark as Adolf's.
From Adolf's description, but also from some hints of his mother's, I gathered that Raubal was a drunkard. Adolf bated him. He saw in him a personification of everything he despised in a man. He spent his time in the pub, drank and smoked, gambled his money away, and on top of that – he was a civil servant. And as though that were not enough, Raubal thought it was his duty to support his father-in-law's views by urging Adolf to become a civil servant himself. This was enough to antagonise Adolf completely. When Adolf talked of Raubal his face assumed a truly threatening aspect. Perhaps it was Adolf's pronounced hatred of his half sister's husband that kept Raubal away from the Humboldtstrasse. At the time of Raubal's death, only a few years after his marriage to Angela, the break between him and Adolf was already complete. Angela remarried later, an architect in Dresden, and died in Munich in 1949.
I learned from Adolf that from his father's second marriage there was also a son, Alois, who spent his childhood with the Hitler family but left them while they were living in Lambach. This half brother of Adolf's – born on December 13, 1882, in Braunau – was seven years older than Adolf. While his father was alive he still came to Leonding a couple of times, but as far as I know he never appeared in the Humboldtstrasse. He never played any important part in Hitler's life, nor did he take any interest in Adolf's political career. He turned up once in Paris, then in Vienna, later in Berlin, and today, seventy years old, lives in Hamburg. His first marriage was to a Dutchwoman and they had a son, William Patrick Hitler, who in August 1939 published a pamphlet, My Uncle Adolf; a son by his second wife, Heinz Hitler, fell as an officer on the Eastern Front.
Frau Hitler did not like to talk about herself and her worries, yet she found relief in telling me of her doubts about Adolf. Naturally she didn't get much satisfaction from the vague and, for her, meaningless utterances of Adolf about his future as an artist. The preoccupation with the well-being of her only surviving son depressed her increasingly. "Our poor father cannot rest in his grave," she used to say to Adolf, "because you will flout his wishes. Obedience is what distinguishes a good son, but you don't know the meaning of the word. That's why you did so badly at school and why you're not getting anywhere now."
Gradually I learned to understand the suffering this woman endured. She never complained, but she told me about the hard time she had had in her youth.
So I came to know, partly by experience, partly by what I was told, the circumstances of the Hitler family. Occasionally mention was made of some relations in the Waldviertel, but it was difficult for me to understand whether these were his father's relations or his mother's. In any case, the Hitler family had relations only in the Waldviertel, quite unlike other Austrian civil servants, who had relatives scattered all over the country. Only later did I come to realise that Hitler's paternal and maternal lineage already merged in the second generation, so that from the grandfather upwards Adolf had only one set of forebears. I remember that Adolf did visit some relatives in the Waldviertel. Once he sent me a picture postcard from Weitra, which is in the part of the Waldviertel nearest to Bohemia. I do not know what had taken him there. He never spoke very willingly about his relations in that part of the country, but preferred to describe the landscape; poor, barren country, a striking contrast to the rich and fertile Danube valley of the Wachau. This raw, hard peasant country was the homeland of both his maternal and paternal ancestors.
Frau Klara Hitler, nee Pölzl, was born on August 12, 1860, in Spital, a poor village in the Waldviertel. Her father, Johann Baptist Pölzl, was a simple peasant. Her mother's maiden name was Johanna Hüttler. The name Hitler is spelt differently in the various documents. There is the spelling Hiedler and Hüttler, while Hitler is used for the first time by Adolf's father.
This Johanna Hüttler, Adolf's maternal grandmother, was, according to the documents, a daughter of Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. Thus Klara Pölzl was directly related to the Hüttler-Hiedler family, for Johann Nepomuk Hiedler was the brother of that Johann Georg Hiedler who appears in the baptismal register of Döllersheim as Adolf's father's father. Klara Pölzl was, therefore, a second cousin of her husband. Alois Hitler always referred to her before their marriage simply as his niece.
Klara Pölzl had a miserable childhood in the poor and wretched home where there were so many children. In 1875, when she was fifteen years old, her relative, the customs official Alois Schicklgruber at Braunau, invited her to come and help his wife in the house. Alois Schicklgruber, who only in the following year assumed the name Hiedler, which he changed into Hitler, was then married to Anna Glasl-Hörer. This first marriage of Alois Hitler with a woman fourteen years older than himself remained without issue and they finally separated. When his wife died in 1883, Alois Hitler married Franziska Matzelsberger, who was twenty-four years his junior. The children of this marriage were Adolf's half brother Alois and half sister Angela. Klara, who had continued living in the house during the time he was separated from his first wife, left on the second marriage and went to Vienna. As Franziska, the second wife, fell gravely ill after the birth of her second child, Alois Hitler called his niece back to Braunau. Franziska died on August 1,0, 1884, barely two years after her marriage. (Alois, the first child of this union, had been born out of wedlock and adopted by his father.) On January 7, 1885, six months after the death of his second wife, Alois Hitler married his "niece" Klara, who was already expecting a child by him, the first son, Gustav, who was born on May 17, 1885, that is to say five months after the marriage, and who died on December 9, 1887.
Although Klara Pölzl was only a second cousin, the couple needed an ecclesiastical dispensation for their marriage. The application for this, in the clean, copper-plate handwriting of an Austro-Hungarian civil servant, still exists in the archives of the Episcopate in Linz under the number 6.911/11/2 1884. The documents read as follows:
Application of Alois Hitler and his fiancée, Klara Pölzl, for permission to marry.
Most Reverend Episcopate!
Those, in humblest devotion undersigned, have decided to marry. According to the enclosed family tree they are prevented by the canonical impediment of collateral affinity in the third degree touching the second. They therefore humbly request the Reverend Episcopate to graciously procure them dispensation on the following grounds: According to the enclosed death certificate the bridegroom has been a widower since 10th August of this year and is father of two infant children, a boy of two and a half (Alois) and a girl of one year and two months (Angela) for whose care he needs a woman-help as he, being a customs official, is away from his home the whole day and also often at night, and therefore hardly able to supervise the education and upbringing of the children. The bride has looked after the children ever since the death of the mother and they are very fond of her, so that it may be justifiably assumed that the upbringing would be successful and the marriage a happy one. Moreover, the bride is without means and it is therefore unlikely that she will ever have another opportunity of a good marriage.
For these reasons the undersigned repeat their humble petition for the gracious procurement of dispensation from the impediment of affinity.
Braunau, 27th October, 1884
ALOIS HITLER, Bridegroom – KLARA PÖLZL, Bride
The family tree that accompanied the application was as follows:
Johann Georg Hiedler —
Johann Nepomuk Hiedler
Alois Hitler Johanna Hiedler (married Pölzl)
The Linz Episcopate declared itself not competent to issue the dispensation and forwarded the application to Rome where it was granted by papal decree.
Alois Hitler's marriage with Klara was described by various acquaintances as very happy, which was presumably due to the submissive and accommodating nature of the wife. Once she said to me in this respect, "What I hoped and dreamed of as a young girl has not been fulfilled in my marriage;" and added resignedly, "But does such a thing ever happen?"
The birth of the children in quick succession was a heavy psychological and physical burden for the frail woman: in 1885 the son Gustav was born, in 1886 a daughter, Ida, who died after two years, in 1887 another son, Otto, who only lived three days, and on April 20, 1889, again a son, Adolf. How much suffering is hidden behind these bare figures! When Adolf was born the three other children were already dead. With what care the sorely tried mother must have looked after this fourth child! She told me once that Adolf was a very weak child and that she always lived in fear of losing him, too.
Perhaps the early death of the three children was due to the fact that the parents were blood relations. I leave it to the experts to give the final verdict. But in this connection I would like to draw attention to one point to which, in my opinion, greatest importance should be attached.
The most outstanding trait in my friend's character was, as I had experienced myself, the unparalleled consistency in everything that he said and did. There was in his nature something firm, inflexible, immovable, obstinately rigid, which manifested itself in his profound seriousness and was at the bottom of all his other characteristics. Adolf simply could not change his mind or his nature. Everything that lay in these rigid precincts of his being remained unaltered for ever. How often did I experience this! I remember what he said to me when we met again in 1938 after an interval of thirty years. "You haven't changed, Kubizek, you have only grown older." If this was true of me, how much more was it of him! He never changed.
I have tried to find an explanation for this fundamental trait in his character. Influence of surroundings and education can hardly account for it, but I could imagine – although a complete layman in the field of genetics – that the biological effect of the intermarriage in the family was to fix certain spheres and that those "arrested complexes" have produced that particular type of character. It was just this inflexibility that was responsible for Adolf Hitler's causing such innumerable sorrows to his mother.
Once more the mother's heart was sorely tried by destiny. Five years after Adolf's birth, on March 24, 1894, she gave birth to a fifth child, a son, Edmund, who also died young, on June 29, 1900, in Leonding. Although Adolf had no recollection of the first three children in Braunau, and never spoke of them, he could clearly remember his brother Edmund, at the time of whose death he was already eleven years old. He told me once the Edmund had died of diphtheria. The youngest child, a girl called Paula, born on January 21, 1896, survived.
Thus, an early death had deprived Klara Hitler of four of her six children. Perhaps her mother's heart was broken by these terrible trials. Only one thing remained, the care of the two surviving children, a care which she had to bear alone after the death of her husband. Small comfort that Paula was a quiet, easily led child; all the greater was the anxiety over the only son, an anxiety that only ended with her death.
Adolf really loved his mother. I swear to it before God and man. I remember many occasions when he showed this love for his mother, most deeply and movingly during her last illness; he never spoke of his mother but with deep affection. He was a good son. It was beyond his power to fulfil her most heartfelt wish to see him started on a safe career. When we lived together in Vienna he always carried his mother's portrait with him.