Volume One – A Reckoning
In the House of My Parents
One sentence in, and I already find his style annoying. For example, “Today it seems to me providential (did the translator pick this word, or is this really the closest word in English?) that Fate should have chosen Braunau on the Inn as my birthplace”. And he already sounds extremely arrogant, like he was so amazing, which he probably thought, but you don’t translate that into your own writing. I don’t really understand much of German history, but it sounds like that before WW2 and possibly even before WW1, Germany had been divided into two, one being German-Austria, and the other possibly just Germany. And already he tells everyone that Germany must reunite as one, but not for economic reasons (because even if it were harmful, it must take place) but because ‘One blood demands one Reich’. Which is the strangest sentence ever.
And also already he suggests that they, once a single Germany and if the ‘daily bread’ was limited, would have a “moral right” to take over foreign soil. According to Hitler the town in which he was born, was important because 100 years ago, Johann Phillipp Palm was executed because he attacked Napoleon in a pamphlet (to be honest it is strange to think of pamphlets being available in 1806) and it was great blow to the ‘fatherland’. His heroism is increased because he refused to rat out his companions. After one page, it is already scathing and is not afraid to attack anyone and everyone. But I now, “understand” (in a very minor, and limited way) Germany’s hatred of France, that was mentioned in the introduction. Technically Hitler was not born in Germany, but Austria, he was just outside of the ‘Bavarian’ (German) borders.
Hitler doesn’t remember anything about his time, as a young child, because quickly his father had a job at the Austrian customs house, which meant that they moved a little further down the river, and into Germany. Not long after they moved to Linz, where they stayed as their father worked there until his retirement. Hitler tries to tell us that his father ran away at 13, but this is not the case, as he never ran away but became an apprentice shoemaker (Hitler is already trying to sell us lies, in an attempt to embellish himself). His father finished the apprenticeship but quite the trade for ‘something better’. So he turned to the public service, where he worked in until he was 59 (Hitler mentioned 56, the footnote says 59, which is who I would trust). Apparently he later moved back to his village once he had made a name for himself, but no one remembered him, and the village had changed.
According to Hitler (I refuse to accept that his version of events is the truth) it was this time, as a boy, that his ‘first ideals took shape in his breast’. What those ideas are, is yet to be made clear. It may be that his obsession to do something, and not just stay at home, is what he is talking about. He had no thoughts of what he would do later in life, but he now believes that his public speaking skills were already developing in the school yard, in the form of arguments, as he had become a ‘ring-leader’. He even received singing lessons, something I did not expect. He had hopes to become a village priest, but that was quickly dashed, as he found various military books at home, and began to love them. He began to obsess about war, or anything to do with war, which is not surprising seeing the events that later occurred. He then began to think about whether there was a difference between men who fought at war, and those that didn’t. And in my opinion a person should never be ridiculed or thought as a coward because they didn’t want to go to war, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love their country and it doesn’t mean that they are wusses. I would never go to war, because I don’t “believe” in it, and I would never shoot and kill someone, that is just who I am. Everyone is different, and if you want to risk your life fighting a war, good on you, you are doing what you believe is right, but that doesn’t mean everyone who doesn’t is second-rate.
Hitler then went to high school. And once again Hitler lies, because his father died when he was 13, so Alois Hitler had no influence on where he went to High School, I wonder why Hitler decided to lie and manipulate the story, did he think he had to, or was this someone else’s work trying to make him sound even better. And wouldn’t having his father die when he was still a young man, make him ‘better’ and gain sympathy? Apparently Hitler did not want to be a civil servant, and yet his father wanted him to follow his path, but because Hitler was so obstinate that nothing his father said or did would change his mind. And his school work was ‘ridiculously easy’ which contradicts what was said in the introduction that he was not a stand-out student, so more embellishment is included.
Then at age 12, he decided that he would be an artist, because of his ‘talent for drawing’ (which school records do not show) which his father was astounded by. Hitler I think that people still today doubt your sanity and not just your father. And of course, his father opposed such a career, just as Hitler opposed being a public servant. To be honest, I hate (probably slightly too strong a word, but it is applicable) parents that want to meddle and influence what their child wants to do when they ‘grow up’. Especially when their children are against what they are trying to say, sure they should encourage their children to make appropriate decisions, but ultimately it is not their life contrary to what many believe, and it is a child who should decide the direction of their life, not the parent. Denying your child’s dream and ambition, does a lot of harm and I understand that parents do not want to set their child up to failure, but denying everything they want to do is close to child abuse (not at all the same, but it comes close). And (apparently, if this is true I can begin to feel for a young Hitler, who was denied his dream) his father forbade him of studying art any further (parents should probably learn that doing this, especially to a teenager, is usually counter-productive, they should know from their own experience and logic that we usually want the thing we can’t have). And because of his inability to study art, he declared that he would not study anything.
So in effect, because Hitler couldn’t study to be a painter because his father forbade it, Hitler refused to learn anything else, and so probably had large gaps in his education, and may be a reason as to why he was quite ignorant to factual history and philosophy, etc, because they were all ‘irrelevant’. This probably extends because, he then (possibly) decided that he didn’t need to ‘learn’ these things, but what he thought as fact, was close enough, having terrible consequences. And he was kicked out of his school, for his ‘laziness’ (thought Hitler doesn’t mention it) and history and geography (among mathematics and German) were his worst subjects, no surprises there, though he claims ‘he led the class’ (Hitler you should never lie, it doesn’t make you look better, and is easily found out). And also at this time, he claims that he became a nationalist and ‘learned to understand and grasp the meaning of history’. There was a Franco-German War? I did not know this, no wonder Germany hated France!
I actually wonder what Hitler would think of the events after World War Two, and what he would think of modern Germany? Of course we will never know, but I hope that if he somehow saw them, he would die because of how much he hated it. ‘Heil’ was a greeting in Germany when he was a child, I had just assumed that he created it as ‘Heil Hitler’, but obviously not, the things you learn. Was Hitler trying to include Austria into Germany, or the other way around, because it sounds like he wanted (or people wanted when he was young) for Austria to join with Germany (or that is what German-Austrian people wanted). I am slightly surprised (and I guess it shows my ignorance) at the level of depth and complexity and interconnectedness between all of Europe, from all the different empires and wars, and political unions, it just has so much history, and most of it I am completely unaware of, if this book only teaches me one thing, it probably will be that I know so little about history.
Surprisingly I kind of agree with Hitler that history shouldn’t be about learning dates and names, but it should be an understanding of the events, and why they took place, and how they took place. And we have evidence here of a lack of connectedness and ‘flow’ between paragraphs, because we are told of a school Realschule where he found a ‘good’ history teacher, but we are never told by Hitler that he moved there after being kicked out, so it is very inconsistent, something that I shouldn’t be surprised about. But the history teacher, sounds as if he was a great teacher, and actually made the kids interested, which is difficult but necessary in education. Whether he was teaching them unbiased, accurate information is another thing.
He then mentions Francis Ferdinand, who I have heard about, as being an enemy for Austrian-Germanism, which confuses me because I thought that his assassination set off Germany and demanded retribution and that was how the war started, but it appears not, history is very complex. But I believe that Hitler did not like Austria, and wanted Germany to just be German, and he thought of this when he was still a child (apparently). I cannot believe that he actually thought himself as a revolutionary, when he was still a boy, because he hated Austria, blah, blah, blah. And then he loved opera (don’t know how that fits in, but its in here). He also had a ‘painful process’ of adolescence, which confuses me (yet again) because I don’t know if he is referring to emotionally of physically (which is actually more confusing), but moving on. And then we somehow return to Hitler being 13 (before he was older) and this was when his father died, I can really see how un-chronological this is, and how seemingly random and unordered he was. But his father died of a stroke, and later Hitler developed a ‘serious lung ailment’ which means ‘he should never be sent into an office’ (which makes sense…). So then he was allowed to study to be an artist. His mother then died, and he had little money, so he ventured to Vienna (though he had already been there before his mother died) to ‘make something of himself’. But not, in any way, a civil servant, and that was the just the beginning.