What I remember of Hitler
introduced the queer little Austrian Adolf Hitler to polite society, played the piano when the Führer was troubled, saw him sway millions and battle his private demons, and now writes his own story—
IN THE LITTLE GROUP of plotters who gravitated to Hitler after the First World War, Dr. Ernst F. Sedgwick (Putzi) Hanfstaengl must have stood out like a sore thumb. He had left Germany at the height of her imperial glory to work in the United States and came back to find his country crushed and desolate. His romantic nature was fired by the incandescent promise of this almost unknown agitator. He became the only literate member of Hitler’s inner circle. When he progressed from being Hitler’s window on the outside world and artistic mentor to the role of unwelcome conscience he found himself frozen out. The process took a dozen years, but then he had to run for his life.
With his first American wife, Hanfstaengl represented a new factor in Hitler’s existence. His father and grandfather had been welcome counselors at the Wittelsbach and Coburg courts. They were respected pioneers in the field of art reproduction and prominent members of the romantic movement represented by Richard Wagner and Ludwig II. Hanfstaengl himself provided the aura of Harvard, class of ’09, a genuine acquaintance with past, actual and future presidents of the United States, entrée not only to the best Munich and German society, but attachment to the intangible net of international social intercourse, and an artistic accomplishment which went straight to the heart of Hitler’s tortured soul—the ability to play Wagner’s music superbly on the piano.
The Hanfstaengl household was the first to try to make Hitler socially acceptable. They introduced him to the world of art and culture and in these early years theirs was almost the only private circle in which he found himself at ease. After the Ludcndorff Putsch it was to their villa in the Bavarian Alps that he fled for succor. During his prison term they provided one of the few centres of loyalty and on and after his release they made a final attempt to impregnate him with their standards.
With power in his hands, Hitler could begin to dispense with the respectable front that Hanfstaengl, with his international connections, provided for the party’s heterogeneous hierarchy. His open opposition to the methods of the revolution and his unbridled criticisms of those responsible for them soon made him intolerable to the party leaders. One story he does not tell is how at a crowded reception he called Goebbels a swine to
his face. Ten further years of exile, internment and frustration were the price he had to pay for his early idealism.
To the incomplete if extensive patchwork of Hitlerian biography and Nazi history he brings for the first time a conclusive picture of Hitler, the man in the making. There is no record like it because no other man is equipped to tell the story.
I met Hitler in November 1922, at the end of an hour-long speech he had made in a Munich beer hall. He was standing on the platform recovering from his bravura exhibition. I walked over to introduce myself. Naïve and yet forceful, obliging and yet uncompromising, he stood, face and hair soaked in perspiration, his semi-stiff collar, fastened with a square, imitation gold safety pin, melted to nothing. While talking he dabbed his face with a handkerchief, glancing worriedly at the many open exits through which came the draughts of a cold November night.
“Herr Hitler, my name is Hanfstaengl,” I said ... “I agree with ninety-five percent of what you said and would very much like to talk to you about the rest some time.”
“Why yes, of course,” Hitler said. “1 am sure we shall not have to quarrel about the odd five percent.” He made a very pleasant impression, modest and friendly. So we shook hands again and 1 went home . . .
Not long after, there was another meeting in the Zirkus Krone, and 1 took my wife and one or two other friends along to hear him from one of the boxes. Afterward I introduced the ladies to Hitler. He was delighted with my wife, who was blond and beautiful and American. He accepted very readily when she said how pleased we would be if he would come to coffee or dinner at the fiat. Soon he was visiting us frequently, pleasant and unassuming in his toosmall blue serge suit.
Stories are sometimes told that we were the people who taught Hitler table manners. That is not so. He was not so uncouth as that. But he did have some curious tastes. He had the most incredibly sweet tooth of any man 1 have ever met and could never have enough of his favorite Austrian cakes continued on page 60
Art expert Putzi tried to sharpen the Nazi leaders’ taste in painting but made little progress
Continued from page 24
“He lived in one room like a run-down clerk. It lâter became part of his workers’-friend act ”
heaped with whipped cream. At one meal 1 thought I would treat him to a bottle of Prinz Metternich’s best Gewürztraminer. 1 was called out of the room to the telephone and as I came back caught him putting a heaping spoonful of sugar in the champagne glass. I pretended I had not seen and he drank the concoction with evident relish.
A few years later we had prepared a welcoming dinner, turkey, followed by the rich Austrian pastries that he loved.
I noticed that he was hardly drinking at all, so there was no need to keep the sugar bowl out of his reach. In fact it was about this time that he started to develop the vegetarian eating habits which later became so marked. It may have started with the necessity of dieting off his extra poundage, but as usual he made a personal issue of it. “If I feel that meat and alcohol are damaging to my system I hope at least I have enough will power to do without them however much 1 enjoy them,” he used to say.
* * *
... as confidence in me grew. Hitler allowed me to call at his flat during the day.
He lived there like a down-at-heels clerk. He had one room and the use of a quite large entrance hall as a sub-tenant. It was all modest in the extreme and he remained there for years, although it became part of an act to show how he identified himself with the workers and have-nots of this world. I doubt if it was nine feet wide. The bed was too wide for its corner and the head projected over the single narrow window. The floor was covered with cheap, worn linoleum with a couple of threadbare rugs, and on the wall opposite the bed there was a makeshift bookshelf, apart from a chair and rough table, the only other piece of furniture in the room.
Hitler used to walk around in carpet slippers, frequently with no collar to his shirt and wearing suspenders. There were quite a lot of illustrations and drawings hanging on the wall, and the books were a characteristic mixture. I made a list of them at the time, which I still have. The upper shelves were those he liked to refer to in front of visitors. They included a history of the Great War by Hermann Stegemann, and Ludendorffs book on the same subject; German histories by Einhardt and Treitschke; Spamer’s illustrated encyclopedia, a work dating from the nineteenth century; Clausewitz’ Vom Kriege and the history of Frederick the Great by Kugler; a biography of Wagner by Houston Stewart Chamberlain and a potted world history by Maximilian Yorck von der Wartenburg. The respectable volumes also included a tome called Historical Character Pictures by Grube, a collection of heroic myths by Schwab, and the war memoirs of Sven Hedin.
These were the books which formed Hitler’s opinions and knowledge for the years to come. But perhaps more interesting was the bottom shelf where, in an abrupt descent from Mars to Venus, editions of a semi-pornographic nature lay discreetly among Edgar Wallace thrillers. Among these well-thumbed volumes were the curious studies of Eduard Fuchs, The History of Erotic Art, and
an Illustrated History of Morals.
* * *
He had been introduced to the Bechstein family, who made their famous pianos in Berlin, but visited Munich frequently. They invited him to dinner at their deluxe hotel in a private suite and he reported on it to me wide-eyed. Frau Bechstein had been en grande toilette and her husband had worn a dinner jacket. “I felt quite embarrassed in my blue suit,” Hitler told me. “The servants were all in livery and we drank nothing but champagne before the meal. And you should have seen the bathroom; you can even regulate the heat of the water.”
* * *
Hitler had to appear from time to time as a witness in the frequent political trials and he was always keyed up before these sessions. He knew I was a pianist and asked me to play something to calm him.
I was a bit out of practice and the piano was terribly out of tune; but I played a Bach fugue, to which he sat listening in
He’s like an elephant in human clothing
Whose clumsiness a dancing partner scorns.
His crushing tread fills her with dread and loathing—
Hell has no fury like a woman’s corns.
P. J. BLACKWELL
a chair, nodding his head in vague disinterest. Then I started the prelude to the Meistersinger. This was it. This was Hitler’s meat. He knew the thing absolutely by heart and could whistle every note of it in a curious penetrating vibrato, but completely in tune. He started to march up and down the hall, waving his arms as if he were conducting an orchestra. He really had an excellent feeling for the spirit of the music, certainly as good as many a conductor. This music affected him physically and by the time 1 had crashed through the finale he was in splendid spirits, all his worries gone and eager to get to grips with the public prosecutor . . .
It was on another occasion, at the house of Heinrich Hoffmann, his photographer friend, that I started playing some of the football marches I had picked up at Harvard. I explained to Hitler all the business about the cheerleaders and college songs and the deliberate whipping up of hysterical enthusiasm. I told him about the thousands of spectators being made to roar, “Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, rah, rah, rah!” in unison and of the hypnotic effect of this sort of thing. I played him some of the Sousa marches and then my own “Falarah,” to show how it could be done by adapting German tunes, and gave them all that buoyant beat so characteristic of American brassband music. I had Hitler fairly shouting with enthusiasm. “That is it, Hanfstaengl, that is what we need for the movement, marvelous,” and he pranced up and down the room like a drum majorette. After that he had the S.A. band practising the
same thing. I even wrote a dozen marches or so myself over the course of the years, including the one that was played by the brownshirt columns as they marched through the Brandenburger Tor on the day Hitler took over power. “Rah, rah, rah!” became “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!”— that is the origin of it and I suppose I must take my share of the blame . . . Up
o the time of the putsch no one had thought of calling him anything but Herr Hitler. After they both got out of Landsberg prison. Hess started referring to him as der Chef and then produced this word Führer in imitation of the Duce of Mussolini. The “Heil Hitler” greeting also started to gain currency at this time. There was nothing particularly sinister in its inception. It was an old custom of the Austrians, who have said Heil so-and-so or Heil mein Lieber for generations. Even a group of cyclists passing each other would shout, “All Heil,” even if they did not know each other's names. In fact we were saying Heil Goering, Heil Hess, before the putsch without any sinister motive. It was just a way of saying Good Day.
Then the party people started to use Heil Hitler as a sort of pass word and from that time on it became almost lèse majesté to say Heil Schmidt or Heil Hanfstaengl. It is not true to say that Hitler openly sponsored this development. He never ordered anyone officially to address him as Mein Führer. On the other hand, he never objected and took a secret pleasure in it, and so the custom grew.
* * *
Incidentally, the information is probably new to most people that the famous Horst Wessel Lied, which became the Nazi anthem and was supposed to have been composed by the victim, was not original at all. The tune is that of a Vienna cabaret song at the turn of the century. Wessel certainly wrote the new words
and hotted up the tune to march time, but that is where it comes from.
* * *
Hitler lived a shadowy existence and it was very difficult to keep track of his movements. He was hopelessly unpunctual and incapable of keeping to any sort of schedule. He walked around leading a fierce Alsatian hound named Wolf and always carried a whip with a loaded
handle. Ulrich Graf, his bodyguard, fol-
lowed him everywhere ... He never stopped talking all day, committed nothing to paper, issued no orders and was the despair of his staff. He would make appointments and not keep them; instead, at this period, would often be discovered in a salesroom looking at secondhand automobiles. Cars were an obsession with him. He picked up one vehicle which looked like a dismantled horse-cab without a top, but soon exchanged this for a Selve car, with funds he had drummed tip in a mysterious way from someone.
It was a rattling monster and each end looked as if it were going a different way, but he seemed to think it conferred additional dignity on him and from that time on I do not think I ever saw him take a tram or bus again.
* * *
He was an entertaining traveling companion. He would sit whistling or humming passages from the Wagner operas, which kept us both amused for many an hour. Incidentally, in all the years I knew him, I never heard him whistle a popular tune. He was also a gifted mimic with a sharp sense of the ridiculous. His star turn was a sort of satire on a type of patriotic orator then very common in Germany and by no means extinct since —the politically conscious, semi-professional figure with a Wotan-like beard. He could invent this mock rodomontade ad
infinitum and be very funny about it.
He also knew by heart the greater part of a dreadful poem which some admirer had written in his honor. This poetaster had looked up in the rhyming dictionary all the German words which end in “itler,” of which there are several score, and had produced an endless series of ill-scanning couplets. When he was in a good mood Hiller would repeat this with embellishments of his own and have us in tears of laughter. He could also imitate market women and children superbly. It was an example of the extraordinary rapport he could establish with the minds and emotions of others, a trait Hitler kept for as long as I knew him.
... we discovered that his powers of mimicry did not cover only the human voice. He was describing some recollection of the western front and started imitating an artillery barrage. He could reproduce the noise of every imaginable gun. German. French or English, the howitzers, the 75s, the machine guns, separately and all at once. With that tremendous voice of his we really went through about five minutes of the Battle of the Somme and what the neighbors must have thought I cannot imagine.
* * *
On a trip to Berlin . . . we went past the two monuments by Rauch of Frederick the Great, on horseback, and Blücher, on foot. I remarked how strange it was that the old Marshal had not been depicted at his most typical—mounted at the head of a cavalry charge. This did not appeal to Hitler's infantry mind at all. "Ach, Hanfstaengl,” he said, “what difference would a horse make? They all look alike and only spoil concentratio^ on the figure of the rider.” Hitler was allergic to horses, and when he came to power abolished all the cavalry divisions in the German army, an act which his generals in the Russian campaign were bitterly to regret.
Our next stop was the national gallery . . . We swept past the Dutch and Italian primitives like a patrol of Bersaglieri. There was a slight slowing of the pace in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Flora,” but we only came to a stop opposite Rembrandt’s “Man in a Golden Helmet.”
“I here you have something unique,” Hitler pontificated. “Look at that heroic, soldier-like expression. It proves that Rembrandt, in spite of the many pictures he painted in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter. was at heart a true Aryan and German!" . . . Later, we found him lost in concentration in front of Correggio’s “Leda and the Swan.” He pulled himself together as we arrived and, although it was the sensuous portrayal of the two central figures which had fascinated him, read us a hasty lecture about the wonderful play of light on the bathing nymphs in the background. Over the course of time I discovered that the subject of this picture was almost an obsession with him. In later years this theme, one of the most obscene of classical subjects. was sure to obtain a gold medal for any modern German artist who used it as his subject at one of the Nazi exhibitions . . .
* * *
“Look at the way we have to travel round Czechoslovakia to get to eastern Germany," he once said. “The whole thing is nonsense. Half the people on the other side of the border are Germans anyway and it is all wrong to have this alien government placed across our lines of communication.” Then dropping his voice: “What is more, we shall have to get those Skoda works in Pilsen under German control one of these days.” And this mind you was in early 1923. “Mind you get hold of that Pilsen beer too,” I
joked. He came out of his reverie and laughed.
* * *
Hitler celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday. on April 20. 1923. 1 went along during the morning to congratulate him and found him alone, although the grubby little flat was stacked from floor to ceiling with flowers and cakes. Yet Hitler was in one of his curiously wary moods and had not touched a single one of the cakes. There they were, with swastikas and eagles in whipped cream all over them, looking like the bakers’ booth at a village fair. It was not much to my taste, 1 am a beer-and-sausages man myself, but even my mouth watered.
“Well. Herr Hitler,” I said, “now you can really have a feast.”
“I am not at all sure they are not poisoned,” he replied.
“But they are all from your friends and admirers,” 1 told him.
“Yes I know,” he replied. “But this house belongs to a Jew and these days you can drip slow poison down the walls ar.d kill your enemies. 1 never eat here ordinarily.”
“Herr Hitler, you’ve been reading too many of those Edgar Wallace thrillers,” I answered, but nothing would persuade him, and I had to take a taste myself before he would touch anything. Soon he started to brighten up, for I had come along to pander to another of his superstitions—astrology. I had looked up the dates and found out that he not only shared the same birthday with such redoubtable putsch-makers as the Pole, Albert Korfanty, who had led the third insurrection in Upper Silesia in 1921, and Napoleon 111, but that it was the same date on which Cromwell had dissolved Parliament. Hitler had always had a romantic obsession with Cromwell and this delighted him. “Ah. Cromwell,” he said, “that's my man. He and Henry VIII are the only two positive figures in English history.”
It seemed a good moment to bring up something which had been worrying me ever since I had met him, and that was his stupid little mustache. There had been a time during the war when he let it grow, but the first time I saw him it had already been clipped back to the ridiculous little smudge which made him look as if he had not cleaned his nose. 1 called on the paintings of Van Dyck. Holbein and Rembrandt to bear w-itness that a mustache should either grow out full or at most be clipped to the end of the lips. 1 said I felt it would be much more dignified if he followed one of these patterns. He took it quite unmoved. “Don't worry,” he said, “1 am setting a fashion. As time goes on people will be pleased to copy it.” And in due course it was to become as much a Nazi trademark as the brown shirt.
In fact he was not vain about his appearance. He was always decently, soberly and unostentatiously dressed and did not expect to impress by his exterior alone. His appeal lay in his power as an orator, and this he knew and played on for all he was worth. He believed in the power of the spoken word to overcome all obstacles. He even judged others by the same standards, and he never really had confidence in the ability of anyone who could not talk forcibly, reserving his special approval for those who could hold a large audience.
* * *
Where other national orators gave the painful impression of talking down to their audience, Hitler had this priceless gift of expressing exactly their own thoughts. He also had the good sense, or instinct, to appeal to the women in his audience, who were after all the new
political factor in the nineteen-twenties. Many a time I have seen him face a hall plentifully sprinkled with opponents ready to heckle and interrupt, and in his search for the first body of support, make a remark about food shortages or domestic difficulties or the sound instinct of his women listeners, which would produce the first bravos. And time and again these came from women. That would break the ice . . .
The gestures which had so impressed me the first evening I saw him were as varied and flexible as his arguments. The
most striking, in contrast to the dull slamming of the fist into the palm of the other hand of so many orators, was a soaring, upward movement of the arm, which seemed to leave infinite possibilities piercing the air.
The first two thirds of Hitler’s speeches were in march time, growing increasingly quicker and leading up to the last third which was primarily rhapsodic. Knowing that a continuous presentation by one speaker would be boring, he would impersonate in a masterful way an imaginary opponent, often interrupting himself
with a counter-argument and then returning to his original line of thought after completely annihilating his supposed adversary. There was a curious tinge to the finale. It was gradually being borne in on me that Hitler was a narcissustype for whom the crowd represented a symbol for the woman he did not seem able to find. Speaking, for him, represented the satisfaction of some hunger, and to me this made the phenomenon of his oratory more intelligible. The last eight to ten minutes of a speech resembled an orgasm of words.
1 hope it will not appear too blasphemous when I say that he had learned a lot from the Bible. He was to all intents and purposes an atheist by the time I got to know him, although he still paid lip-service to religious beliefs and certainly acknowledged them as the basis for the thinking of others. His pattern of looking into the past and then repeating the basis of his beliefs four times over derived directly from the New Testament, and no one can say it was not a proved method . . .
When he had finished speaking the
band used to play the national anthem. Hitler would salute to right and left and leave while the music was still playing. He had usually reached his car before the singing was over. This sudden withdrawal had a number of advantages. In addition to facilitating his exit unmolested to the car, it prevented the exultation of the crowd from petering out in his presence, saved him from unwelcome interviews and left intact the picture of the apotheosis the public had received from the climax of his speech. He once said to me: “Most speakers make the great mis-
take of hanging around after their speech is over. This only leads to anticlimax, for argument and discussion can completely undo hours of oratorical labor.”
* * *
. . . Hitler would often go to the cinema in the evening, a form of relaxation which continued right through the years when he was Chancellor. In fact I have known him put off quite serious conferences in order to see a film. One of the great successes of the time was the Fredericus Rex film, which came out in two parts, with Otto Gebühr playing the role
of Frederick the Great. My wife and I took Hitler to see it. He was most impressed, but it was typical of him that the scene which had pleased him most was that in which the old King, played by Albert Steinrück, had threatened to have the Crown Prince beheaded.
“That is the best part of the film,” Hitler ranted as we came out. "What a classical example of discipline when a father is prepared to condemn his son to death. Great deeds require harsh measures.”
* * *
Late on the evening of the Munich putsch a knock came at the door and outside stood Hitler, Dr. Walter Schnitze, a physician in one of the S.A. battalions, and two or three others.
Hitler asked if he could stay the night. My wife, in total ignorance of all that had occurred, let him in and the others went away. She gave him a little attic bedroom I had fitted up with my books, while she slept downstairs with Egon and the maid. Hitler was completely desponden and almost incoherent, but she managed to piece together some sort of account of what had happened.
The next morning my wife told him, “Herr Hitler, for your own sake you ought to find somewhere else to hide. The police are sure to come here, even if only to look for my husband, and it is too much of a risk.” This he fully understood. The plan was for him to wait for the Bechsteins’ car to come and pick him up and take him to safety. So, for the time being, he stayed, spending most of the day in the attic room, where the bed was covered by the two English traveling rugs I had acquired in my student days, which he then took with him to Landsberg prison ... on Sunday evening a couple of lorries appeared in the front of the house, full of green-uniformed gendarmery. My wife hurried up to the attic and found Hitler in a state of frenzy. He had pulled out his revolver with his good hand and shouted. "This is the end. I will never let these swine take me. I will shoot myself first.” It so happened that I had taught my wife one of the few jujitsu tricks 1 know; how to wrench a pistol out of someone’s grasp. Hitler’s movements were awkward with his dislocated shoulder and she managed to get the thing away from him and fling it into a two-hundredweight barrel of flour we kept up in the attic to combat the recurrent shortages.
Hitler calmed down somewhat and in the few moments left sat down and scribbled out a political testament on a piece of paper.
By this time a lieutenant and a couple of gendarmes were at the door. They had just come from my mother’s farm, which was nearby, where they had been sticking bayonets in haystacks looking for Hitler, but now felt sure of their quarry. Hitler came downstairs and made no physical resistance, but gave them a terrible tongue-lashing at the top of his voice, accusing them of breaking their oath, conniving at the splitting of Germany and more in the same vein. All this was above the heads of the police, whose loyalties had been veering like weathervanes at the behest of their senior officers over the previous three or four days. So they presented their excuses and politely carried him off.
* * *
I took advantage of my involuntary stay in Austria to look up Hitler’s family in Vienna. I was interested to find out all I could about his background and, although I had no reason to suppose that his family had the slightest influence on him, I thought it might be a good idea to plant a few facts about the more sinis-
ter members of his entourage, particularly Rosenberg. 1 could probably have saved myself the trouble, for when 1 finally tracked down his half-sister, Frau Raubal,
I found her living in abject poverty on the third or fourth floor of a crumbling tenement block. She would not open the door more than a crack, since she was obviously ashamed of their miserable surroundings, but even so I could see that the place was bare and dirty and that on the floor of the hall there was nothing but a decrepit straw mattress. But she accepted an invitation to come out to a café and brought her not unattractive blond daughter Geli, who was probably about sixteen at the time.
* * *
On another occasion he pulled his little trick of drawing public buildings he had seen illustrated. In ten minutes he had sketched the Opera, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, which he pushed over for my approbation with an air of proving that he also was a man of the world. It was an odd, childish quirk. He was always doodling on the back of menu cards, with squares and circles and swastikas and fancy borders, or scenes out of the Wagner operas. Heinrich Hoffmann usually collected them, and I picked up three or four once, only to have them stolen later by a maid.
We got to talking once about the party flag, which Hitler had taken great care to design himself. I told him I did not like the use of black for the swastika, which was a sun symbol and should be in red. “If we did that 1 could not use red for the background,” he said. “I was in the Berlin Lustgarten years ago at a big Socialist demonstration. I tell you there is only one color with which to attract the masses and that is red." I then suggested that it might be better to put the swastika in the corner of the old black, white and red flag and that even if we used the red background as a war et.sign, we should have a peace flag with a white background. "If I put the swastika against a white background we are going to look like a charitable organization," he said. “This is the right thing and I am not going to change it.”
* * *
He gave my wife and me a lift across Munich one day in his car and I remember him saying, although what brought up the subject I cannot recall: “There are two ways of judging a man’s character: by the woman he marries and by the way he dies.” That sounded a little morbid,
I thought, but the next was worse: "Politics is like a harlot: if you love her unsuccessfully she bites your head off.” It seemed a lurid turn of phrase and 1 wondered in what directions his mind was running. However, in politics he seemed reasonably conciliatory. We were having lunch together at a little wine shop in the Sonnenstrasse, with some others whose names have escaped me. and the conversation turned to the party’s twenty-fivepoint program, which was an awful hodgepodge, but had long since been declared immutable. Somebody was suggesting that it should be modified and pruned of some of its contradictions, but Hitler did not agree: “What do the contradictions matter?” he said. “The New Testament is full of contradictions but that did not prevent the spread of Christianity.”
* * *
One thing that was borne in on me very early was the absence of a vital factor in Hitler’s existence. He had no normal sex life. 1 have said that he developed an infatuation for my wife, which expressed itself in flowers and hand-kissings and an adoring look in his eyes. It was part of his extraordinary gift for self-
dramatization, part of hidden complexes and a constitutional insufficiency which may have been congenital and may have resulted from a syphilitic infection during his youth in Vienna . . .
I felt Hitler was a case of a man who was neither fish, flesh nor fowl, neither fully homosexual nor fully heterosexual. Somehow the very rootlessness of his background, his capacity for keeping his commitments in a state of balance and his intuitive gift of always remaining above the petty personal jealousies of his supporters were all causes or effects of
his sexual isolation. You could never pin him down, say that he was this thing or that thing; everything was floating, without roots, intangible and mediumistic. He had these people of unsavory habits round him. from Roehm and Heines on the one side to Rosenberg on the other, and seemed to have no sense of moral displeasure at their behavior. Ernst, another homosexual S.A. leader, hinted in the Thirties that it would only need a few words from him to silence Hitler when, for political reasons, he started to complain about Roehm's behavior. Perhaps
that is why he was shot as well.
From watching Hitler and talking to those near him. 1 had formed the firm conviction that he was impotent, the repressed masturbating type. To adopt scientific jargon for a moment, he had an Oedipus complex, which often ends up that way. He had hated his father, a stupid, petty, brutal, small-time provincial customs inspector, and adored his mother. From the time I knew him. I do not suppose he had orthodox sexual relations with any woman. He was probably incapable of a normal reaction to
Geli Raubal, daughter of Hitler’s half-sister Angela, was brought from poverty in Vienna to share Hitler’s Munich flat. She later shot herself.
their physical proximity. Once he got his clothes off he was absolutely useless. In due course he did become identified with various women. But his eroticism was purely operatic, never operative. An impotent man with tremendous nervous energy. Hitler had to release this tension somehow. He was in turn sadist and masochist, and in the sexual twilight of his life, he never found the physical release which similar unfortunates can sometimes achieve.
Some part of this uncertain and strange sexual constitution had reacted to the presence of Hess, a fine-looking but rather repressed young fellow, during their confinement in Landsberg prison. The moral side of it did not bother me particularly, but this curious borderline inner bondage had its effects on Hitler’s mind . . .
At a party on Tegern Lake Hermann Esser took Hitler with some ladies out in a rowboat. It would be too much to say that Hitler was shivering with fright, but he was completely out of his element and kept suggesting reasons why the young ladies should be returned to dry land again. He seemed absolutely convinced that the boat was going to capsize and Esser told me afterward that Hitler had an unreasoning fear of the water. He could not swim and would not learn. In fact I can never recall having seen him in a bathing costume, nor had anyone else. A story, probably authentic, was frequently told that Hitler’s old army comrades, who had seen him in the washhouse, had noted that his genital organs were almost freakishly underdeveloped, and he doubtless had some sense of shame about displaying himself. It seemed to me that this must all be part of the underlying complex in his physical relations, which was compensated for by the terrifying urge for domination expressed in the field of politics. This fear of the water must also have played its part in his total incomprehension of naval matters and anything to do with the sea. Looking back it all makes sense.
* * *
The emergence of Hitler as a national, and indeed international, figure of the first rank, nearly provided one of those confrontations which would have been
the delight of historians—a meeting with Winston Churchill . . .
1 caught up with Hitler at the Brown House and burst into his room. '■HenHitler,” I said. “Mr. Churchill is in Munich and wants to meet you. This is a tremendous opportunity. They want me to bring you along to dinner at the Hotel Continental tonight.”
I could almost see the asbestos curtain drop down. “Um Gotteswillen, Hanfstacngl. don'* they realize how busy I am? What on earth would I talk to him about?”
“But. Herr Hitler,” 1 protested, “this is the easiest man to talk to in the world— art, politics, architecture, anything you choose. This is one of the most influential men in England, you must meet him."
But my heart sank. Hitler produced a thousand excuses, as he always did when he was afraid of meeting someone. With a figure whom he knew to be his equal in political ability, the unsure bourgeois re-emerged again, the man who would not go to a dancing class for fear of making a fool of himself, the man who only acquired confidence in his manipulation of a yelling audience. I tried one last gambit. “Herr Hitler. I will go to dinner and you arrive afterward as if you were calling for me and stay for coffee.'
First it was no, then he would sec. we had to leave the next day early— which was the first I had heard of it as I thought we had two or three days free: “In any case they say your Mr. Churchill is a rabid Francophile.”
I rang Randolph back and tried to hide my disappointment, pointing out that he had caught us at the worst possible time, but I suggested, against my better knowledge, that Hitler might join us for coffee. I turned up myself at the appointed hour. There was Mrs. Churchill, serene, intelligent and enchanting. Lord Camrose, Professor Lindemann, one of the Churchill daughters and one or two other younger people whose names I forget. We sat down about ten to dinner. Over coffee, champagne and cigars, my host and I pushed our chairs back and he became confidential in his tone. I can remember the scene to this day. With his left hand, the one next to me. he held a champagne glass almost touching his
lips, so that his words reached my ears alone, and in the other a fat cigar. "Tell me,” he asked, "how does your chief feel about an alliance between your country, France and England?”
I was transfixed. I could feel my toes »rowing through my shoes into the carpet. Damn H itler, I thought, here is the one thing which would give him prestige and keep him within bounds and the man hasn’t the social guts to be here to talk about it. "What about Italy?” 1 asked in an attempt to assess the full range of Churchill’s ideas.
"No, no," he said, "we would have to leave them out for the time being. You cannot have everybody joining a club at once.”
1 managed in my desperation to say how interested Hitler would be to discuss such a subject and expatiated excitedly on my own hopes. 1 must get hold of Hitler, I thought, and turning to Mrs. Churchill made a flimsy excuse about having forgotten to telephone my home to say how late I would be and would she please excuse me while 1 rang up. “But of course, ask your wife to join us," she said.
1 got on to the Brown House. Hitler had left. I rang his apartment. Frau Winter had not seen him. Then I telephoned my wife to say 1 did not know what time she would see me. She was tired and preferred not to wait up or come out. I stepped out of the call box into the hall and whom did I see nine or ten steps up the staircase but Hitler, in his dirty white overcoat and green hat. just saying goodby to a Dutchman, who I knew was a friend of Gocring’s and had, 1 think, channeled money to the party in his time. I was beside myself.
"Herr Hitler, what are you doing here? Don’t you realize the Churchills are sitting in the restaurant? They may well have seen you come in and out? They will certainly learn from the hotel servants that you have been here. I hey are expecting you for coffee, and will think this is a deliberate insult." No, he was still unshaven, which was true. "Then for heaven's sake go home and shave and come back," I said. ”1 will play the piano for them or something until you get back.”
“I have too much to do, Hanfstaengl. 1 have to get up early in the morning,” and he evaded me and walked out.
I put on the best face 1 could and went back to the party. Who knows, I thought, perhaps after all he will turn up. I kicked myself for not having been more explicit to Hitler, but the Continental had a narrow little paneled hall, with porters and receptionists every yard. I could not blurt this thing out in front of the Dutchman. and Hitler had been backing away from me the whole time. So I played my football marches, and "Annie Laurie, and the “Londonderry Air" and the party was in high fettle. All except me of course.
Hitler never turned up. He had funked it. The next morning early his car was waiting for me outside my house. We picked him up with his tame thugs and drove off to Nuremberg, where, if you please, he spent the whole morning talking shop with Julius Streicher. On the way there I leaned forward in the car and told him all about my talk. He did not really believe it, or if he did I could feel that Hess and Rosenberg had been a' him trying to prevent this outside contact at all cost. “In any case, what part does Churchill play?” Hitler complained. "He is in opposition and no one pays any attention to him.”
"People say the same thing about you,” I answered, nettled.
But it was no good., He had made up his mind not to expose himself to anyone
with the capacity to steal his thunder. 1 did not even pass on Churchill’s comment about his anti-Semitism in case it should provide him with another excuse. The Churchills stayed in Munich for two or three more days, I believe, but Hitler kept away until they had gone.
* * *
In 1934 I visited the United States to attend the tw'enty-fifth reunion of my Harvard class. One morning the president of Harvard of my time. A. Lawrence Lowell, called at the Cutlers’ house, where I was staying, and asked me to
explain National Socialism to him.
“You must realize how it started,” l said. "We lost a war, had the Communists in control of the streets and had to try and build things up again. In the end the republic had thirty-two parties, all of them too weak to do anything of consequence and finally it was necessary to roll them up into a State party, and that was Hitler. If a car gets stuck in the mud and begins to sink deeper and deeper and the engine stops, and then a man comes along and pours something into the works which starts it up again, you don’t ask
what it was he put in. You set to and get the damned thing out. It may only have been psychological schnapps, a mixture of mother’s ruin and exaltation, but it is enough for the time being." And wise old Lowell looked at me and said: "This whatever-you-called-it may be all right to start with, but what happens when the driver gets drunk on it?" That was it; of course he was right,
Dr. HanfstaengTs memoirs feilt he published later by McClelland and Stewart as. Hitler: The Missing Years.