August Kubizek provides the only substantial witness account of Adolf Hitler’s early years in Linz and Vienna between 1907 and 1912. Born within nine months of each other they met in their hometown of Linz where a shared love of art and music, especially the operas of Richard Wagner, brought them together. They became firm friends to the point Hitler became resentful if Kubizek paid too much attention to anyone else. While Hitler dreamt of being a great artist, Kubizek, or ‘Gustl’ to Hitler, dreamt of becoming a famous conductor.
In 1912, Hitler moved to Vienna while August Kubizek remained in Linz to work as an apprentice for his father’s upholstery business which was destined to become his trade. But Hitler somehow managed to persuade Kubizek’s father to allow Gustl to join him in Vienna and be allowed to pursue his musical ambitions.
Thus the two friends were reunited and sharing a room in Vienna. But while Kubizek was successful in his application to the Vienna Music Conservatory, Hitler failed twice to get a place at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. So ashamed of his failure that for a while Hitler managed to keep it hidden from his friend.
In 1908, Kubizek returned to Vienna after a brief visit back to Linz to find Hitler had moved out and had left no forwarding address. He was not to see Hitler again until thirty years later, in 1938.
Kubizek embarked on what promised to be a successful musical career but cut short by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Following the war he became a council official.
In 1938, Hitler, by now the most powerful man in Germany, was paying a visit to his hometown of Linz when he agreed to meet up with Kubizek. They met in a hotel lounge and reminisced for an hour. Hitler offered to revive his old friend’s musical career but Kubizek, by now 50-years-old, declined the offer. But he did accept Hitler’s offer of funding his three sons through music school, and for years to come Hitler would send birthday presents to Kubizek’s elderly mother.
August Kubizek reminded Hitler of an occasion when, together in Linz, they went to see a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi. Hitler had come out mesmerized, as if in a trance. Hitler gripped Kubizek’s hands and “spoke of a mission that he was one day to receive from our people, in order to guide them out of slavery, to the heights of freedom.” Hitler remembered the occasion well, looked wistfully at his old friend and said, “It began at that hour …”
‘My Childhood Friend’
In 1939 and 1940 Hitler invited Kubizek to sit with him at the Bayreuth Festival in Bavaria, an annual celebration of the music of Richard Wagner. The occasions were, according to Kubizek in words reminiscent of Hitler’s style, the “happiest hours of my earthly existence.” Thus their friendship ended where it had begun thirty years before.
In 1951 August Kubizek wrote his memoirs, Adolf Hitler, My Childhood Friend, in he which he declared, “No power on earth could compel me to deny my friendship with Adolf Hitler.”
He died, aged 68, on 23 October 1956.
Rupert Colley’s novella, My Brother the Enemy, set during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, is now available.