Saturday, December 3, 2011

Walking was the only exercise that really appealed to Adolf. He walked always and everywhere and, even in my workshop and in my room, he would stride up and down. I recall him always on the go. He could walk for hours without getting tired. We used to explore the surroundings of Linz in all directions. His love of nature was pronounced, but in a very personal way. Unlike other subjects, nature never attracted him as a matter for study; I hardly ever remember seeing him with a book on the subject.
Here was the limit of his thirst for knowledge. Details did not interest him, but only nature as a whole. He referred to it as "in the open."
This expression sounded as familiar on his lips as the word "home." And, in fact, he did feel at home with nature. As early as in the first years of our friendship I discovered his peculiar preference for nocturnal excursions, or even for staying overnight in some unfamiliar district. Being in the open had an extraordinary effect upon him. He was then quite a different person from what he was in town. Certain sides of his character revealed themselves nowhere else. He was never so collected and concentrated as when walking along the quiet paths in the beech woods  or at night when we took a quick walk on the Freinberg.
To the rhythm of his steps his thoughts would flow more smoothly and to better purpose than elsewhere. For a long time I could not understand one peculiar contradiction in him. When the sun shone brightly in the streets and a fresh, revivifying wind brought the smell of the woods into the town, an irresistible force drove him out of the narrow, stuffy streets into the woods and fields. But hardly had we reached the open country, than he would assure me that it would be impossible for him to live in the country again. It would be terrible for him to have to live in a village. For all his love of nature, he was always glad when we got back to the town. As I grew to know him better, I also came to understand this apparent contradiction. He needed the town, the variety and abundance of its impressions, experiences and events; he felt there that he had his share in everything; that there was nothing in which his interest was not engaged.
He needed people with their contrasting interests, their ambitions, intentions, plans and desires. Only in this problem-laden atmosphere did he feel at home. From this point of view the village was altogether too simple, too insignificant, too unimportant, and did not provide enough scope for his limitless need to take an interest in everything. Besides, for him, a town was interesting in itself as an agglomeration of houses and buildings. It was understandable that he should want to live only in a town. On the other hand, he needed an effective counterweight to the town, which always troubled and excited him and made constant demands on his interests and his talents. He found this in nature, which even he could not try to change and improve because its eternal laws are beyond the reach of the human will. Here he could once more find his own self, since here he was not obliged, as he was in town, eternally to be taking sides.
One day when we were taking a walk he suddenly stopped, produced from his pocket a little black notebook -- 1 still see it before me and could describe it minutely -- and read me a poem he had written. I do not remember the poem itself any longer; to be precise, I can no longer distinguish it from the other poems which Adolf read to me in later days. But I do remember distinctly how much it impressed me that my friend wrote poetry and carried his poems around with him in the same way that I carried my tools. When Adolf later showed me his drawings and designs which he had sketched -- somewhat confused and confusing designs which were really beyond me -- when he told me that he had much more and better work in his room and was determined to devote his whole life to art, then it dawned on me what kind of person my friend really was.
He belonged to that particular species of people of which I had dreamed myself in my more expansive moments; an artist, who despised the mere bread-and-butter job and devoted himself to writing poetry, to drawing, painting and to going to the theatre. This impressed me enormously. I was thrilled by the grandeur which I saw here. My ideas of an artist were then still very hazy - probably as hazy as were Hitler's. But that made it all the more alluring.
I cannot conclude this chapter without mentioning one of Hitler's qualities which, I freely admit, seems paradoxical to talk about now.
Hitler was full of deep understanding and sympathy. He took a most touching interest in me. Without my telling him, he knew exactly how I felt. How often this helped me in difficult times! He always knew what I needed and what I wanted.
However intensely he was occupied with himself he would always have time for the affairs of those people in whom he was interested. It was not by chance that he was the one who persuaded my father to let me study music and thereby influenced my life in a decisive way. Rather, this was the outcome of his general attitude of sharing in all the things that were of concern to me. Sometimes I had a feeling that he was living my life as well as his own.
His nose was quite straight and well proportioned, but in no way remarkable. His forehead was high and receded a little. I was always sorry that even in those days he had the habit of combing his hair straight down over his forehead. Yet this traditional forehead-nose-mouth description seems rather ridiculous to me.
For in this countenance the eyes were so outstanding that one didn't notice anything else.
Never in my life have I seen any other person whose appearance - how shall I put it- was so completely dominated by the eyes. They were the light eyes of his mother, but her somewhat staring, penetrating gaze was even more marked in the son and had even more force and expressiveness. It was uncanny how these eyes could change their expression, especially when Adolf was speaking. To me his sonorous voice meant much less than the expression of his eyes.
In fact, Adolf spoke with his eyes, and even when his lips were silent one knew what he wanted to say. When he first came to our house and I introduced him to my mother, she said to me in the evening, "What eyes your friend has!"
And I remember quite distinctly that there was more fear than admiration in her words.
If I am asked where one could perceive, in his youth, this man's exceptional qualities, I can only answer, "In the eyes."

a friend,  august kubitzek