Saturday, January 7, 2012

But most vivid in my memory is a mountain excursion we made in early summer. The journey to
Semmering was far enough to allow Adolf to recover from his early rising. Immediately after Wiener Neustadt the
country became mountainous. The railway had to reach the heights of the Semmering in wide
curves. To attain a height of 980 metres, many turns, tunnels and viaducts were necessary. Adolf
was thrilled by the bold design of the track; one surprise came on top of another. He would have
liked to get out and walk this stretch of the track, so that he could inspect it all. I was already
prepared to listen to a fundamental lecture on the building of mountain railways at the next
opportunity, for certainly he had already thought out a bolder design, even higher viaducts and
longer tunnels.

Semmering! We got out. A beautiful day. How pure the air was here after all the dust and smoke,
how blue the sky! The meadows gleamed green, with the dark woods rising from them, and
above, their peaks still snow-covered, towered the mountains.

The train back to Vienna did not leave till evening; we had plenty of time, the whole day was ours.
Adolf quickly made up his mind what our target should be. Which was the highest of these
mountains? We were told, I believe, the Rax. So, let us climb the Rax.
Neither Adolf nor I had the faintest idea of mountaineering. The highest "mountains" we had
conquered in our lives were the gentle hills of Mühlviertel. The Alps, themselves, we had till now
only seen at a distance. But we were now in the midst of them and very impressed by the thought
that this mountain was over two thousand metres high.
As always with Adolf, his will had to make up for whatever else was lacking. We had no food with
us, because we had originally intended just to walk down from the Semmering heights to
Gloggnitz. We did not even have a rucksack and our clothes were those that we wore for our
strolls through the city. Our shoes were much too light, with thin soles and without nails. We had
trousers and jacket, but not a scrap of warm clothing. But the sun was shining, and we were
young -- so forward!

The adventure we had on our way down overshadowed our upward climb so completely that I
can no longer tell which route we took. I only remember now that we climbed for several hours
before we reached the plain at the summit of the mountain. We now seemed to be on a peak,
though it might not have been the Rax. I had never climbed a mountain peak; I had a strange,
unfettered feeling, as though I no longer belonged to the earth, but was already close to heaven.
Adolf, deeply affected, stood on the plateau and said not a word.

We could see far and wide across the land. Here and there in the colourful pattern of meadow
and forest a church tower or a village would spring up. How puny and unimportant did the works
of man look!

It was a wonderful moment, perhaps the most beautiful that I have ever experienced with my

Tiredness was forgotten in our enthusiasm. Somewhere in our pockets we found a bit of dry
bread and we made do with that. In the pleasure of the day, we had hardly noticed the weather.
Had not the sun just been shining? Now, suddenly, dark clouds made their appearance and a
mist fell; this happened as rapidly as though it were the change of a stage set.
The wind sprang up and whipped the mist before us in long, fluttering shrouds. Far off a storm
was rumbling; hollow and uncanny, the thunder rolled around the mountains.

We began to freeze in our pitiful "Ringstrasse suitings." Our thin trousers fluttered round our legs
as we hurried down to the valley. But the path was stony, and our shoes not up to the demands
the mountain made on them. Moreover, for al! our haste, the storm gained on us. Already the first
drops were spattering down in the woods; and then the rain really set in. And what rain! Actual
streams of water poured down on us from the clouds that seemed to hang just above the
treetops. We ran and ran, as hard as we could. It was hopeless to try to protect ourselves. Soon
there was not a single dry spot on us and our shoes, too, were full of water.

And no house, no hut, no kind of shelter wherever we turned. Adolf was not at all put out by the
thunder and lightning, the storm and the rain. To my surprise he was in a splendid mood and,
although soaked to the skin, became more and more genial as the rain grew heavier.
We skipped along the stony path and suddenly, just off it, I spotted a little hut. There was no
sense in continuing to run in the rain, besides, it was getting dark, so I suggested to Adolf that we
should stay in this little cabin overnight. He immediately agreed -- for him the adventure could not
go on long enough.

I searched the little wooden hut. In the lower half lay a pile of hay, dry, and sufficient for us both to
sleep in. Adolf took off his shoes, jacket and trousers and began to wring out his clothes. "Are you
terribly hungry, too?" he asked. He felt somewhat better when I told him that I was. A sorrow
shared is a sorrow halved; apparently that applied to hunger too.

Meanwhile, in the upper part of the hut, I had found some large squares of canvas, which were
used by the peasants to carry the hay down the steep mountain sides. I felt very sorry for Adolf,
standing there in the doorway in his soaking underclothes, chattering with cold as he wrung out
the sleeves of his jacket. Sensitive as he was to any kind of chill, how easily he could catch
pneumonia. So I took one of the big squares, stretched it out on the hay and told Adolf to take off
his wet shirt and pants and to wrap himself in the cloth. This he did.
He laid himself naked on the cloth and I took hold of the ends and wrapped it firmly round him.

Then I fetched a second square and put that over him. This done, I wrung out all our clothes and
hung them up, wrapped myself, too, in a canvas and lay down. So that we should not get icy cold
in the night, I threw a bale of hay over the bundle that was Adolf, and another one over myself.
We did not know the time as neither of us had a watch. But for us it was enough to know that
outside it was pitchdark with the rain rattling unceasingly on to the roof of the hut. Somewhere in
the distance a dog barked; so we were not too far away from human habitation, a thought that
comforted me. When I mentioned it to Adolf, however, it left him quite indifferent. In the present
circumstances people were quite superfluous for him. He was enjoying the whole adventure
hugely and its romantic ending especially appealed to him. Now we were getting warm, and it
would have been almost cosy in the little hut, if we had not been racked with hunger.

The end came; the war was lost. Even though I, a fundamentally unpolitical individual, had always
kept aloof from the political events of the period which ended forever in 1945, nevertheless no
power on earth could compel me to deny my friendship with Adolf Hitler.

In the beginning I was often questioned, first in Eferding, then in Gmunden. These interrogations
all ran on the same lines; something like:

"You are a friend of Adolf Hitler's?"
"Since when?"
"Since 1904."
"What do you mean by that? At that time he was nobody."
"Nevertheless, I was his friend."
"How could you be his friend when he was still a nobody?"

An American officer of the Central Intelligence Corps asked: "So you are a friend of Adolf Hitler's.
What did you get out of it?"
"But you admit that you were his friend. Did he give you money?"
"Or food?"
"A car, a house?"
"Not that either."
"Did he introduce you to beautiful women?"
"Nor that."
"Did he receive you again, later on?"
"Did you see him often?"
"How did you manage to see him?"
"I just went to him."
"So you were with him. Really? Quite close?"
"Yes, quite close."
"Without any guard?"
"Without any guard."
"So you could have killed him?"
"Yes, I could have."
"And why didn't you kill him?"
"Because he was my friend."
  -- kubizek

No comments:

Post a Comment