EDUARD BLOCH – THE HITLER I KNEW
I knew Adolf Hitler as a boy and as a young man.
I treated him many times and was intimately familiar with the modest surroundings in which he grew to manhood.
I attended, in her final illness, the person nearer and dearer to him than all others – his mother.
The unsympathetic ones have done this of necessity.
They could lay their hands on only the most meager facts.
The official party biographies have skipped over this period because of the dictator’s wishes.
Why this abnormal sensitivity about his youth ? I do not know.
There are no scandalous chapters which Hitler might wish to hide, unless one goes back over a hundred years to the birth of his father.
Some biographers say that Alois Hitler was an illegitimate child.
I cannot speak for the accuracy of this statement.
What kind of boy was he ?
What kind of a life did he lead? It is of these things that we shall speak here.
First, I might introduce myself.
I was born in Frauenburg, a tiny village in southern Bohemia which, in the course of my lifetime, had been under three flags: Austrian, Czechoslovakian and German.
I am sixty-nine years old.
I studied medicine in Prague, then joined the Austrian army as a military doctor.
In 1899 I was ordered to Linz, capital of Upper Austria, and the third largest city in the country. When I completed my army service in 1901 I decided to remain in Linz and practice medicine.
As a city, Linz has always been as quiet and reserved as Vienna was gay and noisy.
In the period of which we are about to speak – when Adolf Hitler was a boy of 14 – Linz was a city of 80,000 people.
|Landstrasse – Linz|
My consultation rooms and home were in the same house, an ancient baroque structure on Landstrasse, the main thoroughfare of the city.
The family background is well known.
|Alois Schicklgruber Hitler|
Alois Schicklgruber Hitler was the son of a poor peasant girl.
When he was old enough to work he got a job as a cobbler’s apprentice, worked his way into the government service and became a customs inspector at Braunau, a tiny frontier town between Bavaria and Austria.
Braunau is fifty miles from Linz.
At fifty-six Alois Hitler became eligible for a pension and retired. Proud of his own success, he was anxious for his son to enter government service.
Young Adolf violently opposed the idea.
He would be an artist.
Father and son fought over this while the mother, Klara Hitler, tried to maintain peace.
His son would have the education which had been denied him; an education which would secure him a good government job.
So Father Alois prepared to leave the hamlet of Braunau for the city of Linz.
|Realschule – Linz|
Because of his government service, he would not be required to pay the full tuition for his son at the Realschule.
With all this in mind he bought a small farm in Leonding, a Linz suburb.
In later life Adolf has so overshadowed the others that they are, for the better part, forgotten. There was half-brother Alois, whom I never met.
He left home at an early age, got a job as a waiter in London and later opened his own restaurant in Berlin.
He was never friendly with his younger brother.
Then there was Paula, the oldest of the girls.
She later married Herr Rubal, an official in the tax bureau in Linz.
Later still, after her husband’s death and her brother’s rise to power, she went to Berchtesgaden to become house-keeper at Hitler’s Berghof.
Sister Klara for a while managed a restaurant for students at the University of Vienna; and sister Angela, youngest of the girls, married a Professor Hamitsch at Dresden, where she still lives.
The family had barely settled in their new home outside of Linz when Alois, the father, died suddenly from an apoplectic stroke.
She was a simple, modest, kindly women.
She was tall, had brownish hair which she kept neatly plaited, and a long, oval face with beautifully expressive gray-blue eyes.
She was desperately worried about the responsibilities thrust upon her by her husband’s death. Alois, twenty-three years her senior, had always managed the family.
Now the job was hers.
So her best move seemed to be to sell the place and rent a small apartment.
This she did, soon after her husband’s death.
With the proceeds of this sale and the small pension which came to her because of her husband’s government position, she managed to hold her family together.
There are no slums and no serious overcrowding.
I do not know the exact income of the Hitler family, but being familiar with the scale of government pensions I should estimate it at $25 a month.
This small sum allowed them to live quietly and decently – unnoticed little people in an out-of-the-way town.
Its windows gave an excellent view of the mountains.
It glistened; not a speck of dust on the chairs or tables, not a stray fleck of mud on the scrubbed floor, not a smudge on the panes in the windows.
Frau Hitler was a superb housekeeper.
One stood out above the others; the widow of the postmaster who lived in the same house.
We had the usual provincial opera in Linz: not good, and not bad.
Those who would hear the best went to Vienna.
|Schauspielhaus – Linz|
Seats in the gallery of our theater, the Schauspielhaus, sold for the equivalent of 10 to 15 cents in American money.
Yet occupying one of these seats to hear an indifferent troupe sing ‘Lohengrin’ was such a memorable occasion that Hitler records it in ‘Mein Kampf’.
He read extensively, and was particularly fascinated by stories about American Indians.
He devoured the books of James Fenimore Cooper, and the German writer Karl May – who never visited America and never saw an Indian.
Food was cheap and plentiful in Linz; and the Hitler family ate much the same diet as other people in their circumstance.
Meat would be served perhaps twice a week.
Most of the meals they sat down to consisted of cabbage or potato soup, bread, dumplings and a pitcher of pear and apple cider.
Adolf, of course, dressed in the uniform of all small boys: leather shorts, embroidered suspenders, a small green hat with a feather in its band.
Many biographers have put him down as harsh-voiced, defiant, untidy; as a young ruffian who personified all that is unattractive.
This simply is not true.
As a youth he was quiet, well-mannered and neatly dressed.
Possibly – but let us look at Adolf Hitler as he impressed people about him, not as he impressed himself.
He was neither robust nor sickly.
Perhaps “frail looking” would best describe him.
His eyes – inherited from his mother – were large, melancholy and thoughtful.
To a very large extent this boy lived within himself.
What dreams he dreamed I do not know.
While he was not a “mother’s boy” in the usual sense, I have never witnessed a closer attachment.
Some insist that this love verged on the pathological.
As a former intimate of the family, I do not believe this is true.
She allowed him his own way wherever possible.
His father had insisted that he become an official.
He rebelled and won his mother to his side.
He soon tired of school, so his mother allowed him to drop his studies.
Despite their poverty, she permitted him to reject a job which was offered in the post office, so that he could continue his painting.
She admired his water colors and his sketches of the countryside.
Whether this was honest admiration or whether it was merely an effort to encourage his talent I do not know.
She saw that he was neat, clean and as well fed as her purse would permit.
Whenever he came to my consultation room this strange boy would sit among the other patients, awaiting his turn.
Possibly his tonsils would be inflamed.
He would stand obedient and unflinching while I depressed his tongue and swabbed the trouble spots.
Or, possibly, he would be suffering with a cold.
I would treat him and send him on his way.
Like any well-bred boy of fourteen or fifteen he would bow and thank me courteously.
I cannot understand the many references to his lung trouble as a youth.
I was the only doctor treating him during the period in which he is supposed to have suffered from this.
My records show nothing of the sort.
To be sure, he didn’t have the rosy cheeks and the robust good health of most of the other youngsters; but at the same time he was not sickly.
As authority for this, I have the word of his former teacher, Dr. Karl Huemer, an old acquaintance of mine.
I was Frau Huemer’s physician.
In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler records that he was an indifferent student in most subjects, but that he loved history.
This agrees with the recollections of Professor Huemer.
This was a momentous decision for a member of a poor family.
His mother worried about how he would get along.
I understand that she even suggested pinching the family budget a little tighter to enable her to send him a tiny allowance.
Credit to the boy, he refused.
He even went further: he signed his minute inheritance over to his sisters.
He was eighteen at the time.
Some contend that he was not admitted to the Academy because of his unsatisfactory art work. Others accept Hitler’s statement that his rejection was due to his failure to graduate from the Realschule – the equivalent of an American high school.
In any case he was home again within a few weeks.
It was later in this year – 1908 [1907, according to some sources] – that it became my duty to give Hitler what was perhaps the saddest news of his life.
She complained of a pain in her chest.
She spoke in a quiet, hushed voice; almost a whisper.
The pain, she said, had been great; enough to keep her awake nights on end.
She had been busy with her household so had neglected to seek medical aid.
Besides, she thought the pain would pass away.
When a physician hears such a story he almost automatically thinks of cancer.
An examination showed that Frau Hitler had an extensive tumor of the breast.
I did not tell her of my diagnosis.
|Dr Eduard Bloch – Offoce|
I summoned the children to my office next day and stated the case frankly.
Their mother, I told them, was a gravely ill woman.
A malignant tumor is serious enough today, but it was even more serious then.
Surgical techniques were not so advanced and knowledge of cancer not so extensive.
Even with surgery there was but the slightest chance that she would live.
In family council they must decide what was to be done.
His long, sallow face was contorted.
Tears flowed from his eyes.
Did his mother, he asked, have no chance ?
Only then did I realize the magnitude of the attachment that existed between mother and son.
I explained that she did have a chance; but a small one.
Even this shred of hope gave him some comfort.
Deeply religious, she assumed that her fate was God’s will.
It would never have occurred to her to complain.
She would submit to the operation as soon as I could make preparations.
Urban was one of the best-known surgeons in Upper Austria.
He was a generous man, a credit to his profession.
He willingly agreed to undertake the operation on any basis I suggested.
After examination he concurred in my belief that Frau Hitler had very little chance of surviving but that surgery offered the only hope.
Because of his political connections he was forced to abandon his position at the hospital.
His son, who pioneered in brain surgery, was likewise forced from several offices.
I do not have the exact date.
In any case, Frau Hitler spent the night in the hospital and was operated on the following morning.
At the request of this gentle, harried soul I remained beside the operating table while Dr. Urban and his assistant performed the surgery.
There the children awaited me.
The face of the boy was streaked with tears, and his eyes were tired and red.
He listened until I had finished speaking. He has but one question. In a choked voice he asked: “Does my mother suffer ?”
At most she could be out of bed for an hour or two a day.
During this period Adolf spent most of his time around the house, to which his mother had returned.
During the day he hovered about the large bed in which she lay.
She bore her burden well; unflinching and uncomplaining.
But it seemed to torture her son.
An anguished grimace would come over him when he saw pain contract her face.
There was little that could be done.
An injection of morphine from time to time would give temporary relief; but nothing lasting.
Yet Adolf seemed enormously grateful even for these short periods of release.
She was forty-eight at the time; tall, slender and rather handsome, yet wasted by disease.
She was soft-spoken, patient; more concerned about what would happen to her family than she was about her approaching death.
She made no secret of these worries; or about the fact that most of her thoughts were for her son. “Adolf is still so young,” she said repeatedly.
The end was approaching and I wanted this good woman to be as comfortable as I could make her.
I didn’t know whether she would live another week, or another month; or whether death would come in a matter of hours.
Her mother had died quietly in the night.
The children had decided not to disturb me, knowing that their mother was beyond all medical aid.
But, she asked, could I come now ?
Someone in an official position would have to sign the death certificate.
I put on my coat and drove with her to the grief-stricken cottage.
Adolf, his face showing the weariness of a sleepless night, sat beside his mother.
In order to preserve a last impression, he had sketched her as she lay on her deathbed.
I explained that in this case death had been a savior.
In all my career I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hltler.
The body was taken from Urfahr to Leonding, only a few miles distant.
Klara Hitler was buried beside her husband in the Catholic cemetery, behind the small, yellow stucco church.
After the others – the girls, and the postmaster’s widow – had left, Adolf remained behind; unable to tear himself away from the freshly filled grave.
Alone with his thoughts on Christmas Eve while the rest of the world was gay and happy.
They wished to thank me for the help I had given them.
There was Paula, fair and stocky; Angela, slender, pretty but rather anemic; Klara and Adolf. The girls spoke what was in their hearts while Adolf remained silent.
I recall this particular scene as vividly as I might recall something that took place last week.
Then as now a shock of hair tumbled over his forehead.
His eyes were on the floor while his sisters were talking.
Then came his turn.
He stepped forward and took my hand.
Looking into my eyes, he said: “I shall be grateful to you forever.“
That was all.
Then he bowed.
I wonder if he recalled this scene.
I am quite sure that he did, for in a sparing sense Adolf Hitler had kept to his promise of gratitude.
Favors were granted me which I feel sure were accorded no other Jew in all Germany or Austria.
His growth to manhood had been a painful experience for this boy who lived within himself.
But ever more trying days were coming.
Poor as the family was, he had at least been assured food and shelter while living at home. This couldn’t be said of the days in Vienna.
Hitler was entirely engrossed with the business of keeping body and soul together.
And we know that he shoveled snow and took any other job he could find.
During this period, for three years in fact, Hitler lived in a man’s hostel, the equivalent of a flophouse in any large American city.
It was here that he began to dream of a world remade to his pattern.
The grim realities of the life he lived encouraged him to hate the government, labor unions, the very men he lived with.
But he had not yet begun to hate the Jews.
On the back was. a message: “From Vienna I send you my greetings. Yours, always faithfully, Adolf Hitler.”
It was a small thing, yet I appreciated it.
I had spent a great deal of time treating the Hitler family and it was nice to know that this effort on my part had not been forgotten.
If I did I am not aware of it.
But it is quite possible that he sent me one and that I have forgotten the matter.
In Austria patients frequently send paintings or other gifts to their physicians as a mark of gratitude.
Even now I have half a dozen of these oils and water colors which I have saved; but none painted by Hitler among them.
This came during the period in Vienna when he was painting post cards, posters, etc., making enough money to support himself.
This was the one time in his life that Hitler was able to make successful use of his talent.
Then other inmates of the hostel would peddle them.
Today in Germany the few remaining samples of this work are more highly prized and sought after than the works of Picasso, Gauguin and Cézanne!
It showed a hooded Capuchin monk hoisting a glass of bubbling champagne.
Under the picture was a caption: “Prosit Neujahr – A toast to the New Year.”
On the reverse side he had written a message: “The Hitler family sends you the best wishes for a Happy New Year. In everlasting thankfulness, Adolf Hitler.”
Possibly it was because of the impression made upon me by that unhappy boy.
Even today I cannot help thinking of him in terms of his grief.
They indicated the extent to which Hitler has captured the imagination of some people.
A rich Viennese industrialist – I do not know his name because he dealt through an intermediary – later made me an astonishing offer.
He wanted to buy those two cards and was willing to pay 20,000 marks for them !
I rejected the offer on the ground that I could not ethically make such a sale.
Seventeen days after the collapse of the Schuschnigg government and the occupation of Austria by German troops, an agent of the Gestapo called at my home.
At the time I was making a professional call, but my wife received him.
Acting sensibly, my wife made no protest.
She found the two cards and handed them over.
The agent scribbled a receipt which read: “Certificate for the safekeeping of two post cards (one of them painted by the hand of Adolf Hitler) confiscated in the house of Dr. Eduard Bloch.”
It was signed by the agent, named Groemer, who was previously unknown to us.
He said I was to come to headquarters the following morning.
I went to this place and was received almost immediately.
I was greeted courteously by Dr. Rasch, head of the local bureau.
I asked him why these bits of property had been taken.
There were many things to be looked after in a town of 120,000 people.
It developed that Dr. Rasch was not familiar with my case.
He asked if I were under suspicion for any political activity unfavorable to the NSDAP.
I replied that I was not; that I was a professional man with no political connections.
So far as I know the cards are still in the hands of the Gestapo.
I never saw them again.
He had no friends in Linz to whom he might return to visit and few with whom he might exchange correspondence.
So, it was much later that we learned of his wretched poverty on those days, and of his subsequent moving to Munich in May 1913.
We heard nothing of his being wounded and gassed.
Not until the beginning of his political career in 1920 were we again to get news of this quiet, polite boy who grew up among us.
But no particular importance was attached to these activities.
Not until twenty people died in the beer-hall putsch of November 8, 1923, did Hitler achieve local notoriety.
Was it possible, I asked myself, that the man behind these things was the quiet boy I had known – the son of the gentle Klara Hitler ?
This smuggled news reached responsive ears.
A local NSDAP party sprang up.
In practice authorities gave it their blessings.
From time to time local authorities would find a NSDAP flag on Klara Hitler’s grave in Leonding, and would remove it without ceremony.
Still, the gathering storm in Germany seemed remote.
It was quite a while before I got any firsthand word from Adolf Hitler.
Then, in 1937, a number of local National Socialists attended the party conference at Nuremberg.
After the conference Hitler invited several of these people to come with him to his mountain villa at Berchtesgaden.
The Führer asked for news of Linz.
How was the townn?
Were people there supporting him ?
He asked for news of me.
Was I still alive, still practicing ?
Then he made a statement. “Dr. Bloch,” said Hitler, “is an Edeljude – a noble Jew. If all Jews were like him, there would be no Jewish question.“
It was strange, and in a way flattering, that Adolf Hitler could see good in at least one member of my race.
Surely Germany would not chance invading Austria.
France was friendly.
Occupation of Austria would be inimical to the interests of Italy.
But we were blind, in those days !
Then we were caught up in a breathless rush of events.
It was with hope that we read of the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg’s trip to Berchtesgaden; his plebiscite; his inclusion of Seyss-Inquart in his cabinet.
Possibly we would ride through this crisis untouched.
But hope was doomed within a very few hours.
As soon as Seyss-Inquart was taken into the cabinet, buttons sprouted in every lapel: “One People, One Realm, One Leader.“
It was 7:45 at night.
Suddenly the announcer broke in.
The chancellor would speak.
Schuschnigg came on the air and said that to prevent bloodshed he was capitulating to the wishes of Hitler.
The frontiers would be opened, he ended his address with the words: “Gott schütze Österreich” – may God protect Austria.
Hitler was coming home to Linz.
Troops were pouring over the border at Passau, Kufstein, Mittenwalde and elsewhere.
Hitler himself was crossing the Inn River at Braunau, his birthplace.
Breathlessly, the announcer told us the story of the march.
The Führer himself would pause in Linz.
The town went mad with joy.
The reader should have no doubts about the popularity of Anschluss with Germany. The people favored it.
They greeted the onrushing tide of German troops with flowers, cheers and songs.
Church bells rang.
Austrian troops and police fraternized with the invaders and there was general rejoicing.
All afternoon it rang with the ‘Horst Wessel Song’ and ‘Deutschland über Alles’.
Planes droned overhead, and advance units of the German army were given deafening cheers. Finally the radio announced that Hitler was in Linz.
All windows along the procession route were to be closed.
Each should be lighted.
I stood at the window of my home facing Landstrasse.
Hitler would pass before me.
The frail boy I had treated so often, and whom I had not seen for thirty years – stood in the car.
I had accorded him only kindness; what was he now to do to the people I loved ?
I peered over the heads of the crowd at Adolf Hitler.
For years Hitler had been denied the right to visit the country of his birth.
Now that country belonged to him.
The elation that he felt was written on his features.
He smiled, waved, gave the National Socialist salute to the people that crowded the street. Then, for a moment he glanced up at my window.
I doubt that he saw me, but he must have had a moment of reflection.
Here was the home of the Edeljude who had diagnosed his mother’s fatal cancer; here was the consultation room of the man who had treated his sisters; here was the place he had gone as a boy to have his minor ailments attended.
Then the procession was gone.
It moved slowly into the town square – once ‘Franz Josef Platz’, soon to be renamed ‘Adolf Hitler Platz’.
He spoke from the balcony of the town hall.
I listened on the radio.
Historic words: Germany and Austria were now one.
This scene had been visible from the windows of the modest apartment where he spent his boyhood.
It was understandable that he couldn’t ask me, a Jew, to such a meeting; yet he did inquire after me.
For a while I thought of asking for an audience, then decided this would be unwise.
Sunday he visited his mother’s grave, and reviewed local National Socialists as they marched before him.
On Monday Hitler departed for Vienna.
Hitler, apparently, had remembered.
This was another way of saying that I was to cease work altogether.
For plans were in the making for ridding the town of all Jews.
On November 10, 1938, the ruling was issued that all Jews were to leave Linz within forty-eight hours.
They were to go to Vienna.
I was informed that an exception had been made in my case. I could remain.
My daughter and her husband ?
Since they had already signified their intention of emigrating to America, they also could stay. But they would have to vacate their house.
If there was room in my apartment they would be permitted to move there.
I was told on good authority, and I can well believe it, that the bureau in Linz had received special instructions from the chancellery in Berlin that I was to be accorded any reasonable favor.
During the war I had charge of a 1,000 bed military hospital, and my wife supervised welfare work among the sick.
I was twice decorated for this service.
The once quiet, sleepy town had been transformed.
Whole blocks of old houses have been pulled down to make way for modern apartment houses; thereby causing an acute but temporary housing shortage.
A new theater has gone up and a new bridge has been built over the Danube.
The bridge, according to local legend, was designed by Hitler himself and plans were already completed at the time of Anschluss.
The vast Hermann Goering Iron Works, built in the past two years, is just starting operations.
To carry on this program of reconstruction whole trainloads of laborers have been imported: Czechs, Poles, Belgians.
Each time had has stayed at the Weinzinger Hotel.
Delighted at having such an important personage in his house, the proprietor could not resist boasting.
He telephoned several friends to give them the news.
For this breach of discipline he paid heavily.
His hotel was confiscated.
In most instances I have refused to speak. But I did talk to one of these men.
He was a pleasant middle-aged gentleman from Vienna, who came from the government department headed by Rudolf Hess.
He was writing an official biography.
I gave him such details as I could recall, and my medical records which he subsequently sent to the Party headquarters in Munich.
But the Gestapo had one more favor for me. I was to be allowed to take sixteen marks from the country instead of the customary ten!
Before I left Linz on a cold, foggy November morning, I wrote it.
I wonder if it was ever received. It read: