Reinhold Hanisch was born in Jablonec nad Nisou, northern Bohemia, on 27th January, 1884. After leaving school in worked as a casual labourer. In 1907 he was arrested for theft in Berlin. After serving six months in prison he moved to Vienna.
In December 1909 he found a bed in a doss-house behind Meidling Station. He met Adolf Hitler on his first day at the refuge. "On the very first day there sat next to the bed that had been allotted to me a man who had nothing on except an old torn pair of trousers - Hitler. His clothes were being cleaned of lice, since for days he had been wandering about without a roof and in a terribly neglected condition." The two men became friends and that winter spent time at a hostel for men at 27 Meldemannstrasse.
Ian Kershaw has pointed out in Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "He (Hanisch) encountered a miserable-looking Hitler, down at heel in a shabby blue check suit, tired, hungry, and with sore feet, in the hostel dormitory one late autumn night, shared sonic bread with him and told tales of Berlin to the young enthusiast for all things German. The hostel was a night-shelter offering short-term accommodation only. A bath or shower, disinfection of clothes, soup and bread, and a bed in the dormitory were provided. But during the day the inmates were turned out to fend for themselves. Hitler, looking in a sorry state and in depressed mood, went in the mornings along with other destitutes to a nearby convent in Gumpendorfersrrafse where the nuns doled out soup. The time was otherwise spent visiting public warming-rooms, or trying to earn a bit of money. Hanisch took him off to shovel snow, but without an overcoat Hitler was in no condition to stick at it for long. He offered to carry bags for passengers at the Westbahnhof, but his appearance probably did not win him many customers."
Hanisch later recalled asking Hitler if he had skills he could use to make money. Hitler told him he was an artist and said that he could fake some old masters. According to Hanisch he replied: "I suggested to Hitler that it would be better to stay in an honest trade and paint postcards. I myself was to sell the painted cards, we decided to work together and share the money we earned." Hitler produced little copies of views of Vienna, which Hanisch sold in taverns and fairs.
The journalist, Konrad Heiden, interviewed Hanisch in the 1920s. "Hanisch... believed that in Hitler he had made the great find of his life. It had business possibilities: pictures could always be sold, for small sums, perhaps, but it ran into money if the artist worked quickly and conscientiously. Adolf answered that he was tired and wretched, and wanted to rest.... Yes, he could paint beautiful pictures, said Hitler, but what good was that? To whom could he sell them? He couldn't show himself anywhere as an artist, because his clothes were much too shabby. Hanisch explained that it wasn't a question of great works of art, but of modest little picture postcards which could be peddled in taverns and fairs for a few cents; the secret of this business was to work very hard and sell cheap with a big turnover. But for that Adolf objected, you had to have a permit from the police, and he didn't have one; he would certainly be arrested and put in jail. He was looking for difficulties, and Hanisch may well have thought that the fallen artist-prince still had much to learn in the hard school of life. Just paint your little cards, he said, and let me worry about the rest. Hitler painted or rather drew his lifeless, rather dark pen-and-ink copies of the Burgtheater, or the Roman ruins in Schonbrunn Park; and Hanisch, little worried about permit or police, peddled them around in the taverns."
Hanisch claims that Hitler was a very lazy worker. As soon as he made a small amount of money he spent the next couple of days in a café eating cream cakes and reading newspapers. Hanisch told Rudolf Olden, the author of Hitler the Pawn (1936): "Over and over again there were days on which he simply refused to work. Then he would hang around night shelters, living on the bread and soup that he got there, and discussing politics, often getting involved in heated controversies." Hanisch also claimed that Hitler neither smoked nor drank and was too shy and awkward to have any success with women.
In the summer of 1910 Adolf Hitler fell out with Hanisch over a painting of the Vienna Parliament. On 5th August, Hitler made an official complaint against the man he knew as Fritz Walter: "Since he was destitute, I gave him the pictures I painted to sell. He regularly received fifty per cent of the proceeds from me. For about two weeks Hanisch has not returned to the Home for Men, and stole from me the picture of parliament, valued at fifty kronen, and a water-colour, valued at nine kronen." As a result of the complaint, a Viennese court sentenced Hanisch to seven days in prison.
Hanisch attempted to work with other painters but in 1912 he returned to Jablonec nad Nisou. He joined the Austro-Hungarian Army on the outbreak of the First World War. On 22nd July 1918 he married Franziska Bisurek. Hanisch continued to live a criminal life-style and on 20th July 1923 he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for theft. Hanisch was divorced on 17th April 1928.
Hanisch was interviewed by journalists such as Konrad Heiden and Rudolf Olden when Adolf Hitler became a significant political figure in the 1920s. Hanisch tried to take advantage of this fame by selling watercolours that he claimed were painted by Hitler. On 7th May 1932, Hanisch was sentenced to three days in jail for forgery. Hanisch was arrested again after Hitler obtained power in 1933. He was eventually released without charge but was arrested again on 16th November 1936. During the search of his rented room the police found several faked Hitler paintings.
Reinhold Hanisch died in custody of a heart attack on 2nd February 1937.
A few others who knew Hitler at this time have been traced and questioned, amongst them a certain Reinhold Hanisch, a tramp from German Bohemia, who for a time knew Hitler well. Hanisch's testimony is partly confirmed by one of the few pieces of documentary evidence which have been discovered for the early years. For in 1910, after a quarrel, Hitler sued Hanisch for cheating him of a small sum of money, and the records of the Vienna police court have been published, including (besides Hitler's own affidavit) the statement of Siegfried Loffner, another inmate of the hostel in Meldemannstrasse who testified that Hanisch and Hitler always sat together and were friendly...
Hitler had enough money to buy a few cards, ink and paints. With these he produced little copies of views of Vienna, which Hanisch peddled in taverns and fairs, or to small traders who wanted something to fill their empty picture frames. In this way they made enough to keep them until, in the summer of 1910, Hanisch sold a copy which Hitler had made of a drawing of the Vienna Parliament for ten crowns. Hitler, who was sure it was worth far more - he valued it at fifty in his statement to the police - was convinced he had been cheated. When Hanisch failed to return to the hostel, Hitler brought a lawsuit against him which ended in Hanisch spending a week in prison and the break-up of their partnership.
It was at this time that he (Hitler) met Reinhold Hanisch, whose testimony, doubtful though it is in places, is all that casts light on the next phase of Hitler's time in Vienna. Hanisch, living under the assumed name of "Fritz Walter", came originally from the Sudetenland and had a police record for a number of petty misdemeanours. He was a self-styled draughtsman, but in reality had drifted through various temporary jobs as a domestic servant and casual labourer before tramping his way across Germany from Berlin to Vienna. He encountered a miserable-looking Hitler, down at heel in a shabby blue check suit, tired, hungry, and with sore feet, in the hostel dormitory one late autumn night, shared sonic bread with him and told tales of Berlin to the young enthusiast for all things German. The hostel was a night-shelter offering short-term accommodation only. A bath or shower, disinfection of clothes, soup and bread, and a bed in the dormitory were provided. But during the day the inmates were turned out to fend for themselves. Hitler, looking in a sorry state and in depressed mood, went in the mornings along with other destitutes to a nearby convent in Gumpendorfersrrafse where the nuns doled out soup. The time was otherwise spent visiting public warming-rooms, or trying to earn a bit of money. Hanisch took him off to shovel snow, but without an overcoat Hitler was in no condition to stick at it for long. He offered to carry bags for passengers at the Westbahnhof, but his appearance probably did not win him many customers. Whether he did any other manual labour during the years he spent in Vienna is doubtful. While his savings had lasted, he had not been prepared to entertain the prospect of working. At the time he was in most need of money, he was physically not up to it. Later, even Hanisch, his "business associate", lost his temper over Hitler's idleness while eking out a living by selling paintings. The story he told in Mein Kampf about learning about trade unionism and Marxisin the hard way through his maltreatment while working on a building site is almost certainly fictional. Hanisch, at any rate, never heard the story at the time from Hitler, and later did not believe it. The "legend" probably drew on the general anti-socialist propaganda in the Vienna of Hitler's day.
Hanisch had meanwhile thought of a better idea than manual labouring. Hitler had told him of his background, and was persuaded by Hanisch to ask his family for some money, probably under the pretext that he needed it for his studies. Within a short time he received the princely sum of 50 Kronen, almost certainly from his Aunt Johanna. With that he could buy himself an overcoat from the government pawn-shop. With this long coat and his greasy trilby, shoes looking like those of a nomad, hair over his collar, and dark fuzz on his chin, Hitler's appearance even provoked his fellow vagrants to remark on it. They nicknamed him "Ohm Paul Kruger", after the Boer leader.
For three years an unrecognized artist-prince. To Hanisch he confided that he was an "academic painter". Hanisch found this amazing and wonderful and seems to have believed that in Hitler he had made the great find of his life. It had business possibilities: pictures could always be sold, for small sums, perhaps, but it ran into money if the artist worked quickly and conscientiously. Adolf answered that he was tired and wretched, and wanted to rest. Hanisch replied with an outburst of rage: "Lazy-bones, aren't you ashamed, etc.?" Yes, he could paint beautiful pictures, said Hitler, but what good was that? To whom could he sell them? He couldn't show himself anywhere as an artist, because his clothes were much too shabby. Hanisch explained that it wasn't a question of great works of art, but of modest little picture postcards which could be peddled in taverns and fairs for a few cents; the secret of this business was to work very hard and sell cheap with a big turnover. But for that Adolf objected, you had to have a permit from the police, and he didn't have one; he would certainly be arrested and put in jail. He was looking for difficulties, and Hanisch may well have thought that the fallen artist-prince still had much to learn in the hard school of life. Just paint your little cards, he said, and let me worry about the rest. Hitler painted or rather drew his lifeless, rather dark pen-and-ink copies of the Burgtheater, or the Roman ruins in Schonbrunn Park; and Hanisch, little worried about permit or police, peddled them around in the taverns.
A profound hostility towards work runs through the whole life of this young man. It is a hatred of work arising not from lack of strength, but from excess of passion. At great times he was capable of great exertions; but the idea of having to pay for the air he breathed, the water he drank, the bread he ate, the room he lived in, with the constant sacrifice of his own person and abilities, of enslaving himself to labour, deeply wounded his pride. The purchase of life by regular activity - this is basically what Richard Wagner had hated in the society possessed by the economic ideal; for this hatred and pride he had forgotten duties, led a vagabond's life, and at last achieved his royal triumph. Every great creator has once ventured this risk, but it seems to have been the example of the venerated Wagner which particularly strengthened the young Adolf Hitler in his decision to look on economic society as his enemy, to regard the need of working as a disgrace, and to take his strong inclination for doing nothing as a proof of his higher calling. He hated the whole great sphere of human existence which is devoted to the regular transference of energy into product; and he hated the men who had let themselves be caught and crushed in this process of production. All his life the workers were for him a picture of horror, a dismal gruesome mass, and his thoughts about the working rabble were not far different from those of a Shakespearean aristocrat; everything which he later said from the speaker's platform to flatter the manual worker was pure lies. "The workers are an indulgent mass, they know nothing but their belly, booze, and women," he said to Hanisch; and those unwilling to accept Hanisch as a witness need but to glance through Hitler's later public utterances, and they will find confirmation enough.
Observe, for instance, how he portrays the workers, whom he supposedly knew on the building; how at first he kept aloof from them, for "my clothing was still more or less in order, my speech cultivated" - what an illusion! - "and my nature reserved", and if it had been up to him, he would "not have concerned myself with my new environment". With the horror and revulsion of the man regarding himself as a higher type, he here saw for the first time the "human dragon", the human mass monster of manual labour, which knows no ideals, which "rejected everything" that young Adolf has learned to honour... the nation as the invention of the capitalistic classes, the fatherland as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working class; the authority of law as a means for oppressing the proletariat; the school as an institution for breeding slaves and also slave-holders; religion as a means of stultifying the people and making them easier to exploit; morality as a symptom of stupid, sheep-like patience". In Hitler's opinion the worker had such thoughts because he was the embodiment of materialistic selfishness; and though in his public utterances he usually adds that this is purely the result of seduction by Jewish Marxism, he privately owns that in his conviction the baseness of human nature is to blame. "The whole mass of workers", he said twenty years later to his rebellious follower, Otto Strasser, "wants nothing else but bread and games; they have no understanding for any ideals." Otto Strasser triumphantly publicized those words, and Hitler did not deny them, for all his companions knew what he thought, and they felt the same. One of his friends and advisers, Gottfried Feder, when challenged, wrote in profound embarrassment that "the core of this utterance, supposing it really to have been made, must in a certain sense be recognized as correct". "No false humanity!" Hitler added. Thus thinks the intellectual thirsting for power who, again in Hitler's words, feels himself to be the `new master class' which `on the basis of its better race has the right to rule, and which ruthlessly maintains and secures this domination over the broad masses'. In order to understand the rise of the youth, Adolf Hitler, from the vagabond art student to the master man, we must understand what inborn distaste divides the master man from mere physical labour. All his life Hitler remembered Reinhold Hanisch's advice; fifteen years later, as a mature man, he called the Socialist movement a "movement of men who either possessed no clarity of thought or in the course of time have grown alien to all intellectual work. A gigantic organization of working beasts without intellectual leadership." Ten more years later, when he was Chancellor, he asserted that it was necessary only to give the "primitive" mass enough to eat; they did not demand more.
Consequently, all Hanisch's little anecdotes about young Adolf's hostility to work are credible and convincing. The conversations also sound genuine. Did the worker know no idealism? Hanisch, who himself had formerly been a worker, was hurt, and objected that workers had proved their idealism by making many European revolutions. Hitler answered contemptuously that some people didn't seem to know that the European revolution of 1848, for example, had been made by students. Hanisch bitterly accused his friend of not knowing the real workers, since those he saw around him in the Home for Men were mostly idlers and drunkards; the respectable workers, however, preferred to live in furnished rooms, seeking family connections; they liked to tinker on their nights off, to try to invent something; they liked to read and try to improve their education. How many of the great engineers and industrialists had started out as workers! Hitler: "Well, those are the exceptions, master men..."
In the age which had invented the "religion of labour", the young artist-prince wouldn't let himself be fooled. That was a sugary swindle for the masses who didn't want to and had no right to improve their lot; but a young artist waits in princely idleness for the dream-gift of inspiration, and "can't work like a coolie, after all". This is his answer to his partner, Hanisch, when he comes running impatiently for new merchandise and finds the artist with his nose deep in the newspaper. Newspaper reading was his favourite occupation; there he sits in the gloomy reading-room of the Home for Men, bending over the page, gripping two other newspapers fast under his arms; and if for a change he really does start to work on a drawing, someone only has to leave a fresh newspaper on the table beside him - he snatches at it and his work flies under the table. Artist, cries Hanisch, you an artist? A hunger artist, at most, a dauber, and a lazy-bones in the bargain. And he didn't even know how to take care of his few pennies, Hanisch reproached him; if he earned a few kronen, he didn't do a stroke of work for days, but sat around a cheap cafe reading newspapers, eating four or five cream puffs one after another. Yet he spent next to no money on alcohol, none at all on tobacco; even his critical friend had to admit that.
The young man with the affected lungs had never smoked and had almost never taken drink. His father had drunk, and his son's abstinence may be regarded as an unconscious protest against his father, just as his protest against work was a conscious protest. Yet all external influences, accidents, educational methods do not bring out of a man what was not in him to begin with; when Hitler father and son fought, the personality type lying at the base of the whole family was fighting with itself; the self-dissatisfaction, expressed in abrupt restlessness, which we suspect in Georg Hiedler, clearly recognize in Alois Schicklgruber, and can literally touch in Adolf Hitler, is the real source of the quarrel. They all broke out of the traditional life. Georg Hiedler led the life of a gypsy; Alois Schicklgruber took his gun in hand and went on the man-hunt to make himself "something better"; and if, as a young man, Adolf Hitler didn't want to work, it was with the half-conscious realization that the higher man just does not work. His youthful failure is a stubborn and frightened protest against the whole normal world of order and service into which his grey-haired, alien father wanted to drive him with a big stick. From deepest natural pre-disposition, he distrusted this world of toil and sweat which breaks the man and cuts him up for its purposes, disfigures the body and paralyses the spirit. In this world young Adolf became an idler, and this had a deep significance. If the time of the "intelligent herd-beast prepared for obedience" - as Nietzsche puts it - is dawning, the time of the intellectual with the cast-iron soul, dominated by the ideal of "it works" - then high above the herd and the cast-iron soul there must nevertheless be the soaring master soul which does not let itself be adapted or stamped into shape, which obeys only itself and commands only the others.
Idlers all about! In the Home for Men he finds himself with a certain Neumann, a Jew from Hungary, a man by the name of Greiner, with Hanisch. Work? The thing is to invent something! For instance, something to prevent window-panes from freezing over; some ointment that can be sold to shopkeepers. In the winter the purchasers would notice the swindle, so the merchandise had to be got rid of in summer, and besides, "you've got to have the gift of gab". Hanisch claims to have heard this from Hitler. In any case, it fits in with his whole nature. His imagination helped him to find the unusual beneath the rubble of his daily life; but he always lacked the small amount of sober ability and skill to do anything with his discovery. Apparently he fascinated several of his comrades at that time, and himself was fascinated by some: Neumann, a Hungarian Jew and old-clothes dealer, furnished him with shirts and the caftan-like black coat, Hitler praised Neumann's