In the town of Leonding, Austria, on the bitterly cold morning of Saturday,
January 3, 1903, Alois Hitler, 65, went out for a walk, stopping at a favorite
inn where he sat down and asked for a glass of wine. He collapsed before
the wine was brought to him and died within minutes from a lung hemorrhage.
It was not the first one he had suffered.
Young Adolf, now 13, broke down and cried when he saw his father's body
laid out. His father's funeral mass in the small church at Leonding was
well attended. A newspaper in nearby Linz published an obituary that included
the following sentence: "The harsh words that sometimes fell from
his lips could not belie the warm heart that beat under the rough exterior."
For Adolf, there would be no more harsh words and no more arguing with
his father, especially over his career choice. Hitler's father had insisted
Adolf become a civil servant like himself. Young Hitler, however, had dreams
of becoming a great artist. Now Hitler was free from the stern words and
domineering authority of his father. In fact, young Adolf was now the male
head of the household, a position of some importance in those days.
Financially, his father had left the Hitler family fairly well provided
for. Hitler's mother received half of her husband's monthly pension, plus
death benefits. Adolf received a small amount each month, plus a small
inheritance. The family also owned a house in Leonding which had been paid
for mostly in cash.
For convenience, young Hitler went to live at a boys' boarding house
in Linz where he was attending the technical high school. This saved him
the long daily commute from Leonding. On weekends, he went back home to
Hitler was remembered by the woman who ran the boarding house as a nervous,
awkward boy, who spent most of his time reading and drawing. Although Hitler
loved to read, he was a lazy and uncooperative student in school.
In Autumn 1903, when he returned to school after summer vacation, things
got worse. Along with his poor grades in mathematics and French, Hitler
behaved badly, knowing he was likely to fail. With no threat of discipline
at home and disinterest shown by his school teachers, Hitler performed
pranks and practical jokes aimed at the teachers he now disliked so much.
Among Hitler's antics – giving contrary, insulting, argumentative answers
to questions which upset the teacher and delighted the other boys who sometimes
applauded him. With those boys, he also released cockroaches in the classroom,
rearranged the furniture, and organized confusion in the classroom by doing
the opposite of what the teacher said.
Years later, even as Führer, Hitler liked to dwell on his schoolboy
pranks and would recall them in detail to his top generals in the midst
of waging a world war.
It was only Hitler's history teacher, Dr. Leopold Pötsch, and his
tales of heroic Germans from bygone eras who kept his interest and earned
his respect. By his early teens, Hitler already had a keen interest in
German nationalism along with a big interest in art and architecture.
Young Hitler put all his hopes in the dream of becoming a great artist,
especially as his prospects at the high school grew dimmer. Some of the
teachers were also anxious to see Hitler thrown out of the school because
of the trouble he caused.
One teacher later recalled young Hitler as one who "reacted
with ill-concealed hostility to advice or reproof; at the same time, he
demanded of his fellow pupils their unqualified subservience, fancying
himself in the role of leader, at the same time indulging in many a less
innocuous prank of a kind not uncommon among immature youths."
In May of 1904, at age 15, Adolf Hitler received the Catholic Sacrament
of Confirmation in the Linz Cathedral. As a young boy he once entertained
the idea of becoming a priest. But by the time he was confirmed he was
bored and uninterested in his faith and hardly bothered to make the appropriate
responses during the religious ceremony.
Shortly after this, Hitler left the high school at Linz. He had been
given a passing mark in French on a make-up exam on the condition that
he not return to the school. In September 1904, he entered another high
school, at Steyr, a small town 25 miles from Linz. He lived in a boarding
house there, sharing a room with another boy. They sometimes amused themselves
by shooting rats.
Hitler got terrible marks his first semester at the new school, failing
math, German, French, and even got a poor grade for handwriting. He improved
during his second semester and was told he might even graduate if he first
took a special make-up exam in the fall. During the summer, however, Hitler
suffered from a bleeding lung ailment, an inherited medical problem.
He regained his health and passed the exam in September 1905, and celebrated
with fellow students by getting drunk. He wound up the next morning lying
on the side of the road, awakened by a milkwoman. After that experience
he swore off alcohol and never drank again.
But Hitler could not bring himself to take the final exam for his diploma.
Using poor health as his excuse, he left school at age sixteen never to
return. From now on he would be self taught, continuing his heavy reading
habits and interpreting what he read on his own, living in his own dreamy
reality and creating his own sense of truth.