Hitler’s Vienna was unquestionably different from the Vienna we know today, but there’s no doubt that it was magnificent. Vienna is the classiest, most glorious city I’ve ever seen, which makes it hard to imagine a person like Adolf Hitler there as an ordinary Joe.
Although my favourite period in history is the Tudor era, I’ve long been fascinated with the Nazis because of the psychological power it took for them to obtain and maintain control and the horrific results. I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand why and how things happen, and in doing so, you need to go back to the beginning.
Hitler wasn’t born and raised in Vienna, but he lived there from 1905-1913. He sold watercolour postcards of images of the city that he had painted. He eventually became homeless, and Vienna is where his hatred of Jews escalated. When he was back in Vienna in 1938, Vienna was really his since he had been victorious in taking over Austria, known as the Anschluss.
Let me take you on a photo tour of Hitler’s Vienna as a reminder that anyone, no matter how humble his/her beginnings, is capable of terrible destruction, and that the (arguably) biggest reason why history repeats itself is because people forget.
Let’s start with Hitler’s Vienna during his early adulthood.
He got rejected from the Academy of Fine Arts twice, once in 1907 and again in 1908. One can only imagine how different things would have been had he been accepted. He was encouraged to study architecture instead, but he couldn’t since he didn’t finish high school.
Not too far is Café Central, a majestic Viennese café that opened in 1876. ↓
This majestic café, which is just a few minutes away on foot, was the big hang-out for intellectuals. People would discuss everything, particularly things like politics, literature, and issues of the day. Hitler was a regular, along with other famous people, including Sigmund Freud, Theodor Herzl, and Peter Altenberg. Stalin was also went to Cafe Central when he lived in Vienna back in 1913. I can’t help but wonder if Hitler and Stalin met and chit-chatted.
What I found particularly interesting is that Judenplatz, the Jewish Square, which was the heart of Jewish life in the Middle Ages, is just a few minutes away on foot. ↓
Now, Hitler’s Vienna…undisputed.
On the way out heading in the general direction toward the Danube, you’ll pass by the only synagogue in Vienna. ↓
Of course, when Hitler was here as a young adult before World War I, there were many synagogues. This is the only synagogue that survived the Nazi occupation because this one had personal information about Jews – names, addresses, etc. Even in 2017, there is always at least one police officer on duty in front of Jewish buildings.
Now, we’re backtracking to the art academy for Hitler landmarks. A few minutes away on the Ringstrasse (Ring Street) is the Imperial Hotel. I don’t know when exactly, but I know that Hitler worked there as a day labourer.
However, with Hitler’s victorious annexation in 1938, he was an honoured guest the night before his victory show.
On March 15th, 1938, they left the Imperial Hotel, drove down this street (toward the foreground), and shortly past the very end of the photo above in the bottom right, they turned right and proceeded through this here. ↓
Vienna had taken a turn for the worst in welcoming Hitler and making the city truly Hitler’s Vienna. The day after Hitler annexed Austria, Jews were being harassed and humiliated in public. They were forced to do things like wash the streets on their hands and knees like in this memorial. ↓
Is Hitler’s Vienna at all what you imagined?