Hitler is Homeless in Vienna

Vienna was a city alive with music and full of diverse people who loved the arts and felt lucky to call the place home. In February 1908, Hitler moved there with the goal of attending the art academy and becoming a great artist.

Hitler's friend from his hometown of Linz, August Kubizek, also came to Vienna and they roomed together. In Vienna, Hitler continued the same lazy lifestyle he had enjoyed in Linz after dropping out of school. Kubizek described Hitler as a night owl who slept till noon, would go out for walks taking in all the sights, then stay up late discussing his ideas on everything from social reform to city planning. Hitler made no effort to get a regular job, considering himself far above that. He dressed like an artist and at night dressed like a young gentleman of leisure and often attended the opera.

Kubizek also recalled Hitler displayed an increasingly unstable personality with a terrible temper. At times he was quite reasonable but he was always prone to sudden outbursts of rage especially when he was corrected on anything.

In October 1908, Hitler tried for the second time to gain admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. However, his test drawings were judged as so poor that he was not even allowed to take the formal exam. It was a bitter disappointment to Hitler and effectively left him on the outside looking in at the artistic community in Vienna. His friend Kubizek had successfully gained entrance to the Vienna Conservatory and was studying music there, doing quite well, in contrast to Hitler.

Hitler soon parted company with his friend in a rather strange manner. When Kubizek returned to Vienna after two months of military training in November 1908, he found Hitler had moved out of their shared apartment and left no forwarding address.

Hitler now had no use for his friend and made no attempt to find him again. He lived by himself, moving from place to place as his savings gradually dwindled and his lifestyle spiraled downward. Despite the need for money, Hitler made no attempt to get regular employment. He eventually pawned all his possessions and actually wound up sleeping on park benches and begging for money. He quickly became a dirty, smelly, unshaven young man wearing tattered clothes and did not even own an overcoat. In December of 1909, freezing and half starved, he moved into a homeless shelter. He ate at a soup kitchen operated by the nuns from a nearby convent.

In February 1910, he moved into a home for poor men where he would stay for the next few years. Hitler sometimes earned a little money as a day laborer, shoveling snow and carrying bags at the train station. He then discovered he could earn a meager living selling pictures of famous Vienna landmarks which he copied from postcards. Another resident at the home, Reinhold Hanish, acted as his agent, hawking Hitler's works of art to various shops where they were mostly used to fill empty picture frames. Hitler also painted posters for shop windows.

Hanish recalled Hitler as undisciplined and moody, always hanging around the men's home, eager to discuss politics and often making speeches to the residents. He usually flew into a rage if anyone contradicted him. Eventually, Hitler quarreled with Hanish, even accusing him of stealing his property and falsely testified against him in court in August 1910, getting Hanish an eight day jail sentence. (In 1938 Hanish was murdered on Hitler's orders after talking to the press about him). Hitler took to selling his own paintings to mostly Jewish shop owners and was also assisted by Josef Neumann, a Jew he befriended.

Hitler had a passion for reading, grabbing all the daily newspapers available at the men's home, reading numerous political pamphlets and borrowing many books from the library on German history and mythology. He had a curious but academically untrained mind and examined a bunch of complex philosophical works Hitler picked up bits and pieces of philosophy and ideas from them and wound up with a hodgepodge of racist, nationalistic, anti-Semitic attitudes that over time became a die-hard philosophy.

The utter misery of his poverty also deeply influenced Hitler. He adopted a harsh, survivalist mentality, which left little room for consideration of kindness and compassion - an attitude that would stay with him until the end.