1913 Vienna: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin All Lived in the Same Place
By Andy Walker, originally presented on BBC Radio 4, 18 April 2013
In January 1913, a man whose passport bore the name Stavros Papadopoulos disembarked from the Krakow train at Vienna's North Terminal station. Of dark complexion, he sported a large peasant's moustache and carried a very basic wooden suitcase. "I was sitting at the table," wrote the man he had come to meet, years later, "when the door opened with a knock and an unknown man entered.
"He was short... thin... his greyish-brown skin covered in pockmarks... I saw nothing in his eyes that resembled friendliness." The writer of these lines was a dissident Russian intellectual, the editor of a radical newspaper called Pravda (Truth). His name was Leon Trotsky. The man he described was not, in fact, Papadopoulos. He had been born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, was known to his friends as Koba, and is now remembered as Joseph Stalin.
|Vienna on the Eve of War
The Vienna of 1913
Future Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin spent a month in the city, meeting Trotsky and writing Marxism and the National Question, with Nikolay Bukharin.
The neurologist Sigmund Freud moved to Vienna in 1860 as a child and left the city in 1938 after the Nazis annexed Austria.
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is believed to have lived there between 1908 and 1913, where he struggled to make a living as a painter.
Josip Broz, later Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito, was a metalworker before being drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army.
Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky lived in Vienna from about 1907 to 1914, launching the newspaper Pravda.
Emperor Franz Josef and Archduke Franz Ferdinand occupied their respective palaces.
Trotsky and Stalin were just two of a number of men who lived in central Vienna in 1913 and whose lives were destined to meld, indeed to shatter, much of the 20th century. It was a disparate group. The two revolutionaries, Stalin and Trotsky, were on the run. Sigmund Freud was already well established.
The psychoanalyst, exalted by followers as the man who opened up the secrets of the mind, lived and practiced on the city's Berggasse. The young Josip Broz, later to find fame as Yugoslavia's leader Marshal Tito, worked at the Daimler automobile factory in Wiener Neustadt, a town south of Vienna, and sought employment, money, and good times.
Then there was the 24-year-old from the northwest of Austria whose dreams of studying painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had been twice dashed and who now lodged in a doss-house in Meldermannstrasse near the Danube, one Adolf Hitler.
In his majestic evocation of the city at the time, Thunder at Twilight, Frederic Morton imagines Hitler haranguing his fellow lodgers "on morality, racial purity, the German mission and Slav treachery, on Jews, Jesuits, and Freemasons".
"His forelock would toss, his [paint]-stained hands shred the air, his voice rise to an operatic pitch. Then, just as suddenly as he had started, he would stop. He would gather his things together with an imperious clatter, [and] stalk off to his cubicle."
"If you wanted to hide out in Europe—then Vienna would be a good place to do it," says Charles Emmerson of Chatham House
Presiding over all, in the city's rambling Hofburg Palace was the aged Emperor Franz Joseph, who had reigned since the great year of revolutions, 1848. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his designated successor, resided at the nearby Belvedere Palace, eagerly awaiting the throne. His assassination the following year would spark World War I.
Vienna in 1913 was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which consisted of 15 nations and well over 50 million inhabitants. "While not exactly a melting pot, Vienna was its own kind of cultural soup, attracting the ambitious from across the empire," says Dardis McNamee, editor-in-chief of the Vienna Review, Austria's only English-language monthly, who has lived in the city for 17 years.
"Less than half of the city's two million residents were native born, and about a quarter came from Bohemia (now the western Czech Republic) and Moravia (now the eastern Czech Republic), so that Czech was spoken alongside German in many settings."
The empire's subjects spoke a dozen languages, she explains. "Officers in the Austro-Hungarian Army had to be able to give commands in 11 languages besides German, each of which had an official translation of the National Hymn."
And this unique melange created its own cultural phenomenon, the Viennese coffee-house. Legend has its genesis in sacks of coffee left by the Ottoman army following the failed Turkish siege of 1683.
"Cafe culture and the notion of debate and discussion in cafes is very much part of Viennese life now and was then," explains Charles Emmerson, author of 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War and a senior research fellow at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House."The Viennese intellectual community was actually quite small, and everyone knew each other, and... that provided for exchanges across cultural frontiers." This, he adds, would favour political dissidents and those on the run."You didn't have a tremendously powerful central state. It was perhaps a little bit sloppy. If you wanted to find a place to hide out in Europe where you could meet lots of other interesting people, then Vienna would be a good place to do it."Freud's favourite haunt, the Cafe Landtmann, still stands on the Ring, the renowned boulevard which surrounds the city's historic Innere Stadt. Trotsky and Hitler frequented Cafe Central, just a few minutes' stroll away, where cakes, newspapers, chess and, above all, talk, were the patrons' passions.
|Cafe Central: Favorite of Hitler and Trotsky