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1913 Vienna

September 18, 2017 Comments (0) Views: 495 Nostalgia

A “culture soup” city: did Hitler met Freud or Tito bumped into Trotsky in 1913 Vienna?

An alternate history play such as Dr. Freud Will See You Now, Mrs. Hitler, penned by British comedy writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, is an illustrative example that allows us to imagine a possible interaction between two of the historical giants. As within the plot, six-year-old Hitler is referred to see psychoanalyst Freud in a pediatric clinic.

From fiction, back to reality, on a cold and grim day of January 1913, a man who allegedly happened to travel with a passport attributed to certain Stavros Papadopoulos, arrived in Vienna via a train line that was commuting to this city all from Krakow.

The man had the big mustache, and he only carried a single wooden suitcase as a personal belonging. He was no other but Trotsky, a dissident Russian intellectual, further remembered in history as an editor of the progressive newspaper entitled Pravda (Truth).

One of the purposes of his stay in Vienna was to possibly meet also with Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as Stalin. Years later, Trotsky would comment Stalin after their Vienna encounter, “I saw nothing in his eyes that resembled friendliness.”

Wien, Tuchlauben, Hochholzerhof, painting by H. Grossmann, 1913.

In a different corner of the city, young Josip Broz was already working hard at the Daimler automobile factory, based just little outside Vienna. He was here, in the capital of Austro-Hungarian Empire, after the job, the money and perhaps some good times. Before emerging as the great leader Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia years later.

Not 6-year-old but already in his early 20s, Adolf Hitler, who was born in the north-west portions of Austria, was here in Vienna as well, in attempts of fulfilling his aspiration in becoming a painter. Unfortunately, he had failed twice to commence his studies at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He supposedly lived in a doss-house in Meldermannstrasse near the Danube at this point.

Vienna today, rooftop view from 25Hours Hotel, photo from our archives

By 1913, Sigmund Freud was perhaps the best established of all these historical giants. He was already a master of the human mind, having issued several papers on sexuality, as well as few books. His Interpretation of Dreams was out in 1900, and 1913 would be the year he would publish Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics – both works ground-breaking.

Among the most interesting places to be certainly was Café Central. A hot “hub” of the Viennese intelligentsia, people here would gather and chip in heated debates or perhaps a game of chess under the massive chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

The interior of Cafe Central in Vienna, showing portraits of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Franz Joseph I of Austria, photo by Clayton Tang

That was much of the spirit of the city: a coffee-goers culture, where distinct and different minds such as Tito or Hitler were able to exchange ideas and divergent views of the world, if not among each other, then with other smart contemporaries.

The month of January 1913 would reportedly be particularly interesting one for Café Central. Situated in the central part of Vienna, during that month, the cafe was reportedly visited by Tito, Hitler, Freud, as well as Trotsky and Lenin. It is more probable that they paid their visits at different instances, though.

None of these men were significant or with power at that point, but here they all were in Vienna, just before the dawn of a war that will change the face of the world forever. In the proximity of their favorite cafes, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was residing at the Belvedere Palace. As historical events go, he did not wait to sit on the throne as was assassinated in Sarajevo, in 1914 – an event that would trigger the start of World War One.

Judengasse, Vienna in 1913, via Pinterest

Everything will start to change ever since, but Vienna will somehow retain its cafe culture over the course of the following decades. The then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna was a powerhouse to 15 nations and over 50 million residents. In the words of Dardis McNamee, this city made for a “cultural soup.”

Or as Charles Emmerson, author of 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War, would further remark: “Cafe culture and the notion of debate and discussions in cafes is very much part of Viennese life now and was then.” He further explains that back then, the Viennese intellectual community was not that big and it is probable that many of the people knew each other.

As he also says: “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.”

Said to be Freud’s favorite, inside Cafe Landtmann, Photo by Joe Ross

From what we know, Trotsky and Hitler loved to visit the famous Café Central, which to date makes for one of the most prominent venues to visit in central Vienna. Coffee-lovers, planning to get their daily coffee intake there, sometimes need to consider waiting in a queue so to make it inside.

On the other hand, Freud preferred Cafe Landtmann, one more iconic spot in Vienna that operates since 1873. It sits at Ringstrasse, the notable boulevard which surrounds the city’s Old town, Innere Stadt, where Albertina, Rathouse or the Museumquartier are just a few of the must-see places of interest.

The story of Vienna, Austria, Europe, and the whole world would rapidly change by the end of the war, in 1918. Meanwhile, the historical titans that once happened to cafe-crawl this city would all move forward into life paths that will affect the history even further on.

We also thought to remind you of Kyev during the 1960s


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