Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
author of best-seller The
Jew of Linz,
writes from Australia, on Sunday, December 26, 1999
The Spectator review said that my book contained no argument at all, and the Economist that I was in a conspiracy with Rupert Murdoch to denigrate the memory of a great philosopher! (The Economist refused to print my reply, incidentally.) The book in fact contained a near deductive argument that every single British critic appears to have missed, but that you might like to see spelled out:
Ludwig Wittgenstein was indeed the object of Adolf Hitler's very first recorded anti-Semitic epithet. Minus the names I shall list in a moment, the argument is essentially identical to that presented in "The Jew of Linz", but the journal critics appear to have overlooked it in the mass of background material I provided.
The first sixteen names on the list below were provided by the current Principal of the Fadingerstrasse Bundesrealgymnasium in Linz, the re-titled name of the Realschule that Hitler and Wittgenstein both attended. It turns out that the names and religious affiliations of the students have survived. Here then, is a list of ALL students at the Linz Realschule in 1903/4 who were halachically Jewish (that is, Jewish under Jewish religious law):
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Alone of the 17 students in this list, Wittgenstein was enrolled as a Roman Catholic. To the schoolboys, however, he appeared Jewish and was indisputably "of Jewish descent". His halachic Jewishness is established not by the fact that he later "confessed" to being Jewish at Cambridge or claimed that his thought was "100 percent Hebraic" and that he was the greatest of Jewish thinkers, but because his three Jewish grand-parents and Jewish mother make him Jewish under Jewish religious law. Though halachically Jewish, Wittgenstein, unlike the others, was enrolled as a Catholic. All the others listed were registered as Jews and therefore knew they were Jews.
Now here is the very earliest record of Hitler making an anti-Semitic remark: It was reported by Franz Keplinger. Keplinger, interestingly was not in Hitler's class, but in Wittgenstein's. (This data also provided by the Bundesrealgymnasium.) He knew and visited Hitler later in Munich. Keplinger recounted to Dr Franz Jetzinger: "Once Adolf shouted at another boy, 'Du Saujud!'. The boy concerned was staggered; he knew nothing of his Jewish ancestry at the time and only discovered it years later ... " (Jetzinger, Franz. Hitlers Jugend, Vienna 1956, translated as Hitler's Youth, by Lawrence Wilson, Greenwood Press, Connecticut, p.71.)
The rider adding that the boy knew nothing of his Jewish ancestry gives the quote the ring of truth and enables us to deduce who the boy was. The only POSSIBLE candidate on the list as the target of Hitler's abuse is Ludwig Wittgenstein. The others knew they were Jews, if not from their parents enrolling them as Jews and consequent different treatment in religious education classes, then via their circumcised state amidst the uncircumcised Austrian schoolboys in the changing room.
Ray Monk reports on p.5. of his Wittgenstein biography that one of Wittgenstein's aunts did not know the Vienna Wittgenstein family was Jewish and had to be informed its members were "pur sang". It was clearly not common knowledge within the family, but suppressed as a sort of skeleton in the family closet. That is, the boy at the school whom Hitler abused in his very first recorded anti-Semitic remark was the young Ludwig Wittgenstein, the stuttering, truss-wearing, homosexual son of the richest man in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The ONLY way in which the deductive power of this conclusion can be avoided is if the school contained other students of detectably Jewish descent. (Quite apart from the statistical considerations adduced in my book for doubting there could have been more than one or two other students of detectable "Jewish descent" at the school, Brigitte Hamann's book "Hitler's Vienna" points out that there were no more than 1,102 Jews in all of Upper Austria, that the number of Jews in Linz was roughly constant over the decade 1900-10 at about 5-600, and the Linz Realschule Jews at about 15. There was no intermarriage in Linz and precious little in all provincial Austria.)
This argument, I think, establishes that whatever critics might say, the case I presented will not go away. Even without the "Mein Kampf" quote about there being a Jewish boy at the school whom Hitler and the other boys distrusted -- or the strikingly unusual "Sie" as opposed to "Du" locution in both Hitler and Wittgenstein -- and the photograph of the two of them together, the case remains compellingly strong. It would admit of being established purely deductively should genealogical research on the non-Jewish students show that no others were of detectably Jewish descent. This research - on the religious affiliation of every student's ancestors going back 3 generations - is now in progress.