Not sufficiently strong for manual labour - contrary to his claim in his book, Mein Kampf ('My Struggle'), to having been a building worker - he eked out a precarious existence selling his reproductions of famous sights which were hawked by hostel acquaintances. Pre-1914 Vienna - the capital of a multi-ethnic empire with a highly sophisticated, mainly Jewish, upper middle class, a deeply conservative and Catholic petty bourgeoisie, and a growing and increasingly radicalised working class - was like a magnifying glass focusing and concentrating the ideas, artistic trends and political forces that were to shape the century into a purer and more extreme form than anywhere else in Europe: ethnic nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, Socialism, psychoanalysis, and modern forms of painting, music, crafts and architecture. Despite his poverty, Hitler engaged actively with his political and intellectual environment, devouring newspapers and pamphlets, attending the Imperial parliament and witnessing the violent confrontations between the rival ethnic and political groups which paralysed it, rendering it an object of contempt to much of the population, including Hitler himself.


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