Hitler: His Irish Relatives
by Tony McCarthy

 

Adolf Hitler's half-brother, Alois, was working as a waiter in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin , in 1909.  He had been sent there by a London employment agency.  His humble situation did not suit his vanity, however, and while off duty he posed as a wealthy hotelier on a European tour to study the industry in France , Belgium and the British Isles .  His manner of dress reflected this fantasy.  His suit and hat were of the latest fashion.  A heavy gold watch-chain stretched across his cream coloured waistcoat.  He wore two rings on his left little finger, one a diamond and the other a ruby.  In addition he wore a pearl tie-pin.  His moustache was of the handlebar variety — waxed and turned up at the ends.

There was no place better than the Dublin Horse Show to display such elegance. The nobility, the English and Irish sportsmen and tourists from all over the world provided a perfect background for Alois's dashing appearance. 

While admiring the horses at the 1909 show, Alois struck up an idle conversation with two locals, William Dowling and his neighbour, Mr Tynan.  Soon William's daughter, seventeen year old Bridget, took an interest.  She was immediately fascinated by the handsome foreigner.  'Everything he said was so new and interesting that even his broken English seemed charming'.

Later, Alois and Bridget met in the National Gallery, Dublin .  Soon they were talking about getting married.  Bridget's parents were so totally against the relationship that the couple eventually eloped and married in London on 3 June 1910 .  William Dowling threatened to appeal to the police and to have Alois arrested for kidnapping, but his wife dissuaded him from doing so.  Peace was finally made about a year later when William Dowling went to Liverpool to be present at the baptism of his first grandchild, William Patrick Hitler.

Meanwhile, Adolf was going through the worst period of his life.  He was sleeping rough or living in doss houses.  Eventually he took up permanent residence in a hostel for men in Vienna .  He made his living by beating carpets, carrying bags, shovelling snow and doing other menial labouring jobs.  As time passed and Adolf rose to prominence, both Bridget and her son did their best to take advantage of the situation.

Bridget attempted to cash in on her connection with the German Fuehrer by writing a book.  She wrote My Brother-in-Law Adolf  in the United States shortly after herself and her son settled there in 1939.    She never managed to get it published, however.  The 225 page typescript is undated and unfinished.  At present it is in the manuscript department of the New York Public Library.  It became widely available for the first time in 1979 when an edited version was published by Gerald Duckworth and Co Ltd.

The most sensational part of the book deals with an alleged visit to Britain made by Adolf Hitler.   Bridget claims that during the period November 1912 to April 1913 Adolf resided at her flat in Liverpool with herself, Alois and William Patrick.  Adolf was draft dodging at the time.  He was avoiding compulsory service in the Austrian army.  This is the main reason, she says, why he afterwards maintained silence about his English trip, it 'would not have made good publicity for the German prophet'.  Much of his time was spent in the company of Bridget:  'he would often come and sit in my cosy little kitchen playing with my two-year old baby, while I was preparing our meals.  I thought he felt very much at home then.  Usually he wouldn't say much, but just sit, from time to time telling me of the different dishes his mother used to make.'

Bridget claims to have introduced Adolf to astrology, a subject in which she herself had been interested since childhood.  Before Adolf's arrival, she had become acquainted with a Mrs Prentice who cast horoscopes.  Again and again, she claims, Adolf asked Mrs Prentice to cast his horoscope.  Reflecting on how it was said that in later life Adolf Hitler did very little of importance without consulting his astrologers Bridget says 'I thought back then to the idle words I had spoken which had served as an introduction to this absorbing interest'.  In May 1913 Adolf took leave of his sister-in-law and her family and went, on Alois's advice, to Munich , where he would still be able to evade service in the Austrian army. 

Before he left, Bridget advised Adolf to trim his moustache.  Like Alois, he sported a handlebar moustache at that time and she suggested that he should cut off the points.  Years later, when she saw his picture in a newspaper she noticed that he had taken her advice but, she comments, 'Adolf had gone too far'.

It is difficult to imagine how Bridget and Adolf managed to communicate so well on such a variety of subjects.  Bridget says that Adolf hadn't enough English at the end of his stay to enable him to ask directions to the railway station.  She describes her own German as 'stumbling'.

The suspicion that My Brother-in-Law Adolf  is a work of the imagination is strengthened by much of the rest of the book.   When Bridget meets Adolf again he is Chancellor of Germany.  His only acknowledgement that they met before is the rather flattering comment 'the years have passed over your head without touching you'. The part of the book dealing with Bridget's attempts to rescue her son from Germany during the 1930s read like a third rate television spy story.

Despite the book's lack of authenticity it has been accepted as reliable by some of Hitler's best biographers.  John Toland uses it as a source in his 1,000 page book Adolf Hitler, as does Robert Payne in his The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler.  Robert Waite, an American professor, provides convincing evidence in an appendix to his The Psychopathic God Adolf Hitler  to show that the book is mostly fiction.

William Patrick tried to gain advantage from his famous uncle by more direct means: blackmail.  At least this is the story told by Hitler's close associate Hans Frank, in the course of his trial as a war criminal at Nuremberg .  In order to understand Frank's testimony it is necessary to take a look at Hitler's peculiar family background and his sensitivity towards it.

 Hitler's father, Alois, was born on 7 June 1837 to Maria Anna Schickelgruber, unmarried daughter of Johann Schickelgruber from the village of Strones in Lower Austria .  The entry in the baptismal register of Dollerscheim parish shows that the baby was christened Alois Schickelgruber.  The space in the register for the father's name was left blank.

  When Alois was five years old, his mother married a mill worker named Johann Georg Hiedler.  Alois was passed over to his step-father's brother,  who raised him like his own son.

In 1876, when he was 39, Alois, now a customs official in the Austrian service, succeeded in persuading his foster father, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, to have his birth records altered.  In the old register, under the entry of 7 June 1837, the parish priest was persuaded to change the term 'illegitimate' to 'legitimate', to fill in the name Johann Georg Hiedler in the blank space for the name of the father – accidently mis-spelling it 'Johann Georg Hitler' in the process, and to insert a marginal note: 'The undersigned confirm that Georg Hitler, registered as the father, who is well known to the undersigned witnesses, admits to being the father of the child Alois as stated by the child's mother, Anna Schickelgruber, and has requested the entry of his name in the present baptismal register'.  Three illiterate witnesses appended their marks to the statement.  The statement was clearly false if only to the extent that by this time both the mother and alleged father had been dead for about twenty years.  From January 1877 Alois Schickelgruber called himself Alois Hitler.

In later years, Adolf Hitler's political enemies tried to ridicule him by claiming that he had changed his name to Hitler because 'Heil Schickelgruber' did not roll as trippingly off the tongue as 'Heil Hitler'.  This, of course, was nonsense since Hitler's father used the surname Hitler twelve years before the birth of his infamous son.

Hitler's father's marital experiences made the family background even more curious.  He was married three times.  His first marriage, to Anna Glassl who was fourteen years his senior, was childless.  He was 46 when he married for the second time.  Franziska Matzenberger, his new bride was 22.  She had already borne him a son before their marriage, Alois junior, the future Shelbourne waiter.  Two months after the wedding she gave birth to a daughter called Angela.  When Franziska died of T.B. Alois married Klara Polzl.  She was 23 years younger than him.  He had to get a papal dispensation for the marriage as Klara was the daughter of his niece.  Of the six children born of this marriage, two survived, Adolf and a younger sister called Paula.

During his lifetime, Hitler was very secretive about his background.  Only the dimmest outline of his parents emerges from the biographical chapters of Mein Kampf.    He falsified his father's occupation, changing him from a customs official to a postal official.  He repulsed relatives who tried to approach him.

One of the first things he did after taking over Austria was to have a survey carried out of the little farming village of Dollerscheim where his father's birth had been recorded.  The purpose of the survey of March 1938 was to ascertain the suitability of the village as an artillery range for the Wehrmacht.  As soon as it could be arranged the inhabitants were evacuated and the entire village was demolished by heavy artillery.  Even the graves in the cemetery where his grandmother had been buried were rendered unrecognisable.

When in 1942 he was informed that a plaque had been set up for him in the village of Spital   where he had spent some time as a youth,he flew into one of his violent rages and demanded its immediate removal.   For some time his younger sister Paula ran his household at Obersalzberg, but he made her take another name.

His obsession for secrecy has been explained  as the strategy of a born propagandist.  A  man of mystery  arouses interest in himself.  The fact that at the beginning of his career he took care that no pictures of himself were published gives some credence to this theory.  Perhaps Hitler never lost a sense of the distance between his origins and the elevated position he had attained.   However, there is a far simpler explanation for Hitler's need to keep public attention away from his genealogy.  The Nazis were obsessed with 'racial purity'.  An essential requirement for membership of the elite S.S was positive proof of Aryan descent from 1750.  Hitler would have failed this test.  He did not know who his paternal grandfather was.

Under these circumstances the letter sent to Adolf Hitler towards the end of 1930 by his nephew William Patrick, must have had a devastating effect.  It referred to the 'very odd circumstances in our family history', and went on to claim not only that Hitler had a Jewish grandfather but that documentary evidence existed which proved the connection.   

Hans Frank was given the job of  confidentially investigating this very sensitive affair.  Frank did so and discovered, he said, that Hitler’s father had been the illegitimate son of Maria Anna Schickelgruber, who had worked as a domestic in Graz in the home of a Jewish family by the name of Frankenberger.  From the day that Alois, Hitler’s father, had been born until the boy was fourteen, Frankenberger paid money for the support of the child.  According to Frank, Hitler did not deny that his grandmother had been in receipt of money from the Jew Frankenberger but he denied that Frankenberger was his grandfather.

The blackmail story is based entirely on the memoirs of Hans Frank.  He was a close associate of Hitler.  As well as being his personal lawyer, he was later given special powers: President of the Academy of German Law , member of the Reichstag, leader of the National Lawyers’ Association and Governor-General of Poland.  At the time of writing his memoirs he was awaiting execution in Nuremberg for war crimes in Poland , where his activities had earned him the name 'the Butcher of Poland'.   Frank had converted to Catholicism while under sentence of death and he wrote his memoirs partly to expiate his sins.  He had no reason to misrepresent Hitler or to invent the story.  Frank said the evidence was based on correspondence between Maria Anna Schickelgruber and Frankenberger.  He said that these letters were for some time in the possession of a lady related to Hitler by marriage. This evidence has never surfaced and subsequent exhaustive investigations have failed to clarify the situation.

This episode does not appear to have caused a total rift between William Patrick and Adolf.  William Patrick spent most of the 1930s in Germany .  He worked for most of this period in the Reichskreditbank.  Later he worked in the Opel car factory and then became a car salesman.  He was disappointed that his Uncle Adolf would not use his influence to pull him into an important position.  When he complained to him  Adolf is alleged to have said: 'I didn't become Chancellor for the benefit of my family . . . I can't have people saying I show favouritism to my family.  No one is going to climb on my back'.The famous uncle was very beneficial, though, as far as William Patrick's social life was concerned.  He always had his pick of three or four dinner parties on any given day and often had to decline half a dozen week-end invitations.  At this period of his life he took as much advantage as possible from the connection as is clear from an article in the Daily Express  of 22 November 1937:  'As William Patrick Hitler said to me "I am the only legal descendant of the Hitler family", he crossed his arms in characteristic Fuhrer fashion and added "That gesture must be in the blood.  I find myself doing it more and more". 

'The twenty-six-year-old son of Alois Hitler, the Fuhrer's innkeeper brother, is in England for a short holiday after nearly five years in Germany .  He talked to me in the little back sitting-room of a modest six-roomed house where his Irish mother lives in Highgate.  "I came back because I felt homesick for England ".  He stumbled for a word,

'"I find it difficult speaking English again after so long, although of course, it is my native language".

'Occasionally there is a trace of German accent.  William Hitler bears a strong resemblance to the uncle who is his idol.  The moustache is copied almost to a hair, the same parting but in black hair which is sleek, but not unruly.  He has the same height and build'.

William Patrick seems to have changed his views about the Fuhrer.  Two years later he was earning his living in the United States by lecturing about 'My Uncle Adolf'.  His lectures were probably similar in tone to the article he wrote for Look   magazine in January 1939 entitled 'Why I Hate my Uncle'. 

William Patrick served in the US Navy during the World War II and was honourably discharged at the end of hostilities.  He worked for a while in an American hospital and then changed his name and went into total obscurity.  The historian John Toland was able to confirm that he was still alive in 1977. 

Has he been sighted lately?

What happened to Alois Hitler

In May 1914 Alois left his wife and child in  Liverpool and set off  for Germany to establish a safety-razor business.  World War I broke out shortly after his departure and detained him on the Continent for four years.  After the war he arranged to have a false report of his death delivered to Bridget and married bigamously.  The German authorities eventually found out and prosecuted him.  Bridget intervened on his behalf and he was virtually acquitted.  Nothing about the affair became public at the time.

William Patrick stayed with Alois and his new family during his early trips to Germany .  During the period of Hitler's rule, Alois ran a restaurant in Berlin .  He managed to keep it open for the duration of World War II.  He was captured by the British at the end of the war but released because it was clear that he had led 'a perfectly blameless existence'.

After a short association with a right-wing party, Alois known to have sold photographs of his famous brother to tourists. They were made more attractive by being autographed by himself.  He was last seen in 1968 in Austria .

Irish Roots Issue No. 1 (1992 First Quarter)

 


 

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