What was Hitler's real name?

The family of Adolf Hitler

Wolfgang Zdral: The Hitlers. The Führer’s unknown family. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005. 257 pages, CHF 43.70.

Wolfgang Zdral: The Hitlers. The Führer’s unknown family. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005. 257 pages, CHF 43.70.

From Urs Rauber

We know Lenin's relatives, Stalin's family, and know almost everything about the Kennedys. However, little was known about the family circumstances of the “greatest leader of all time”, who reshaped the 20th century more than any other. Adolf Hitler always veiled, falsified and withheld his family origins and his youth. Too much contradicted the ideal that the Führer preached to his followers. The Nazi propaganda stylized the dictator as an artificial figure with no origin. The German journalist Wolfgang Zdral, editor of the magazine “Capital”, opens a window on Adolf Hitler's family background with Hitler's family chronicle, which is based on the latest research results.

Hitler's family history is shaped over three generations by incest, brute force, alcoholism and bohemian uselessness. Hitler's father Alois was the third marriage to Klara Pölzl, the daughter of his presumed sister. Klara's sister Johanna was considered dumb. Four out of five real siblings of Hitler died under the age of six. Father Alois, a serious alcoholic, gave his son a beating every day; he died when Adolf was 14. Adored by his mother, he was a school failure, idler and swindler who, after his mother's death, unscrupulously pocketed the orphan's pension for his younger sister Paula and lived through the day at the expense of relatives. Until in 1913 - at the age of 24 - he radically cut ties with his origins and began a new life in Munich.

Of the four women who played an important role in Hitler's life, three came from his closest circle: his mother, whom he adored and who also died early of breast cancer; his stepsister, Angela Raubal, who was six years older than him and who he appointed head of the household of his “Berghof” in the Berchtesgaden mountains in 1928, a resolute and respectful figure who later belonged to the Führer’s inner circle; and her daughter Geli Raubal, Hitler's niece 19 years his junior - probably the only woman besides Eva Braun who really loved Hitler.

Geli first met her uncle in the Landsberg Fortress, where Hitler was imprisoned in 1924 for an attempted coup. The surroundings and the celebrities impressed the mediocre student, who later failed as a medical student and also indulged in idleness. Soon she was looking to be close to her famous uncle, in whose vicinity the slim, tall girl cast a spell on everyone. Hitler wooed her, had her monitored and freaked out when she felt attracted to others.

In Munich she moved into Hitler's now upper-class apartment, where she was looked after by a household couple and lived a life of luxury. Whether the two only had a platonic or a sexual relationship is controversial. Some researchers speak of a latent sexual bondage of the leader towards his niece. Why Geli Raubal shot himself with his service pistol in 1931, at the age of 23, while Hitler was absent, has remained a mystery to this day. People from Hitler's environment saw the motive in lovesickness and / or frustration because of Hitler's tutelage. Others spoke of a jealous drama because Geli sensed a rival in Eva Braun, who was new to Hitler.

To the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler later admitted that he loved Geli and that she was "the only woman I could have married". His flaunted asexuality and the statement that his bride was Germany were, like much of his self-presentation, propagandistically exaggerated. Zdral shows that in addition to Geli, Hitler also had a sexual relationship with Maria Reiter, a woman who was also 20 years his junior and whom he had met in Berchtesgaden. The Führer always looked for "a girl as flexible as wax," as he admitted: "A man must be able to put his stamp on every girl."

Geli's death brought a turning point in Hitler's life: his depression turned into fanaticism, his well-being gave way to loneliness. «Now I am completely free. Now I belong only to the German people and to my task, ”the Führer is said to have explained to a party friend. From then on he renounced the consumption of meat and also largely refused alcohol. With Geli's death, a force seems to have disappeared from Hitler's life that could have tamed his instinctual dynamics, which were directed towards the abnormal and excessive.

His stepbrother Alois, who ran a pub in Berlin, and his son William Patrick, who gave interviews about the family and imitated the famous uncle with a mustache and parting, also basked in the splendor of the rising dictator. But Hitler forbade his relatives to have press contacts or join the NSDAP. He got his nephew a job at the Reichskreditbank, later as a car salesman at Opel. After an unsuccessful blackmail attempt with further revelations, the disappointed William Patrick traveled to the USA in 1939, where he enlisted in the US Navy and began a journalistic fight against Hitler and Nazi Germany with his mother. His four children - among them a son with the middle name Adolf - still live on Long Island today.

Hitler's only real sister, Paula, who was seven years his junior, remained single for life. The woman, who was prone to depression and brooding, lived with her brother's monthly pension as an early retiree in Vienna. In 1936, at Hitler's instigation, she had adopted the name "Wolf", an earlier battle name of the Führer. Paula and her stepsister Angela were the only ones in Hitler's will apart from Eva Braun to receive a lifelong pension. Angela Raubal-Hitler died in 1949, Paula Wolf in 1960, after she - without really distancing herself from her brother's life's work - had successfully tried to get Hitler's estate.