Adolf Hitler was not of Jewish descent, but the result of inbreeding
A recent comment from a high-ranking Kremlin official concerning Hitler’s ancestry has sparked controversy. Whilst Germany’s wartime leader did not have a Jewish grandfather as claimed, the dictator’s family tree was full of inbreeding.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s claim that the German despot had Jewish blood running through his veins is based on questionable sources to put it mildly. The diplomat’s comment was mainly about “proving” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could be a true Nazi despite hailing from a Jewish family.
Maid in a Jewish household?
Rumours about Adolf Hitler’s alleged Jewish background began to spread in the foreign press shortly after he took power in Germany in 1933. These concerned the antisemite’s impoverished grandmother, Maria Anna (1795-1847). In 1836, she was said to be working as a maid for a Jewish family in Graz. The father of the house supposedly forced himself on her, with the result allegedly being Adolf Hitler’s dad – Alois Schicklgruber (1837-1903).
This story was repeated during the interrogations of Hans Frank, a lawyer known during the war as the much-feared “king of Poland”. In a desperate attempt to avoid a death sentence, he expressed great regret and had much to share in the lead up to the Nuremberg trials.
Among others, he told one story about how he had been sent to Austria in order to wipe the archives clean of anything that could connect Hitler’s family to this alleged Jewish ancestor. Frank remembered that this figure’s surname was Frankenberger. The problem is that there was not a single Jew in either Austria or Germany with such a name. There has been a decades-long fruitless search in the extensive archives of the city of Graz for traces of a Jew who could fit this description. There are also no signs that a poor girl named Maria Anna Schicklgruber had a child out of wedlock. Furthermore, there are no indications that she had been in Graz during the time in question.
Serious historians were more inclined to believe that she became pregnant by the rich farmer Johann Nepomuk Hüttler. He then convinced his older brother Johann Georg Hiedler to abandon his life as a travelling miller and marry the mother of the child.
In the end, Nepomuk took on the “bastard” Alois during his childhood and raised him. It would be several decades before an adult Alois decided to go to a local rectory in order to sort out the issue of his ancestry. He had brought with him two witnesses that could swear he was the son of Johann Georg Hiedler. Alois was then recorded in church books as the “legitimate” son of his mother’s spouse. He changed his old family name from Schicklgruber to Hitler. Various spellings of the same surname were normal in Austria at the time.
The reason why Alois Schicklgruber had waited for so long to “legitimise” himself was that his mother and her husband would first have to be deceased. His real father, Nepomuk, had also insisted that his wife had to pass away before any action was taken. He wanted to keep the situation a secret from her. Another explanation for this secrecy could be that Adolf Hitler’s mother Klara was Nepomuk’s granddaughter. As Alois’s father, Nepomuk also became Adolf’s grandfather. It is therefore contended that Alois Schicklgruber/Hitler married his own niece. This was the “thickest inbreeding”, as the historian Werner Maser called it in his time. The same historian spent many years digging through Hitler’s family history and his findings are still considered as solid sources by contemporary colleagues.
Right after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 to the joy of much of the population, the Gestapo and other specialists were sent out to trace any archives that could be connected to Hitler’s family history.
Church records were manipulated, with many relevant pages ripped out. There were rumours during the war that the Gestapo had actually found documentation confirming Hitler’s Jewish ancestry. However, it was alleged that the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, had kept it for himself so that he could later blackmail his Führer. This claim also has little proof to support it. The historian Maser was convinced that it was the extensive inbreeding over many generations that motivated Hitler’s increasingly desperate attempts to conceal his ancestry.
A few months after his rise to power, Hitler gave an order to establish the largest military base and training area in the Reich. This large area would measure 200 square kilometres and was situated in Waldviertel. Around 6000 farmers were subsequently pushed out of their farms. Maser believes that the main motive behind this was to wipe the villages in the area, where the Schicklgruber/Hitler family had been present for many generations, from the face of the earth. One of the first cemeteries that was bombed into rubble during the military exercises was located in the village of Strones, outside of Döllersheim. This was where Hitler’s father was born and where many family members lived. The lavish grave of Maria Anna Schicklgruber was destroyed, together with the graves of nearly all of Hitler’s ancestors.
Hitler’s father was a tyrant. He had two unhappy marriages behind him by the time he married the younger Klara Pölzl (1860-1907). Together, they had six children. However, it was only Adolf and his younger sister Paula who made it through to adulthood. The family lived in a small house next to the cemetery in Leonding outside of Linz from 1897. Both parents were buried there until just a few years ago.
Klara Hitler died from cancer and was treated in her last weeks by the family doctor, a Jew who was later thanked by Hitler in the form of permission to leave the country. During my coverage of the Fritzl story in 2008, I travelled to Leonding for a day to take a look at the grave that had become a sort of pilgrimage site during the Nazi era. When I turned the corner by the church, I noticed an older couple holding hands and bowing their heads before a tombstone under a large tree.
The pair quickly disappeared when they noticed my camera. However, they had already confirmed the rumour that this was still a place considered important by Nazi sympathisers. Surrounding the grave were hundreds of burnt out candle holders, removing any doubt about the number of visitors.
Ten years ago, a neighbour called me early in the morning to relay what had happened the previous night in the cemetery in Leonding. Someone had arrived covered by the calm and darkness of the night. The following morning, both the tree and tombstone had been removed without so much as a trace. Unless the Russians are able to bring forth any hitherto unknown documents from their own wartime archives, we can safely write off Foreign Minister Lavrov’s theories as a blatant lie.
Adolf Hitler is supposed to have shared with his comrades his gratitude that his father had abandoned the family name Schicklgruber before his birth. “Could you imagine a crowd roaring Heil Schicklgruber”, he asked rhetorically.
Translated by Daniel Gleichgewicht
Asbjørn Svarstad is a Norwegian journalist based in Berlin.
This article was originally published by Nettavisen in Norwegian.
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