Alois Schickelgruber (Hitler), the illegitimate son of a 42 year old housemaid, Anna Schickelgruber was born in Strones, near, Dollersheim, in Austria in 1837. The baptismal register left a blank in the space allocated to the baby's father. Anna married the fifty-year-old wandering miller, Johann Georg Hiedler in May 1842. Anna died in 1847 and Alois was raised by his father's brother, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler.
Schickelgruber left home at the age of thirteen to serve as a cobbler's apprentice. Later he moved to Vienna where he was trained in leatherwork. He did not enjoy the work and in 1855 he joined the Imperial Customs Service. He spent the remainder of his working life as a customs officer in towns of Lower Austria.
Louis L. Snyder has argued: "His (Alois Schickelgruber) appointment to this post meant that Alois had moved several steps upward in the social scale from his peasant origins. Resplendent in his uniform with its shiny gold buttons and gold-rimmed velvet cap and pistol at his belt, he appeared to be a paragon of lower-middle-class respectability." However, we now know that he had fathered an illegitimate child in the 1860s and had a reputation for seducing young women. Alan Bullock has commented: "As an official in the resplendent imperial uniform of the Hapsburg service Alois Hitler appeared the image of respectability. But his private life belied appearances."
In 1873 he married Anna Glasl, the fifty-year-old adopted daughter of another customs collector. According to Ian Kershaw, the author of Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "It is unlikely to have been a love-match. The marriage to a woman fourteen years older than himself had almost certainly a material motive, since Anna was relatively well off, and in addition had connections within the civil service." Anna suffered from poor health and her age meant that she was unable to have children.
In 1876, aged sixteen, Klara Polzl left the family farm and moved to Braunau am Inn to join the household of her second cousin, Alois Hitler. Soon afterwards Alois began a sexual relationship with another maid in the house, Franziska Matzelberger. In 1877 Alois changed his surname from Schickelgruber to Hitler. It is claimed he did this to inherit money from Johann Nepomuk Hiedler (Hitler was an another way of spelling Hiedler - both mean "smallholding" in German.
Franziska saw Klara as a potential rival and insisted that she left the household. In 1882 Franziska gave birth to a child named Alois. When Anna Hitler died in 1883, Alois married Franziska and two months after the wedding she gave birth to a second child, Angela. Franziska developed tuberculosis and Alois invited Klara to return to the home to look after his two young children. Franziska, aged twenty-three, died in August, 1884. Alois also began a sexual relationship with Klara and on 7th January, 1885, the couple married. As they were second cousins they had to apply for episcopal dispensation to permit the marriage.
The first of the children of Alois's third marriage, Gustav, was born in May 1885, to be followed in September the following year by a second child, Ida, and another son, Otto, who died only days after his birth. In December 1887 both Gustav and Ida contracted diphtheria and died within weeks of each other. On 20th April 1889, Klara gave birth to her fourth child, Adolf Hitler. Edmund was born in 1894 but lived only six years. The fifth and last child, Paula, was born in 1896.
In 1895, when Adolf Hitler was six years old, Alois retired from government service. For the next four years he moved restlessly from one district to another near Linz, buying and selling farms, raising bees, and spent most of his time drinking in local inns. According to his son: "When finally, at the age of fifty-six, he went into retirement, he could not bear to spend a single day of his leisure in idleness. Near the Upper Austrian market village of Lambach he bought a farm, which he worked himself, and thus, in the circuit of a long and industrious life, returned to the origins of his forefathers. It was at this time that the first ideals took shape in my breast. All my playing about in the open, the long walk to school, and particularly my association with extremely husky boys, which sometimes caused my mother bitter anguish, made me the very opposite of a stay-at-home. And though at that time I scarcely had any serious ideas as to the profession I should one day pursue, my sympathies were in any case not in the direction of my father's career."
Alois was an authoritarian, overbearing, domineering husband and a stern, distant, aggressive and violent father. Konrad Heiden commented:" Hitler's father was a short-tempered old man, grown prematurely inactive. He had fought a bitter struggle with life, had made the hardest sacrifices, and in the end things had not gone according to his will. He goes walking about Leonding, usually holding his gold-bordered velvet cap in his hands, looks after his bees, leans against the fence, chats rather laconically with his neighbours. He looks on as a friend erects a little saw-mill and sourly remarks: such are the times, the little fellows are coming up, the big ones going down. His lungs are affected, he coughs and occasionally spits blood."
Louis L. Snyder has pointed out: "Hitler's mother was a quiet, hardworking woman with a solemn, pale face and large, staring eyes. She kept a clean household and labored diligently to please her husband. Hitler loved his indulgent mother, and she in turn considered him her favorite child, even if, as she said, he was moonstruck. Later, he spoke of himself as his mother's darling. She told him how different he was from other children. Despite her love, however, he developed into a discontented and resentful child. Psychologically, she unconsciously made him, and through him the world, pay for her own unhappiness with her husband. Adolf feared his strict father, a hard and difficult man who set the pattern for the youngster's own brutal view of life... This sour, hot-tempered man was master inside his home, where he made the children feel the lash of his cane, switch, and belt. Alois snarled at his son, humiliated him, and corrected him again and again. There was deep tension between two unbending wills. It is probable that Adolf Hitler's later fierce hatreds came in part from this hostility to his father. He learned early in life that right was always on the side of the stronger one."
Alois Hitler was extremely keen for his son to do well in life. Alois did have another son Alois Matzelsberger, but he had been a big disappointment to him and eventually ended up in prison for theft. Alois was a strict father and savagely beat his son if he did not do as he was told. Hitler later wrote: "After reading one day in Karl May (a popular writer of boys' books) that the brave man gives no sign of being in pain, I made up my mind not to let out any sound next time I was beaten. And when the moment came - I counted every blow." Afterwards he proudly told his mother: "Father hit me thirty-two times.... and I did not cry". Hitler later told Christa Schroeder about his relationship with his parents: "I never loved my father, but feared him. He was prone to rages and would resort to violence. My poor mother would then always be afraid for me."
Hitler also found it very distressing to see his mother suffering from "drunken beatings". His sister, Paula, said her mother was "a very soft and tender person, the compensatory element between the almost too harsh father and the very lively children who were perhaps somewhat difficult to train. If there were ever quarrels or differences of opinion between my parents it was always on account of the children. It was especially my brother Adolf who challenged my father to extreme harshness and who got his sound thrashings every day. How often on the other hand did my mother caress him and try to obtain with her kindness what her father could not succeed in obtaining with harshness!"
Alois was incensed when Hitler told him that instead of joining the civil service he was going to become an artist. Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf (1925): "Then barely eleven years old, I was forced into opposition for the first time in my life. Hard and determined as my father might be in putting through plans and purposes once conceived, his son was just as persistent and recalcitrant in rejecting an idea which appealed to him not at all, or in any case very little.
I did not want to become a civil servant. Neither persuasion nor serious arguments made any impression on my resistance. I did not want to be a civil servant: no, and again no. All attempts on my father's part to inspire me with love or pleasure in this profession by stories from his own life accomplished the exact opposite. I yawned and grew sick to my stomach at the thought of sitting in an office, deprived of my liberty; ceasing to be master of my own time and being compelled to force the content of a whole life into blanks that had to be filled out."
Alois Hitler died on 3rd January 1903. Hitler later wrote: "A stroke of apoplexy felled the old gentleman who was otherwise so hale, thus painlessly ending his earthly pilgrimage, plunging us all into the depths of grief. His most ardent desire had been to help his son forge his career, thus preserving him from his own bitter experience. In this, to all appearances, he had not succeeded. But, though unwittingly, he had sown the seed for a future which at that time neither he nor I would have comprehended."
Then barely eleven years old, I was forced into opposition for the first time in my life. Hard and determined as my father might be in putting through plans and purposes once conceived, his son was just as persistent and recalcitrant in rejecting an idea which appealed to him not at all, or in any case very little. I did not want to become a civil servant.
Neither persuasion nor serious arguments made any impression on my resistance. I did not want to be a civil servant: no, and again no. All attempts on my father's part to inspire me with love or pleasure in this profession by stories from his own life accomplished the exact opposite. I yawned and grew sick to my stomach at the thought of sitting in an office, deprived of my liberty; ceasing to be master of my own time and being compelled to force the content of a whole life into blanks that had to be filled out.
And what thoughts could this prospect arouse in a boy who in reality was really anything but 'good' in the usual sense of the word? School work was ridiculously easy, leaving me so much free time that the sun saw more of me than my room. When today my political opponents direct their loving attention to the examination of my life, following it back to those childhood days and discover at last to their relief what intolerable pranks this "Hitler" played even in his youth, I thank Heaven that a portion of the memories of those happy days still remains with me. Woods and meadows were then the battlefields on which the 'conflicts' which exist everywhere in life were decided.
In this respect my attendance at the Realschule, which now commenced, made little difference. But now, to be sure, there was a new conflict to be fought out.
As long as my father's intention of making me a civil servant encountered only my theoretical distaste for the profession, the conflict was bearable. Thus far, I had to some extent been able to keep my private opinions to myself; I did not always have to contradict him immediately. My own firm determination never to become a civil servant sufficed to give me complete inner peace. And this decision in me was immutable. The problem became more difficult when I developed a plan of my own in opposition to my father's. And this occurred at the early age of twelve. How it happened, I myself do not know, but one day it became clear to me that I would become a painter, an artist. There was no doubt as to my talent for drawing; it had been one of my father's reasons for sending me to the Realschule, but never in all the world would it have occurred to him to give me professional training in this direction. On the contrary. When for the first time, after once again rejecting my father's favorite notion, I was asked what I myself wanted to be, and I rather abruptly blurted out the decision I had meanwhile made, my father for the moment was struck speechless.
It is possible that Adolf Hitler's grandfather was Jewish. Rumours to that effect circulated in Munich cafes in the early 1920s, and were fostered by sensationalist journalism of the foreign press during the 1930s. It was suggested that the name "Huttler" was Jewish, "revealed" that he could be traced to a Jewish family called Hitler in Bucharest, and even claimed that his father had been sired by Baron Rothschild, in whose house in Vienna his grandmother had allegedly spent some time as a servant. But the most serious speculation about Hitler's Supposed Jewish background has occurred since the Second World War, and is directly traceable to the memoirs of the leading Nazi lawyer and Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, dictated in his Nuremberg cell while awaiting the hangman.
Frank claimed that he had been called in by Hitler towards the end of 1930 and shown a letter from his nephew William Patrick Hitler (the son of his half-brother Alois, who had been briefly married to an Irish woman) threatening, in connection with the press stories circulating about Hitler's background, to expose the fact that Hitler had Jewish blood flowing in his veins. Allegedly commissioned by Hitler to look into his family history, Frank reportedly discovered that Maria Anna Schicklgruber had given birth to her child while serving as a cook in the home of a Jewish family called Frankenberger in Graz. Not only that: Frankenberger senior had reputedly paid regular instalments to support the child on behalf of his son, around nineteen years old at the birth, until the child's fourteenth birthday. Letters were allegedly exchanged for years between Maria Anna Schicklgruber and the Frankenbergers. According to Frank, Hitler declared that he knew, from what his father and grandmother had said, that his grandfather was not the Jew from Graz, but because his grandmother and her subsequent husband were so poor they had conned the Jew into believing he was the father and into paying for the boy's support.
Frank's story gained wide circulation in the 1950s. But it simply does not stand up. There was no Jewish family called Frankenberger in Graz during the 1830s. In fact, there were no Jews at all in the whole of Styria at the time, since Jews were not permitted in that part of Austria until the 1860s. A family named Frankenreiter did live there, but was not Jewish, There is no evidence that Maria Anna was ever in Graz, let alone was employed by the butcher Leopold Frankenreiter. No correspondence between Maria Anna and a family called Frankenberg or Frankenreiter has ever turned up. The son of Leopold Frankenreiter and alleged father of the baby (according to Frank's story and accepting that he had merely confused names) for whom Frankenreiter was seemingly prepared to pay child support for thirteen years was ten years old at the time of Alois's birth. The Frankenreiter family had moreover hit upon such hard times that payment of any support to Maria Anna Schicklgruber would have been inconceivable. Equally lacking in credibility is Frank's comment that Hitler had learnt from his grandmother that there was no truth in the Graz story: his grandmother had been dead for over forty years at the time of Hitler's birth. And whether in fact Hitler received a blackmail letter from his nephew in 1930 is also doubtful. If such was the case, then Patrick - who repeatedly made a nuisance of himself by scrounging from his famous uncle - was lucky to survive the next few years which he spent for the most part in Germany, and to be able to leave the country for good in December 1938., His 'revelations', when they came in a Paris journal in August 1939, contained nothing about the Graz story. Nor did a number of different Gestapo inquiries into Hitler's family background in the 1930s and 1940s contain any reference to the alleged Graz background. Indeed they discovered no new skeletons in the cupboard. Hans Frank's memoirs, dictated at a time when he was waiting for the hangman and plainly undergoing a psychological crisis; are full of inaccuracies and have to be used with caution. With regard to the story of Hitler's alleged Jewish grandfather, they are valueless. Hitler's grandfather, whoever he was, was not a Jew from Graz.
Hitler's father was a short-tempered old man, grown prematurely inactive. He had fought a bitter struggle with life, had made the hardest sacrifices, and in the end things had not gone according to his will. He goes walking about Leonding, usually holding his gold-bordered velvet cap in his hands, looks after his bees, leans against the fence, chats rather laconically with his neighbours. He looks on as a friend erects a little saw-mill and sourly remarks: such are the times, the little fellows are coming up, the big ones going down. His lungs are affected, he coughs and occasionally spits blood. In political conversations it develops that he "can't stomach the Prussians": he is of extremely Austrian mind, a witness relates.
Not so his son. He was not Austrian, he was not a dutiful son, he was not loyal and obedient, he was not even very conscientiously devoted to the Catholic religion of his country; a persistent legend relates that at the age of fourteen he spat out the Host at communion in protest. Though this sacrilege has never been proved, it fits into the period and its passionate atmosphere, and jibes with the human type, enraged against the god of his fathers. An embittered rebellion against the authority of Church and State was simmering among the intellectuals of Austria, particularly in the country sections outside Vienna. The European national revolution shook the old empire for decades; the Germans of Austria also had a part in it, with their rebellious battle-cry and banner; the battle-cry was, "Home to the Reich!" which meant, away from the Habsburgs to the new Prussian German Reich. The banner was black, red, and gold, the old German colours from the Napoleonic period, dream colours from the days when the educated classes of Germany, drunk with Hegel's world spirit, dreamed of their future state. And sometimes on the black, red, and gold background a strange sign appeared; a kind of wheel with an axial cross in the middle, but the circle is cut in four places so that four scythe blades seem to swing in a circle around the cross. Anyone who sees this strange shape involuntarily recognizes the Swastika.
The question of my profession was to be decided more quickly than I had previously expected. In my thirteenth year I suddenly lost my father.
A stroke of apoplexy felled the old gentleman who was otherwise so hale, thus painlessly ending his earthly pilgrimage, plunging us all into the depths of grief. His most ardent desire had been to help his son forge his career, thus preserving him from his own bitter experience. In this, to all appearances, he had not succeeded. But, though unwittingly, he had sown the seed for a future which at that time neither he nor I would have comprehended.