Hitler’s lost relatives found on Long Island – ‘in terror of identification
May 20th 2014 By Fires Stone
Origigal Article covered
12:00AM BST 16 Jul 2000
SHOWING no sense of regret, the dictator’s closest surviving kin are living secret lives in Middle American neighbourhoods.
For more than half a century they have lived with the terrible legacy of the most hated man in history. Now, for the first time, the secret lives of Adolf Hitler’s lost relatives have been revealed. The family tree of the survivors of the Hitler clan is traced in the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine.
Publication follows a year-long investigation by the writer Timothy Ryback, who discovered the Nazi dictator’s relatives living on both sides of the Atlantic. Hitler’s closest surviving kin are three great-nephews living on Long Island, barely an hour’s drive from New York city.
Mr Ryback, in an interview with The Telegraph, said: “They live in absolute terror of being uncovered and their lives being turned upside down.” Hitler’s American relatives have consistently refused to give interviews. Even their lawyer has asked not to be identified. When contacted, he said: “If they came forward, then where’s your life after this?”
Mr Ryback says that several of the relatives bear some physical resemblance to Hitler, pointing out: “If you block out everything else, you have that forehead and those eyes staring back at you.” The legacy of the Hitler name has brought a life of trouble for his surviving kin, says Mr Ryback.
The writer found it ironic that his search had ended knocking on a door in suburban Long Island. He said: “There were American flags hanging from the houses of neighbours and dogs barking. It was a quintessentially Middle American scene.” The New Yorker article, “Hitler’s Lost Family”, includes interviews with relatives in Germany and Austria. Most express little regret for their ancestor’s crimes.
Mr Ryback, an American now living in Salzburg, Austria, believes that many descendants would like to lay claim to the Hitler estate, which in theory could include royalties from his autobiography Mein Kampf and photograph albums belonging to Eva Braun, currently stored in Washington. According to one calculation, Hitler’s estate might be worth up to £15 million.
Interviewed by Mr Ryback, one middle-aged Austrian descendant said he would have “absolutely no reservations” about taking the money. “The Jews have got their compensation,” he is quoted as saying. “And now the slave labourers have got theirs. It is time for us to get ours.”
Mr Ryback said: “For the most part, they do not seem to be very nice people. I don’t know if you could say that this is genetic or just living under the shadow of the Hitler name. But I had no sense of regret from them. Rather, it was more of fear and terror of what might happen if they came forward.”
Hitler was the eldest child of his father Alois’s second wife, Klara Pölzl, a cousin who died of breast cancer in 1907. His only full-blood sibling, Paula, lived in Vienna until the final weeks of the war, when she was summoned to Berchtesgaden to be near her brother’s Bavarian villa. Paula Hitler was contacted by a United States Army intelligence officer in May, 1945. She refused a formal interview, but agreed to talk briefly in exchange for a lift to a baker’s.
During the drive, she said her brother had been deeply affected by his mother’s death when he was 18. After breaking into tears, she said: “Please remember, he was my brother.” After the war, Paula lived in seclusion in a two-room flat near Berchtesgaden until her death in 1960. She is the only member of the immediate family to carry the name Hitler on her tombstone.
Hitler’s closest living relatives are the descendants of his father’s first marriage to Franziska Matzelsberger. Apart from the American relatives, the grandchildren of his half-sister Angela live near the Austrian city of Linz. At least five cousins and nephews are known to have died after capture by the Russians.
Dozens of more distant relatives live in Austria’s Waldvietel region, near the Czech border, whose inhabitants are still regarded as peasants by many of their compatriots. The Hitler name derives from the German for smallholder. The New Yorker article quotes Werner Maser, the unofficial administrator of the Hitler estate as saying: “Most of the Hitler heirs were poor, uneducated farmers.”
The exception was Leo Raubal, the son of Angela, who became a director of the Linz Steelworks, and looked so much like his uncle that he occasionally served as a Hitler double during the war. The most intriguing members of the family are the only survivors of the paternal line, through Hitler’s half-brother Alois, who worked as a waiter in Dublin in 1909, where he fell in love with Brigid Dowling, the 17-year-old daughter of a local businessman.
Alois Hitler eloped with the teenager to Liverpool in 1910, but abandoned her with a young son, William Patrick, shortly before the First World War. Brigid later claimed in her memoirs that her brother-in-law had visited the couple in Liverpool, where she persuaded him to trim his handlebar whiskers to the trademark Hitler moustache.
William “Willie” Hitler’s first glimpse of his uncle was at the 1929 Nuremberg Rally. He later returned to Britain, giving several newspaper interviews about his uncle, and enlisted in the American navy later in the war. Interviewed by US intelligence in 1943, Willie claimed that he had been beaten as a baby by his father, who had himself been treated cruelly by his grandfather.
The young Adolf had been the favourite when the half-brothers were growing up together. Willie also enjoyed telling lurid anecdotes of meetings with his uncle in Berlin in which the dictator raged against members of his family for attempting to exploit the family name.
According to Brigid’s account of her son’s meeting with Hitler, the Führer claimed that he was “surrounded by idiots”, and told his half-brother Alois: “You are tearing down everything I have built with my own two hands.” Whether such a meeting ever took place is not clear. Willie claimed to have asked his uncle for a job in Germany, saying that the notoriety of the Hitler name made it impossible for him to find work in Britain.
After working in a car factory, he returned to England shortly before war was declared. In a report in the Daily Express, Willie Hitler was described by an interviewer as wearing a brush mustache and parting his hair to the right. He also crossed his arms in Führer style when talking, claiming: “The gesture must be in my blood.”
Shortly before his uncle invaded Poland, Willie Hitler was sent across the Atlantic for a speaking tour. He gave lectures across North America about his infamous family for the next two years. After initially being rejected by the US military because his uncle had served in the German army in the First World War, he wrote to President Roosevelt and was enlisted in the navy in 1944, serving under the Hitler family name.
Few have used it since. After leaving the navy in 1946, Willie married a German-born American and changed his name. The couple had four children, one of whom has since died in an accident. Willie Hitler died, aged 76, in 1987, and is buried under a tombstone which carries no surname. His mother died in 1969. None of his surviving sons – living in various parts of Long Island – has married.
His widow, now in her seventies, is said to live in a log cabin in a rural part of the island. The neighbours are unaware of the family history.