On today’s date, April 20, in the year 1889 at 6:30 in the evening was born one of, if not the most monstrous individual ever to walk the earth – Adolf Hitler. Just as the great leader of France – Napoleon, was not actually born in France, but rather on the island of Corsica, Adolf Hitler was not actually born in Germany, but in Austria, specifically in the small town of Braunau am Inn, across the border from Bavaria. Hitler’s father, Alois was a minor Austrian customs official. Alois was the illegitimate son of Johann Hiedler and a peasant woman from the village of Strones, one Maria Anna Schikelgruber, and had only taken the name of Hitler in 1876, when the old man had returned to the scene after a long absence and testified before a notary that he was in fact the father. By this time he was spelling his name “Hitler” and thus his son took that name. Hitler’s mother, was actually the second cousin of Alois, Klara Poelzl (the two had to acquire an Episcopal Dispensation to permit the marriage), who was 25 at the time of the marriage, while Alois was 48. It was the third marriage for Alois, and Adolf was the third child. The first two children died in infancy, and the fourth, Edmund died at age 6. Only the fifth child, a daughter, Paula, would live into adulthood, as did Hitler’s half brother, Alois.
Vater und Mutter, Alois, Angela, and Geli
Hitler’s father, with whom he had a very strained relationship (Alois had wanted his son to follow him as a civil servant, while Adolf had…. other ideas) died in 1903. His mother, whom he loved dearly then at age 42, moved young Adolf and his sister to Urfahr – a suburb of Linz. There, she supported herself and her two children as best she could on her small savings and her late husband’s pension. She died on Dec. 21, 1908 when Adolf was 19 years old. His half-brother Alois would eventually wind up as the owner of a small beer house in Berlin. Adolf didn’t much like him, and didn’t wish to hear his name mentioned. His sister Paula
survived him. He also had a half-sister, Angela. He brought her to Berchtesgaden as his housekeeper. Angela had a daughter, Geli,(pictured, right) with whom Hitler would have the one true love affair of his life, other of course than with himself and his ambition. BUT… just imagine: his father could just as easily have taken the name of “Schiklgruber”. Can you picture it?? “HEIL SCHIKLGRUBER!!” I don’t think so….
Hitler: An Evil Genius
ANYWAY… those are the bare facts of Adolf Hitler’s birth, his very early life and his family. But what can one say of the man, the monster, and his place in history? I shall leave that task to the historian and reporter William L. Shirer who saw so much of the history of Hitler’s Third Reich first hand. He was the man who in the words of historian William Manchester, “saw it all, and saw it first.” In the very early pages of his huge, but fascinating book, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” , Shirer wrote that Hitler
“…who founded the Third Reich, who ruled it ruthlessly and often with uncommon shrewdness, who led it to such dizzy heights and such a sorry end, was a person of undoubted, if evil genius. It is true that in the German people, as a mysterious Providence and centuries of experience had molded them up to that time, he found a natural instrument which he was able to shape to his own sinister ends. But without Adolf Hitler, who was possessed of a demonic personality, a granite will, uncanny instincts, a cold ruthlessness, a remarkable intellect, a soaring imagination and – until the end, when, drunk with power and success, he overreached himself – an amazing capacity to size up people and situations, there almost certainly would never have been a Third Reich.”
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“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960.