By Miriam Shaviv
August 8, 2008
Many of you will have caught the feature in the Guardian this week on Germans who converted to Judaism and are now living in Israel.
It included a rather remarkable interview with an unnamed professor of Jewish Studies at one of Israel’s universities, who claims that his grandmother Erna was, at one point, married to one Hans Hitler – the illegitimate child of Adolph’s half-brother, Alois Jr.
As he explains:
"Hans married my grandmother Erna after she divorced my grandfather."
He immediately states that he hates the Hitler branch of his family. He becomes agitated. "I have neither any blood nor DNA from Adolf and his family," he insists. "I was not socialised by that family." He met Hans only once. The Hitlers came for tea when he was 12 years old. "Hans was a very nice man," he says. "No passions, no brutality." But Erna was thrilled to have married into the Hitler clan, and remained a Nazi until she died. "I didn't know her," he says of his grandmother. "She wasn't part of my family."
The professor gave the same account of his relationship with Hitler two years ago to the American Jewish Action magazine. It included many details about the awkward situations he faces as a German convert - he doesn't, for example, participate in Holocaust Day ceremonies - and on the sometimes hostile reaction of his friends and neighbours to his background.
At the time, it provoked much excitement in Jewish circles, and the article was widely reprinted on the internet.
And now, the JC has learned, the Mail on Sunday is also chasing this gentleman – and intends to expose the “Jewish relative of Hitler” this weekend.
Well, I hate to ruin the party. But I am simply not convinced by his story.
According to Ben Barkow of the Wiener Library – the most authoritative Holocaust archive in the country – there is simply no record, anywhere, of a “Hans Hitler”.
Hitler’s half-brother Alois Jr, according to Mr Barkow, certainly had one son, William Patrick. There was also another son, Heinz, who was reputedly Hitler’s favourite nephew but who was killed in 1942 on the Russian front. But certainly no Hans Hitler.
So who is the unidentified and mysterious Israeli academic who is apparently trading on Hitler’s name in a rather sickening manner?
I suppose we will have to wait for the Mail on Sunday to find out….
Meanwhile, this just proves once again what a predilection we have to believing such stories. Nothing makes us happier than hearing of a descendant of a Nazi who converted to Orthodox Judaism, or of a one-time PLO terrorist who now preaches Zionism, or (in some circles...) of a Jew who eats pork on Yom Kippur becoming a Belzer Chossid. Such stories are a way of assuring ourselves we were "right" all along -- if even our greatest enemies (or their descendants) can come over to our side, surely the truth is with us.
There is also an enormous appetite for stories creating a personal connection between Hitler and Jews. Who amongst us hasn't heard the old urban legend of Hitler having a Jewish great-grandmother? But hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good headline?