Let’s once and for all bury the myth of Hitler’s Zeider

In an interview on Italian TV last week, Vladimir Putin’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov managed to undermine the philo-semitic repute of his puppet master.  Asked to explain how Russia needed to de-Nazify Ukraine when its elected leader was a Jew, Lavrov mused “we have for a long time listened to the wise Jewish people who say that the most rabid antisemites tend to be Jews” and that “there is no family without a monster.” He then proceeded to offer a singularly vitriolic parallel: “if I remember correctly, and I may be wrong, Hitler also had Jewish blood.”

To suggest by the clearest implication that Volodymyr Zelenskiy is a Nazi and rabid antisemite is as preposterous as it is contemptible. But quite apart from that, comparison with the Führer is invalid for one very simple reason. Hitler did not have “Jewish blood,” at least no recent traceable Jewish ancestry. Lavrov was wrong. No maybes about it.

The canard should be buried once and for all. It was a hare started in the early 1930s before Hitler came to power and the domestic and international popular press entertained itself with a legion of “stories” spotlighting the irony of his supposed Jewish roots. Interest in the topic soon waned but the story resurfaced with a bang in 1953, when the gaol-cell memoirs of former Governor-General of Poland Hans Frank were posthumously published. Written while facing execution at Nuremberg in 1946, Frank recounted how in 1931, as Hitler’s private attorney, he was instructed to carry out an investigation following the threat by William Patrick Hitler, the British-born son of Hitler’s elder half-brother Alois, to reveal a lurid family secret. Frank claimed he had discovered that Hitler’s grandmother Maria Anna Schicklgrüber had worked in Graz as a household cook for a Jew named Frankenburger whose son in 1837 had fathered her baby boy, Hitler’s father. Hitler dismissed it as his grandmother cunningly blackmailing the Jew with a false accusation.

Frank’s account was quickly debunked by an archivist who discovered that Jews were banned from Graz and that the only Frankenberger in the city was a Catholic whose son was ten years old in 1837. It has been suggested that Frank’s motive in inventing the account may have been a Holocaust sting in the tail.

But the story was not so easily laid to rest. Maria Anna Schicklgrüber was much more likely to have worked for a family in Linz, in the north of Austria close to her home turf, than in faraway Graz. (Recording residential domestics did not begin until years later.) In a moment of distraction perhaps aggravated by the imminence of death by hanging Frank could well have confused the four-letter names ending in “z”. Delving in the Linz city archives I found support for this possibility. A Peter Frankenberger had died there in 1890 at almost exactly the age the Frankenberger son would have been.

So the issue remained unresolved. But not for long. Shortly after my Linz visit the story broke of how two investigative journalists from Belgium had tailed one of William Patrick Hitler’s American sons from his home on Long Island to a restaurant in Manhattan, where they picked up his discarded paper napkin. For complex genealogical reasons too lengthy to explain here (but which are set out in my treatise Hitler’s Grandpa) DNA tests proved the father was a particular known gentile.

We now know Hitler had no recent Jewish ancestry but in his day he may have feared that he did and, as some commentators have suggested, may have pushed the Holocaust to prove to himself that no Jew would want to wipe out the Jewish race.

About the Author
David Wolchover is a Barrister and author of Culprits of Lockerbie