On January 21, 1896, an innocent child was born in the small farm community of Hafeld, Austria, 30 miles southwest of the old provincial capital of Linz, on the Danube. The name of the child was Paula Hitler, the last child of Alois Hitler and his third wife Klara. Paulas mother, born Klara Pölzl, was 23 years younger than Alois. She was so closely related to her husband that a special dispensation was sought from Rome before they could marry in 1884.
The couple had five children, but only two survived to become adults: Paula and her elder brother, Adolf Hitler, murderer of millions, master of destruction and organized insanity. Two of her siblings died from diphtheria when they were children, and one died shortly after birth.
Klara and Alois Hitler
Their father, Alois, was a hard, conscientious Customs Official, punctilious to a fault with a difficult temper that flared with no apparent provocation. Paula later recalled how Adolf bore the brunt of the father’s discipline:
“Adolf challenged my father to extreme harshness and got his sound thrashing every day. He was a scrubby little rogue, and all attempts of his father to thrash him for his rudeness and to cause him to love the profession of an official of the state were in vain. How often on the other hand did my mother caress him and try to obtain with her kindness where the father could not succeed with harshness …”
Young Adolf top right
Paula was six years old when Alois Hitler died in 1903 after suffering a pleural hemorrhage, and Klara brought up Adolf and Paula on her own. Paula later told about Adolf and their childhood during her interrogations after the war:
“My brother was very good in some subjects, and very weak in others. He was the weakest in mathematics and, as far as I can remember, in physics, also. His failures in mathematics worried my mother. He loved music. He preferred Wagner even then. Wagner was always his favorite.
Since I was so much younger than my brother, he never considered me a playmate. He played a leading role among his early companions. His favorite game was cops and robbers, and that sort of thing. Adolf as a child always came home too late. He got a spanking every night for not coming home on time .. After my brother finished school he went to Vienna. He wanted to go to the Academy and become a painter but nothing came of it. My mother was very sick at the time. She was very attached to Adolf and wanted him to stay home. That’s why he stayed. He left the house after her death in 1907 .. ”
Center young Adolf Hitler with schoolmates 1900
Later Paula worked as a secretary for a group of doctors in a military hospital. Each year Hitler sent her a ticket to the impressive Nuremberg Rally. She later recalled:
“From 1929 on I saw him once a year until 1941. We met once in Munich, once in Berlin, and once in Vienna. I met him in Vienna after 1938. His rapid rise in the world worried me. I must honestly confess that I would have preferred it if he had followed his original ambition and become an architect. It would have saved the world a lot of worries ..”
When Hitler rose to power in Germany and Europe, he made Paula change her name from Paula Hitler to Paula Wolff – Wolff was Adolf Hitler’s nickname. She later told:
“The first time that my brother suggested my changing my name was at the Olympic Games in Garmisch. He wanted me to live under the name of Wolff, and maintain the strictest incognito. That was sufficient for me. From then on I kept this name. I added the Mrs. as I thought that less conspicuous.”
Until the last weeks of the war, Paula Hitler lived in Vienna where she was arrested by US Intelligence officers in May, 1945. During the interrogations, she told how 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:
“The personal fate of my brother affected me very much. He was still my brother, no matter what happened. His end brought unspeakable sorrow to me, as his sister ..”
Paula was released and returned to Vienna to work in an arts and crafts shop. On December 1, 1952, she moved to a two-room flat near Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s mountaintop retreat on the German-Austrian border, where she lived in seclusion under the last name of Wolf until her death on June 1, 1960.
Paula Hitler, who never married or had children, is buried in the Bergfriedhof in Berchtesgaden as the only member of the immediate family to carry the name Hitler on her tombstone.
Remarkable tale of Hitler’s young Jewish friend
At first glance, the picture of the man hugging the beaming young girl appears to show a scene of great happiness.
But a closer look reveals a far darker tale: this is Adolf Hitler, the man behind the murder of six million Jews, and the little girl is Jewish.
Despite this, Hitler would go on to build a friendship with Rosa Bernile Nienau, which only ended when top Nazi officials intervened five years later.
And now this rare, signed image from 1933 is going up for auction in the US.
Alexander Historical Auctions, in Maryland, estimates the picture, taken by photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, could fetch as much as $10,000 (£7,500) when it goes on sale on Tuesday.
“Hitler was very often photographed with children for propaganda purposes. The shocking thing about this piece is it seems he had a genuine affinity for the young girl.
“I was simply stunned.”
It was a shared birthday which brought a little girl and the Nazi leader together.
According to the auction website, Rosa and her mother had joined the crowds outside Hitler’s Alpine retreat Berghof in 1933 on his birthday.
It is thought that when he discovered Rosa had the same birthday, he invited Rosa and her mother Karoline up to the house – where these photographs were taken.
Not long afterwards, it was discovered that Karoline’s mother had been Jewish, making Rosa Jewish in the eyes of the Nazi state.
But this did not dissuade Hitler from carrying on his friendship with girl, to whom he had sent a signed copy of the photograph.
“The dear and [considerate?] Rosa Nienau Adolf Hitler Munich, the 16th June 1933,” he wrote.
Rosa, it appears, later added her own stamp to the photo, drawing flowers onto the black-and-white image.
She would write to Hitler and his aide Wilhelm Bruckner on at least 17 occasions between 1935 and 1938, until she and her mother, a widow, were told to cut off contact by the Nazi leader’s private secretary, Martin Bormann.
Hitler was unimpressed by the order, Hoffmann would later say.
“There are people who have a true talent for spoiling my every joy,” Hoffmann recalls the Nazi leader telling him in his book, Hitler Was My Friend.
The photographer includes a different picture of the two in his 1955 book, captioned: “Hitler’s Sweetheart – it delighted him to see her at the Berghof until some busybody found she was not of pure Aryan descent.”
The year after Bormann cut off contact, World War Two began. By the time it ended, six years later, six million Jews would be dead.
Rosa did not survive the war, either. She died of polio, aged 17, in a hospital in Munich in 1943, a decade after her first meeting with Hitler.