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The Hitler family feud

Adolf Hitler's nephew William Patrick (right) with his mother, Bridget Dowling, in New York, 1941 (Photo: Hulton Archive)
Adolf Hitler's nephew William Patrick (right) with his mother, Bridget Dowling, in New York, 1941 (Photo: Hulton Archive)

The story of William Patrick Hitler (1911-1987), Adolf Hitler's nephew, starts with his father: Adolf Hitler's half-brother (from a different mother), Alois Hitler Jr. Born in 1882, Alois Jr. chafed under his father's rough and unpleasant parenting style. The two had a violent argument when Alois Jr. was 14, and the young man left home. He found work as an apprentice waiter at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, where he was also given prison time for theft twice in the early 1900s.

Alois Hitler Jr., William Patrick Hitler's father, in 1937 (Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)
Alois Hitler Jr., William Patrick Hitler's father, in 1937 (Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)

 In 1909, Alois Jr. met an Irishwoman by the name of Bridget Dowling at the Dublin Horse Show. The two fell in love, married, and eloped to London in 1910. Dowling's father was outraged and threatened to charge Alois with kidnapping, only relenting after Bridget pleaded with him. The young couple later moved from London to Liverpool, where they had their only child, William Patrick Hitler. In an interesting coincidence, the house where they lived, 102 Upper Stanhope Street, was bombed by the Luftwaffe during an air raid in 1942.

Liverpool after the bombing campaign that also destroyed William Patrick Hitler's childhood home (Photo: Imperial War Museums)
Liverpool after the bombing campaign that also destroyed William Patrick Hitler's childhood home (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

Bad parenting often runs in the family, and this family was no exception. Alois left Bridget and their son and went on a gambling tour of Europe in 1914, then returned to his homeland of Germany to set up a safety-razor business. He invited Bridget and young William to rejoin him, but Alois inherited his father's violent tendencies, and Bridget thought it best to stay in Britain with his son. The outbreak of World War I shortly after made any reunion impossible, anyway. Alois Jr. married a German woman in 1916. This was an act of bigamy, since he had never divorced Bridget. He was charged by the German authorities for this in the 1920s, but he got off the hook on Bridget's intervention. Alois Jr. had a second son, Heinz, with his new wife. Unlike William, Heinz grew up to be a dedicated Nazi, fought on the Eastern Front, and was captured by the Soviets. On receiving news of his capture, Hitler contacted Stalin and offered to release Stalin's own son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, in exchange for Heinz. Stalin was outraged that Yakov allowed himself to be captured alive and refused the offer. Heinz Hitler died in Soviet captivity in 1942.

Heinz Hitler, William Patrick's half-brother (Photo: vlaston.webnode.hu)
Heinz Hitler, William Patrick's half-brother (Photo: vlaston.webnode.hu)

But back to William Patrick Hitler! Germany had changed a lot between the end of World War I and the early 1930s. In 1923, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were best-known for the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, a failed attempt to take over Germany with force of arms. By the 1930s, however, Nazi ideology had gained much traction and was making bigger and bigger waves in politics. In 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor of the country in a well-meaning but poorly considered attempt to curb political violence through an act of compromise. Hindenburg died soon after, leaving Hitler fully in charge of the country.
 
In 1933, the same year Hitler became the Führer, his nephew William visited his father Alois Jr. in Germany. Alois invited his son to one of Adolf's rallies, and William could not help but notice his uncle's ability to fanaticize his audience. He decided to stay in Germany for a while and try to profit off Adolf's popularity, probably both for selfish reasons and also to help out his mother Bridget, who was struggling to make ends meet in England.

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Bridget Dowling in 1941 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Bridget Dowling in 1941 (Photo: Library of Congress)

At first, Uncle Adolf certainly didn't mind William using his good name for his own advancement, and in fact helped him get a cushy job at the Reichskreditbank in Berlin, a position William held for most of the 1930s. Adolf, however, was much less enthusiastic to learn that his nephew was sending some of his earnings home to England, which Adolf considered an enemy country. William later got bored of his bank position and found a new job at the Opel car factory, but grew dissatisfied with that, too. He also learned that Adolf had his men spy on him on all the time. He once complained "I could not even go on an outing without risking a summons to Hitler".
 
The relationship was wearing on Adolf, too.  He gradually learned that William had anti-Nazi feelings, and he eventually grew to refer to William as "my loathsome nephew". According to William, the two have met at Hitler's Berchtesgaden home one day in 1936, while Adolf was entertaining some women at tea. When he saw his nephew, he supposedly decapitated some flowers with a whip, then warned William never to mention again their relationship.

Hitler's home at Berchtesgaden, where the incident allegedly took place (Photo: Bundesarchiv)
Hitler's home at Berchtesgaden, where the incident allegedly took place (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Things hit rock bottom when William was fired from Opel on charges of theft, and he decided to blackmail his uncle for a new job. He threatened to sell embarrassing stories to the newspapers about the family unless his personal circumstances improved. Adolf agreed to get his nephew a new job, but on the condition that he first renounces his British citizenship.
 
William suspected a trap. Without British citizenship, he would be fully under Uncle Adolf's thumb, and nothing would stop the Führer from simply making the inconvenient relative disappear. He fled Germany and tried to blackmail Adolf again (this time from a safe distance). He threatened to tell the press that Adolf's paternal grandfather was a Jew. It should be noted that Adolf Hitler's father (and William's grandfather) was born out of wedlock and the identity of his father was never fully established, but him being a Jewish merchant was and still is a long-running rumor.

William Patrick Stuart-Houston, born Hitler (Photo: factoriahistorica.wordpress.com)
William Patrick Stuart-Houston, born Hitler (Photo: factoriahistorica.wordpress.com)

Once back in London, William fully turned against Adolf, writing an article titled "Why I Hate My Uncle" for Look magazine. Among many other less-than-flattering charges, his also claimed that Hitler had a sexual relationship with his own niece Geli Raubal, and implicated him in her apparent suicide.
 
At this point, all bridges between William Patrick and Adolf were thoroughly burned down, and William was starting to be noticed by people who hated Hitler. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearts brought William and his mother to the United States in January 1939 for a lecture tour on Hitler and Nazi Germany. World War II broke out in September that year, and William and Bridget decide to stay in America. William decided to do more than just speak up against the Führer. He wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ask for his help. He explained his situation and declared that he wanted to fight against Nazi Germany, but his name and his close relationship to Hitler made it impossible for him to join the U.S. military. In his letter, he wrote: "All my relatives and friends soon will be marching for freedom and decency under the Stars and Stripes. I am respectfully submitting this petition to you to enquire as to whether I may be allowed to join them in their struggle against tyranny and oppression?"

William Patrick Hitler being sworn into the Navy (Photo: americainwwii.com)
William Patrick Hitler being sworn into the Navy (Photo: americainwwii.com)

Roosevelt conferred with then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and decided to allow William Patrick Hitler to serve. Adolf Hitler's nephew joined the Navy as a pharmacist's mate (the designation later changed to hospital corpsman) and received the Purple Heart after being wounded in action. When he first reported for duty, the induction officer asked his name. He truthfully replied "Hitler". The officer thought he was joking, and replied in jest "Glad to see you, Hitler. My name's Hess." – referring to Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess.

William Patrick Hitler in the U.S. Navy (Photo: Lyon Air Museum)
William Patrick Hitler in the U.S. Navy (Photo: Lyon Air Museum)

William Patrick was discharged from the Navy in 1947. With the name "Hitler" being thoroughly tainted, he quickly changed his surname to "Stuart-Houston" and married Phylllis Jean-Jacques, a woman who was born in Germany. They moved to Patchogue, NY, where William used his medical training to open a business, analyzing blood samples for hospitals. They had four sons: Alexander Adolf, Louis, Howard Ronald, and Brian William. Interestingly, none of them ever had children of their own. Some people have speculated that the four deliberately refused to get married and raise children in an effort to end Hitler's bloodline. Alexander, however, once claimed that there was no such agreement between them.

William Patrick Stuart-Houston's headstone (Photo: wikitree.com)
William Patrick Stuart-Houston's headstone (Photo: wikitree.com)

William Patrick Stuart-Houston, born Hitler, died in 1987, and is buried next to his mother in Coram, NY.

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