An Irishman's Diary

Fri, Aug 10, 2012, 01:00

WHEN I was a youngster growing up in Ireland my well-informed father insisted that Adolf Hitler had a nephew called Paddy Hitler and that his Dublin-born sister-in-law was called Bridget Hitler. How we laughed! But in light of the recent revelation that Hitler had apparently fathered an illegitimate French son, Jean-Marie Loret, in 1918, I did some research which wiped the smile from my face.

I discovered that my late lamented dad was speaking the truth.

While Jean-Marie died in 1985, Adolf has three remaining Germanic-Irish grand nephews living quietly in the United States.

In fact there were few people in the world more disconcerted by the revelations about Hitler’s illegitimate son than the trio of middle-aged brothers residing on Long Island. But for Alex , Louis and Brian Stuart-Houston the disclosure of their great-uncle’s fecundity was the grimmest of bad news. For it has focused unwelcome attention on the brothers and provided an unfortunate reminder of their own family link to the world’s most hated tyrant.

The Stuart-Houston boys were grandsons of Hitler’s brother Alois and his Irish-born wife Bridget. They shun interviews, refusing to even discuss their notorious grand uncle.

The curious family history of the Stuart-Hustons might have sprung from the pages of an imaginative writer of far-fetched fiction.Their father was Patrick Hitler, known as Paddy, the Irish-born progeny of the short-lived marriage of Bridget and Alois Hitler.

To trace his origins you must go back to a sunny summer afternoon over a century ago in Dublin. Bridget Dowling, a 17-year-old local convent schoolgirl indulged in a day trip with chums to the fashionable Royal Dublin Horse Show.

There she spotted a handsome stranger wearing a dangling chain and a Homburg hat. It was Alois Hitler. She was smitten, recalling later: “I cannot deny that this stranger with his fine foreign manners made a great impression”. He told her he was a German hotelier on a European tour studying the catering business. He was, in fact, a waiter at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

Romance blossomed. Bridget’s family did not approve, particularly when they discovered he wasn’t a grand hotelier. Bridget’s family objections finally prompted the couple to board the Liffey ferry and sail to Liverpool. There they quickly married. At the time, Alois’s younger brother Adolf was growing up in Austria and had yet to enlist and fight in the first World War.

Alois secured a job as a razor blade salesman on Merseyside. Bridget became pregnant and in 1911 she gave birth to a son – William Patrick.

At some stage before the outbreak of the second World War Bridget, Alois and young Paddy visited Berlin and met Adolf. Bridget claimed in a subsequent memoir that Adolf had stayed in her flat in Liverpool some time before the start of the first World War. This is unproven.

In My Brother-in-Law Adolf, Bridget described the young Adolf as “a pale, unsteady-eyed lad” who sat in her kitchen and played with her two-year-old son Paddy.

She also claimed responsibility for Adolf’s iconic moustache. She had advised him to downsize from his waxed handlebar whiskers. She alleged that when she saw the moustache in a newspaper photograph of Hitler she said: “Adolf has gone too far”.

By the time Hitler had seized power in Germany, the marriage of Bridget and Alois was over. Both Bridget and her son Paddy boasted about their relationship with the then widely admired dictator in Berlin.

In his 20s Paddy Hitler travelled to Germany to meet his uncle, who had risen to the position of chancellor. Uncle Adolf even found work for his nephew in a Berlin bank. Paddy subsequently secured a job as a car salesman with Opel. He even sported a Hitler-style moustache.

Having inherited the beguiling charm of his father he was much in demand at Berlin dinner parties. But Adolf was finding his talkative nephew increasingly bothersome. Embarrassed by his boastings, he described him as “my loathsome nephew”. Paddy apparently demanded that his uncle get him a senior job in the administration otherwise he would expose Adolf’s Jewish ancestry.

Hitler insisted that in return for a cosy sinecure, Paddy apply for German citizenship.

Unnerved by his uncle’s rage, Paddy returned to Britain where he wrote an article for Look magazine headlined “Why I hate my uncle”. As war loomed, Hitler’s popularity in London salons plummeted. Paddy and his mother were becoming nervous of their familial links with a German leader who was increasingly manifesting his talents as a war-mongering tyrant. They emigrated to New York.

There Paddy capitalised on his Hitler links. He toured as a lecturer claiming that his uncle was a madman surrounded by “sexual perverts”. His lecture tour was headlined: “What the German people are thinking”, with the subheading: “the truth about Hitler and his regime by one person who knows them both inside out.” He and his mother achieved a level of celebrity. Bridget was photographed in New York bidding farewell to her moustachioed son as he prepared to cross the border to join the Canadian Air Force. Sitting in the back seat of a convertible, Paddy is clutching a newspaper bearing the headline: “To hell with Hitler”. His mother smiles proudly.

Paddy’s bid to sign up in Canada was unsuccessful. Remarkably he did manage to join the US navy in 1944. He saw action and received a shrapnel wound in the leg.

After the fall of Berlin and the suicide of his uncle, Paddy and his mother decided that the oxygen of publicity could benefit them no more. They dropped out of public view completely.

They both changed their names to Stuart-Houston and moved to New Jersey. Bridget died in 1969 at the age of 89.

Paddy married a German woman and ran a blood-analysis laboratory. They had four sons, one of whom died young.

And while he was mostly successful at keeping his identity secret, a neighbour Teresa Ryther changed all this. She told the New York Times in 2006: “Once, my father told my mom, ‘I just saw Paddy mowing the lawn and he turned around and , my God, he looked exactly like Hitler. And I remember thinking: Oh Hitler – he was that bad guy”.

Paddy died suddenly in 1987. He was 76. He is buried alongside his mother. Their graves give no clue to their close connection to the 20th century’s most evil man.

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