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Letters offer a look at youth Adolf Hitler

The pile of packed letters
The pile of packed letters
Historian Roman Sandgruber
Historian Roman Sandgruber

An Austrian historian has found 31 letters from Adolf Hitler's father. Roman Sandgruber used them to write the first biography of Alois Hitler and to sketch the childhood of the later dictator. "There are many myths, fabrications and assumptions about the youth of Adolf Hitler," writes Sandgruber in Hitler's Vater. "That's partly because there were hardly any sources about this unmarked provincial official and partly because when he came to power, Adolf Hitler went to great lengths to destroy sources about his past and create a myth."

"Any light that can shine on the darkness of his early years is valuable. We get a glimpse into how a dictator's personality was formed. They illuminate the daily life of the Hitlers, their wishes, values ​​and conflicts." The 60-year-old Alois Hitler wrote the 31 letters in 1895 when he bought the Rauschergut farm near Lambach from Joseph Radlegger just before his retirement. His granddaughter discovered the correspondence in the attic some time ago and passed the bundle to Sandgruber.

The letters deal with the financial settlement of the sale, and offer a glimpse into the Hitler family's wallet. But Alois, who is chatty, according to Sandgruber, also gives a glimpse of his family life in passing: the maids who just come and go, a horse that does not meet the requirements and the purchase of new equipment and livestock.

Hitler's mother Klara is referred to as "an active woman with many friends". The 6-year-old Adolf passes by as "mein bub", my boy. The letters create a broader picture of Alois, who went down in history as a bully with dashed ambitions. Sandgruber notices that Alois promotes the importance of his own position, while denouncing colleagues at customs. "He sounds courteous and binding, but at the core he has little respect for others."

The writing style is also telling, according to Sandgruber. Alois formally uses Beamtendeutsch and uses expensive words, but here and there dialect words also slip in. He signs with a solemn form of courtesy, including his function: "Mit der vorzüglichsten Hochachtung Euer Wohlgeboren sehr ergebener Alois Hitler, Zolloberamtsofficial am Hauptzoll Linz".

"Alois Hitler failed in many ways: as a father, husband, educator, businessman and moreover as a person, without many friends and without a real home. But you also see other sides: the meticulous devotion to duty, the constant career drive, attention to education, interest in innovation and the pleasure of convivial gatherings."
Anti-Semitic? Although Sandgruber recognizes character traits that father and son share and concludes that Alois thus had a major influence on Adolf's development, he cannot answer one important question: was the young Hitler's upbringing already laced with anti-Semitism, or was he did you come into contact with it later?

Sandgruber calls it plausible that customs officer Alois shared in the Alltagsanti-Semitism of the dual monarchy, but finds no evidence of this in the letters.

Source: | Photo Mr Sandgruber: Harald Eisenberger

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Additional images
The letters from Alois Hitler

Personal view or conclusion on this post

An extraordinary find by Mr. Sandgruber giving an insight on the early years of Adolf Hitler.