Alois Hitler, father to Adolf

Alois Schicklgruber’s only claim to fame was that he was the father of Adolf Hitler.

Alois HitlerBorn 7 June 1837, Alois Schicklgruber was the son of a 42-year-old unmarried farmhand by the name of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. The identity of his father remains uncertain: on Alois’s birth certificate the space for the father’s name was left blank and the word illegitimate was scrolled across the certificate.

When he was five-years-old, Alois’s mother married Johann Georg Hiedler. Five years later, following his mother’s death, the 10-year-old Alois went to live with his stepfather’s brother, his uncle, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler.

Aged 13, Alois found employment as an apprentice cobbler before joining the Austrian Customs Service at the age of eighteen, an organization that was to remain his employer for the rest of his working life.

Schicklgruber becomes Hitler

Alois changed his name to Hitler, a variant of his stepfather’s name, Hiedler, in January 1876. Johann Georg Hiedler had died nineteen years earlier but his name was added to the birth certificate as the father of the 39-year-old Alois. Thus Alois Schicklgruber became Alois Hitler.

First wife

Alois married three times, the first time in 1873 to Anna Glassl, 14 years his senior. But immediately Alois began having a series of affairs, including with one Franziska ‘Fanni’ Matzelberger, a household servant.

Second wife

In 1880, Alois and Anna separated and Alois set up home with Fanni, 24 years his junior. But, as a Catholic, Alois was not permitted to divorce. Fanni bore him his first child, Alois Junior, out of wedlock. His wife Anna conveniently died in 1883 and within a month Alois and Fanni were married. A daughter, Angela, was born two months later. But within a year, in August 1884, Fanni had died of a lung disorder, aged only 23.

Almost immediately, following his second wife’s death, Alois made his 16-year-old household servant, Klara Pölzl, pregnant. Klara was also his cousin (once removed), and Alois had to apply to the church for permission to marry his pregnant relation, 23 years his junior.

Third wife

With the necessary permission, Alois Hitler married Klara, his third wife, in January 1885. Four months later, their first child, Gustav, was born and Ida, a second child, a year later. In 1887, Klara gave birth to Otto but the child lived for only three days. Further tragedy was soon to follow with the deaths of both Gustav and Ida within weeks of each other.

An Easter birth

Six months after the death of her third child, Klara was pregnant again. Although sickly, this child, born Easter Saturday, 20 April 1889, lived. They named him Adolf.

Five years later, Edmund was born and then Paula in 1896. But Klara was fated again with the death of Edmund from measles in 1900. He was six. It devastated his 11-year-old brother who, as a result, began performing poorly at school. Of her six children, only Adolf and Paula survived into adulthood.

Linz

The Hitler family moved several times, always depending on Alois Hitler’s latest job within the customs service. His final posting was to a village on the outskirts of Linz where he retired and spent his final years. Adolf was to retain a lifelong affection for Linz, which he always regarded as his hometown.

The would-be artist

Often drunk, Alois repeatedly beat Adolf. Klara, who for many years still called her husband ‘Uncle’, smothered her son but was unable to prevent the thrashings. As the young Hitler grew up, he did well at art and harboured ambitions to become an artist, a prospect that alarmed his father who wanted his son to follow him into the customs service. Hitler had no intention of holding down a dreary day job as his father had done all his working life and informed Alois of his artistic ambitions. According to Hitler’s semi-autobiographical Mein Kampf, Hitler Senior reacted with the words, ‘Artist? No, never as long as I live.’

Alois Hitler, surrounded by the children of his second and third marriages, wiled away his time with his bees or with friends at the tavern. On 3 January 1903, Alois, enjoying his early morning glass of wine at the tavern, collapsed and died. Cause of death was either a heart attack or stroke. He was sixty-five; his son thirteen. Klara, aged forty-two, was left as a widow. She was to die less than five years later from breast cancer.

In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote of his parents: ‘I honoured my father and loved my mother’. Hitler, according to his mother’s Jewish doctor, Edward Bloch, was with her as she died. ‘I have never seen anyone,’ wrote Dr Bloch later, ‘so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler’. Later, Hitler presented the good doctor with one of his paintings.

Rupert Colley
Read more in Hitler: History In An Hour published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats and audio.

See also Hitler the artistHitler’s women and August Kubizek, Hitler’s only friend.

Rupert’s novella, My Brother the Enemy, set during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, is now available.