FOR YOUR OWN GOOD - Alice Miller
13 [Pages 142-169 in the print edition]

Adolf Hitler's Childhood:
From Hidden to
Manifest Horror

My pedagogy is hard. What is weak must be hammered away. In my fortresses of the Teutonic Order a young generation will grow up before which the world will tremble. I want the young to be violent, domineering, undismayed, cruel. The young must be all these things. They must be able to bear pain. There must be nothing weak or gentle about them. The free, splendid beast of prey must once again flash from their eyes. I want my young people strong and beautiful. That way I can create something new.



My desire to learn more about Adolf Hitler's childhood did not emerge until I began to write this book, and it took me quite by surprise. The immediate occasion was the realization that my belief, based upon my experience as an analyst, that human destructiveness is a reactive (and not an innate) phenomenon either would be confirmed by the case of Adolf Hitler or--if Erich Fromm and others are right--would have to be completely revised. This question was important enough for me to try to answer, although I was very skeptical at first that I would be able to summon up empathy for this human being, whom I consider the worst criminal I have ever known of. Empathy, i.e., in this case the attempt to identify with the perspective of the child himself and not to judge him through adult eyes, is my sole heuristic tool, and without it, the whole investigation would be pointless. I was relieved to discover that for the purposes of my study I was successful in keeping this tool intact and was able to regard Hitler as a human being.

To do this, I had to free myself from thinking of "what is human" in traditional and idealizing terms based on splitting off and projecting evil; I had to realize that human being and "beast" do not exclude each other (cf. the Erich Fromm quotation on page 177). Animals do not suffer from the tragic compulsion of having to avenge, decades later, traumata experienced at an early age-as was the case, for example, with Frederick the Great, who was driven to become a great conqueror after the terrible humiliation he suffered as a child. In any event, I am not familiar enough with an animal's unconscious or its degree of awareness of its past to make any statements on the subject. So far, it is only in the human realm that I have discovered extreme bestiality; only there can I trace it and search for its motives. And I cannot renounce this search unless I am willing to be made into an instrument of cruelty, i.e., its unsuspecting (and thus guiltless yet blind) perpetrator and propagator.

If we turn our backs on something because it is difficult to understand and indignantly refer to it as "inhuman," we will never be able to learn anything about its nature. The risk will then be greater, when we next encounter it, of once again aiding and abetting it by our innocence and naiveté.

Over the past thirty-five years, countless works dealing with the life of Adolf Hitler have appeared. No doubt, I heard more than once that Hitler was beaten by his father, and even read it several years ago in a monograph by Helm Stierlin without being particularly struck by the fact. Since I have become sensitive, however, to the demeaning treatment children are sometimes subjected to in the first years of life, this information has taken on much greater importance for me. I asked myself what the childhood of this person had been like, a person who was possessed by hatred all his life and for whom it became so easy to involve other people in his hatred. As a result of reading Schwarze Pädagogik and of the feelings it awakened in me, I was suddenly able to imagine and feel what it must have been like for a child growing up in the Hitler household. What had previously been a black-and-white film was now in color, and it gradually merged to such an extent with my own experiences of World War II that it ceased being a film and turned into real life. This was not only a life that had been lived at a certain time and place in the past but one whose consequences and whose likelihood of being repeated I believe concern us all here and now as well. For the hope that by means of rational agreements it might be possible in the long run to prevent nuclear annihilation of the human race is at bottom a form of irrational wishful thinking and contradicts all our experience. As recently as the Third Reich, not to mention countless times before that, we have seen that reason constitutes only a small part of the human being, and not the dominant part, at that. All it took was a Führer's madness and several million well-raised Germans to extinguish the lives of countless innocent human beings in the space of a few short years. If we do not do everything we can to understand the roots of this hatred, even the most elaborate strategic agreements will not save us. The stockpiling of nuclear weapons is only a symbol of bottled-up feelings of hatred and of the accompanying inability to perceive and articulate genuine human needs.

The example of Hitler's childhood allows us to study the genesis of a hatred whose consequences caused the suffering of millions. The nature of this destructive hatred has long been familiar to psychoanalysts, but psychoanalysis will be of little help as long as it interprets this hatred as an expression of the death instinct. The followers of Melanie Klein, who in spite of their very accurate description of infantile hatred still define it as innate (instinctual) and not reactive, are no exception. Heinz Kohut comes closest to interpreting the phenomenon with his concept of narcissistic rage, which I have related to the infant's reaction to the lack of availability of the primary care giver.

But we must go one step further if we are to understand the origins of a lifelong insatiable hatred such as consumed Adolf Hitler. We must leave the familiar territory of drive theory and address the question of what takes place in a child who is humiliated and demeaned by his parents on the one hand and on the other is commanded to respect and love those who treat him in this fashion and under no circumstances to give expression to his suffering. Although something so absurd would scarcely be expected of an adult (except in pronouncedly sadomasochistic relationships), this is exactly what parents expect of their children in most cases, and in previous generations they were rarely disappointed. In the earliest stage of life, it is possible for a child to forget about the extreme acts of cruelty he or she has endured and to idealize their perpetrator. But the nature of the subsequent enactment reveals that the whole history of early persecution was stored up somewhere; the drama now unfolds in front of the spectators with an amazing resemblance to the original situation but under another guise: in the reenactment, the child who was once persecuted now becomes the persecutor. In pyschoanalytic treatment, the story is enacted within the framework of transference and countertransference.

If psychoanalysis could only free itself of its stubborn belief in the death instinct, it would be able to begin to answer the question of why wars occur, on the basis of material available on early childhood conditioning. Unfortunately, however, most psychoanalysts are not interested in what parents did to their children, leaving this question to family therapists. Since the latter in turn do not work with transference but concentrate primarily on modifying interactions among family members, they seldom gain the access to events of early childhood possible in a thoroughgoing analysis.

In order to show how the early debasement, mistreatment, and psychological rape of a child expresses itself throughout later life, I would need only to recount the history of a single analysis down to the last detail, but considerations of discretion make this impossible. Hitler's life, on the other hand, was observed and recorded so exactly by so many witnesses up to the very last day that this material can easily be used to demonstrate the enactment of the early childhood situation. In addition to the testimony of witnesses and the historical events in which his deeds are documented, his thoughts and feelings were expressed, albeit in coded form, in his many speeches and in his book Mein Kampf. It would be a highly instructive and rewarding task to make Hitler's entire political career comprehensible from the perspective of the history of his persecution in early childhood. But to pursue this task is far beyond the scope of this book, since my sole interest here is in showing examples of the effects of "poisonous pedagogy." For this reason I shall restrict myself to a few highlights in his biography; in so doing, I shall attribute particular significance to certain childhood experiences that until now have received little attention from his biographers. Because historians by profession concern themselves with external facts, and psychoanalysts with the Oedipus complex, few seem to have seriously raised the question: What did this child feel, what did he store up inside when he was beaten and demeaned by his father every day from an early age?

On the basis of available documents, we can easily gain an impression of the atmosphere in which Adolf Hitler grew up. The family structure could well be characterized as the prototype of a totalitarian regime. Its sole, undisputed, often brutal ruler is the father. The wife and children are totally subservient to his will, his moods, and his whims; they must accept humiliation and injustice unquestioningly and gratefully. Obedience is their primary rule of conduct. The mother, to be sure, has her own sphere of authority in the household, where she rules over the children when the father is not at home; this means that she can to some extent take out on those weaker than herself the humiliation she has suffered. In the totalitarian state, a similar function is assigned to the security police. They are the overseers of the slaves, although they are slaves themselves, carrying out the dictator's wishes, serving as his deputies in his absence, instilling fear in his name, meting out punishment, assuming the guise of the rulers of the oppressed.

Within this family structure, the children are the oppressed. If they have younger siblings, they are provided with a place to abreact their own humiliation. As long as there are even weaker, more helpless creatures than they, they are not the lowest of slaves. Sometimes, however, as was the case with Christiane F., the child is ranked below the dog, for the dog need not be beaten if a child is available.

This hierarchy, which can be observed in the way concentration camps were organized (with their ranking of guards, etc.) and which is legitimized by "poisonous pedagogy," is probably still maintained in many families today. The possible consequences for a sensitive child can be traced in detail in the case of Adolf Hitler.

Hitler's Father


In his biography of Adolf Hitler, Joachim Fest has this to say about Alois Hitler's background and his life before Adolf was born:

At House No. 13 in Strones, the home of Johann Trummelschlager, an unmarried servant girl by the name of Maria Anna Schicklgruber gave birth to a child on June 7, 1837. That same day the child was baptized. Alois. In the registry of births in Döllersheim parish the space for the name of the child's father was left blank. Nor was this changed five years later when the mother married the unemployed journeyman miller Johann Georg Hiedler. That same year she turned her son over to her husband's brother, Johann Nepomuk Hüttler, a farmer in Spital--presumably because she thought she could not raise the child properly. At any rate the Hiedlers, the story has it, were so impoverished that "ultimately they did not even have a bed left and slept in a cattle trough."

These two brothers are two of the presumptive fathers of Alois Schicklgruber. The third possibility, according to a rather wild story that nevertheless comes from one of Hitler's closer associates, is a Graz Jew named Frankenberger in whose household Maria Anna Schicklgruber is said to have been working when she became pregnant. Such, at any rate, is the testimony of Hans Frank, for many years Hitler's lawyer, later Governor General of Poland. In the course of his trial at Nuremberg, Frank reported that in 1930 Hitler had received a letter from a son of his half-brother Alois. Possibly the intention of the letter was blackmail. It indulged in dark hints about "very odd circumstances in our family history." Frank was assigned to look into the matter confidentially. He found some indications to support the idea that Frankenberger had been Hitler's grandfather. The lack of hard evidence, however, makes this thesis appear exceedingly dubious--for all that, we may also wonder what had prompted Frank at Nuremberg to ascribe a Jewish ancestor to Hitler. Recent researches have further shaken the credibility of his statement, so that the whole notion can scarcely bear close scrutiny. In any case, its real significance is independent of its being true or false. What is psychologically of crucial importance is the fact that Frank's findings forced Hitler to doubt his own descent. A renewed investigation undertaken in August 1942 by the Gestapo, on orders from Heinrich Himmler, produced no tangible results. All the other theories about Hitler's grandfather are also full of holes, although some ambitious combinational ingenuity has gone into the version that traces Alois Schicklgruber's paternity "with a degree of probability bordering on absolute certainty" to Johann Nepomuk Hüttler. Both arguments peter out in the obscurity of confused relationships marked by meanness, dullness, and rustic bigotry. The long and short of it is that Adolf Hitler did not know who his grandfather was.

Twenty-nine years after Maria Anna Schicklgruber's death from "consumption in consequence of thoracic dropsy" in KleinMotten near Strones, and nineteen years after the death of her husband, the brother Johann Nepomuk Hüttler appeared before parish priest Zahnschirm in Döllersheim, accompanied by three acquaintances. He asked for the legitimation of his "foster son," the customs official Alois Schicklgruber, now nearly forty years of age. Not he himself but his deceased brother Johann Georg was the father, he said; Johann had avowed this, and his companions could witness the facts.

The parish priest allowed himself to be deceived or persuaded. In the old registry, under the entry of June 7, 1837, he altered the item "illegitimate" to "legitimate," filled in the space for the name of the father as requested, and inserted a false marginal note: "The undersigned confirm that Georg Hitler, registered as the father, who is well known to the undersigned witnesses, admits to being the father of the child Alois as stated by the child's mother, Anna Schicklgruber, and has requested the entry of his name in the present baptismal register. XXX Josef Romeder, witness; XXX Johann Breiteneder, witness; XXX Engelbert Paukh." Since the three witnesses could not write, they signed with three crosses, and the priest put in their names. But he neglected to insert the date. His own signature was also missing, as well as that of the (long-since-deceased) parents. Though scarcely legal, the legitimation took effect: from January 1877 on, Alois Schicklgruber called himself Alois Hitler.

This rustic intrigue was without a doubt set in motion by Johann Nepomuk Hüttler, for he had raised Alois and was understandably proud of him. Alois had just received another promotion, he had married, and had accomplished more than any Hüttler or Hiedler before him: it was only natural that Johann Nepomuk felt a desire to give his own name to his foster son. But Alois may also have had an interest in a change of name, for he was an enterprising man who in the interval had made quite a career for himself. He may therefore have felt the need to provide himself with security and a firm footing by obtaining an "honorable" name. At the age of thirteen he had been apprenticed to a shoemaker in Vienna. But, by and by, he decided against being an artisan and instead entered the Austrian Finance Office. He advanced rapidly as a customs official and was ultimately promoted to the highest civil service rank open to a man of his education. He was fond of appearing as the representative of constituted authority on public occasions and made a point of being addressed by his correct title. One of his associates in the customs office called him "strict, precise, even pedantic," and he himself told a relation who asked his advice about a son's choice of occupation that working for the treasury demanded absolute obedience and sense of duty, and that it was not for "drinkers, borrowers, card players, and other people who go in for immoral conduct." The photographs that he usually had made on the occasion of his promotions show a portly man with the wary face of an official. Underneath that official mask, bourgeois competence and bourgeois pleasure in public display can be discerned. He presents himself to the viewer with considerable dignity and complacency, his uniform aglitter with buttons. [Hitler]

It should be added that, after the birth of her son, Maria Schicklgruber received child support for fourteen years from the Jewish businessman referred to by Fest. Fest does not quote verbatim the account of Hans Frank, Hitler's lawyer for many years, in the Hitler biography of 1973, but he does in his earlier book, The Face of the Third Reich, which first appeared in 1963.

Hitler's father was the illegitimate child of a cook named Schickelgruber [sic] from Leonding, near Linz, employed in a household in Graz. The cook, Adolf Hitler's grandmother, was working for a Jewish family named Frankenberger when she gave birth to her child [This should read "when she became pregnant"--J.F.]. At that time--this happened in the 1830s--Frankenberger paid Schickelgruber on behalf of his son [who presumably had made the cook pregnant--A.M.], then about nineteen, a paternity allowance from the time of her child's birth up to his fourteenth year. There was also a correspondence over the years between the Frankenbergers and Hitler's grandmother, the general tenor of which was the unexpressed common knowledge of the correspondents that Schickelgruber's child had been conceived in circumstances which rendered the Frankenbergers liable to pay a paternity allowance.

If these facts were so well known in the village that they were still being mentioned a hundred years later, it is inconceivable that Alois knew nothing of it. It is also scarcely conceivable that the villagers would believe such generosity was unmotivated. Whatever the truth actually was, a fourfold disgrace weighed upon Alois: being poor, being illegitimate, being separated from his real mother at the age of five, and having Jewish blood. There was certainty about the first three points; even if the fourth was nothing but a rumor, this did not make matters any easier. How is someone to defend himself against a rumor that is not acknowledged openly but only whispered behind his back? It is easier to live with certainties, no matter how negative their nature. One can, for example, climb so high up the professional ladder that not a trace of poverty remains; this, Alois managed to do. He also managed to make his second and third wives pregnant before he married them, replicating for his children his own fate as an illegitimate son and unconsciously avenging himself. But the question concerning his ethnic origins remained unanswered all his life.

If not consciously acknowledged and mourned, uncertainty about one's descent can cause great anxiety and unrest, all the more so if, as in Alois's case, it is linked with an ominous rumor that can neither be proven nor completely refuted.

Recently, I heard about an eighty-year-old man who had come from Eastern Europe and had been living in Western Europe for thirty-five years with his wife and children. A short time ago, to his great amazement, the man received a letter from his fifty-three-year-old illegitimate son in the Soviet Union. For fifty years he had believed his son dead, since the three-year-old child had been with his mother when she was shot to death. The child's father subsequently became a political prisoner, and it never occurred to him later to search for his son, so convinced was he of his death. The son, however, who had his mother's name, wrote in his letter that he had had no rest for fifty years; he had been led from one piece of information to the next and had kept finding new hope, only to see it repeatedly shattered. Yet he finally succeeded in finding his father after fifty years, although in the beginning he had not even known his name. We can imagine how much this man idealized his unknown father, what hopes he had attached to the possibility of seeing him again. For it must have required an enormous expenditure of energy to locate a man in Western Europe from a small provincial city in the Soviet Union.

This story demonstrates how crucial it can be for a person to clear up the unsolved question of his descent and to meet the unknown parent. It is unlikely that Alois Hitler could have experienced these needs consciously; besides, it was not possible for him to idealize his unknown father in view of the rumor that he was a Jew, which in Alois's surroundings meant disgrace and isolation. The fact that Alois's name was changed when he was forty--with all the highly significant "slips" described by Fest--shows how important but also how fraught with conflict the question of descent was for him.

Emotional conflict cannot be eliminated by means of official documents, however. Alois's children were to bear the brunt of his anxiety, which he tried to ward off with achievements, with a career as a civil servant, a uniform, and a pompous manner.

John Toland writes:

[He] became quarrelsome and irritable. His main target was Alois Jr.. For some time the father, who demanded absolute obedience, had been at odds with the son, who refused to give it. Later, Alois Jr. complained bitterly that his father frequently beat him "unmercifully with a hippopotamus whip," but in the Austria of those days severe beatings of children were not uncommon, being considered good for the soul. Once the boy skipped school for three days to finish building a toy boat. The father, who had encouraged such hobbies, whipped young Alois, then held him "against a tree by the back of his neck" until he lost consciousness. There were also stories that Adolf was whipped, if not so often, and that the master of the house "often beat the dog until the dog would cringe and wet the floor." The violence, according to Alois Jr., extended even to the docile Klara and, if true, must have made an indelible impression on Adolf.

Interestingly enough, Toland says "if true," even though he had corroborative information from Adolf's sister Paula that he did not include in his book. But Helm Stierlin, in his monograph Adof Hitler: A Family Perspective, cites material from the Toland Collection. Paula told Toland in an interview:

It was my brother Adolf who especially provoked my father to extreme harshness and who got his due measure of beatings every day. He was rather a nasty little fellow, and all his father's attempts to beat the impudence out of him and make him choose the career of a civil servant were in vain.

If Paula personally told John Toland that her brother Adolf was given "his due measure of beatings" every day, there is no reason to doubt her word. It is characteristic of biographers that they have difficulty identifying with the child and quite unconsciously minimize mistreatment by the parents. The following passage from Franz Jetzinger's book Hitlers Jugend (Hitler's Youth) is very indicative:

It has been claimed that the boy was badly beaten by his father, using as a source something Angela is supposed to have said [to her half brother]: "Adolf, remember how Mother and I used to hold Father back by the coattails of his uniform when he was going to beat you?" This statement is highly suspect. The father had not worn a uniform since the Hafeld days; the last year he still wore it he wasn't living with the family. The beatings would have had to occur between 1892 and 1894 when Adolf was only four and Angela twelve. She would never have dared to hold such a strict father back by the coattails. That was fabricated by someone whose chronology was way off.

The "Führer" himself told his secretaries, whom he liked to hoodwink anyway, that his father had once given him thirty lashes on the back, but the Führer told them many things that are demonstrably untrue. This remark in particular does not deserve credence because he made it in connection with stories about cowboys and Indians, boasting that he, in true Indian fashion, did not utter a sound during the beating. It may well be that the willful and recalcitrant boy was given an occasional thrashing--he richly deserved it--but he certainly could not be called a "battered child"; his father was a man of thoroughly progressive convictions. Such a contrived theory does nothing to solve the mystery of what made Hitler the way he was, indeed only complicates it!

It seems much more likely instead that Father Hitler, who after all was already over sixty when they lived in Leonding, closed an eye to the boy's behavior and did not take much interest in his upbringing.

If Jetzinger's facts are correct, and there is no reason to doubt they are, then his "evidence" corroborates my firm conviction that Adolf's father did not wait until his son was older to start beating him but began when the child was still very young, i.e., "only four." Actually, Jetzinger's proof is superfluous because Adolf's whole life is proof enough. It is no accident that he himself writes in Mein Kampf about a child of--"let us assume"--three (see page 160). Jetzinger apparently does not believe this. But why not? How often the evil warded off by a parent is projected onto the child!* After all, in the pedagogical works quoted in my first section and in the books by Dr. Schreber, which were extremely popular in their day, the physical chastisement of the infant is strongly recommended. It is emphasized repeatedly that wickedness cannot be driven out early enough so that "goodness may grow
* * The collection of essays edited by Ray E. Helfer and C. Henry Kempe, with the title The Battered Child, 3rd ed. (Chicago, 1980), provides the reader with valuable insight into the motives for beating infants.
undisturbed." In addition, we know from newspaper accounts that mothers beat their babies, and perhaps we would know much more about this subject if pediatricians would speak out about what they observe every day. Until recently, however, their oath of professional secrecy (at least in Switzerland) explicitly forbade this, and now they still remain silent, perhaps out of habit, or "for reasons of propriety." If anyone doubts that Adolf Hitler was abused as a young child, the passage I have just quoted from Jetzinger's biography should furnish objective proof, although Jetzinger would actually like to prove the opposite--at least consciously. But he has perceived more than he is conscious of, as can be seen in the glaring paradox in his account. For if Angela had to be afraid of her "strict father," then Alois was not as good-natured as Jetzinger describes him, and if he was good-natured, then she had no need to fear him.

I have lingered over this passage because it serves as an example of how a biographer distorts the biography by exonerating the subject's parents. It is significant that Jetzinger uses the word *hoodwink* when Hitler is telling the bitter truth. He claims that Hitler "certainly" was not "a battered child" and that "the willful and recalcitrant boy" "richly deserved" his occasional thrashings. For "his father was a man of thoroughly progressive convictions." There is certainly room for argument about Jetzinger's concept of progressive convictions, but aside from this, there are fathers who do indeed think in progressive terms on the surface, repeating the history of their own childhood only when it comes to their children or even just one of them targeted for this purpose.

The strangest psychological interpretations result from the pedagogical position that sees its main task in protecting parents from the reproaches of their children. In contrast to my thesis that Hitler's justifiable childhood hatred of his father found an outlet in hatred of the Jews, Fest believes that Hitler did not start to hate his father until 1938, as a grown man, after learning of his Jewish ancestry from Frank. He writes:

No one can say what effect it had on his son when he learned these facts just as he was setting out to win power in Germany; but there is some reason to suppose that the vague aggressiveness he had always felt towards his father now turned into distinct hatred. In May 1938, only a few weeks after the German annexation of Austria, he had the village of Döllersheim and its environs turned into an army training area. His father's birthplace and his grandmother's burial place were obliterated by the tanks of the Wehrmacht.

Such hatred for the father cannot spring full-blown in an adult from an "intellectual" anti-Semitic attitude. Hatred like this is deeply rooted in experiences lived through in the obscurity of childhood. It is significant that Jetzinger also thinks that after receiving Frank's report Hitler's political hatred for the Jews was transformed into personal hatred for his father and members of his family.

After Alois's death, the Linz Tagespost of January 8, 1903, published an obituary, as follows:

The sharp word that fell occasionally from his lips could not belie the warm heart that beat beneath the rough exterior. At all times an energetic champion of law and order and universally well-informed, he was able to pronounce authoritatively on any subject that came under discussion. [Quoted by Toland]

On the gravestone was attached an oblong picture of the former customs official, eyes fixed determinedly ahead. [Toland].

B. F. Smith even reports that Alois had "genuine respect for other people's rights and real concern for their welfare."

What appears as a "rough exterior" in someone held in high regard can be pure hell for one's own child. Toland gives an example of this:

In a show of rebellion, Adolf decided to run away from home. Somehow Alois learned of these plans and locked the boy upstairs. During the night Adolf tried to squeeze through the barred window. He couldn't quite make it, so took off his clothes. As he was wriggling his way to freedom, he heard his father's footsteps on the stairs and hastily withdrew, draping his nakedness with a tablecloth. This time Alois did not punish with a whipping. Instead, he burst into laughter and shouted to Klara to come up and look at the "toga boy." The ridicule hurt Adolf more than any switch and it took him, he confided to Frau Hanfstaengl, "a long time to get over the episode."

Years later he told one of his secretaries that he had read in an adventure novel that it was a proof of courage to show no pain. And so "I resolved not to make a sound the next time my father whipped me. And when the time came-I still can remember my frightened mother standing outside the door-I silently counted the blows. My mother thought I had gone crazy when I beamed proudly and said, `Father hit me thirty-two times!' "

These and similar passages give us the impression that Alois was expressing his blind rage at the debasement he suffered in his own childhood by repeatedly beating his son. Apparently he had a compulsion to inflict his debasement and sufferings on this particular child.

An incident I heard about might help us to understand the roots of such a compulsion. An American television program showed some young mothers who were in group therapy, all of whom reported they had mistreated their babies. A mother told about one occasion when she couldn't bear to listen to her baby scream a moment longer; she suddenly snatched it from its crib and hurled it against the wall. The desperation she felt at the time became very obvious to the viewer. She went on to tell how, having reached her wits' end, she had called an emergency telephone number that offers assistance in such cases. The voice on the line asked her whom she had actually wanted to strike out at. To her astonishment, she heard herself saying, "Myself," whereupon she broke down sobbing.

This incident lends support to my interpretation of Alois's behavior toward his son as a form of self-punishment. But this circumstance does not change the fact that Adolf, who as a child of course could not know all this, lived in daily jeopardy, in a hell of continual fear and severe trauma. Nor does it change the fact that he was forced at the same time to repress these feelings in order to rescue his pride or that he did not show his suffering and had to split it off.

What irrepressible unconscious envy the little boy, by his mere existence, must have aroused in Alois! Born in wedlock as a "legitimate" child, in addition as the son of a customs official, with a mother who was not so poverty-stricken that she had to give him up, and with a father whom he knew (one whose presence he was forced to experience physically every day so intensely and with such lasting effect). Weren't these the very things whose lack had caused Alois so much suffering and which he had been unable to attain, in spite of all his efforts, during his whole life, since we can never alter the facts of our childhood? We can only accept them and learn to live with the reality of our past or totally deny it and make others suffer as a result.

For many people it is very difficult to accept the sad truth that cruelty is usually inflicted upon the innocent. Don't we learn as small children that all the cruelty shown us in our upbringing is a punishment for our wrongdoing? A teacher told me that several children in her class, after seeing the *Holocaust* film, said, "But the Jews must have been guilty or they wouldn't have been punished like that."

With this in mind, we can understand the attempts of all Hitler's biographers to attribute every possible sin, especially laziness, obstinacy, and dishonesty, to little Adolf. But is a child born a liar? And isn't lying the only way to survive with such a father and retain a remnant of one's dignity? Sometimes deception and bad grades in school provide the only means for secretly developing a shred of autonomy for a person so totally at the mercy of another's whims as was Adolf Hitler (and not he alone!). We can assume on this basis that Hitler's later descriptions of an open battle with his father over a choice of career were doctored versions, not because the son was a coward "by nature," but because his father was unable to permit any discussion. It is more likely that the following passage from *Mein Kampf* reflects the true state of affairs.

I had to some extent been able to keep my private opinions to myself; I did not always have to contradict him immediately. My own firm determination never to become a civil servant sufficed to give me complete inner peace.

It is significant that when Konrad Heiden quotes this passage in his Hitler biography he remarks at the end, "In other words, a little sneak." We expect a child in a totalitarian setting to be open and honest but at the same time to obey implicitly, bring good grades home from school, not contradict his father, and always fulfill his duty.

Another biographer, Rudolf Olden, writing about Hitler's problems at school, says:

Apathy and poor performance soon become more pronounced. With the loss of a stern guiding hand upon the sudden death of his father, a crucial stimulus disappears.

The beatings are here considered a "stimulus" to learning. This is written by the very same biographer who has just presented this picture of Alois:

Even after he retired, he retained the typical pride of a bureaucrat and insisted on being addressed as "Herr," followed by his title, whereas the farmers and laborers used the informal form of address ["Du"] with one another. By showing him the respect he demanded, the local people were really making fun of this outsider. He was never on good terms with the people he knew. To make up for it he had established a nice little dictatorship in his own home. His wife looked up to him, and he treated the children with a hard hand. Adolf in particular he had no understanding for. He tyrannized him. If he wanted the boy to come to him, the former noncommissioned officer would whistle on two fingers.

This description, written in 1935 when many Braunau acquaintances of the Hitler family were still living and it was not yet so difficult to gather information of this sort, is not repeated, to my knowledge, in the postwar biographies. The image of a man who calls his child to him by whistling as though he were a dog is so strongly reminiscent of reports of the concentration camps that it is not surprising if present-day biographers have been reluctant to make the connection. In addition, all the biographies share the tendency to play down the father's brutality with the observation that beatings were quite normal in those days or even with complicated arguments against "vilifying" the father, such as those presented by Jetzinger. Sadly enough, Jetzinger's careful research provides an important source for later biographies, even though his psychological insights are not far removed from those of an Alois.

The way Hitler unconsciously took on his father's behavior and displayed it on the stage of world history is indicative of how the child must really have seen his father: the snappy, uniformed, somewhat ridiculous dictator, as Charlie Chaplin portrayed him in his film and as Hitler's enemies saw him, is the way Alois appeared in the eyes of his critical son. The heroic Führer, loved and admired by the German people, was the other Alois, the husband loved and admired by his subservient wife, Klara, whose awe and admiration Adolf no doubt shared when he was still very little. These two internalized aspects of his father can be identified in so many of Adolf's later enactments (in connection with the "heroic" aspect, we need only think of the greeting "Heil Hitler," of the adoration of the masses, etc.) that we receive the impression that throughout his later life his considerable artistic talents impelled him to reproduce his earliest--deeply imprinted, though unconscious--memories of a tyrannical father. His portrayal is unforgettable for everyone who was alive at the time; some of his contemporaries experienced the dictator from the perspective of the horror felt by a mistreated child, and others from the perspective of an innocent child's complete devotion and acceptance. Every great artist draws on the unconscious contents of childhood, and Hitler's energies could have gone into creating works of art instead of destroying the lives of millions of people, who would then not have had to bear the brunt of this unresolved suffering, which he warded off in grandiosity. Yet, in spite of his grandiose identification with the aggressor, there are passages in Mein Kampf that show the way Hitler experienced his childhood.

In a basement apartment, consisting of two stuffy rooms, dwells a worker's family of seven. Among the five children there is a boy of, let us assume, three.... The very narrowness and overcrowding of the room does not lead to favorable conditions. Quarreling and wrangling will very frequently arise.... But if this battle is carried on between the parents themselves, and almost every day, in forms which in vulgarity often leave nothing to be desired, then, if only very gradually, the results of such visual instruction must ultimately become apparent in the children. The character they will inevitably assume if the quarrel takes the form of brutal attacks by the father against the mother, of drunken beatings, is hard for anyone who does not know this milieu to imagine. At the age of six the pitiable little boy suspects the existence of things which can fill even an adult with nothing but horror.... All the other things that the little fellow hears at home do not tend to increase his respect for his dear fellow men.

It ends badly if the man goes his own way from the very beginning and the woman, for the children's sake, opposes him. Then there is fighting and quarreling, and as the man grows estranged from his wife, he becomes more intimate with alcohol. When at length he comes home on Sunday or even Monday night, drunk and brutal, but always parted from his last cent, such scenes often occur that God have mercy!

I have seen this in hundreds of instances.

Although the deep and lasting damage it would have done to his dignity prevented Hitler from admitting the situation of the "let us assume, three-year-old boy" to be his own in the first-person account of Mein Kampf, the content of his description leaves no doubt whose childhood is meant.

A child whose father does not call to him by name but by whistling to him as though the child were a dog has the same disenfranchised and nameless status in the family as did "the Jew" in the Third Reich.

Through the agency of his unconscious repetition compulsion, Hitler actually succeeded in transferring the trauma of his family life onto the entire German nation. The introduction of the racial laws forced every citizen to trace his or her descent back to the third generation and to bear the ensuing consequences. At first, the wrong ancestry, or an uncertain one, meant disgrace and degradation; later it meant death--and this during peacetime, in a country that called itself civilized. There is no other example of such a phenomenon in all of history. The Inquisition, for example, persecuted the Jews because of their religion, but they were offered the chance to survive if they accepted baptism. In the Third Reich, however, neither behavior nor merit nor achievement were of any avail; on the basis of descent alone a Jew was condemned, first to be demeaned and later to die. Is this not a twofold reflection of Hitler's fate?

1. It was impossible for Hitler's father, in spite of all his efforts, successes, and advances in career from shoemaker to chief customs inspector, to remove the "stain" in his past, just as it was later forbidden the Jews to remove the stigma of the yellow star they were forced to wear. The stain remained and oppressed Alois all his life. It may be that his frequent moves (eleven, according to Fest) had another cause beside a professional one--to obliterate his traces. This tendency is also very clear in Adolf's life. "When he was told in 1942 that there was a memorial marker in the village of Spital [in the region where his father was born] he went into one of his wild rages," Fest reports.

2. At the same time, the racial laws represented the repetition of the drama of Hitler's own childhood. In the same way that the Jew now had no chance to escape, the child Adolf at one time could not escape his father's blows, which were caused, not by the child's behavior, but by the father's unresolved problems, such as his resistance to mourning over his own childhood. It is fathers such as this who are likely to drag their sleeping child out of bed if they cannot come to terms with a mood (perhaps having just felt insignificant and insecure on some social occasion) and beat the child in order to restore their narcissistic equilibrium (cf. Christiane F.'s father).

The Jews fulfilled the same function in the Third Reich--which attempted to recover from the disgrace of the Weimar Republic at their expense--as this sleeping child. This was Adolf's function throughout his childhood; he had to accept the fact that at any moment a storm could break over his helpless head without his being able to find any way to avert or escape it.

Since there were no bonds of affection between Adolf and his father (it is significant that in Mein Kampf he refers to Alois as "Herr Vater"), his burgeoning hatred was constant and unequivocal. It is different for children whose fathers have outbursts of rage and can then, in between times, play good-naturedly with their children. In this case the child's hatred cannot be cultivated in such a pure form. These children experience difficulties of another sort as adults; they seek out partners with a personality structure that, like their fathers', tends toward extremes. They are bound to these partners by a thousand chains and cannot bring themselves to leave them, always living with the hope that the other person's good side will finally win out; yet at every fresh outburst they are plunged into new despair. These sadomasochistic bonds, which go back to the equivocal and unpredictable nature of a parent, are stronger than a genuine love relationship; they are impossible to break, and signal permanent destruction of the self.

Little Adolf could be certain of receiving constant beatings; he knew that nothing he did would have any effect on the daily thrashings he was given. All he could do was deny the pain, in other words, deny himself and identify with the aggressor. No one could help him, not even his mother, for this would spell danger for her too, because she was also battered (cf. Toland).

This state of constant jeopardy is reflected very clearly in the fate of the Jews in the Third Reich. Let us try to imagine the following scene. A Jew is walking down the street, perhaps on his way home from buying milk, when a man wearing an SA armband attacks him; this man has the right to do anything to the Jew he wants, anything his fantasy happens to dictate and that his unconscious craves at the moment. The Jew can do nothing to alter this; he is in the same position as little Adolf once was. If the Jew tries to defend himself, there is nothing to prevent his being trampled to death. He is like the eleven-year-old Adolf, who in desperation once ran away from home with three friends, planning to float down the river on a homemade raft and thus flee from his violent father. Just for the very thought of trying to escape, he was nearly beaten to death (cf. Stierlin). It is just as impossible for the Jew to escape; all roads are cut off and lead to death, like the railroad tracks that simply came to an end at Treblinka and Auschwitz--signifying the end of life itself. This is the way any child feels who is beaten day in and day out and who is very nearly killed for daring to think of escape.

In the scene I have just described, which occurred countless times between 1933 and 1945 in many variations, the Jew has to endure everything like a helpless child. He must submit to having this creature with the SA armband, who has been transformed into a screaming, berserk monster, pour the milk over his head and summon others to the scene to share his amusement (the way Alois laughed at Adolf's "toga"). He must endure having the SA man feel big and strong alongside someone who is completely at his mercy, completely in his power. If this Jew loves his life, he will not risk it now just for the sake of proving to himself that he is tough and courageous. Instead, he will remain passive yet inwardly full of revulsion and scorn for this man, just as Adolf had been when he gradually came to see through his father's weakness and began to pay him back, at least a little, by doing poorly in school, which he knew upset his father.

Joachim Fest does not think that Adolf's poor performance in school had anything to do with his relationship with his father but feels it was a result of the increased academic demands he encountered in Linz, where he was no longer capable of competing with his classmates, who came from solid middle-class homes. On the other hand, Fest writes that Adolf was "a wide-awake, lively, and obviously able pupil" (Hitler). Why should a boy like this have difficulties in school if not for the reason that he himself gives but which Fest questions because he sees Adolf as having a "tendency to laziness" and "an incapacity for regular work... [which] appeared quite early." This is something Alois might have said, but the fact that Hitler's most thorough biographer, who himself adduces thousands of pages of proof of his subject's later capacity for work, identifies with the father against the child here would be astonishing if it were not the general rule. Almost all biographers unquestioningly accept the standards of judgment of that pedagogical ideology according to which parents are always right and children lazy, spoiled, stubborn, and moody if they do not function as they are expected to at all times. When children say anything against their parents, they are often suspected of lying. Fest writes:

Later, in order to introduce a few effective dark shadings into the picture [as though this were necessary!-A.M.] the son even tried to make Alois look like a drunkard. Hitler tells of scolding and pleading with his father in scenes "of abominable shame," tugging and pulling him out of "reeking, smoky taverns" to bring him home. [Hitler]

Why "effective dark shadings"? Because the biographers agree that although the father liked to drink at the inn and afterwards caused scenes at home, he "was not an alcoholic." With the diagnosis "not an alcoholic," everything the father did can be overlooked and the child can be completely dissuaded of the significance of his experience, i.e., the shame and disgrace connected with witnessing these terrible scenes.

Something similar occurs when people in therapy ask relatives questions about their deceased parents. The parents, faultless while they were alive, are automatically promoted to angels upon their death, leaving a hell of self-reproach as a legacy to their children. Since it is unlikely that anyone these children know will confirm their earlier negative impressions of their parents, they must keep these impressions to themselves and think themselves very wicked for having them. It would have been no different for the thirteen-year-old Hitler when he lost his father and from then on encountered nothing but an idealized father image on all sides. Who would have acknowledged to the boy his father's cruelty and brutality then, if even today biographers still attempt to describe those regular beatings as harmless? As soon as Hitler succeeded in transferring the evil he felt in himself to "the Jew per se," however, he succeeded in breaking out of his isolation.

There is probably no more reliable common tie among the peoples of Europe than their shared hatred of the Jews. Those in power have always been able to manipulate this hatred for their own purposes; for example, it seems to be remarkably well suited to unite conflicting interests, with the result that even groups extremely hostile to one another can be in complete agreement about how dangerous and obnoxious the Jews are. Hitler realized this and once said to Rauschning that "if the Jews didn't exist they would have to be invented."

Where does anti-Semitism's perpetual ability to renew itself come from? The answer is not difficult to find. A Jew is not hated for doing or being something specific. Everything Jews do or the way they are applies to other groups as well. Jews are hated because people harbor a forbidden hatred and are eager to legitimate it. The Jewish people are particularly well-suited objects of this need. Because they have been persecuted for two thousand years by the highest authorities of church and state, no one ever needs to feel ashamed for hating the Jews, not even if one has been raised according to the strictest moral principles and is made to feel ashamed of the most natural emotions of the soul in other regards (cf. pages 92-3). A child who has been required to don the armor of "virtue" at too early an age will seize upon the only permissible discharge; he will seize upon anti-Semitism (i.e., his right to hate), retaining it for the rest of his life. It is possible that Hitler did not have easy access to this discharge, however, because it would have touched upon a family taboo. Later, in Vienna, he was happy to shed this silent prohibition, and when he came to power he needed only to proclaim this one legitimate hatred in the Western tradition as the highest Aryan virtue.

I derive my suspicion that the question of descent was made taboo in Adolf's family from the great importance he later placed on the subject. His reaction to the report Frank gave him in 1930 only confirms my suspicion, for it reveals the combination of knowing and not knowing, so typical for a child, and reflects the family's confusion about the subject. Adolf Hitler, wrote Frank,

knew that his father was not the child of [Maria Anna] Schicklgruber by the Graz Jew; he knew it from what his father and his grandmother had told him. He knew that his father was the offspring of the premarital relations between his grandmother and the man whom she later married. But they were both poor and the support money which the Jew paid over a number of years was an extremely desirable supplement to the poverty-stricken household. He was well able to pay and for that reason he was claimed to be the father, and the Jew paid, without going to court, probably because he could not face the publicity that a legal settlement would have entailed. [Quoted by Jetzinger]

Jetzinger has this to say about Hitler's reaction:

This paragraph obviously reproduced what Hitler said to Frank's revelation. Naturally he must have been terribly upset but of course did not permit himself to let on in front of Frank but acted as though the contents of the report were not entirely new to him; he said he knew on the basis of what he had been told by his father and his grandmother that his father was not the child of the Jew from Graz. But here Hitler, in his momentary confusion, really went too far! His grandmother had been dead for over forty years when he was born; she can't have told him anything! And his father? He would have had to tell him before Adolf turned fourteen because that is when the father died. Such things are not said to a boy that age, and especially not: "Your grandfather was not a Jew," if there was no question of there being a Jewish grandfather anyway! Hitler further responded that he knew his father was the result of the premarital relations between his grandmother and the man she later married. Then why had he written in his book several years earlier that his father was the son of a poor little farm laborer? The miller, who was the only one the grandmother could have had premarital relations with--but only after she was living in Döllersheim again--was never a farm laborer in his life! And to accuse the grandmother, whether this was done by Hitler or Frank, of such underhandedness as to claim someone with the ability to pay as the father of her child betrays a mentality that is common among immoral people but proves nothing in regard to parentage! Adolf Hitler knew absolutely nothing about his descent! Children are usually not told about such things.

Such intolerable confusion about a child's family background can be the cause of learning problems in school (because knowledge is forbidden and thus is threatening and dangerous). In any case, Hitler later wanted to know from every citizen with great accuracy whether a Jew was hiding in the family tree, back to the third generation.

Fest has several things to say about Adolf's poor showing in school; he states, for example, that his work did not improve after his father's death and cites this as proof that his poor performance had nothing to do with his father. The following points refute Fest's contention.

1. The passages from Schwarze Pädagogik show very clearly that teachers are only too happy to take over for the father when it comes to disciplining the pupil and that they have much to gain from it in the way of their own narcissistic stabilization.

2. When Adolf's father died, he had already long since been internalized by the son, and the teachers now provided father substitutes against whom he could try to defend himself somewhat more successfully. Doing poorly in school is one of the few ways a child has to punish the teacher-father.

3. When he was eleven, Adolf was nearly beaten to death when he tried to free himself from an intolerable situation by running away. His brother Edmund did die around this time; although we have no information about this, it may have been that Adolf had a certain amount of power over his weaker brother. In any event, it is during this period that he began to do poorly in school, in contrast to the good grades he had earlier. Who knows, perhaps this bright and gifted child might have found a different, more humane way of dealing with his pent-up hatred if his curiosity and vitality had been given more nourishment in school. But even -an appreciation of intellectual values was made impossible for him by his early, deeply problematical relationship with his father, which was then transferred to his teachers and school.

This child, who is subject to rages like those of his father, grows up to order the burning of books by freethinking authors. They are books that Hitler hated but had never read. Perhaps he could have read and understood them if he had been allowed from the beginning to develop his potential. The burning of books and the condemnation of artists are acts of revenge because this gifted child was prevented from enjoying school. Perhaps this story will illustrate what I mean:

Once I was sitting on a park bench in a strange city. An old man, who later told me he was eighty-two, sat down beside me. My attention was caught by the attentive and respectful way he spoke to some children playing nearby, and I struck up a conversation with him, in the course of which he told me about his experiences as a soldier in the First World War. "You know," he said, "I have a guardian angel who is always with me. It often happened that all my friends were hit by grenades or bombs and died, whereas I, although I was standing right there, came through without a scratch." It isn't important whether all this occurred exactly as he reported. What matters is that this man was conveying an expression of his self, of his complete trust in a benevolent fate. Thus, when I asked about his siblings, it didn't surprise me to hear him answer: "They are all dead; I was my mother's pet." His mother "loved life," he said. Sometimes in the spring she would wake him up in the morning to go with her and listen to the birds singing in the woods before he went to school. These were his happiest memories. When I asked whether he had ever been given beatings, he answered, "Hardly ever; my father's hand may have slipped occasionally. That made me angry every time, but he never did it in my mother's presence; she would never have permitted it. But you know," he went on, "once I was severely beaten by my teacher. In the first three grades, I was the best pupil, then in the fourth we got a new teacher. One time he accused me of something I hadn't done. Then he took me aside and started hitting me and kept on hitting, shouting like a madman the whole time, 'Now will you tell the truth?' But how could I? After all, I would have had to lie to satisfy him, and I had never done that before because I had no reason to be afraid of my parents. So I endured the beating for a quarter of an hour, but I never cared for school after that and became a poor pupil. It often distressed me later that I never got my high-school diploma. But I don't think I had any choice at the time."

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