The Jewish Daily Forward and JTA Publish a Discredited Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theory
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Aug 24, 2010 at 06:05:54 PM EST
An article in today's Jewish Daily Forward ends with the statement, "Hitler's father, Alois, is believed to be the illegitimate child of a maid and a 19-year-old Jewish man."

This is a conspiracy theory that has been rejected by serious historians and should not be repeated as fact in any reputable journal, certainly not Jewish publications. This same conspiracy narrative is currently rampant in right wing America and is used to claim that Hitler was an heir of a demonic  bloodline of the same Jewish/Illuminati cabal which is now supposedly leading the nation into the clutches of a fascist and/or communist "New World Order."

The article in JTA was only slightly better, stating, "Some believe that Hitler's father, Alois, was the illegitimate child of a maid and a 19-year-old Jewish man." It appears this may have been simply a case of sloppy journalism picked up from the UK Telegraph or other publications running the same story, but this is a myth with serious ramifications in the world of grand conspiracy ideology.

This myth has been published today as part of a story about testing done on the DNA of Hitler's living relatives which supposedly show Jewish and/or African descent.  I won't deal with the questionable conclusions of the main topic of the article, but the statement about Hitler's grandfather being the son of the Jewish employer of Hitler's grandmother is a discredited myth.

This particular myth was based on the fact that Hitler's father Alois was listed on his birth certificate as illegitimate and the single, 42 year old Maria Anna Schicklgruber refused to name the father. She married Johann Georg Hiedler (Hitler) when Alois was five years old.

As historian Ian Kershaw has pointed out, Hitler's family tree was a topic of rumors which circulated beginning in the 1920s and 30s, including the myth that Hitler's grandfather was a Rothschild.  Kershaw explains in his two-volume biography of Hitler that further speculation about Hitler's grandfather was fueled by the memoirs of Nazi lawyer Hans Frank, written from his Nuremberg cell as he awaited his execution.  Frank claimed that Alois Hitler had been fathered by the son in the household of a Jewish family named Frankenberger in Graz, where Maria Anna Schicklgruber worked there as a cook.  (Frank also claimed that Hitler knew this was not true, but since his grandmother was so poor she accepted financial support from the Frankenbergers anyway.)  

Kershaw notes that this story about the Frankenbergers gained wide acceptance in the 1950s and the possibility was repeated in the John Toland's biography of Hitler. But Franks's story fails to stand up to scrutiny.  

According to Kershaw there was no family named Frankenberger in Graz during the 1830s when Alois was born.  He adds that there were no Jews at all in Styria, since Jews had been expelled in the 1500s and were not allowed to again settle in that part of Austria until the 1860s.  Kershaw states that a family named Frankenreiter did live there, but they were not Jewish and their son would have been 10 years old at the time of Alois Hitler's birth.  

Whoever actually fathered Alois Hitler may never be known, but some historians have speculated that it was Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, Georg's brother, who eventually left Alois an inheritance.  That would have made Johann the paternal  grandfather of Hitler, and also the maternal great-grandfather of Hitler. (Johan was the grandfather of Hitler's mother Klara).

Regardless, it is unbelievable that Jewish publications would throw out a piece of prime anti-Jewish conspiracy theory in such a casual and haphazard way.  Are there Jewish journalists who no longer know anything about anti-Jewish conspiracy theories?  Have some of the writers for these publications fallen prey to the idea that the "new" anti-Semitism is now limited to anti-Israel politics?

This particular Hitler myth is a key component of the horrific narratives of Jewish culpability for evil in the world that is a part of growing "New World Order" conspiracy ideologies.  As in the 1920s and 30s, this narrative  of the world being manipulated by a Rothschild/Illuminati cabal has again been merged with end times prophecy and tales of the imminent anti-Christ.  By blending the narratives, conspiracy theories like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion can be openly marketed as religious literature by those who are careful to separate the "good Jews" from the demonic lineage of "evil Jews," currently defined as those in the liberal, secular humanist camp.  In this way Jews can be made into the villains of history and the source of evil and rebellion against God, even in times when Jews were the victims.  

John Hagee, for instance, tapped into this narrative of Hitler's Jewish pedigree in his 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown. He claimed that Esau's descendants "produced the half-breed Jews of history who have persecuted the Jews beyond human comprehension."  In other sermons he has described Hitler, as well as the anti-Christ whose rule Hagee claims is imminent, as partially Jewish.  As Bruce Wilson has written, the Holocaust can then be rewritten as a result of violent Jewish psychopathology.

Perhaps Jewish leaders need to spend a little less time cozying up to John Hagee and the "pro-Israel" Religious Right and more time refreshing their memories about the real nature of anti-Semitic narratives and the horrific impact they can have on Jews worldwide.  

These articles suggesting that Hitler's grandfather was Jewish should be immediately retracted or corrected before they are used as documentation for a discredited conspiracy theory.




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