The devoted mother of Adolf Hitler, Klara Pölzl Hitler died of cancer in 1907 while in the care of a Jewish doctor, leading some to speculate that this tragedy set the future dictator on his deadly path.
Ever since Adolf Hitler’s genocidal reign over Germany, many have puzzled over where the dictator’s violent bigotry and single-minded power hungriness came from — what was the root of his evil? And many have searched his parents — Adolf and Klara Hitler — for answers.
Born Klara Pölzl in the Austrian village of Spital in 1860, Hitler’s mother Klara was described as “an attractive teenager with abundant dark hair.” Reportedly shy, Klara allegedly stood by as her husband abused young Adolf Hitler, until Alois died leaving Klara as a single mother.
In the ensuing years, Hitler and his mother are thought to have grown extremely close. When Klara Hitler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1907, Hitler centered his life around her healing. As Klara Hitler’s doctor recalled, “Outwardly, his love for his mother was his most striking feature. I have never witnessed a closer attachment.”
Some have even suggested that the dissolution of that attachment upon Klara Hitler’s death in 1907, in some way galvanized Hitler’s growing violence. So who was Klara Hitler, the mother of one of history’s deadliest men?
Becoming Klara Hitler
Born to hard-working Austrian laborers on Aug. 12, 1860, Klara Pölzl was described by her family physician, a Jewish doctor named Eduard Bloch, as sweet and affectionate.
She worked as a domestic servant in her teenage years before she was hired as a maid at 16 by her second cousin, Alois Hitler, and his wife. Alois was rumored to have enjoyed the affections of both his cousin and the kitchen maid, Franziska, while they were all living under his roof.
When his first wife died, Alois married Franziska. One of her first acts as new mistress of the house was to dismiss Klara, who moved to Vienna for a brief period. But when the second Mrs. Hitler died of tuberculosis a few years later, Klara returned to Alois who proposed to her.
Due to their extremely close family ties, however, Hitler had to seek a special dispensation from the local bishop, who in turn forwarded the request directly to the Vatican, in order to sanction their marriage.
The Catholic Church eventually approved the marriage, although Klara Hitler allegedly continued to refer to her new husband as “Uncle” as she had done while in his employment. Decades later, Hitler would hire his own niece, Geli Raubal, as a maid before developing a controversial relationship with her.
The Birth Of Adolf Hitler
Alois and Klara Hitler had five children together, only two of whom survived to adulthood: Paula and Adolf. Paula described her mother as “a very soft and tender person” who adored her son Adolf. Alois, meanwhile, was reportedly abusive and regularly beat Adolf.
“He was a scrubby little rogue,” Paula told The Washington Post of Adolf. “And all attempts of his father to thrash him for his rudeness … were in vain.”
When Alois died in 1903, Hitler’s behavior didn’t get much better. Though Paula and Klara reportedly doted on him, young Hitler remained headstrong and uncontrollable.
Nonetheless, Klara did all of his cooking and cleaning and indulged his every whim. She obliged when he wanted to drop out of school at the age of 16 and bought him paints and a grand piano to encourage his dream of becoming a famous artist and musician.
In turn, the future Führer adored his mother, later referring to his youth spent in her care as “the happiest days which seemed to me almost like a beautiful dream.” But then, this happy time came to an abrupt end when Klara was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1907.
The Death Of Hitler’s Mom
For months after Hitler’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a painful surgery, the future dictator remained close at her side. Paula later told U.S. Army officials investigating Hitler that during this time, “He was indefatigable in his care for her, wanted to comply with any desire she could possible have and did all to demonstrate his great love for her.”
He slept in the kitchen, which was the warmest part of the house, with his mother and saw firsthand to her treatment. Yet on Dec. 21, 1907, Klara Hitler died.
It has since been theorized that Dr. Bloch, Klara Hitler’s Jewish family physician, was in part responsible for Hitler’s hatred of Jews because he had failed to save her life. But later events, however, have contradicted this idea.
After the funeral of Hitler’s mom, her son reportedly thanked the doctor and his family in person for the help they had provided. The doctor’s family even received New Year’s cards from Hitler for the next couple of years, showing the man who would be responsible for the deaths of more than six million Jews bore Bloch no ill will.
In 1937, Hitler became the dictator of infamy, a delegation of Austrian Nazis in Berlin reported how he inquired after Dr. Bloch. Hitler is said to have noted that “Dr. Bloch was a noble Jew” and that “if all Jews would be like Dr. Bloch, there would be no Jewish question.” Though many have questioned this account, Dr. Bloch and his family were able to escape Germany during the Holocaust and build a new life in the Bronx, New York.
It seemed, instead, that rather than provoke Hitler’s savage anti-Semitism, Bloch’s efforts to save Klara perhaps created a unique exception to Hitler’s prejudice.
Devoted to his mother’s memory, Hitler carried a picture of Klara Hitler with him wherever he went for the rest of his life, including down into the Berlin bunker where he met his end in 1945.