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Column: Did you know Hitler had an Irish sister-in-law?

The one-time Bridget Hitler was born and raised in Dublin.

Amy Bracken

TODAY MARKS 45 years since a lady called Bridget, born and raised in Dublin, died in New York. Upon her deathbed she was known as Bridget Stuart-Houston – but she had changed her name to hide the fact that her estranged husband, the father of her son William Patrick, was the half-brother of Adolf Hitler.

Born Bridget Dowling, for many years she bore her husband Alois Hitler’s surname; the only known family connection between Europe’s most infamous dictator and Ireland.

Early life

Bridget Elizabeth Dowling was born in Dublin in 1891 and grew up at Flemings Place, near Mespil Road. In 1909 she went to the Dublin Horse Fair with her father William, where they met Alois Hitler Jr, the older half-brother of Adolf Hitler. Alois initially claimed to be a wealthy hotelier touring Europe, but later admitted being a kitchen porter at the Shelbourne Hotel.

After a number of months courting in Dublin, and due to her family’s disapproval of her relationship with Alois, in 1910, Bridget eloped with Alois to London. They married on 3 June 1910 and later settled in Toxteth, Liverpool. Bridget’s father William tried (unsuccessfully) to accuse Alois of kidnap, and for a few months relations between Bridget and her father were strained. However, they reconciled around the time of the birth of her and Alois’ son, William Patrick Hitler, in 1911 in Liverpool.

In 1914, Alois went back to Germany – purportedly to make a living selling razor blades – but the outbreak of the First World War meant that he was marooned there for a few years away from his family. He opened a restaurant in Berlin which would later become a favourite for high-ranking Nazi figures, and had numerous affairs before marrying again bigamously.

He began making contact with Bridget after the war, encouraging their son William Patrick (known as Patrick), to come to Germany to visit.

It was there, as a young man, that Patrick Hitler saw his uncle speaking at a Nuremberg rally. Patrick began working at a German car factory, but the suicide of his uncle Adolf’s niece Geli, whom Adolf was purportedly in love with, soured him against his uncle for life. He returned to England and began lecturing on his uncle, whom he claimed was a “madman”. The historian Patrick Butler even claims that Patrick predicted in 1939 that a coup would come from within the army against Hitler – something that did transpire, but not until 1944 (the famous ‘20 July Plot’).

Bridget welcomed her son back to England in the mid-1930s, and they spent a number of years living in North London, where the then-divorced Bridget ran a lodging house.

Disputed memoirs

In 1939, Bridget joined her son on a tour of the United States where he was invited to lecture on his famous uncle. They decided to settle there, and in that time Bridget wrote a manuscript, My Brother-in-Law Adolf, in which she claimed that her famous brother-in-law had moved to Liverpool to live with Bridget and Alois from November 1912 to April 1913 to dodge conscription in his native Austria. She claims that she introduced Adolf to astrology – and that she advised him to trim off the edges of his moustache.

However, the credibility of this account is often questioned by historians. Bridget’s memoir was published posthumously in 1979, but it was never finished, and ended on a comma. The historian William Unger suggests that it may have been ghost-written because it bears none of the usual characteristics of a first-draft memoir.

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However, it was Bridget’s account of a young, sloppy boy named Adolf arriving at Lime Street Station in Liverpool that was the inspiration for Beryl Bainbridge’s Young Adolf – a fictionalised account of the dictator’s early years. It was also the inspiration for Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s 1989 comic The New Adventures of Hitler.

Ultimately, Bridget settled in Long Island, New York, changing her name to Stuart-Houston. Today marks 45 years since she passed away, on 18 November 1969. Her son William Patrick, died in 1987, effectively ending the Irish link with Hitler, as his children bore his adopted surname Stuart-Houston.

Bridget and her son Patrick are both buried in Coram, Long Island.

Amy Bracken is originally from Co Meath and moved to London in 2012, where she works as a TV researcher and journalist.

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About the author:

Amy Bracken

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