Few figures in the history of the human race inspire such revulsion as Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, Chancellor and Führer of Germany.
The infamous German dictator’s hands are stained with the blood of millions killed in the devastation of the Second World War and the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust.
A US tabloid newspaper recently published a story that was headlined “Hitler’s last relatives live in America”.
The article stated that the three grandsons of Alois Hitler, the older half-brother of Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler, are living quietly under new names in Long Island in New York state.
Intriguingly, buried in the newspaper report were the words – “Alois left Germany at age 14 for Ireland.”
Regular Roamer-contributor Mitchell Smyth, originally from Ballycastle but now living in Toronto, perused the newspaper article and wondered: ‘Is there perhaps more to Alois Hitler’s visit to Ireland that at first meets the eye?’
Mitchell, a well-known journalist and travel-writer in Canada, embarked on some research and discovered more than a few interesting details, most intriguingly that Alois married an Irish girl and they’d a son called William Patrick, predictably known as Paddy.
And his mother later claimed it was she who persuaded Adolf Hitler to “trim back” his waxed, handlebar moustache.
But, she said, when she saw newspaper pictures of her brother-in-law with his new and smaller moustache, she exclaimed: “Oh, dear, Adolf’s gone too far!”
Her name was Bridget Dowling, known to her friends and family as Cissie, with a middle-class upbringing in Dublin.
The Fuhrer did not have any children so the Irish branch of the Hitler family – Alois and Cissie’s three grandchildren, now living in Long Island – are the only surviving relations of the horrendous Nazi leader.
It has been reported that the three grandchildren, brothers who go by the surname Stuart-Houston, made a pact in their teens not to have any children, so the line will die.
But back to Cissie Dowling.
She was 18 years old, just out of convent school in 1909, when her father took her to the Dublin Horse Show.
There she met a charming foreigner, 27-year-old Alois Hitler, who told her that he was a “hotels entrepreneur”, looking into the hotel industry in Britain and Ireland.
In fact he was a kitchen porter working in Dublin’s prominent Shelbourne Hotel.
Against her parents’ wishes, Cissie married Alois in 1910.
A year later William Patrick Hitler was born.
They’d moved to Liverpool by the time of William’s birth and Cissie later told how Adolf, seven years younger than Alois, visited them there.
He allegedly cuddled baby Paddy, she said, and promised that he’d cut back his moustache when he returned to Germany.
(It should be clearly noted that historians doubt if Adolf Hitler was ever in Liverpool!)
Alois soon deserted the family and returned to Germany, where he married bigamously.
Paddy kept in touch and visited Alois and Adolf in the 1930s, after Adolf became Chancellor, staying at his uncle’s mountainside retreat, the Berghof, in Bavaria.
But Adolf Hitler was reportedly enraged when his nephew returned to England and wrote an article for Look magazine under the headline, ‘Why I hate my uncle’, giving some details that Adolf didn’t like.
Parts of the article were reprinted in British newspapers, leading Hitler to reportedly contact Paddy and ask – “Who gave you permission to appoint yourself an authority on my private affairs? No one must drag my private affairs into the newspapers.”
In 1939 Cissie and Paddy, who were much in demand as Hitler’s relations, went on a speaking tour of America and when the Second World War broke out, they decided to stay in the USA.
Cissie worked for the British War Relief Society, a US humanitarian organisation providing food, clothing and medical supplies to a war-beleaguered Britain.
Paddy joined the US Navy to fight against his uncle and was wounded in action; he received the Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those either wounded or killed while serving with the US military.
Paddy would later tell the story of the day he reported for duty.
The induction officer asked him his name.
“Hitler,” answered Paddy.
“Glad to see you Hitler,” said the officer, adding a quirky punchline: “My name is Hess!’’
(Rudolph Hess was of course one of Hitler’s chief deputies and partner in crime.)
Paddy married after the war and had four sons, three of whom – Alexander, Louis and Brian – survive, aged 53 to 69.
By that time the family had changed its name to Stuart-Houston and was living quietly beneath the radar.
Although they were keeping their back-story secret by now, at least one person noticed a family resemblance.
Teresa Ryther, Paddy’s neighbour, told the New York Times in 2006 – “Once my father told my mom ‘I just saw Patty (sic) mowing the lawn and he turned around and, my God, he looked exactly like Hitler.’”
Paddy’s father Alois died in Hamburg in 1956 following a traffic accident.
During the war he had run a restaurant favoured by Nazi Stormtroopers.
He was arrested after the war, but freed when it was ruled he had taken no part in his half-brother’s crimes.
Cissie Stuart-Houston never remarried.
She died in Long Island in 1969, aged 78.
Paddy died in 1987. He was 76.