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Döllersheim: The Village That Hitler Destroyed to Crush a Rumor

About one hundred km northwest of Vienna, in northern Austria, lies a small village called Döllersheim. Eighty years ago, this tiny Austrian village was wiped off the map by a certain German dictator with a comically short moustache in an attempt to erase the disreputable origins of his family.

Döllersheim

Image credit: allentsteig.at

It was here, in Döllersheim, in the year 1837, that a woman named Maria Schicklgruber gave birth to an illegitimate child. That child was Alois Schicklgruber, the father of Adolf Hitler. The identity of the man who impregnated the forty-two-year-old unmarried serving woman was not disclosed on the baby's baptismal certificate filed in her parish church. Later, when Alois was five, his mother married Johann Georg Hiedler and Alois took the name Hitler, after Hiedler.

Ever since Adolf Hitler came to political prominence, historians have been trying to crack the mystery of Hitler’s true origin—an important factor, since Hitler claimed to be of Aryan descent. Among the several candidates proposed as Alois's biological father, historian Werner Maser suggested that Alois’s real father was Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, brother of Johann Georg Hiedler, who raised Alois through adolescence and later willed him a considerable portion of his life savings. According to Maser, Nepomuk was a married farmer who had an affair and then arranged to have his single brother Hiedler marry Alois's mother Maria to provide a cover for Nepomuk's desire to assist and care for Alois without upsetting his wife.

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Another unproven theory is that Alois father was a Jew named Leopold Frankenberger, with whose family Maria Schicklgruber was employed as a cook in the town of Graz. But this theory is dismissed by historians because there was no Jew living in Graz at the time Maria Schicklgruber became pregnant. These rumors often threw Hitler into apoplectic rage.

“People must not know who I am, “ he was reported to have said. “They must not know where I come from.”

In 1931 Hitler ordered the SS to investigate the alleged rumors regarding his ancestry, and found no evidence of any Jewish ancestors. He then ordered a genealogist to prepare a large illustrated genealogical tree showing his ancestry, which he published in the book Die Ahnentafel des Fuehrers ("The pedigree of the Leader") in 1937, where Hitler showed that he had an unblemished Aryan pedigree.

hitler's family tree

Not content with that Hitler decided—it has been alleged—to eradicate the entire village of Döllersheim where sceptics went to make enquires. Shortly after Hitler invaded Austria, Hitler ordered Döllersheim, along with several other neighboring villages to be evacuated so that a large military training camp could be built. Over two thousand residents were forcibly resettled and their houses bombed as part of the training exercises.

After the end of the Second World War, the training ground was seized by the Soviet Army and it remains a military exclusion zone to this day, now operated by the Austrian Armed Forces. Since 1981, however, the main square, the ruins of the Romanesque parish church of Saints Peter and Paul, and its surrounding graveyard have been made accessible to visitors.

Döllersheim

Village church and cemetery. Image credit: GuentherZ/Wikimedia Commons

The house where Alois Hitler, father of Adolf Hitler, grew up

The house where Alois Hitler, father of Adolf Hitler, grew up, in Spital, Lower Austria. Image credit: Johnny Saunderson/Wikimedia Commons

Döllersheim

Image credit: GuentherZ/Wikimedia Commons

Döllersheim

Image credit: GuentherZ/Wikimedia Commons

Döllersheim

Image credit: ansichtskarten-center.de

Döllersheim

Image credit: allentsteig.at

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