Klara Hitler was the mother of the leader of the Nazi Party, and German dictator, Adolf Hitler. Though her son’s tainted legacy has invariably cast its shadow on her name, there is nothing to suggest that Klara was of a tyrannical nature. On the contrary, witness accounts attest to the fact that Klara was a quiet and affectionate woman. A devout Catholic who went to church regularly, Klara was born into a peasant family. The family had its roots in the small rural region in Austria. She came into the household of Alois Hitler, a relative, as a servant, at the tender age of 16. Their relationship altered from that of master-servant to husband-wife in a few years’ time. Though Klara and Alois Hitler had six children together, only two of them survived into adulthood. One of them was Adolf Hitler. While Alois Hitler was disinterested in raising the children, Klara, by all means, was a dedicated mother, who spent most of her adult life rearing them, and giving them a pious childhood by taking them to the church regularly.
Childhood & Early Life
Klara Hitler was born on August 12, 1860, in Spital, an Austrian village. Klara’s father was Johann Baptist Polzl while Johanna Hiedler was her mother. Born into a peasant family, Klara was, according to the family physician, Dr. Eduard Bloch, a quiet and affectionate woman
In 1876, when she was 16, Klara was hired as a servant in the household of a relative, Alois Hitler. At this point, Alois was three years into his first marriage with Anna Glasl-Horer.
Although the identity of Alois’ biological father is unknown, once Alois’ mother married Johann Georg Hiedler, Hiedler officially became the father of Alois. Klara’s mother, Johanna Hiedler, was Hiedler’s niece. She was married to Johann Baptist Polzi. This made Alois and Klara first cousins.
In 1884, Alois’ second wife, Franziska Matzelsberger, passed away. He married Klara in 1885. The brief wedding ceremony was held on the top floor of the Pommer Inn in Braunau.
The couple’s first child, Gustav, was born just four months after the wedding, on 15 May 1885. The second child, Ida, was born on 23 September 1886. However, both these infants died due to diphtheria during the harsh winter of 1886-87. A third child was born to Klara and Alois Hitler in 1887. Unfortunately, that child died in the same year. Their fourth child, Adolf Hitler, the future Nazi leader and German dictator, was born on 20 April 1889.
Klara Hitler and her family moved to Passau in 1892, where they lived for the next two years.
The couple’s next child, Edmund, was born on 24 March 1894, while they were in Passau. Another child, Paula, was born on 21 January 1896. Misfortune struck again, when on 28 February 1900, Edmund died of measles. He was just five years old. Alois Hitler and Klara Hitler had six children together. Of these, only Adolf and Paula lived into adulthood.
The bulk of Klara Hitler’s life was spent in keeping the household and in bringing up her children. Her husband, Alois Hitler, had little know-how of these matters. Klara, however, was a dedicated mother to her children. A devout Roman Catholic, she also went to church regularly with her kids.
She had stepchildren too - the kids of Alois from his previous marriages. However, if William Patrick Hitler, Adolf Hilter’s nephew, is to be believed, Klara was just a typical stepmother to her stepchildren.
In 1903, Alois Hitler died, leaving a government pension. Subsequently, Klara, along with little Adolf and Paula, moved to a house in Linz, after selling their house in Leonding. There, they led a frugal life.
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The Fight with Cancer & Death
In 1906, Klara found a lump in her breast. However, at first she chose to ignore it. However, in January 1907, when frequent chest pains kept her awake during nights, she consulted Eduard Bloch, the family doctor. She told the doctor that as she was busy with household chores, she kept putting off seeking medical attention.
Though Dr. Bloch diagnosed Klara with breast cancer, instead of informing her of the same, he gave the task to Adolf. He informed Adolf that Klara had very little chances of surviving the disease. He recommended that Klara undergo a radical mastectomy. The news devastated the Hitler family.
As Dr. Bloch put it, Klara Hitler "accepted the verdict as I was sure she would – with fortitude. Deeply religious, she assumed that her fate was God's will. It would never occur to her to complain."
Klara had a mastectomy at the ‘Sisters of St. Mercy’ in Linz. However, the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, found that the cancer has already spread to the pleural tissue in her chest. Following this discovery, Bloch told Adolf and Paula that their mother’s condition was terminal.
At this time, Adolf was in Vienna, where he was studying art. However, hearing the devastating news about his mother, he moved back home to look after her.
By October 1906, her condition had deteriorated severely. Adolf then begged Dr. Bloch to attempt a new treatment. Following this, for 46 days, the doctor performed daily treatments with iodoform on Klara.
Iodoform was an experimental form of chemotherapy. In this treatment, Klara’s mastectomy incisions were opened and heavy iodoform doses were applied on the tissue in the hope of destroying the cancer cells.
The incredibly painful treatments led to Klara Hitler’s throat getting paralyzed, making her unable to even swallow.
However, the treatments were not successful. On December 21, 1907, Klara Hitler passed away at her home in Linz. She died from the toxic side effect of the iodoform that was administered to her.
The Effect of Klara's Death on Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler had a very close relationship with Klara Hitler and was shattered by her death. He carried the resultant grief throughout the rest of his life. According to Bloch, "In all my career, I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler.”
Later, in his autobiography, ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler mentioned that he “…honored my father but loved my mother.” He also mentioned that Klara Hitler’s death was a “dreadful blow...”
In 1940, decades after his mother’s death, Hitler expressed his gratitude to Dr. Bloch, who was Jewish. The dictator permitted the doctor and his wife to emigrate from Austria to the United States.
The tombstone in Town Cemetery, Leonding, marking Klara and Alois Hitler’s grave, was removed on 28 March 2012, by a descendant. According to the parish pastor, Kurt Pittertschatscher, the descendant in question, an elderly woman, was a relative of Anna, Alois Hitler’s first wife. It is unclear what was done with the remains in the grave.