March 1942, middle of World War II. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt receives a strange letter:Adolf Hitler's nephew pleads for admission to the US Army. He wants to fight his uncle and defend democracy at all costs. Can you trust him?
William Patrick Hitler was born in Liverpool in 1911. He was the son of Alois Hitler, the half-brother of the later Nazi dictator, and of an Irish farming family, Bridget Elizabeth Dowling. The woman had been raising her son alone since her husband abandoned her in 1914 and returned to Germany.
William has tried many things in his life. In 1933 he left for the collapsing Weimar Republic: Uncle Adolf had just become chancellor and it seemed that it would make it easier to make a career. It turned out, however, that the Führer was not willing to help and did not get his nephew any prestigious position. Their relationship was rather cool and distant.
Uncle Adolf did not want to have much to do with his nephew (photo Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0703-507 / CC-BY-SA 3.0).
Disappointed, William returned to Great Britain after a few years and made quite a volley in his life:he went to the camp of the Nazi enemies. He tried to join the British army, but it turned out that no one wanted to see Hitler in their ranks - even if he intended to fight Adolf.
"The British (...) cannot (...) show sympathy for someone who has a surname like me" - the Führer's nephew later complained to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself in the unusual letter we can find in the book "Unforgettable Letters". Why did William write it?
Rejected by the English, he left for the United States. There he also tried to get into the army. He made his first efforts in 1940, but his candidacy was again rejected due to his direct relationship with the German dictator.
The story of William Patrick Hitler is just one of the many stories told in "Letters of Unforgettable" (SQN 2015).
On December 11, 1941, Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States. Several weeks later, in early March 1942, his nephew wrote the aforementioned letter to President Roosevelt. It was the last attempt to convince the Americans to accept William into the military.
Defender of democracy?
Why did William Hitler choose to become an American soldier? First of all, he was probably looking for his own place on Earth. What else could a young man with such a famous name do in a world obsessed with cruel war? After being rejected at home, he had little choice except the US military.
Wanting to please the president, the Führer's nephew said he wanted nothing to do with Germany. He presented the service in the army and the fight against the German relative as his calling, and even a moral obligation towards Christian civilization. In a letter to Roosevelt, he clearly stated that it was only up to the United States to "live in a moral and godly society or be enslaved by the devilish and pagan regime of " .
US Marines during their rest in 1942 W.P. Hitler wanted to join them (photo:U.S. Navy, now in the National Archives, public domain).
Hitler did not stop there. As we can see in "Unforgettable Letters", he portrayed himself as a true defender of democracy with a capital D. He claimed that he deserved service in the US Army more than many Native Americans:
I assure you, Mr. President, that as in the past, now I will also do my best to prove that I am worthy of this great honor, and my actions taken in the name of Democracy will shine in the background of the actions of many people who are no longer worthy of being called Americans.
At the front
William's arguments proved successful. The letter sent to the president was forwarded to the then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The latter conducted an appropriate investigation and agreed to accept the man into the army.
Before he finally became a soldier, young Hitler gave a series of lectures in the States about his uncle.
The vetting procedure and investigation lasted two years, so William Patrick Hitler became a US soldier only in 1944. He spent three years in the Navy Medical Corps. Little can be said about his ministry. It is known that he was wounded and for his sacrifice he received the Purple Heart medal from the president, automatically awarded to all soldiers wounded in combat.
After the war against his uncle, William started his own business and led a quiet, unremarkable life. He also changed his name to Stuart-Houston. Until recently, he boasted about his name and his relationship with Adolf. Now being Hitler has suddenly become a burden for him. But is this any wonder?
Shaun Usher, Unforgettable letters , Sine Qua Non, Krakow 2015.
Unforgettable letters: A collection of over a hundred unique, most interesting and most important letters in the history of mankind:
~ Leonardo da Vinci's application looking for a job,
~ The last letter of Wisława Szymborska,
~ A letter in which John Lennon's killer asks an expert, how much is the record that ex-Beatles signed for him on the day of the murder worth,
~ Thanks from Campbell's product manager to Andy Warhol, who contributed to the promotion of tomato soup cans,
~ Japanese farewell kamikaze with children written just before the mission,
~ Letter from Mario Puzo to Marlon Brando proposing to play The Godfather,
~ Letter from 14-year-old Fidel Castro to President Roosevelt asking for a ten dollar transfer,
~ An appeal for peace made by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler ...
... and many others, equally fascinating.
Unforgettable letters are a moving testimony to the dying art of correspondence, in which all the beauty, finesse, and sadness were reflected for centuries k and the joy of our civilization.