Mike Royden's Local History Pages

Adolf Hitler - did he visit Liverpool during 1912-13?

M.W.Royden (B.A.Hons., Cert. Ed.)

This article was commissioned by the BBC Local History Legacies web site following a feature on Radio 4's Making History. I was invited to take part in the programme by Nick Patrick who researched and produced the programme. Nick interviewed myself, Roger Hull of the Liverpool Record Office and Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, biographer of Hitler. I have based the article on Nick's research to which I have added further detailed discussion.


There is a story that surfaces from time to time which meets with a flurry of activity between believers and disbelievers, which then disappears until enough time has lapsed for the story to gather credibility again and thus cause interest.

And it is this: Adolf Hitler lived in Liverpool before World War One with his half brother Alois. It conjures up many images - the young artist studying the architecture, improving his mind and learning the language, standing on the Kop. In fact, what has been published is even more ludicrous - idling away the time learning about his future with an astrological mystic neighbour, followed by a quick shufftie down to the docks to make a note of the shipping using the port for future reference should Germany ever go to war with, say, Britain for example.

So aside from the elaborations, is there any truth at all in this story?

Much of the interest has stemmed from the publication of a memoir in the 1970's written by Bridget Hitler, the wife of Alois. This was met with the inevitable reporting in England, especially in the Liverpool press. It also influenced local writer Beryl Bainbridge to produce Young Adolf, a fictionalised story about his visit to Liverpool as told in the Memoir. She followed this in 1981 with a drama commissioned by the BBC called The Journal of Bridget Hitler, and starring Maurice Roeves, Siobhan McKenna and Julian Glover. Dramatised with Philip Saville, it portrayed the 'pre-war visit' to half brother's Liverpool home as featured by his Irish sister-in-law in her memoir.

Since then, there have been many corruptions of the story, including a version by a local writer who also featured a fake photograph on his web site of a young Hitler standing in front of the William Brown Street Galleries and Library buildings, just to muddy the waters still further.

The story came to the fore again in 2002, when David Gardner, a former crime writer and senior foreign correspondent on the Daily Mail published a book entitled The Last of the Hitlers. Although it deals primarily with his story of how he traced the last remaining relatives of the Nazi Dictator, he discusses the Liverpool connection, and this was followed by a Channel 5 documentary which consequently reawakened interested in the story. Most recently in December 2003, the story was featured on Radio 4's Making History, where a further objective approach was taken to get to the truth of the matter.

So much for the background. The story itself begins in pre-war Liverpool when young Adolf, still hoping for a career as an artist came to stay at the house of his half brother and his wife in Upper Stanhope Street, in Toxteth, Liverpool. There he stayed for around six months before returning to the men's hostel in Vienna. As the only source for this is Bridget's own memoir, it has inevitably undergone thorough analysis.

The Hitler's flat in 102 Upper Stanhope stood to the right of the picture near the railings

The Toxteth Hitlers

According to an interview given to the Daily Express in the thirties, Bridget may have met Alois at a staff dance at the Royal Hibernian Hotel in Dublin (1). This contrasts with the version she gave in her memoirs where she states she met Alois for the first time at the Dublin Horse Show in 1909. There she said her father and neighbour began talking to a stranger. The young man cut a dashing figure in his smart suit and waxed, turned up handle bar moustache. He introduced himself as Alois Hitler from Austria, and with his 'fine foreign manners and his debonair Viennese ways'(2) he made a great impression on the teenage Bridget. "He fairly won my heart with his sugary talk and foreign ways", she declared(3).

They agreed to meet and a close friendship soon developed between them. However, Alois had already created suspicion in the family with his fancy talk about being in the 'hotel business' and being there on a fact finding trip covering France, Belgium, and the British Isles to study the trade. It wasn't long before they discovered he was actually a waiter at the Shelbourne Hotel, sent there by a London employment agency. Despite this, Bridget was 'head over heels in love' and they began to see more of each other.

The Dowlings clearly did not approve of the relationship, especially once they became aware of his true station. Having decided to marry, the couple then eloped to London where they were married at Marylebone Registry Office on 3 June 1910. William Dowling, Bridget's father and a farm labourer from Kilnamanagh, was so incensed he even wanted the police to arrest Alois for kidnapping.

"My father - rest his soul - was a real Irishman", said Bridget. "He would not hear tell of a wedding to a foreigner. Alois and I used to meet every afternoon in the museum and make plans to elope. Four months later when Alois had saved enough money we went to England on the night boat and came to London. I wrote to my mother and said I would not return until we got permission to marry. She talked my father around and he gave his consent"(4).

Alois jnr and his wife Bridget

Bridget was reunited with her father the following year when she presented him with a new grandson. By now the Hitlers had relocated to 102 Upper Stanhope Street in Toxteth, Liverpool, where their baby was born on 12 March 1911. He was christened William Patrick.

Alois found it difficult to settle in Liverpool and changed his source of income four times in their first two years of married life. He ran a restaurant on Dale Street, a boarding house on Upper Parliament Street, and then a hotel in Mount Pleasant. When he became a salesman for a disposable razor firm, he began to have grand ideas about developing his own business in the same field. This, he hoped, would involve his sister Angela and brother-in-law Leo Raubal back in Austria. He then sent them money to cover their travelling expenses in the hope they would come to Liverpool for a visit where he could discuss his ideas further. According to Bridget, "...we were looking forward with pleasure to their visit. When we went to Lime Street Station to meet them I eagerly scanned the couples descending from the 11.30 train, wondering if I would recognise our relatives. Instead of Angela and Leo Raubal, however, a shabby young man approached and offered Alois his hand. It was my husband's younger brother, Adolf, who came in their place"(5).

A row then broke out between the brothers and Bridget left them to it. When they returned to the flat later that evening the tension was gone, and once Adolf had retired to bed Bridget berated her husband for the way he had treated him. What then followed was a diatribe against Adolf and how Alois portrayed himself as the classic mistreated step-child, while all favouritism went to the true off spring of the mother. He described to his young wife his unhappy childhood and the way he was constantly beaten by his father, especially when he came home the worse for wear after yet another night at the local tavern.

Despite his uncomfortable memories, Alois was not going to turn his half-brother away and this was to be the beginning of a stay that would keep Adolf in Upper Stanhope Street for almost 6 months, from November 1912 until April 1913.

Aerial photographs and maps of Upper Stanhope Street. Click the 'Back' button on your browser to return.

Hitler Family Origins

Alois snr, the natural father of both boys, was born on 7 June 1837 to Maria Anna Schickelgruber, a forty-two year old unmarried daughter of Johann Schickelgruber from the village of Strones in Lower Austria. The entry made that same day in the baptismal register of Dollerscheim parish, shows that the baby was christened Alois Schickelgruber. The space in the register for the father's name was left blank and despite much speculation has remained a mystery ever since(6).

In 1842, Maria Shickelgruber married a journeyman miller named Johann Georg Hiedler. The marriage lasted only five years as Maria died in 1847. Young Alois was taken in by his step-father's brother, who raised him like his own son. Why this was so is unclear, but Johann Georg may have returned to his travels to support himself.

At eighteen, Alois entered the Austrian civil service and by 1875 he had risen to the position of customs inspector in Braunau am Inn. The following year he had cause to have his name changed. It would not appear to be due to his illegitimacy, as he had never attempted to conceal it, rather, it may have been due to a legacy from his heir-less adopted father Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, that required Alois to legally take the family name (7).

As a consequence his birth records were altered to read Johann Georg Hiedler as the name of his father, despite the fact he had been dead for nearly 20 years. In fact, it was misspelled as 'Johann Georg Hitler' in the process. The parish priest was also persuaded to strike out Schickelgruber and to change 'out of wedlock' to 'within wedlock'. There was also marginal note: 'The under signed confirm that Georg Hitler, registered as the father, who is well known to the under signed witnesses, admits to being the father of the child Alois as stated by the child's mother, Anna Schickelgruber, and has requested the entry of his name in the present baptismal register'. Three illiterate witnesses added their marks to the statement. The statement was clearly false, but his natural parents were no longer around to object. From January 1877 Alois Schickelgruber called himself Alois Hitler(8).

Alois, who was now a much respected customs official, was to marry three times. Firstly, to Anna Glassl, a woman much older than himself, then to two young women, Franziska Matzelberger and Klara PÖlzl who were young enough to be his daughters. Anna Glassl, whom he married in 1873 was by then aged fifty and it seemed to be a marriage of convenience, she being fourteen years his senior, well off, and with useful connections in the civil service. It wasn't long before Alois took himself a mistress and by 1880 Anna, who had clearly had enough, was granted a legal separation. The focus of his affections were then focused on his live in lover, although she did set the condition that the potential rival for Alois affections, his cousin Klara PÖlzl - who was keeping house, should be dismissed.

In 1882, Alois jnr was born, although he was not legitimised until the following year, when Alois snr and Franziska were married after the death of Anna earlier that year. A daughter Angela followed a few weeks after the wedding. In August 1884 Franziska contracted TB and died at the age of only twenty-four. While she had been sent to the country for convalesence, Alois immediately brought Klara back to look after the children. She became pregnant very quickly after the death of Franziska. As they were second cousins they needed special dispensation from the church to marry, which took four months. Once cleared, they were married on 7th January 1885. Five children followed soon afterwards, of which Adolf was the fourth, born in 20th April 1889. Her first three children all died at various stages of infancy, while her fifth, Edmund, born in 1894, died from measles in 1900 aged six. Paula, her sixth child, born in 1896, although living until 1960, is generally thought to have been retarded.

Alois snr has been described as a pompous, strict authoritarian, who demanded respect, while giving little time or devotion to his family. He frequently resorted to beating his sons to ensure unquestioned discipline. At thirteen Alois jnr left the family home, having been found the position of a waiter. However, by 1900 he had been found guilty of theft and jailed for 5 months, followed by a similar offence two years later for which he received 8 months. Under this cloud he left for Paris, then London, trying to make a fresh start by securing work in the catering industry.

Full Hitler Family Tree

Brief Hitler Family Tree

The domineering Alois snr died in January 1903 and the family relocated to Linz two years later. In 1907, his third wife Klara - Adlof's mother - died from cancer aged forty seven. The grief stricken Adolf, who had already failed to secure a place at the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, determined to return to the city intent on becoming an architect. It did not go well. From early 1908 until May 1913 he remained in Vienna, living hand to mouth, drifting from one menial job to another, unable to get into college to pursue his chosen career. By 1910, after a period of living rough, often in the open, he moved into a men's hostel while hawking postcards of paintings he had made of views of the city. So far, much of this detail about the brother's early life is factual and generally accepted by most historians and biographers. It is the next development which has caused the most controversy.

Documentary evidence relating to the Hitlers in Upper Stanhope Street

Marriage certificate
Alois Hitler jnr and Bridget Dowling

Baptism record
William Patrick Hitler

Birth certificate
William Patrick Hitler

Adolf Hitler in Liverpool

Hitler at sixteen, sketched by F.Sturmberger, a schoolfriend of Steyr

The only source for Adolf's 'visit' to Liverpool is contained in Bridget's Memoir. According to Michael Unger, "The existence of Bridget's memoirs has been generally known since the early 1970's when the historian Robert Payne, gathering material for his book The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, read them in the manuscript division of the New York Public Library"(9).

Payne's discovery, led to a series of articles in the Liverpool Daily Post in the early 1970's. The unfinished manuscript, which ends in mid sentence, was published for the first time in 1979, with an introduction and discussion of its authenticity by Unger, then editor of the Daily Post.

Historians have little time for the memoir, and have been highly critical of its contents feeling there are too many discrepancies (not just with the Liverpool episode) to take seriously. Indeed, Kershaw goes as far as calling the memoir a work of fiction without a grain of truth(10). And here lies the problem. Until something else appears placing Hitler in Liverpool, the controversy will continue. As the only source for this is Bridget's own memoir, it has inevitably undergone thorough analysis.

Right: Alois Hitler jnr

The memoir was probably written by Bridget and son William, during 1940-41, perhaps with the help of a ghost writer, as there are noticeable differences in style contained within.

The myth surrounding Hitler's visit was not helped by the novel Young Adolf by Beryl Bainbridge. This was a work of fiction where Bainbridge took the idea of Adolf visiting Liverpool, as recounted in the memoir, and developing the idea further. Later it was made into a two part television drama, thus reaching an even wider audience. Although she made it clear at the time that it was a product largely of her own imagination, many observers, especially Liverpudlians, accept the visit as historical fact. Talking to the Washington Post in 1979 about non-fiction, Bainbridge said, "I haven't really got the education for that sort of thing. The bit of what I laughingly call research that I did on young Adolf I quite enjoyed. I felt rather educated rushing around looking in libraries... the part of them [the memoirs] that seems the most real is the part about Adolf coming to Liverpool. It's the most understated, whether its true or not. There's no proof that he came, but there's no proof that he didn't.

William Patrick Hitler at eighteen

Years later in the Foreword to Gardner's Last of the Hitlers, her view of the memoir was undimmed, "...what rings true, by reason of its mundane content, its very naivety of expression, is her account of Adolf's arrival in Liverpool"(11). This encapsulates the view of many of those who feel this section of the memoir has credibility, its very matter of factness, not dressed up for effect, in fact, quite the opposite. The ordinariness of it is quite stark. Young Adolf playing her child in the kitchen, while chatting about the future of Germany -
  "...he would never hesitate to interrupt my housework to explain how Germany was going to take its rightful position in the world. First would come France, then England. I didn't find this talk very interesting, but whenever I tried to get away he would begin to shout, although I rarely troubled to contradict him. He would whip himself up into a rage and go on until hoarseness or some interruption stopped him. I put it down partly to the pleasure he took in hearing his own voice - another trick he had in common with my husband - and partly to a desire to domineer me".   A few paragraph later she says,  "... During his Liverpool stay Adolf hadn't even picked up enough English to ask directions to the station"(12).   

The topic of conversation seems quite bizarre given the fact he was an Austrian and there in Liverpool, according to Bridget, to dodge the draft into the Austrian army. Until one remembers that the memoir was written c.1941 with a complete awareness of Hitler's true intention by then. Maybe it was quite simple and appealing to look back to her little flat in Toxteth and recount where Adolf Hitler first had the idea for world domination. That should sell a few books on the lecture circuit. At the time the memoir was written, it was common knowledge that there was a 'lost year' in Hitler's life. Hitler had never alluded to it, it wasn't in Mein Kampf or any other of his writings. Hitler had conveniently glossed over the period, or rewritten it, to provide a more acceptable version for a public figure he now was. His failure to enter the Academy, living rough, the doss houses, and draft dodging, was a phase he felt was not for public consumption. Bridget and William may have been only too ready to fill the 'missing months' with an alternative story. Those close to him say apart from brief trips to Italy and Paris, he had made no visit to any other country, although this is still not conclusive enough.

Kershaw and Waite both point to the fact that there are no records in Germany or Austria that point to a visit abroad, while they do place him in Vienna at the time he was supposed to be in Liverpool. According to Kershaw,
   "There is actually an eye witness to Adolf Hitler's presence in the men's home in Vienna in February 1913 at a time when he is supposed to be in Liverpool. Beyond that, the records kept by the men's home were very careful records and they recorded when people were residents and when they left. Adolf Hitler did actually leave the men's home just for a few days and they recorded his departure and his return in May 1913, when he left to go to Munich. They again registered his departure. Since the records are so carefully kept, they would unquestionably have recorded a departure of his in 1912 had he been going to Liverpool. What a wonderful surreal image to think of Hitler standing on the terraces at Anfield, but there isn't a grain of truth in the story."(13)  

The blue half were not to be left out. While researching his book The Last of the Hitler's, David Gardner was called by his business partner who had just received a letter from someone he described as a 'complete whacko',   "some guy says Hitler lived next door to him in Liverpool and they used to go together to watch Everton at Goodison Park. It goes on and on about how he converted Adolf from liking Liverpool when he first came to Britain." (14)   A letter no doubt written by the ghost of Shankly .

Postscript - The Hitlers in New York

The rest of the memoir continues about how Alois left the family home for Germany in May 1914, never to return, and subsequent events of the 1920's and 30's. Alois remarried bigamously in 1916, for which he was charged by the German authorities in 1923, while Bridget and William moved to live in London in 1924. William renewed contact with his father when he visited him in Germany in 1929 and 1930, before returning there in 1993 to try to take advantage of his relationship with his uncle,the new FÜuhrer. The dream of a high powered, well paid position did not materialize. It would appear that he was more of a thorn in the side to his uncle who was 'related to state' only, and who tried to erase his family details and their potential embarrassing revelations from all public knowledge.

By 1938, following a summons to Hitler, William was given an ultimatum to give up his British Nationality and commit himself to the Nazi cause. William declined and made a clandestine exit from the country, now fearful of his own safety. Months later in March 1939 he arrived in New York with Bridget, ready to tour the country giving lectures on the subject of "My Uncle Adolf", the visit being organised between a theatrical agents in London and New York. William was now sufficiently at home in his adoptive country that he decide to enlist in American Forces to fight for the allies against Uncle Adolf. Whatever his motives, and the FBI and the OSS were keeping a watchful eye on his every move, he was eventually accepted and signed up to the U.S. Navy. In surreal circumstances, as he gave his name to the recruiting officer, he was met with the reply "Glad to see you Hitler - my name is Hess!" Except in this case it was Gale K. Hess of Chicago. After training he was sent to the Medical Corps and saw action before being honourably discharged in 1946(15).

Nothing further is heard of William or Bridget Hitler again, although John Toland indicated knowledge of them still living in the New York area in the 1970's when carrying out research for his Hitler biography. He has steadfastly refused to divulge anything further aver since. The trail was picked up by British Journalist David Gardner, formerly of the Daily Mail, who spent most of the 1990's trying to find out what happened to William, especially as there was suggestion that the Hitler name was still alive and well in America. After much research he discovered their final resting place, "He died in 1987, 18 years after his mother, in the anonymity he craved for much of his life. His family even considered leaving the grave unmarked, but decided instead to bury him under the false name that had brought him peace"(16). .

In light of the fate of his uncle and everything the Nazi regime stood for, William felt it advisable to melt away into the background, change his name and live in obscurity, in contrast to the very public life he had enjoyed on his lecture tour. Clearly, the worry of retribution towards anyone bearing the name could not be ignored. Nevertheless, Gardner discovered William had made a success of his American life. He married a German girl he had met during his time working in Germany during the 1930's and together they appeared to be the model family, four all American boys, while he worked in the medical field. Later he set up a blood analysis laboratory in the home they moved to in the countryside to avoid prying eyes. Neighbours spoke about them as a pleasant family, well respected in the community. There were four sons, Alexander (1949), Louis (1951), Howard (1957) and Brian (1965). Howard was killed in a car crash in 1989, but the three remaining brothers are still living, bearing a double barrel name that gives no hint of their roots. Gardner has refused to disclose their adoptive name and where they live, although it has been uncomfortably easy for this author to discover it through other channels. None of the sons are married and it seems that the Hitler name may now finally die.

It seems strange that there is still this impression of the scouse Hitler being the black sheep of the family given Uncle Adolf's track record. The fact that his family have led a relatively normal life in America in the face of their family history is some achievement.

Bridget and William Patrick Hitler on tour in the USA

(left) William Patrick Hitler is finally accepted in the US Navy

The family understandably refused to co-operate fully with Gardner nor with the Channel 5 film company. He persisted in trying to shed light on Bridget's memoirs. William's wife Phyllis told Gardner, "it's all made up," while "Alex said, "We read it and it was the funniest thing I ever saw in my life"(17).

However, on a later visit when pressed further, Alex went so far as to say it was all true and not only did Adolf visit Liverpool but he visited Ireland too, furthermore, the remaining manuscript was actually completed and the library only had the first half. These were further contradictions in William Patrick Hitler's life. Not only did he give his first son the middle name of Adolf, but the adopted name he was to use for the rest of his life was the same double barrel name of one of the most notorious anti-semitic historians of the far right. A family of many contradictions, and a branch that has created the myth of Hitler in Liverpool. Consequently, however unlikely the story is,it seems we may never get to the truth(18).

Mike Royden (January 2004)


1. Gardner, David, The Last of the Hitlers (2001) BMM , p.169.
2. Unger, M. ed., The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler, (1979) Duckworth, p.17.
3. Gardner, op cit. p.169.
4. Gardner, op cit. p.169.
5. Hitler, B. Memoirs, p.24. (this is within Unger op.cit. but the reprinted manuscript of her own words.)
6. Kershaw, I. Hitler - 1889-1936: Hubris, (1998) Penguin, p.3.
7. ibid. p.5
8. Toland, J. Adolf Hitler, London (1976) p.5.
9. Unger, op. cit. p.5.
10. Kershaw, Interview - Making History: Adolf Hitler in Liverpool Programme 10, broadcast on 2nd December 2003 BBC Radio 4, researched and produced by Nick Kershaw.
11. Gardner, op.cit. Foreword, p.vii.
12. Hitler, B. Memoirs, p.30.
13. Kershaw, Interview - Making History, op.cit.
14. Gardner, op.cit. p.106.
15. Gardner, op.cit. p.108.
16. Gardner, 'Getting to know the Hitlers' Daily Telegraph News Website (Filed: 20/01/2002)
17. Gardner, op.cit. p.179.
18. Gardner, op.cit. p.188/9.

Making History - BBC Radio 4 Website

Adolf Hitler in Liverpool Programme 10 broadcast on 2nd December 2003 can be accessed here in streaming Real Player format

Direct Link to run the program with real player

Complete transcription of the 'Adolf Hitler in Liverpool' feature by Nick Patrick

Select Sources and Bibliography

Nick Patrick (front) with Mike Royden. Nick researched and presented the Hitler in Liverpool item on Radio 4's Making History programme (the links for this are at the top of the page) The Last of the Hitlers by David Gardner (2001) BMM

A Channel 5 programme based on the book, Hitler's Living Relatives, was shown on February 4 2001 at 8pm.

The original manuscript of Bridget Hitler's memoirs deposited at New York Central Library The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler, edited by Michael Unger (1979)
Adolf Hitler 1887-1936: Hubris - by Ian Kershaw (1998) Penguin Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis - Ian Kershaw (2000) Penguin
Young Adolf by Beryl Bainbridge

A fictionalised account of Hitler's visit to Liverpool, later made into a two part drama for television, inspired by Bridget's account in her memoirs.

Hitler - a biography by John Toland (1976)

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