BBC Radio 4 - presented by Sue Cook
Adolf Hitler - did he visit Liverpool during 1912-13?
Researched and Produced by Nick Patrick
Making History - BBC Radio 4 Website
Adolf Hitler in Liverpool:
|Nick Patrick (front) with Mike Royden.|
Is there any truth in the story that Adolf Hitler spent time in Liverpool during 1912 and 1913 and if so what was he doing here?
There is a link. Many people have recounted the story that just before the first world war Adolf Hitler did spend a few months in Toxteth. Local Historian Mike Royden knows the story well, "As I was growing up, every time Adolf was mentioned, my father would say he was once in Liverpool, and the street was pointed out to me later when we would be driving home from Town and he would say "This is Upper Stanhope Street where Hitler once lived"."Upper Stanhope Street has changed a fair bit since 1912, not least because of the damage Hitler's bombs did during the war.
The story is that Adolf came to stay at 102 Upper Stanhope Street in Toxteth, the home of his half-brother Alois and his Irish wife Bridget.
According to the highly respected biographer of Hitler, Sir Ian Kershaw, of Sheffield University, "Adolf Hitler was the fourth son of his father's third marriage. His father was also called Alois. The second marriage produced a boy and a girl and the son was Alois jnr., Hitler's elder half brother, who was a bit of a ne'er do well and a wastrel and who had already been in prison twice for theft, before he went to Ireland via Paris around 1909. There he met a young Irish woman called Bridget Dowling and the following year they were married in London, then set up house in Liverpool".According to her so-called memoirs, in 1912 he was visited by his younger half-brother Adolf who got off a train at Lime Street Station before spending the best part of five months spending his time wandering around the docks and so on, not learning any English and eventually going back to Vienna in April 1913.
Remember, this is Bridget's story as written in the 1930's. It's a text with few references and therein lies the problem. I went in search of hard facts to the Liverpool Record Office. Research officer Roger Hull had dug out some paperwork including a document that confirms that Alois Hitler was living in Toxteth at the time in question. His wife gave birth to William Patrick Hitler, 102 Upper Stanhope Street and we have the birth certificate for that. This says that on 12th March 1911 that in 102 Upper Stanhope Street Toxteth Park, which is just to the south of Liverpool, William Patrick, a boy, was born to Alois Hitler and Bridget Elizabeth Hitler, formerly Dowling. Alois was a hotel waiter and the informant was the mother, B.E. Hitler. Very promising - Roger and I searched for more evidence but with little reward.
If we look at the Liverpool directories between 1911 and 1914, there is a Thomas William John living at 102 Upper Stanhope Street, he's listed on the electoral roll for 1911-12, but not for 1910-11. This man is obviously on the electoral register and is quite well off at the time and he is probably letting rooms out in his house to those who want to stay there including "aliens" which Alois would have been at the time.Of course we have to remember that at this time there wasn't universal male suffrage until 1918, and, of course, no women could vote in national elections. So the electoral roll isn't quite as useful as it is today.
But we didn't come up with anything else, not even a census return. Mike Royden, who has known this tale for most of his life, isn't surprised, "Well apart from Bridget's manuscript I cannot find any other document that specifically places Adolf Hitler in Liverpool in 1912/13." So where next? According to Roger Hull, "what we have to ask is, what was the relationship like between Adolf and his half brother - if it is proved to be bad then that casts doubt on whether he came here or not and why would he come to Liverpool?"Professor Ian Kershaw can answer one of those questions, "Adolf Hitler never really had a great deal of time for him. During theThird Reich when Adolf Hitler had reached the pinnacle of power, Alois had very little to do with him. Afterwards he changed his name and lived in obscurity and died, I think Hamburg, in 1956". So, no evidence of a close relationship between the two men.
We cannot prove that Adolf Hitler was in Liverpool, but we've nothing to disprove it either. According to Mike Royden, "Maybe the evidence doesn't specifically exist in Liverpool - if you're trying to find the movements of Hitler 1912/13, you probably need to look elsewhere".
Which is exactly what Professor Sir Ian Kershaw has spent much of his time doing; "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."
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