The Dark Truth Behind The Woman Who Raised Hitler

Is it nature or is it nurture that creates monsters like Adolf Hitler? It's an age-old question that we will never have an answer to. One might think that Hitler, a dictator who was responsible for the Holocaust and millions of deaths, would be raised by monsters himself. By all accounts, his father, Alois Hitler, terrorized and tormented him as a child. However, his mother is a different story.

Klara Hitler (born Klara Pölzl) was an entirely devoted mother to her son. Although she had three children before him, Hitler was the first to survive infancy (via Biography). Klara did what she could to protect her son from her husband's beatings and she often comforted and caressed him once they were over.

The Washington Post described Klara as having a "gentle smile," and being reserved and quiet, whereas Alois was a "stern, bad-tempered, authoritative bully." Hitler's sister, Paula, once described the couple's dynamic. She said, "My mother was a very soft and tender person — the compensatory element between the almost too harsh father," per The Washington Post.

Yet Adolf took after his father. Paula called her brother a "scrubby little rogue." She said their father would beat young Adolf in an effort to "thrash him for his rudeness," which she said was "in vain." 

That being said, how did a loving and gentle person like Klara end up with an abusive husband like Alois? Let's just say they knew each other long before they were married.


According to Biography, Klara, Alois's third wife, was young enough to be his daughter and first joined his household as his maid. She called him uncle (she later found it difficult to not refer to him as such after they were married). When Alois married for the second time, Klara left. When his second wife became ill, she returned to take care of Alois' children and home. By the time his wife died, Klara was pregnant. The cousins had to ask permission from the church to wedding and in 1885 they officially became man and wife. The rest, as they say, is history.

When Alois died in 1903, per Biography, Klara was left to raise her teenage son alone. By 1905, she allowed him to drop out of school after he convinced her that he was too ill and could no longer attend. By then he was doing poorly in school, per War History Online, and spent the next couple of years drawing, reading, and learning about fine arts. 

The year Hitler would turn 18, in 1907, Klara wholeheartedly approved her son's plans of moving to Vienna to become an artist. When he showed interest in becoming a musician, Klara bought him a grand piano. She doted on him immensely and provided him with both emotional and financial support. 

Per The Washington Post, Hitler referred to that brief period of his life as, "the happiest days which seemed to me almost like a beautiful dream." Then Klara got cancer.

Hitler doted on his mother when she was sick

Per War History Online, the timing of Hitler's mother's illness coincided with his efforts to pursue art in Vienna, but he failed the entrance exam to be admitted to the Academy of Fine arts. That's when he went home to help take care of his mother. 

Klara, who had breast cancer, underwent a mastectomy and then continued painful treatments at home, The Washington Post reported. War History Online wrote that she endured newly developed and still experimental chemotherapies and it ended up paralyzing her throat, making her unable to swallow. 

The Washington Post reported Hitler would sleep in the kitchen with his mother because that was the warmest place in the home. He cooked and helped around the house, and even kept his temper and headstrong behavior at bay during her illness.  

Hitler's sister Paula once told U.S Army investigators, "My brother Adolf spoiled my mother during this time of her life with overflowing tenderness. He was indefatigable in his care for her, wanted to comply with any desire she could possible have and did all to demonstrate his great love for her," according to The Washington Post.

Hitler always kept a photo of his mother nearby

But as powerful as Adolf Hitler would eventually become, he was powerless to stop his mother from dying at just 47 years old on December 21, 1907. The death of Hitler's mother devastated him. 

Eduard Bloch, a Jewish doctor who diagnosed and treated Klara later wrote of what he saw when he went to Klara's home to sign her death certificate. According to The Washington Post, historian John Toland, who wrote, "Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography," reported that Bloch found Hitler by his mother's corpse and saw an open sketchbook with a drawing of his mother.

Bloch wrote, "In all my career, I never saw anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler."

According to War History Online, Hitler eventually named Klara's birthday, August 12, as the "day of honor for the German mother." Throughout his brutal career, he kept photos of his kind and nurturing mother with him everywhere he went — portraits in his offices, and small versions in his "breast pocket." Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945. He still had a picture of his mother with him.