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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alternative History: Adolf Hitler

I recently read of some students in Germany who made an alternative history film of Hitler as a young boy being killed by an automobile, ending with the body sprawled as a Swastika.  While by no means an admirer of Hitler or the National Socialist movement, I'm queasy about killing children.  However, this prompted a bit of alternative history speculation:

An Alternatative History Ending for Adolf Hitler

The Obituary

Early July, 1914—A Telegram

Dear Cousin Nicky:  As Christian princes, we must do our best to preserve peace and justice in this fallen world.  Hence, while I deplore the murder of our Austrian Cousin Ferdinand and sympathize with the deep mourning of his people, I will do my best to dissuade Vienna from war; if I can be sure of your help in using Russian influence to reign in the passions of the Slave states in the Balkans.  Willy

Dear Cousin Willy: Despite Pan-Slavist hotheads in my government, I am of the same mind as you are.  I have instructed my ambassadors to push for Austro-Serbian reconciliation, and to offer Russia’s good offices in this effort.  My prayers are with your efforts with Vienna.  Nicky.

From Konrad Hauftoffel’s Aborted Crisis: European Diplomacy following the Sarajevo Assassination (1962).

…A rare fit of calm and deliberation on the part of Germany’s Wilhelm II, coupled with an uncharacteristically quick response from Tsar Nicholas II, averted conflict.  While the ordered mobilization ended with large armies standing idle, along with concomitant expenditures on the parts of all European governments and resultant socialist coffee house jokes at the expense of chanceries everywhere, the aborted crisis of 1914 gave new confidence to Europe, especially after King George of Great Britain proposed an immediate international conference on securing a lasting peace in the Balkans with the cooperation of the French Government…

München Abendzeitung, July 13, 1962

Adolf Hitler, Noted Wallpaper Designer and Housewares Entrepreneur, Succumbs to Stroke.

Early this morning, Adolf Hitler, retired founder of Hitler and Sons Housewares and Design succumbed to a sudden stroke.  He was seventy-three years of age, and is survived by his wife of forty-three years Hildegard, daughters Pauline Franzenbrenner of Heilbronn and Klara Müller of Köln, and by sons Karl, current head of Hitler and Sons Housewares and Design, Friedrich, Wilhelm, Franz, and Johann, a dentist with a practice in Augsburg; in addition to grandchildren Heinz Franzenbrenner, Karl Franzenbrenner, Margarete Franzenbrenner, Dietrich Müller, Hilde Müller, Friedrich Hitler, Alois Hitler, and Klara Hitler.  Half-brother Alois, Junior predeceased him, as did sister Paula.  The death was announced by Wilhelm Hitler, vice-president in charge of advertising for the family firm.

Born in Braunau am Inn in Austria in 1889, Hitler immigrated to Germany, Hitler received only a gymnasium education before  moving to Vienna to unsuccessfully pursue an education in fine arts and a career as a freelance painter.  Drawn to nationalistic ideology in his youth, he used a small inheritance from his father Alois, a former Austrian customs officer, to immigrate to München at the age of twenty-four, where he spent most of the rest of his life.  Naturalized as a German subject through brief service in the general mobilization of 1914, Hitler was demobilized when the 1914 crisis subsided.

Friends of the family note that Hitler called the end of the 1914 crisis a turning point in his life.  Realizing he was unlikely to succeed as a fine artist, he decided to devote himself to growing a career in  house painting and wallpaper hanging.  A diligent worker with a charismatic personality, Hitler attracted a growing clientele and the loyalty of a small cadre of coworkers.   After contracting to work on the home of Max Frankenberger, the noted art collector, Hitler once explained some of his own ideas about wallpaper design to his patron.  Intrigued, Frankenberger  put Hitler in touch with various sources of finance and materials, launching Hitler on his career as a wallpaper designer.  By the age of thirty-three, Hitler found his growing business required a large manufacturing plant, and with the help of several backers, purchased a defunct munitions factory, which he had re-configured to manufacture his wallpapers.   It was close to this time that he met Hildegard Kurz, daughter of a pharmacist, whom he married in 1924 at the Marienkirche in München.  Through his father-in-law Anton Kurz, Hitler met the financier Jesaia Kahn, who encouraged Hitler to pursue his ideas about new designs for housewares and provided seed capital for this venture.   Kahn was also able to introduce Hitler to a New York-based cousin, who added an international dimension to his growing business empire.

Youngest son Johann Hitler notes that his father, initially attracted to German nationalism in his youth and steeped in conventional anti-Semitic attitudes, came to pan-Europeanist views with the growing international caution and era of easing tensions following British King George V’s call for further discussions about preserving European peace.  “Father used to joke about how he once couldn’t get away from the cosmopolitan Austro-Hungarian-Bohemian state quickly enough and thought himself too good for what he once called the ‘Jewish stink’ of Vienna; but he notes that the help he received from Frankenberger, Kahn, and Kahn’s American cousin ended up making him a wealthy man.  Deals with department stores everywhere from Baghdad and Moscow to Kansas City, Missouri convinced Father that we live in one world.  He grew very sentimental when he took the family on a vacation to his native Austria, even in the neighborhood where he had experienced poverty and rejection as a young man, and by the time I met my dear wife Babette, who is Jewish, his admitted youthful anti-Semitism had largely dissipated.  He grew very enthusiastic when he heard of the arrangement Emperor Karl of Austria made with the Slavic and Rumanian minorities and Austria-Hungary’s evolution from Dual to Plural Monarchy.  His association with the Pan-European Party began about that time, and he even briefly considered running for office on its ticket, before business concerns brought him back down to earth.  However, he came to firmly believe, “Today, Mitteleuropa; tomorrow, the World”.  The high point of his life was when he heard that at the 1957 Lemburg Meeting of Kaiser Wilhelm IV, Emperor Otto of the Plural Monarchy, and Tsar Alexis of Russia, a Hitler tablecloth covered the dinner table.  He observed that when young, he thought a European war might bring him to a grand destiny, but that it was a general peace that made it possible for the Hitler name to be known and appreciated all over Europe and the world.”

Son Wilhelm also noted that while officially retired from his business, Hitler continued to contribute ideas for wallpaper and housewares design until shortly before his death.  He noted that his father was never happier than when he had a drawing pen or pencil in hand and a sheet of paper in front of him.

In addition to provisions for family members in Hitler’s will, bequests were made to various Catholic and Protestant charities in München, the Frankenberger Museum of Realist Art, the Pan-European Party, and the Tsar Alexis Research Center for Hemophilia and other Genetic Disorders in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The wake and funeral services are scheduled to be held at the Heiligegeistkirche in Münichen, where the Hitler family attended. 

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