Here's a peek at an upcoming book by Austrian historian Brigitte Hamann about Eduard Bloch, the Hitler family's Jewish doctor in Linz. Bloch treated Adolf when he caught colds and treated his mother Klara when she fell mortally ill with breast cancer.
Interview by Manuela Hoelterhoff
March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Austria's most famous historian, Brigitte Hamann, lives in the leafy 19th district, a 15-minute drive from Vienna's Heldenplatz where joyous Viennese cheered the arrival of the Fuehrer in the Anschluss of 1938.
Hitler takes center stage in two of her books, ``Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship'' (Oxford) and ``Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth,'' a biography of the composer's Nazi daughter-in-law recently published in the U.S. by Harcourt. Until he got distracted by the war, Hitler loved nothing more than watching ``Gotterdammerung'' in the special Fuehrer box at Bayreuth with his friend Winnie by his side.
Hamann, a humorous, charismatic blonde, is not done with the brown-shirted butcher. Her new project is an account of the Hitler family's Jewish doctor in Linz, Eduard Bloch, who treated Adolf when he caught colds and his mother Klara when she fell mortally ill with breast cancer.
A diary given to Hamann by Bloch's descendants provided the impetus for ``Hitler's Edeljude'' -- the title refers to those (rare) ``noble'' Jews who enjoyed the dubious protection of the Nazi elite.
Hoelterhoff: Norman Mailer, who just wrote a novel about Hitler's childhood, thinks his monstrousness reveals the devil at work.
Hamann: He's a novelist. He can write what he wants. But in fact, Hitler was quite a nice child and attentive to his mother.
Hoelterhoff: What was his relationship with this doctor?
Hamann: It has been said that Hitler's hatred for Jews started during his childhood because Bloch couldn't save his mother and that he charged too much for his visits.
That's not true. Hitler was very attached to the old man and respected him. He even thanked him with two of his own painted postcards, which Bloch kept to document Hitler's esteem.
Hoelterhoff: Did Hitler ever see his doctor when he became chancellor?
Hamann: No. After all, he couldn't invite him over. But when Hitler made his triumphal entrance into Linz and spoke in the huge square, Bloch watched him from his windows. He always said that he felt that Hitler looked up at him. We know that Bloch was protected by the Gestapo on Hitler's orders, was able to keep his apartment, to get coupons for clothing and other things -- the only Jew in Austria to do so. And, especially, he was able to stay in Linz as long as he wanted.
New York Refugee
Hoelterhoff: Did he survive?
Hamann: Yes. In 1941, Dr. Bloch and his wife arrived in New York where he died in April 1945. His wife survived him, lived to the age of 90 and learned English by reading the New York Times. She became an enthusiastic American.
Hoelterhoff: Did Bloch say anything about how his patient turned out?
Hamann: He could not understand it, remembering a modest, polite boy and with such a good mother.
Hoelterhoff: Your book on Winifred and Bayreuth documents Hitler's obsession with the festival and Wagner's operas. I'm wondering, since Hitler was known to be the most boring conversationalist, was he more interesting when talking about swans and divas?
Hamann: No, he stayed boring. Evenings after the opera were a trial for everyone. Imagine, he always slept until 12; at four the opera started, and afterwards, he would be completely invigorated, while Winifred and the others were struggling to stay awake at the Villa Wahnfried by the fireplace. He'd keep talking until four in the morning, drinking his apple juice. It was torture!
Hoelterhoff: Winifred was one of the few people Hitler addressed with the familiar ``Du.'' Yet their friendship petered out as the war got going. What happened?
Hamann: She was always at the typewriter, always writing letters. She wanted to save people. I think he got tired of her. But that's the interesting aspect to her faceted character: on the one hand she was an anti-Semite. On the other she saved many Jews.
Hoelterhoff: A startling revelation in your book concerns her son Wieland Wagner, the renowned modernizing stage director of the festival after the war. Turns out he ran a small concentration camp in Bayreuth, which was devoted to the development of the so- called ``Wunderwaffe'' -- a long-range rocket.
Wieland's Camp Work
Hamann: Wieland didn't want to go to war and he was protected with this job at the Bayreuth camp. It wasn't a regular job; he went there for a few hours every week to work on lighting concepts with the inmates who were electricians. Lighting became the essence of Wieland's work as stage director.
Hoelterhoff: So he honed his style in a camp. Why was this kept a secret? People in Bayreuth must have known; and his mother did. She never said anything in her many interviews even though she wasn't on best terms with Wieland.
Hamann: The people in Bayreuth were happy to have the festival back. The town survives on the summer festival. Everyone in Bayreuth knew that Wieland was a high-ranking Nazi. But no one was going to sacrifice him. And Winifred, while she may have hated him at times, loved her son. She would never have said anything to hurt him. Her goal in life had always been to run the festival until Wieland was old enough.
Hoelterhoff: For his 50th birthday, Hitler received several rare scores of Wagner operas as a present from industrialists. What happened to them?
Hamann: He must have kept them close by. I doubt they were stolen, and they haven't been found. I believe he burned them. He knew he would die. He wanted a tabula rasa. The German people were not worthy of such a gift.
Hoelterhoff: There's no chance they survived?
Hamann: I simply can't imagine that he would have bequeathed the most cherished of his possessions to the German people whom he hated at the time of his death. He would not have wanted them or the Americans or Russians to have the scores. These were his holy relics.
(Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor of Bloomberg's arts and leisure section, Muse. All opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this interview: Manuela Hoelterhoff at.
See also Wiki:
Was Klara Hitler's doctor really a Jew?
It is believed that Hitler's Mother's doctor was actually a Jew and treated her so well during her dying days Hitler granted them exception to anti- Jewish laws and didnt send them to concentration or work camps. In fact, Dr. Eduard Bloch was allowed to leave Germany and settled in Canada where he was interviewed by the Office of Strategic Services on 5 March 1943 in an attempt to create a psychological profile.
Ripping the Veil Wide Open