The Hitlers in Liverpool

In January 2019, participants in Stockport Quiz League were asked, "In which English city did Adolf Hitler study art?"

I felt duty bound to investigate this factoid, and it turns out that he almost certainly did no such thing.

Wikipedia's Adolf Hitler page doesn't even mention Liverpool; but the vital person in this story is Bridget Dowling, an Irish woman who married Adolf Hitler's half–brother, Alois. Wikipedia's Bridget Dowling page covers the story in some detail.

Bridget Dowling was born in Dublin in 1891. She and her father, William Dowling, met Alois Hitler at Dublin Horse Show in 1909. Alois had been imprisoned several times for theft in his native Austria, and only that year had moved to Ireland. He was working as a kitchen porter at Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel when he met the Dowlings, but he told them he was a wealthy hotelier touring Europe. Bridget was clearly taken with him; the couple eloped to London, and lived in Charing Cross Road for a while. They eventually settled in Toxteth, Liverpool, at No. 102 Upper Stanhope Street – a boarding house. In 1911 their only child, William Patrick Hitler, was born there.

Alois left Liverpool in 1914 to establish a business in Germany. Bridget refused to go with him, as he had become violent and started beating their son. Alois entered into a bigamous marriage in Germany, but escaped conviction after Bridget intervened. She raised her son alone – setting up a home in Highgate, North London, and taking in lodgers to make ends meet.

In 1939, Bridget joined her son on a tour of the United States where he was invited to lecture on his infamous uncle. They decided to stay, and Bridget wrote a manuscript, My Brother–in–Law Adolf, in which she claimed that her famous brother–in–law had moved to Liverpool to live with Bridget and Alois from November 1912 to April 1913, to dodge conscription in his native Austria. She claimed not only that she introduced Adolf to astrology (Hitler was famously a believer in astrology, and based many important decisions on astrological readings) but that she advised him to trim off the edges of his moustache.

The rumours about Adolf Hitler living in Liverpool originate solely in Bridget's manuscript - which most historians dismiss as a fabrication, written in an attempt to cash in on her famous relation. Wikipedia cites two prominent German historians, according to whom records prove that the future Fuhrer was in Vienna during this period.

As for Hitler having studied art in Liverpool: I could find no source that related this claim to Bridget's manuscript.

After the war Bridget and her son settled in Long Island, New York under the assumed name of Stuart–Houston. She died there on 18 November 1969 and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram, Long Island. Her son died on 14 July 1987 and is buried alongside her.

A search on DuckDuckGo found plenty of web pages that tell the story, in varying levels of detail. Few of them take it seriously.

© Haydn Thompson 2020