You might think there wouldn't be any Hitlers in America. But they're everywhere.
There's a Randolph, a Sidney, a Sam and a Dave. Alfred E. Hitler. Pedro Hitler. Shawanda Hitler ... and many others who share a name with the man responsible for killing tens of millions while plunging the world into war.
In fact, there are 50 or so Hitlers living in these 50 states and their history with our country goes back over 200 years. Given that this week marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II
, it seems like an appropriate time (or completely inappropriate) to look at how the Hitler name lives on in America.
Hitlers first came to America in 1730, via packet ships from Great Britain. They fought in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
In at least one American town, people aren't shy about the Hitler surname, they celebrate it. Circleville, Ohio
, about 30 miles south of Columbus, is Hitler Central.
How did Circleville become Hitler central? The family was, according to amateur genealogist Gene Hitler, the second to settle in the town that would become Circleville.
"You could walk across Pickaway County and never get off their property," he notes. "The Hitlers were some of the early flatboaters, taking crops down to New Orleans in flatboats." Circleville has a Huber Hitler Road, Hitler Road 1, Hitler Road 2
, and, at the junction of Hitler Roads 1 and 2, the Hitler Ludwig Cemetery.
"I could stand in the cemetery and walk down the line five generations," he says. "All my aunts and uncles and cousins are buried there. My grandfather. My grandmother's family." Given the history of Hitlers in America, Gene takes pride in his surname. A Name Is Just a Name
For Gene, a retired engineer now living in Salt Lake City, the name has always been just a name, even during WWII. An 11-year-old living in Pocatello, Idaho, when the U.S. entered the war against Japan and Germany, Hitler encountered few problems.
"I never had anyone malicious," he says. "Who would think that some kid, because his name was Hitler, that he would be out there cremating Jews?" Such acceptance wasn't the case for his older brother, Turney. "He was 19 when we entered the war. He had a different perspective than I did. He said people could be a little annoyed when they heard our name."
Did Gene ever consider changing his name? "Of course not. Every once in a while, I get rude remarks, or people asking me why I don't change my name. I just ask them if I can use their name. Once I do that, they back off." WWII -- An Interesting Time to Be a Hitler
Gene went to Germany after WWII as a staff sergeant in the Air Force, serving with the occupation forces in Munich.
It was an interesting time to be a Hitler. One night, he sparked a riot that almost shut down the world-renowned Hofbräuhaus. He was out drinking beer with occupation forces from the four powers. Someone bought a souvenir postcard and had each person sign. Seeing his signature, one of his drinking buddies got upset, thinking Gene Hitler was being a wiseass. The men nearly came to blows.
Then Hitler whipped out his ID card. The soldier grabbed it, showed it to the band leader and the place erupted in pandemonium.
"It was forbidden for them to play any of the nationalistic songs, Nazi songs," recalls Gene. "When the band leader saw my ID card, they started playing "Deutschland Uber Alles." He announced they had Hitler with them.
"The next thing I know people had me up on shoulders, marched me around the room. I remember someone, probably, a Pole or Czech, tried to knife me. I grabbed him and threw him down a landing. He hit the walls, and fell to the ground. I thought that killed him. Finally, the management knew they were in trouble. They came up, hustled their way to the bandstand, and the band started playing the Air Force song and "God Bless America" and our national anthem. It calmed the whole place down. I finally got my ID card back and left. One of the German newspapers published story, and the Hofbräuhaus almost got shut down over it." I'd Like to Speak to Adolf
Peter Hitler (far left), who owns a real estate investment firm in Wisconsin with Chris Hitler (left), doesn't have the same fond memories attached to his last name but, like Gene, he doesn't have many negative ones either.
"I rarely faced any problems," says Peter. "Sometimes, when I give my credit card to someone, they will look at the name and say, 'It must be hard to live with.' But I have never had any serious problems."
Peter has never considered changing his name, nor have any of his relatives. Being a Hitler is not completely without problems, though. "I get phone calls asking for Adolf," he admits. But even that problem is diminishing. "I only get them two or three times a year," he says. "Ten years ago, it was once a month." Why the difference? "Maybe it's just that Hitler has been forgotten by the younger [generation]." Kids prone to prank calls today don't even know what WWII was. Those who do know, he says, don't seem to mind his last name. Mostly.
"Quite honestly, as a real estate broker, many, many of my clients are Jewish," says Peter. "Other than one instance, when a person of the Jewish faith did not want to deal with me, there haven't been any problems." Any Relation?
Gene, Peter and nearly all of the Hitlers now living in America have no direct relation to the little dictator. But in a town called Patchogue, in Long Island, N.Y., there lived a landscaper and his children who actually were Der Fuhrer's blood relatives.
According to a 2006 New York Times story
, William Patrick Hitler -- born in Liverpool in 1911 -- was the son of Alois Hitler Jr., who was Adolf Hitler's half-brother. Alois and Adolf shared the same father. The leader of the Third Reich reportedly called Willy his "loathsome nephew." Willy moved to Patchogue after World War II and raised four sons: Alexander, Louis, Brian and Howard, who died in a 1989 car wreck. The three surviving brothers are the last of Adolf Hitler's relatives.
A 2001 book by David Gardner
"The Last of the Hitlers
" states the bloodline did not die out by accident. The brothers reportedly took an oath to remain childless to end Adolf Hitler's lineage.
But Hitler, the name, will live on in America for many years to come. Andrea Hitler works with rental cars. Dennis Hitler is the head of a VFW in St. Louis. There's a George, a George Jr. and a George III. And yes, there are a bunch of Adolfs.