Thorndike Large Print Basic Series, 1999, 532 pp.
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In this fictional novel, author Ron Hansen tells the story of Adolf Hitler's relationship with his niece Angelika Maria Raubal, or Geli as she was called. Geli was the daughter of Hitler's older half-sister, Angela who was married to Leo Raubal. Geli has been called the only woman that Hitler ever loved, but it was a strange type of love. Hitler was nineteen years older than Geli and had taken her and her mother in with him when his fortunes began to improve following World War I. Hitler's own Mother, Klara P÷lzl, was the niece of Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, and was twenty three years his junior when he married her. Further paralleling Adolf's relationship with Geli, Klara had been a maid in the Hitler home and was four month's pregnant with Adolf when Alois's wife died and he married her.
The first chapter opens with Geli's baptism in June of 1908. The author uses the party following the baptism to show the then nineteen year old Hitler's interactions with his family. Hitler, an unsuccessful artist in Wien (Vienna) had come to Linz for the baptism. Instead of taking responsibility for his life and future and acting to change his life, he views himself as a victim and devotes his energies toward blame and hatred for the non-German nationalities found in cosmopolitan Vienna, the seat of a multi-national empire. He already has a special hatred for Jews and the authorities who, in his view, are what stand between him and success as an artist. We learn that he grew up in a home dominated by an authoritarian father whose relationship with Hitler's mother was more that of father and daughter (and the age difference was such that he could have been her father) rather than husband and wife. His mother doted on young Adolf, giving in to his every whim and unconsciously feeding and developing his sense of victimhood.
Other strange personality characteristics are also revealed. He rudely dismisses as Jewish the food his half-sister has prepared and directs her to prepare him a separate dish without meat. He views women as creatures to be worshiped but doesn't want to defile his body by having sexual relations with them. He is also very embarrassed and uncomfortable with things having to do with the human body such as his half-sister opening her blouse to nurse Geli. He becomes upset when his half-sister and aunt begin to discuss the family history with the monsignor who baptized Geli. Hitler gets angry as they confide to the monsignor that the family name is probably of Czech rather than German origin. They go on and reveal that their father may have been the illegitimate offspring of their grandmother's employer or his son. The grandmother had been a maid in the home of a family named Frankenberger.
Hitler flies into a rage at this and, asks the monsignor why he has failed to ask what kind of name "Frankenberger" is. Hitler answers the monsignor by asking "I wonder, is it Jewish?". Angry with his aunt and half-sister for discussing what he considers "reckless speculation" concerning the background of the family with an outsider, Hitler stomps out of the home, his parting words being "...I shall have nothing further to do with my family."
But Angela does not give up on Adolf and tries to maintain contact of sorts with him. Most of the book takes place during the years 1923 to 1931 as Hitler's fortunes begin to improve and his political career is launched. These post War years were difficult financially for his sister and her family and Hitler brings Angela and Geli to Munich to live with him. Geli benefits economically in that she is cared for and receives an education during an era when the rest of the country was suffering economic privation. But she is also subjected to Hitler's controlling nature and growing sexual interest in her.
We see Hitler's family and supporters, mesmerized by his charm, blindly following him while, to him they are merely tools to advance his personal and political ends. Even the "love" he comes to feel toward Geli is to satisfy his perverted desires and,when finally consummated, turns out to be no more than a crude groping of a younger woman by an older man.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent