Hitler's Jewish landlord
A modest, scantily furnished 90 square feet room – that's how Adolf Hitler's dwelling looked during his first years in Munich. He lived on the first floor of Thierschstrasse 41, sharing the flat with a Bavarian family. Their landlord lived a floor above – a Jewish textile merchant named Hugo Erlanger.
Historian Paul Hoser has extensively researched Hitler's time in the four-story building and Erlanger's fate after the war. His curiosity was piqued after reviewing the 1929 census of Munich's residents, when he noticed that the man listed as the property owner at Hitler's address had a typical German-Jewish last name.
Hitler moved to this humble abode on 31 March 1920 after demobilization. The room was furnished with only a bed, a desk, a makeshift bookshelf, a single chair and a small carpet covering the worn linoleum floor. The apartment also lacked a bathroom, forcing Hitler to frequent the public bath, Müllersches Volksbad.
For nine years he resided at this address, but while this fact was known and even commemorated in 1936 with a plaque on the building's facade, Nazi authorities attempted to conceal the Jewish identity of the property owner.
However, Erlanger – who bought the house in 1921 and had his store on the ground floor – avoided speaking ill of his former tenant. “Since I'm a Jew, I concerned myself as little as possible with the activities of my lodger,” he told a Hitler-friendly biographer named Heinz A. Heinz in 1934.
“I must admit that I found Hitler quite sympathetic. I often encountered him on the stairway and at the door – he was usually scribbling something in a notebook – and we normally exchanged pleasantries. He never gave me the feeling that he views me differently than other people.”
“I found it fascinating that Hitler had no objections living in the house of a Jew,” Hoser told i24news. “It's very different from the impression one generally has of Hitler.”
The historian researched and found other examples of personal contacs Hitler had with Jews before and after assuming power. One of them was a doctor who treated Hitler's mother for cancer. She died in 1907 but the son remained thankful. After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938, the Fuhrer offered the doctor the opportunity to become an “honorary Aryan.” He refused, but in 1940 Hitler allowed him to immigrate to the US.
In his findings, due to be published Wednesday, Hoser describes another encounter Hitler had with the Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger at a cafe in 1922, in which the Fuhrer treated the latter with great respect.
“All the information I found points to the fact that Hitler had only an abstract idea of who were the Jews,” noted Hoser. “They were not concrete persons to him, more like specters.”
After being released from Landsberg prison, Hitler returned to the apartment on Thierschstrasse, keeping his old room and renting another, a bigger one, as his office.
There he met with supporters like Philipp Bouhler, who was later appointed by Hitler to run the euthanasia program killing the sick and disabled; and Wilhelm Frick, who went on to become Hitler's Minister of the Interior. Also women infatuated with the Nazi leader frequented the apartment, says Hoser.
By then, Hitler could already afford “a car with a chauffeur or a house in the mountains,” thanks to wealthy benefactors and the sales of his book 'Mein Kampf', added the historian, yet he preferred to stay in the city to keep better tabs on his niece, Geli Raubel, who had moved to Munich.
Eventually, on 5 October 1929, Hitler and Raubel moved to a luxury nine room apartment at Prinzregentenplatz 16, where he stayed until becoming Reichskanzler in 1934.
Meanwhile, 48-year-old Erlanger's financial situation worsened and he was unable to continue paying the mortgage on his building. Although initially showing him some leniency, in 1933 the Nazi authorities seized the property and put it up for auction, to mask the fact that the Fuhrer had lived for so long under the roof of a Jew.
Erlanger was arrested in 1938, on the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht), and taken to Dachau concentration camp. He was released a month later due his service record as an officer during WW1, but was prohibited from rebuilding his business. His marriage to a non-Jew was thought to have saved him from being deported to a concentration camp, and instead, he had to do forced labor in Munich.
After the war, his attempts to get his house back were met with strong opposition from the city. Even though his claim was recognized after years of struggle, only in 1953, after finally gathering the money to cover his original debt, was the restitution process completed.
Polina Garaev is the i24news correspondent in Germany
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