Little Jewish girl who won the heart of ‘Uncle Hitler’
To the seven-year-old Jewish girl with the ribbon in her hair, the beaming man was simply “Uncle Hitler”.
She would knit him socks for the winter and visit his house in the Bavarian Alps for strawberries and cream.
Adolf Hitler’s friendship with Bernile “Rosa” Nienau lasted five years, even after he discovered her maternal grandmother was of Jewish descent. A 1933 photograph of the pair, signed by Hitler, has surfaced at an auction in Maryland, where it is expected to fetch up to $US12,000 ($16,470). Throughout the 1930s, Hitler was in the habit of inviting small children to his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden. Photographs of their visits would often be published as propaganda.
Yet his relationship with Bernile stood out. She was first invited to Hitler’s home in April 1933. They shared a birthday and were pictured together at least seven times, embracing, holding hands or locked in conversation, by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer.
The postcard, dated to June 16, 1933, a month before Germany became a one-party state, appears to have been decorated with pressed edelweiss and a four-leafed clover by the girl. “The shocking thing about this piece is it seems he had a genuine affinity for the young girl,” said Bill Panagopulos, of Alexander Historical Auctions in Chesapeake City.
Hitler found out early on that Bernile’s grandmother, a Catholic teacher, came from a Jewish family and that under Nazi race laws she, too, was Jewish. But he continued to see Bernile, who became known as the “Fuhrer’s child”, until his secretary, Martin Bormann, confronted him with her ancestry. Even then, Hitler was loath to give the girl up, saying that “there are people who have a true talent for spoiling my every joy”.
Bernile and her mother were eventually banned from contacting him in May 1938. She died from spinal polio five years later, aged 17.
Heinrich Hoffmann Hitler with ‘Rosa’