Lit­tle Jewish girl who won the heart of ‘Un­cle Hitler’

The Australian - - WORLD - OLIVER MOODY LON­DON

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’

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