Although he killed himself in 1945, the name Adolf Hitler remains quite possibly the most infamous in the world. And yet until several hours ago, the name William Patrick Hitler was completely unknown to me and I suspect to many others too. But last night on Talk Radio UK’s Mother of All Talk Shows with George Galloway, a listener Tweeted in to ask whether we had heard of a man called William Patrick Hitler from Liverpool.
It turns out that there actually was a man born in Liverpool’s Toxteth Park by the name of William Patrick Hitler. He was the nephew of Adolf through his father Alois Hitler Jr.
Much of William Patrick Hitler’s early life in England was relatively normal but in 1933 when his uncle became the Chancellor of Germany, William Patrick assumed that if he moved to Germany, he could advance his position in life due to his important family connection. As it turns out, Adolf Hitler was not entirely impressed with his nephew who worked at various times as a bank clerk and car salesman in the 3rd Reich. If William Patrick had dreams of geopolitical glory standing alongside his uncle, he was soon to be very disappointed.
Upon arriving back in Britain before the war, William Patrick vented his frustrations by selling stories to Fleet Street about his loathing of his uncle and even once tried to suggest that Adolf Hitler had Jewish relatives. He then moved to the United States were he served with distinction in the US Navy. In a further irony, his birthplace in Liverpool was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the war.
After the war, he legally changed his infamous name to William Stuart-Houston and started a medical laboratory in Long Island. It was around this time that he faded back into total obscurity before eventually dying in 1987.
But apart from having a fascinating life story due to his peculiar lineage, what can the life of the man born as William Patrick Hitler in pre-war Liverpool teach us about today’s society?
Today’s “free” western world is in many ways less tolerant than the one that along with the Soviet Union, fought Adolf Hitler in the 1940s. If one’s name was Ahmad bin Laden after 2001 or even Carlos Maduro in 2019, it is far from certain that countries like the UK and US would be so willing to overlook one’s lineage and judge a man by the content of his own character and actions.
Would the relative of an infamous foreign leader be allowed to serve in the US Navy or live peacefully in Britain without receiving constant harassment from the state in 2019? The answer to such a question becomes all the more murky when one recalls that not so long ago, a man best known as Cat Stevens whose hits include the song Peace Train, was forcibly taken off a US bound plane because he was accused by Israeli authorities of using charitable funds to donate to the Palestinian group Hamas.
Even when this incident was cleared up (mainly owing to his fame as a singer-songwriter), the UK press demonised him as a terrorist supporter. Had Cat Stevens not converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam, it is likely that no one would have accused him of any heinous acts.
Today, social media savages and mainstream media witch hunters use the similar tactics to those of the Nazis themselves when it comes to trying to publicly transform otherwise decent and ordinary people into persona non grata. The concept of guilt by association, guilt by lineage, automatic guilt because of one’s religion, race or gender has become the socio-political clarion call of self-described liberal practitioners of identity politics.
The very concept that one’s merit is based on one’s inherent characteristics rather than the content of one’s actions and likewise, the idea that one should be shunned because of those he or she is allegedly associated with as opposed to what one actually believes in, are straight out of the Nazi playbook.
For several decades after 1945, the western world became ever more accommodating to free speech. Of course there were pitfalls weather McCarthyism or exclusionary racism, but certainly by the 1970s, countries like the US and UK were places where anyone could say just about anything, be anything, be with anyone and not face economic blackmail, social persecution or legal harassment as a consequence of saying or doing something totally peaceful, but something which nevertheless happened to deviate from the political mainstream.
Today, the situation is not so inspiring. In 2019, people are literally referred to the police because of jokes made on social media, people are prohibited from public speaking engagements because of the views of other people that they may have briefly shared a platform with in past years, people are thrown out of political parties because of their condemnation of a foreign power and people are made to feel guilty for being born the way they are by the so-called virtue signalling social justice warriors.
While William Patrick Hitler was an opportunist at one time in his life, he was also an ordinary man who when push came to shove, served dutifully in the US Navy against the forces of his own uncle. After this, William found peace by blending into the rest of American society before rapidly fading completely from public memory.
Today, the western world has forgotten the concepts of forgiveness when ethical and forgetfulness when appropriate. The western world has become intolerant in the name of tolerance and continues to prioritise the feelings of some people in the public square over and above the freedoms of all people in the public square.
William Patrick Hitler lived much of his life with an infamous name but he only ended up changing it because he no longer courted publicity – he did not fear for his life. In today’s west, fear has replaced hope and a creeping fascism cloaked in the guise of liberalism is threatening that which many millions died to preserve during the Second World War.