In 1939, a young German man fled from Britain to New York and within a year tried to join the ranks of the United States. He was denied, but not because he was German. It was because the young man wasn’t just any German—he was Adolf Hitler’s nephew, and his name was William.
William Patrick Hitler lived in Britain with his parents, his father being Adolf’s half-brother. The family was never wealthy, and his father, Alois, eventually abandoned him and his mother. As the famous uncle rose to power, it became difficult for William to succeed in Britain. Once people learned of his name, they didn’t want much to do with him. So William went to Germany for help from his uncle.
It was easier for William to find a job in Germany, but they were never very good ones. Adolf didn’t reach out to help his nephew much. He said, “I didn’t become Chancellor for the benefit of my family…No one is going to climb on my back.” Despite not getting special treatment from his uncle, William seemed to get it from everyone else and was often invited to parties and dinners. But he wasn’t satisfied living for only lavish social gatherings.
William moved back to Britain and offered to do interviews on the subject of his uncle. Adolf didn’t take kindly to that and offered William a job in the regime if he renounced his British citizenship. William didn’t want to be involved, and instead threatened to reveal Adolf’s Jewish ancestry (a pretty strong rumor that had recently been circling). That certainly didn’t go over well, and William fled to the United States, where he gave lectures about his uncle.
But shortly afterward he wrote a letter to the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, requesting a position in the armed forces (since he was already rejected).
“More than anything else I would like to see active combat as soon as possible and thereby be accepted by my friends and comrades as one of them in this great struggle for liberty.”
William was investigated and then cleared for service in the US Navy in 1944. After the war, however, William disappeared. He moved to Long Island, changed his last name to Stuart-Houston, and had four sons with his wife, Phyllis Jean-Jacques, who was also German. They were married in 1947 soon after William was discharged.
William and his family lived the rest of their lives in privacy, keeping to themselves but always friendly. William died in 1987 and his wife in 2004. Three of his four sons are still living.