I come not to speak of the man, of the child, of the young adult, of the icon. I come to speak of the name itself.

'Hitler' does not require qualification. The politician and warmonger's first name is redundant. Whilst other political figures throughout history have had distinctive names, few have been so unique, fewer still have had such an impact as to ensure their continued uniqueness. Lincoln is a city in England, a colour, a brand of automobile; Churchill is an insurance firm, a type of tank. A descendent of Mussolini is extant in the Italian political arena. Only the name of Stalin has approached the magnificent isolation of Hitler, yet Stalin itself is a corruption of the Russian word for steel. 'Hitler' means nothing at all in any language. The things it once inspired have been renamed. Only two children born with the name Hitler survived to adulthood, and there will be no more.

Adolf Hitler's grandfather was a man called Johann Hiedler, who married a lady called Maria Schickelgruber in 1842. Whilst unmarried they had produced a son, Alois, who had taken his mother's surname, thus becoming Alois Schickelgruber, son of Johann and Maria Hielder. In 1876 Johann and Maria attended a legitimisation ceremony with the local parish priest, one of the witnesses being a relative called Johann Hüttler. No-one now knows why Johann Hiedler chose thereafter to use the name Hitler; one theory goes that the presence of two Johanns with similar surnames may have confused the priest, and that the name stuck. None of the family were literate and it is likely that, if there had been a mistake, they did not find out for some time. Alois Schickelgruber thus became Alois Hitler.

In 1882 Alois Hitler, taking after his father, had an illegitimate son with a lady called Franziska Matzelsberger. This son was also called Alois, and appears later in the narrative. Alois Snr and Franziska had a daughter called Angela Hitler in 1883, a year before Franziska sadly died of TB. Angela Hitler went on to marry a man called Leo Raubal, taking her husband's name, becoming Angela Raubal.

Alois Hitler Snr remarried in 1885, to Klara Poelzl, who died of breast cancer in 1908, outliving Alois by five years. Klara was the grand-daughter of one of Alois' uncles, something which caused some concern at the time. The two bore six children, four of whom died in infancy; Otto was stillborn, whilst Gustav, Ida and Edmund died of diphtheria and measles. Adolf and his sister Paula survived to adulthood, the former eventually leading Germany to triumph and disaster fuelled by militarism, anti-semitism, and the deification of the state.

Paula Hitler was born in 1896 and led a blameless life, dying in 1960 after spending most of her existence going under the name Paula Wolff, which Adolf had encouraged her to use. She did not marry and produced no children. The other Hitler that springs to mind is Eva Braun, who became Eva Hitler on the day that Adolf and Eva became man and wife, the day before they committed suicide.

There was also the matter of the aforementioned Alois Hitler Jnr, Adolf's half-brother. Alois had moved to England and then Dublin in the first decade of the 1900s, leading a fascinating life which has inspired at least one book. In his late twenties Alois married an eighteen-year old girl called Bridget Dowling, the two moving to New York with their son William Patrick Hitler in the late 1930s. Attempts to cash in on their connection with Adolf had failed in Germany and would fail in the United States. Adolf himself was unimpressed with his half-brother's attempts to win favour in Germany, paying Alois a small sum to stay away.

William Patrick Hitler joined the US Navy in 1944, although details of his service are sketchy. He sired four sons, three of whom survive today. William Patrick himself died in 1987, although by this time he had adopted a new name. His children, the last Hitlers, now apparently live on Long Island, although understandably they keep themselves to themselves. Adolf Hitler officially had no biological children - he had plenty of ideological children, however - and no-one has come forward claiming to be his child. That is that for the name Hitler. A news report circulating in 1998 suggested that there exists an 'Adolf Hittler' - a retired Austrian truck driver - although these reports lacked detail. Although telephone directories and electoral registers occasionally list 'Adolf Hitler' as a name, these are almost certainly rogue sample data or copyright devices.

There are some footnotes. In older times the Lower Danube area of north-eastern Austria was known as 'Hister' (from the Latin 'Ister'). Quatrain 24 of Nostradamus' second 'Century' is one of three such verses to contain the word 'Hister', in the line "Bestes farouches de faim fleuues tranner / plus part du champ encontre hister sera". As one might expect, this is often interpreted as a reference to Hitler, although this is impossible as Nostradamus died in 1566, 310 years before the birth of the Hitler name. Even accounting for the possibility that the date on Nostradamus' tomb and the date on Alois Hitler's legitimisation certificate are off by a few months, there is no way of accounting for the centuries separating the two. Unless Nostradamus could see into the future - particularly difficult in the 1500s, as there were five hundred more years of future than there are now - it is nonsense to suppose that Hister and Hitler are supposed to represent the same thing.

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson's last gasp was the 1991 television series 'Bottom', a brutalist slapstick comedy which revelled in squalor. Edmondson, in real life educated at Manchester University, played a character called Eddie Hitler. Although Eddie claimed in the opening episode to be a descendant of Adolf Hitler, no more was made of this during the show.

There being no natural Hitlers left alive, and given that anyone wishing to be called Hitler must change his or her name by deed-poll, the surname Hitler is not now a valid legal name in many countries. Germany in particular forbids it, or any name likely to cause offence.

Adolf, or Adolph - pronounced in the UK as 'Ad-holf', in America as 'Aid-holf' - is another matter, the name still bestowed today, albeit that it is only slightly more popular than Hitler's famous moustache.

Selected sources
Google was dead handy. This particular page stands out, for revealing that there exists in the world today a Mr Brian Hitler:

I could not confirm the widespread 'fact' that William Patrick Hitler was sworn into the navy by an officer called Hess.

The diversion into 'humour' at the end of the paragraph about Nostradamus is a relic of an earlier, more manic draft of this piece which described WW2 as a 'baroque, romantic invasion of the entire world' and which contained the line 'Hitler's ideological children were no more legitimate as a means of furthering the Hitler bloodline than adoptees, for ideas are thinner than blood and have no incentive to take up arms when the parent has fallen.'

My backpack dropped heavily to the floor, and I turned to an expensive-looking red single-seater sofa. The occupant opened one eye to stare coldly at me.

"Oi!" I nudged him with the back of my hand, and he stretched but remained in position. I cast a quick glance to one of the other sofas, where a ball of dark-grey fur of various shades slowly expanded and contracted in one corner. "[Leonard] doesn't need an entire chair, and neither do you. Move."

A small white face, bearing a pair of lime green diamond-shaped eyes, tipped with soft pink nose and tiny black moustache just below it glared back at me as I proceeded to sit down anyway. The animal rolled to the side, appearing on the arm of the chair a moment later. I opened the package in my other hand, and began disassembling its contents. The cat dropped from the arm of the chair, and crouched a few feet from my feet. He sat there, silently, eyes fixed on me for a while, then observingly swept his eyes over the rest of the room. I shrugged, and ignored him for the time being to concentrate on the item I was working on in my lap.

An hour or so later, our positions were reversed, me sitting on the floor where there was more space, and the cat sitting on the chair behind me. I pushed aside a handful of pieces of electronics, yawned and stretched. My head jerked forward, and eyes flashed open as my hand came in contact with the side of the again attempting to sleep cat. "Oh, sorry."

The cat rolled over, showing his belly, and reached out his front paws for my hand. Playfully? I wasn't sure, this was the most uncommunicative cat I'd ever met. His face was expressionless, eyes penetrating and relentless. "Why so serious?" There was of course no response. "You don't talk much, do you?" I looked behind and beside me to where a lady sat with an Eee on one knee and her other cat, Leonard, on the other. She absent-mindedly stroked the back of his head, her eyes fixed on the computer screen, and he purred softly, a happy purr like the sound of idling large diesel machinery. Not a sound came from the fuzzy mass of black and white stretched beside me.

His name is Hitler, I wonder why.

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