MY UNCLE ADOLF; the Bizarre Story of Hitler's Unknown Nephew, Brought Up in Liverpool,who Worshipped His Uncle but Ended Up Fighting against Him in the U.S.Navy

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ON A winter's day towards the guttering end of 1937, a broadshouldered, dutiful Englishman with slick, dark hair parted above his left ear arrived at Victoria station in London. His destination was Priory Gardens, a street of terraced houses in Highgate, a suburban village on the north side of the city where his mother lived.

His appearance in the capital was of sufficient interest to be recorded in the Mail, which remarked that 26-year-old Willy, as he liked to be called, had 'a perceptible German accent', looked 'curiously like his uncle' and was 'an ardent Nazi'.

In mannerisms, he also resembled his uncle. He had developed one particular habit of folding his arms expressly for the purpose of encouraging strangers to recognise the similarity.

The man's full name was William Patrick Hitler, the Merseyside-born son of an Irish woman whose maiden name was Bridget Dowling and an Austrian called Alois Hitler, the older halfbrother of the Fuhrer himself, whose signed photograph appeared in pride of place on the drawing room table in that Highgate house.

The story of Hitler's Liverpudlian nephew, and his three surviving sons - thought to be the last of the infamous bloodline - is told in a new play, Little Willy, by Mark Kassen, which is set to transfer from New York to the West End next year and which will bring renewed speculation about the political conscience and moral vacuity of Britain's own Hitler.

It was in 1909, according to her memoirs, that Bridget Dowling met her future husband at the Dublin Horse Show. She was just 17, excitable and looking for adventure.

Her head was immediately turned by the flamboyant foreigner whose jewellery - he wore a diamond and ruby ring on his left little finger and his watch chain was solid gold - and fashionable dress seemed to promise great wealth.

For his part, Alois Hitler, the product of Adolf's father's second marriage (of three), did his best not to disappoint. Despite working as a waiter at Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel, where he had been sent by a London employment agency, he grandly told his new sweetheart that he was a rich hotelier in Ireland as part of a European tour. Before long Bridget was convinced she was in love.

'Everything he said was so new and interesting that even his broken English seemed charming,' she later wrote. To the fury of Bridget's father, who had found out the truth about Alois's background, the pair began to talk of marriage. The Dowlings made their objections known, which simply made the couple more determined.

Bridget and her Austrian lover eloped to England, where they were married in a register office on June 3, 1910.

The newlywed Hitlers settled at 102 Upper Stanhope Street in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, in a house later ironically damaged by one of the last German air raids on the city. Nine months later, on March 12, 1911, Bridget gave birth to her first and only child, William Patrick Hitler.

SCANT details of William's early life have survived. Bridget wrote an elaborate and self-aggrandising memoir claiming that her half-brother-in-law Adolf lived with the family for six months in the winter of 1912.

She boasted that she had introduced the future dictator to astrology, which would become a guiding passion, and suggested he trim the long ends off his handlebar moustache. Historians dispute her assertions and she is said to have later admitted to a relative that the bulk of the story was 'made up'.

What is known is that William's father Alois opened a restaurant and tried to run a hotel and boarding house, before collapsing into bankruptcy and returning to Germany to sell razors in 1914.

Bridget refused to follow him and instead relocated to London, taking their son with her.

And so William was brought up an Englishman, working in an engineering company after school. …