Hitler's mentally ill relative was sent to gas chamber

The Holocaust unleashed by Adolf Hilter even touched his own family, it emerged yesterday, as evidence was uncovered that one of the Nazi leader's relatives was murdered by the German state.

The Holocaust unleashed by Adolf Hilter even touched his own family, it emerged yesterday, as evidence was uncovered that one of the Nazi leader's relatives was murdered by the German state.

The woman, identified only as Aloisia V, was the great-grandchild of the sister of Hitler's paternal grandmother. She became one of thousands of mentally ill people exterminated as part of a systematic campaign to eliminate or sterilise those deemed socially undesirable. Aged 49 at her death, Aloisia, who is thought to have suffered from schizophrenia, was gassed to death at Hartheim Castle near the northern Austrian city of Linz on 6 December 1940.

Hartheim Castle was a training ground for the SS killers who later murdered people in their tens of thousands at the extermination camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Doctors killed thousands with lethal injections and in primitive coal-gas chambers after Hitler decreed the mentally disabled to be "useless mouths" and "unworthy of life".

Timothy Ryback, an American historian who heads the Obersalzberg Institute in Berchtesgaden, Germany, said the details surrounding the woman's death surfaced last week. They were obtained by a fellow researcher, Florian Beierl, who was allowed access to medical files at a Vienna medical institution where the victim was treated.

An ink stamp on the file serves as "proof of extermination", Mr Ryback said, adding: "It's painful to see what this woman went through. It highlights the cruelty and brutality of that system to an excruciating degree." The American historian also told Focus magazine: "Hitler's secrecy about his family was legendary. After 60 years we know why he really had something to hide".

In fact the susceptibility of Hitler's extended family to mental illness was known within the higher reaches of the Nazi party. A 1944 secret Gestapo report described Aloisia's line of the family as "idiotic progeny". Medical files on Aloisia say she suffered from schizophrenia, depression, delusions and a range of other mental problems. She is said to have told doctors that she was afraid of ghosts and slept with a skull in her bed.

Aloisia, whose treatment included confinement in a caged bed, is also said to have written a letter in which she spoke of being poisoned as liberation from her torture. But researchers have so far been unable to discover whether Hitler was aware of his relative's condition or of her ultimate fate.

Aloisia was the great-grandchild of the sister of Hitler's paternal grandmother and a part of the Schicklgruber side of the family. Her family was close to Hitler's family, and Hitler's father helped her father get a job as a civil servant in Vienna.

Mr Ryback and Mr Beierl now plan to examine cases of mental illness in Hitler's family in greater detail.

Wolfgang Eisenmenger, a forensic medicine specialist involved in the research, said: "An expert on hereditary psychological illnesses could perhaps draw some conclusions from the results of the reconstructed family tree.

"Given the basis of the Nazi ideology and Hitler's own world view, the very notion that congenital insanity exists in a paternal line in Hitler's family itself is interesting, to say the least," he said.

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