Cover image for Hitler's niece : a novel
Hitler's niece : a novel
Hansen, Ron, 1947-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
310 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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In September 1931, a 23-year-old woman was found dead in the Munich flat owned by Adolf Hitler, an unfinished letter on her desk and his handgun on the floor beside her. She was Geli Raubal, the daughter of Hitler's widowed half-sister, and, as Hitler later melodramatically claimed, the only woman he ever loved.

Although he had known of Geli since her birth, he was aloof from his Austrian family during his first years as head of the struggling Nazi Party. But in 1927, six years before he became chancellor, Hitler invited his half-sister to become housekeeper of his alpine home in Obersalzberg and to bring along her daughter, offering to pay for Geli's medical studies at the university in Munich. Seeing his niece on a daily basis, he soon fell jealously in love, for Geli was, as Hitler's friends later said, "an enchantress," pretty, fun-loving, witty, flirtatious, and able, as no one else was, to put her strange, high-strung uncle at ease.

In a carefully researched historical novel that is haunting, unflinching, shocking, profound, and as compulsively readable as a psychological thriller, Ron Hansen presents Adolf Hitler as he has never before been seen in fiction, but as his intimates must have seen him. And through the eyes of a favorite niece who has been all but lost to history, we see the frightening rise in prestige and political power of a vain, vulgar, sinister man who thrived on hate and cruelty and would stop at nothing to keep the horror of his inner life hidden from the world.

Hitler's Niece is a masterpiece, a luminous, suspenseful, beautifully crafted novel, full of passion, events, and insight, that reinforces Ron Hansen's growing reputation as one of our foremost writers of fiction.

Author Notes

Ron Hansen was born in Omaha Nebraska in 1947.He received a BA degree in English from Creighton University in Nebraska in 1970. He is the author of more than 20 books, stories, and anthologies. He received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for his book Nebraska, a collection of short fiction, in 1989. Some of his other works include Mariette in Ecstasy; the children's book, The Shadowmaker; Desperadoes; the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which won the John Edgar Wideman Award in 1984; and the novel Atticus, a suspenseful murder mystery detailing a father's fierce love for his son. Atticus was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996.

Among the anthologies written by Hansen are The Sun So Hot I Froze To Death, Can I Just Sit Here For A While?, and True Romance. His short stories, with titles ranging from "His Dog" to "Playland," have appeared in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, the Iowa Review, Esquire, and many others.

Besides holding Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Hansen has received a Lyndhurst Foundation Grant and is a fellow of the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. Hansen has also held the position of Gerald Manley Hopkins S.J. Professor of Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University.

In May 2006 he was inducted into the College of Fellows at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. Also in that year The Assasination of Jesse James was adapted for the screen. In 2009 Mariette In Ecstasy was adapted for the stage at Lifetime Theater in Chicago.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rooted in historical fact, Hansen's riveting portrait of the century's most malevolent figure blossoms in the realm of fiction, a true flower of evil. The story begins in 1908. Hitler is 19, and his niece, Geli, has just been born to his half-sister, Angela. A manipulative, hate-filled, lazy, and pretentious bohemian who fails to get into art school, Hitler demands money from his struggling family. The visit ends disastrously, and Hitler and Angela have no contact until, widowed and poor, she tracks him down five years later, Geli at her side. The future fuhrer--a scrawny lice-infested anti-Semitic rabble-rouser with a taste for the occult and the pornographic--enjoys the company of his pretty little niece and, after a triumphant spell in jail launches his political career, summons Angela and Geli to his luxurious new home to work as his servants. Now a vain and ruthless lederhosen-wearing pasha, Hitler accelerates his ascent to power, collecting his menagerie of grotesque henchmen (all chillingly portrayed) and expressing his increasingly perverse adoration for his now beautiful niece. Bright, pragmatic, caustic, and emboldened by her erotic power, Geli seriously misjudges Hitler's capacity for sexual deviance and violence. The exact circumstances of her death are still unclear, but Hansen's imagined version feels right, and as his suspenseful novel reaches its shattering conclusion, the monster Geli called Uncle Alf is poised to unleash his insanity on a world every bit as complacent and vulnerable as his deluded niece. Hansen's insightful, brilliantly interpretative, and frightening novel does more to illuminate the welter of evil that fueled Hitler than a dozen biographies. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Writing about major historical figures is always a risk for a serious novelist; one must imagine thoughts and conversations for which no record exists, and integrate pertinent facts about peripheral people who figure in the story. For the first few chapters of Hansen's (Atticus) ambitious, provocative new novel, this problem seems likely to overwhelm his attempt to plumb the narrative's central question: what really happened to Hitler's 23-year-old niece, Geli Raubal, who was found dead, purportedly a suicide, in her room in Hitler's apartment, in 1931. Hansen has another task here as well: to convey how a mentally unstable, self-pitying failed painter became chancellor of Germany. He introduces the 19-year-old Hitler at the nadir of his fortunes in 1908, the year his niece Geli was born, traces the source of Hitler's monomaniacal mission to "save Germany" to a battlefield experience in WWI and portrays the effects of his spellbinding oratory and instinctive grasp of mass psychology on a shamed and economically devastated populace. Sometimes the sheer mass of information Hansen must provide results in a listless series of mini-bios of people who became Nazi stalwarts, in off-stage action scenes and in the past perfect tense: "the police had hesitated... had fired a salvo... Scheubner-Richter had been killed," a device that dangerously slows narrative momentum. But always the drama swings back to high-spirited, fun-loving, irreverent Geli, and Hitler's sexually deviant need to dominate her. Midway through the novel, the confluence of historical event and personal destiny becomes mesmerizing, as we perceive the torment of a sexually molested, psychologically manipulated woman, isolated and virtually imprisoned by a jealously possessive monster. The finale imagines Geli's death in a completely credible way, and leaves us with fresh insights into Hitler's twisted personality. The reader forgives the occasional longueurs in this textured picture of Hitler's histrionic personality and his insane mission for glory, presaging the genocide to come in the cold-blooded obliteration of one young woman's life. 8-city author tour; simultaneous audio. (Sept.) FYI: Ronald Hayman's Hitler and Geli will be released by Bloomsbury in August. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Starting with Hitler's early life, Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy) undertakes the difficult task of presenting the personality of a young Adolf and his subsequent rise to power. This novel revolves around the inescapable adoration that "Uncle Adi" has for his half-sister's daughter, Angelika "Geli" Raubal. Moving chronologically forward, the author re-creates the turbulent times that allowed such a magnetic yet satanic individual to control the destinies of so many. Hitler's character is revealed through his fictional conversations with Nazi Party officers and with his relatives, friends, and servants. It is a double-edged sword. He is invincible and indestructible, a rising star in the political arena, yet hopelessly and pathetically swooning over his beautiful young niece. The author portrays the psychological, emotional, and physical repartee between them. Paul Hecht reads this depraved plot with German authenticity. At the start, the voice of Geli is one of a young girl admiring a father figureDupbeat and lovingDbut by the end, her voice becomes more wary, defiant, and frightened. Highly recommended for audio collections that include historically based fiction.DKristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1. Linz, 1908p. 1
2. Schleissheimerstrasse 34, 1913p. 14
3. The Corporal and the Schatzkammer, 1919p. 27
4. The Beer Hall Putsch, 1923p. 37
5. The Merry Widow, 1923p. 47
6. Landsberg Fortress, 1924p. 56
7. Munchen, 1925p. 69
8. Haus Wachenfeld, 1927p. 95
9. The Pension Klein, 1927p. 115
10. Hitler's Friends, 1928p. 132
11. Picnic, 1928p. 152
12. Next Door, 1929p. 170
13. Life Studies, 1929p. 186
14. Prinzregentenplatz 16, 1929p. 197
15. Elections, 1930p. 217
16. Das Braune Haus, 1931p. 235
17. Confessions, 1931p. 250
18. September 18, 1931p. 267
19. Afterwardp. 282
Author's Notep. 307