Last week, the Belgian magazine Knack published an article with the explosive title “Hitler was related to Somalis, Berbers and Jews.” The news involved a study conducted by journalist Jean-Paul Mulders and customs official Marc Vermereen, who claim to have taken DNA samples from 39 of Adolf Hitler’s relatives through such seemingly dubious sources as a discarded napkin, used cigarette butts, and envelopes from thirty-year-old letters. Several samples allegedly revealed genetic material peculiar to Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, and African Berbers. The story quotes “a genetics expert” who says that “Hitler would not have been happy” with the test results.
Another article quotes Mulders as saying that the DNA samples he and Vermereen retrieved from Hitler’s purported relatives matched samples from “DNA of Hitler that we keep in a sealed, armoured chest.” If Mulders indeed said that, pardon me ever so much for thinking he’s a wee bit wacky.
The test subject who appears most closely related to Hitler was an Austrian cousin named “Norbert H.,” although it was not specified whether Mr. H. was a first or a fourteenth cousin. But even if he had been a first cousin and was not the direct product of inbreeding, someone not related to Hitler was also involved in creating Norbert’s DNA. I know nearly nothing about genetics, but at least I know that much.
Despite all this, and although the study’s results have not been independently verified, several major news outlets pounced joyously upon the story as if the matter had been settled beyond the shadow of a feather of a whisper of a twinkling of doubt. “New Research Shows That Hitler Had Jewish Roots,” bellowed the TIME magazine headline. One article declared that the Belgian study established an “irrefutable link” between Hitler and his Jewish ancestry.
Regardless of one’s feelings about Adolf Hitler—and it’s safe to assume that nearly everyone outside of the Islamic world feels negatively toward him—it’s difficult to deny that he has an enduring star power unmatched by anyone else from his generation. You could pull a dozen scruffy teenagers out of any graffiti-bombed skatepark in the USA, and it’s likely that very few of them would have an inkling of who Joe DiMaggio, Winston Churchill, or W. C. Fields were, but it’s hard to conceive that you’d find a single young soul who’s unaware of Hitler. . . Read the rest of the article