Six Degrees of Adolph Hitler


Do you ever go Wikepedia surfing?  I do.  You start with one topic and the hyperlinks lead to another and another and another.  Soon, you are reading something completely different than what you initially intended.

For some reason today, I came upon the strange story of  Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl.

Ernst, nicknamed "Putzi",  came from a wealthy and renowned German-American family.   He attended Harvard and graduated in 1909.  He then took over the New York branch of his family’s business.  Hanging out at the Harvard Club, he met young Franklin Roosevelt.  Through Franklin, he met Theodore Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst and Charlie Chaplin.

Returning to Germany in 1922, Putzi was living back in his native Bavaria when he first heard Hitler speak in a Munich beer hall. A fellow member of the Harvard Hasty Pudding club who had become a U.S. Embassy official asked Hanfstaengl to assist a military attache sent to observe the political scene in Munich. Just before returning to Berlin the attache, Capt. Truman Smith, suggested that Hanfstaengl go to a Nazi rally for him and report on his impressions of Hitler. Hanfstaengl was so impressed with Hitler that he soon became one of his most intimate followers, although he did not formally join the Nazi party until 1931. "What Hitler was able to do to a crowd in 2½ hours will never be repeated in 10,000 years," Hanfstaengl said. "Because of his miraculous throat construction, he was able to create a rhapsody of hysteria In time, he became the living unknown soldier of Germany."

Soon, Putzi became one of Hitler’s best pals.  He hid Hitler in his attic, just like Anne Frank, following the failed 1923 Beer Hall putsch.  According to legend, Putzi’s wife Helene prevented Hitler from killing himself by knocking the gun out of his hands when the cops arrived.  We have Helene to thank for sixty years of speculative ficition and/or counterfactual history.

Hitler enjoyed Putzi’s piano playing and became godfather to his son, Egon.   By 1933, he had one too many run-ins with Josef Goebbels and was kicked off of Hitler’s staff.  He wound up fleeing the country in 1937.  After stops in Switzerland, England and Canada, Putzi wound up in the U.S. as a guest of Uncle Sam and his buddy FDR in 1942.

Putzi spent the war providing Allied intelligence with detailed info about the upper echeleons of the Third Reich.  We call it Strategic Debriefing these days.  Just ask Tariq Aziz

Hitler’s Piano Player died in Germany in 1975.  

He was a related to the actress Kyra Sedgwick, who is of course, married to Kevin Bacon



2 Responses to “Six Degrees of Adolph Hitler”

  1. Gandalf Mantooth Says:

    <i>We have Helene to thank for sixty years of speculative ficition and/or counterfactual history.</i>hehehAll starring Rutger Hauer

  2. John Says:

    He was also related to Edie Sedgwick the Ir Girl of the 60’s.
    I found a family tree with both him and FDR on also.

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