Maryland auction house Alexander Historical Auctions on Wednesday sold for $11,520 a photo showing Nazi madman Adolf Hitler with his arm embracing a young, blonde girl named Bernile Nienau whose grandmother was Jewish.
The photograph shows Hitler and Nienau, then about five or six, at the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. The two were celebrating their common birthday – April 20th.
The photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, took a number of photos that day showing Hitler with the young girl, and they became favorites of Hitler, Hoffmann, and the German public. The signed photograph auctioned yesterday has been further embellished with the addition of nine edelweiss flowers and a four-leaf clover which were applied to the photo by little Bernile.
Rosa Bernile Nienau (1926–1943), called both “Bernile” and “Rosa” by Hitler, became known as “the Führer’s child” or “sweetheart” because of her close contact with the mass murderer. Soon after their introduction, it was discovered that the girl was one-quarter Jewish, but Hitler refused to sever his relationship with her until years later.
Bernile’s father, Bernhard Nienau (1887-1926), a physician, died shortly before she was born. Her mother Karoline (1892-1962) was a nurse and moved to Munich around 1928 along with her mother, Ida Voit, who widowed or divorced Helwig, b. Morgenstern (1867-1942) – making Bernile one-quarter Jewish, or completely Jewish under Nazi Germany’s racial laws.
In the spring of 1933, Bernile joined a group of visitors celebrating Hitler’s birthday at the Obersalzberg and was chosen to have a personal visit with the Führer, most likely because they had the same birthday. She quickly developed a close and warm friendship with her “Uncle Hitler” which lasted until 1938.
The Bundesarchive has 17 letters from Bernile to Uncle Hitler and his aide Wilhelm Bruckner between 1935 and 1938. Hitler became aware of her Jewish heritage but chose to ignore it. But when Reichminister Martin Bormann discovered her racial origin, he banned her and her mother from the Berghof.
In his book “Hitler, As I Saw Him,” Hoffmann writes that Hitler overruled Bormann, and complained: “Some people have a real talent for spoiling my every joy.” But by May, 1938, mother and daughter were told not to seek further contact with Hitler.
Bernile, who became a technical draftsperson, died on October 5, 1943 at the age of 17 of spinal polio.