Little Known History: The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Be Photographed With Hitler


1936: Gerhard Bartels, age 4, with Hitler.

Gerhard Bartels speaks about being photographed with Hitler, and being used for Nazi propaganda.

With his blue eyes, fair hair and Aryan features Gerhard Bartels was the perfect Nazi poster child. And, because his uncle was a friend of Adolf Hitler, being pictured with the dictator became an annual event for the youngster.

In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War his face appeared on postcards, books and campaigns for the regime.

Eight decades later, Mr Bartels, 83, has spoken for the first time about being used by the Nazi propaganda machine.

He said that in 1936, aged four, his parents told him to put on his best clothes because he was ‘going to meet the Fuhrer’.

‘I was not allowed to play with the other children that day in case I might get my clothes dirty,’ Mr Bartels recalled.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

‘I didn’t like that, I just wanted to be out with the other children.’ Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, captured the images that were used to promote Nazi campaigns for the adoption of Aryan children.

Hitler was a regular visitor to Weiss’s Bavarian hotel, which was next to the Alpenhof guesthouse owned by Mr Bartels’ parents.

Mr Bartels, who still works in the Alpine hotel, said: ‘Hitler was just a gangster. The Nazis used me for propaganda purposes. I was used to show Hitler loved children.

‘But every dictator did the same, from Mussolini to Stalin. I was also chosen because I obviously fitted what Hitler thought a good Aryan child should look like.’

Mr Bartels said that he defied instructions to greet Hitler with the customary words ‘Heil Mein Fuhrer’. He added: ‘Even at such a young age, deep down I knew I was being manipulated.’