He is an elderly man with Einstein hair and a blue cane covered with stars and suns. After shuffling into the booth next to our table at IHOP, he chats in a friendly German accent about pancakes, weather, and Adolf Hitler. We introduce ourselves, and he says his name is Wolfgang. Here is some of our conversation.
Sleepovers at Hitler’s Home
Wolfgang says his father was one of Hitler’s drivers prior to World War 2. Every year Adolf would hold spring and fall picnics for employees and their families. However, babies were not allowed; the invitation extended to those ages four and up.
At one of these picnics Wolfgang discovers a playmate in Kristina. She is one of at least two children fathered by Hitler through different prostitutes and reared in the Hitler household. “No one talks about any of this,” says Wolfgang, but he states he knows the truth because he experienced it.
Wolfgang spends many overnights at Hitler’s home, sleeping with his childhood friend. At age eight Kristina and he declare they will marry each other when they grow up.
Soldier at Age 12
War disrupts those plans. Wolfgang says he is drafted into the army at age 12 and a half. He is placed in charge of four other boys simply because he is the tallest. Toward the end of the Battle of the Bulge his charges are dead, and he finds himself dropping into a foxhole in No Man’s Land. He claims that an American soldier, not much older than himself, is already in the hole.
The two young soldiers eye each other with suspicion and dread as the bombs explode over them. Wolfgang says it seems like two hours but probably is only twenty minutes.
The American soldier suggests, “You crawl out first; I’ll follow.” Wolfgang knows better. “No, you go first.”
Their situation is so crazy they finally break out laughing.
Then they agree to both throw their weapons toward their respective front lines. Wolfgang hangs onto the soldier’s leg until both of them are out together and both run in opposite directions.
Not that day, but eventually Wolfgang becomes a POW. He is fortunate to get a job assisting in a GI kitchen near his village. Unfortunately, he runs away with some food to take to his starving mother and two siblings. He is caught and presumed AWOL.
He says he is lined up against a wall with four soldiers ready to fire upon him.
The officer in charge, however, asks him why he ran away. He explains that he intended to return after giving the food to his family. Mercifully, the officer believes him and returns him to the kitchen.
A week later he is called into the commander’s office where two soldiers stand at attention. Wolfgang says he again fears for his life.
But the commander points to a large basket of food and says, “You will go into the village to your family with these soldiers. When the weekend is over, they will pick you up and bring you to work in the kitchen.” For some time that becomes Wolfgang’s routine.
After the War
After the war, Wolfgang receives a letter from Kristina in Argentina. She wants him to come to her. His parents tell him absolutely not, and he obeys.
As an adult Wolfgang travels the world learning various cooking styles. He tells us about several local jobs he quit, because the employer wanted a cook rather than a chef.
Wolfgang and Prayers
We converse a little about faith, but Wolfgang is absolute in his agnosticism. He reasons one really cannot know what truth is because everyone believes so differently. He is neutral about whether God exists or not. I tell this elderly man I will pray he finds Jesus close to him in the days ahead. Wolfgang says he is fine with that.
It is a remarkable conversation one doesn’t expect while eating bacon and eggs at IHOP. Chef Wolfgang declares he likes to eat his crepes cold, but we are long done with our breakfast. It is time to say Auf Wiedersehen.
Note: I could not document the girl Kristina in a quick online search. Wolfgang says he is writing his story and sending excerpts to his sister in Germany, who puts them on a website.
My cousin Jeannie has a newspaper photograph clipping of my Great Grandmother about to shake hands with Hitler. My Uncle Johnny, a WW2 veteran, couldn’t stand that picture and almost threw it away. Unknown to me he decided to keep it. I am glad my cousin Jeannie recently shared this info with me. The fact remains that Hitler, in his time, could appear as an angel of light to many. (Note: an earlier version of this blog unknowingly stated the clipping was destroyed. A copy of it is below.)