Eduard Bloch: Hitler’s family doctor and perhaps the only Jew the German dictator held in high regard
For many decades, historians have pondered how and why Adolf Hitler, the German dictator responsible for the deaths of many millions of Jews during World War II, adored Eduard Bloch, an Austrian Jew. The German Führer even called Bloch a “Noble Jew”.
What was the relationship between the Austrian physician and Hitler? And how did one of history’s most ruthless antisemite come to adore the Jewish doctor?
Below World History Edu explores the life of Eduard Bloch, the Austrian Jew who was held in high regard by Adolf Hitler.
Read More: How did Adolf Hitler die?
Who was Eduard Bloch?
Eduard Bloch was born in Austria-Hungary (present-day Czech Republic) and later studied medicine.
In his medical practice, Bloch served as a general practitioner in Linz, Austria, where he provided medical care to the local community, including Adolf Hitler and his family.
The Austrian doctor was known for his professionalism and dedication to his patients, especially those from the lower class. One such families was the Hitlers. Bloch treated Hitler’s mother, Klara Hitler, for breast cancer. Despite conducting an operation on Klara, Bloch could not stop the cancer from spreading to other places. A lot of painkillers were given to Klara to ease her pain, as Adolf remained by her side.
In the end, Klara lost the battle and passed away on December 21, 1907. Bloch would later remark that he had never seen anyone as sad as Hitler was when Klara died.
Bloch’s relationship with the Hitler family lasted for several years, and he became acquainted with Adolf Hitler during this time. Hitler held Bloch in high regard and reportedly referred to him as “Noble Jew Bloch” or “Our good Bloch.”
However, as the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany and espoused anti-Semitic ideology, Bloch faced increasing persecution and discrimination.
In 1938, following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany (Anschluss), Bloch and his family and friends had to grapple with the escalating anti-Jewish policies. That same year, many Austrian Jews fled the country, including Bloch’s daughter Gertrude (“Trude”) and son-in-law, Franz Kren (1893-1976), who was Bloch’s assistant.
As things got increasingly bleak for Austrian Jews, Bloch penned a letter to Hitler, asking for some kind of aid. The German dictator, who had a great admiration of the Austrian doctor, personally intervened and ordered the Gestapo (i.e. the secret police of Nazi Germany) to offer special protection to Bloch and his wife.
The Blochs were the only Jews that received that special status as thousands of Jews were marched to their deaths in concentration camps. They were even allowed to keep their passports and sometimes take into their home some displaced Austrian Jews.
Still under the special protection of Hitler, the Blochs made preparations to immigrate to the United States. They were allowed to sell their assets in Austria at a fair value and emigrate overseas.
Bloch and his wife arrived in the U.S., settling in the Bronx, New York City. Sadly, Bloch could not practice medicine as his medical qualification from Austria-Hungary was not recognized in the U.S.
On June 1, 1945, Bloch lost his battle to stomach cancer. He died at age 73. The Austrian doctor was buried in Beth David Cemetery in New York.
Did you know…?
Hitler’s unusual kind gesture to Eduard Bloch was the reason why the Blochs could leave Austria with an amount of 16 Reichsmark. At the time, hardly any Austrian Jew was afforded such special privilege. The highest amount a Jew at the time could leave with was in the region of 10 Reichsmark. This point goes to show the complexities of the human relationships and the devastating impact of Nazi persecution during the Holocaust.
Obviously, there was a strong bond that developed between Bloch and young Adolf Hitler. This point is evident in one of the paragraphs of Bloch’s memoirs, in which the Austrian physician described the young Adolf Hitler as a “quiet, well mannered and neatly dressed” boy. According to Bloch, other than the fact that the young boy was very respectful, he could not say for certain what lied behind those “large, melancholic and thoughtful” eyes of the young Adolf.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dr. Eduard Bloch
Where was Bloch born?
The Austrian doctor was born in Frauenberg in what is today’s Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic. After receiving his medical training in Prague, he served in as a medical officer in the Austrian army.
How did Eduard Bloch become the family doctor of the Hitler family?
From 1889 to 1901, Bloch was stationed in Linz. After he was discharged from the army, he proceeded to set up his private practice in the Austrian city. He and his family – his wife, Emilie (née Kafka), and their daughter Trude – came to be loved members of the community. Bloch’s medical practice specifically targeted people in the lower class. He was described as a very kind physician who even took calls from many families, even very late at night as well as “the coldest of nights”. The Hitler family were one such example.
On many occasions, Bloch provided treatment to the young Adolf Hitler, including helping with ailments like tonsilitis and cold.
However, it was Hitler’s mother, Klara Hitler, who received the greatest number of visits from Bloch. Klara was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1907. Bloch did everything in his power to alleviate Klara’s suffering, including using iodoform, which at the time was the standard when it came to treating cancer.
How did Hitler come to be forever indebted to Eduard Bloch?
The Hitlers, like many of Bloch’s patients, could hardly make ends meet. Therefore, Bloch, being the benevolent physician he was, chose not to take fee from the Hitlers.
In any case, despite Bloch’s hard-fought efforts, Klara ultimately succumbed to her cancer on December 21, 1907. Bloch even attended the funeral to offer his condolence to the Hitlers.
The young Adolf Hitler was completely devastated by the death of his mother. Regardless, he still found the time to express his utmost gratitude to Bloch for all the medical services he offered to him and his mother. Hitler sent Bloch a postcard and a number of gifts, including a large wall painting.
Why did Hitler call Bloch Edeljude?
The word “Edeljude” means “Noble Jew” in German. Owing to the kindness Hitler received from Bloch, it is said that the blood thirsty dictator continued to check up on his former family doctor. Hitler simply never forgot; and in 1937, Hitler, who at the time was in full control of Germany, asked his aides to check on Bloch, describing the Austrian physician as a “noble Jew”. The dictator went further to remark that “If all Jew were like him, there would be no Jewish question”.
Despite having a lot of reservations about Hitler’s political philosophy, Bloch was indeed touched by the kind gesture shown him and his family by Hitler. No doubt that the close bond between Hitler and Bloch was the reason why Bloch and his family managed to be spared the gruesome fate suffered by many Austrian Jews at the time.
How did Eduard Bloch describe the relationship between Adolf Hitler and his mother?
“While Hitler was not a mother’s boy in the usual sense, I never witnessed a closer attachment.” Those were the words Bloch used to describe the strong bond he witnessed between Hitler and his mother, Klara Hitler. Bloch also remarked on the immense support Hitler received from his mother with regards to the young Hitler’s artistic ambitions. As the family doctor of the Hitlers, Bloch noticed that Hitler’s father, Alois Hitler, was a very rough and mostly unkind person, especially to Klara and her children.
Just how precarious was the situation of Bloch and the thousands of Jews that lived in Austria when the Nazis annexed the country?
To put into perspective just how frightening it was for an Austrian Jew when Hitler annexed the country, one needs to take into account certain figures. It was estimated that the number of Jews in Austria before the Annexation of Austria (i.e. The Anschluss) was in the region of 195,000. Less than five years later, that number had shrunk to under 6,000. Only a few thousands Jews managed to escape Hitler’s reign of terror, leaving everything behind. The not so lucky ones – tens of thousands of them – were marched to concentration camps.
Bloch knew that if he and his family were to survive, he would have to call in on a favor from his former patient. There is no doubt that had Bloch not sent that letter to Hitler, he and his family would have ended up in one of Hitler’s death camps.
Did Adolf Hitler’s mother’s death have anything to do with his hate for the Jews?
Bloch made it absolutely clear to Adolf Hitler that his mother’s tumor had to be operated on. And as hard as Bloch tried during the operation, he simply could not cure Klara Hitler. The cancer had spread to other parts of her body. At that point, it was inevitable that Klara would succumb to the cancer. All Bloch could do was to provide temporary relief to her using morphine.
Subconsciously, Adolf Hitler most likely saw his so-called Jewish Question as a Jewish cancer that had to be eliminated.
Did Eduard Bloch have any role in contributing to Adolf Hitler’s deranged anti-Semitic views?
It remains very unclear as to what impact Bloch had on the young Adolf Hitler as well Hitler’s future path. One thing we know for sure is that the Hitlers’ financial woes even got worse after the death of Alois Hitler (1837-1903), who despite being “awfully rough” with Klara and her children, managed to provide for them. The Hitlers’ financial situation was so dire that Bloch refused charging any fee for the medical services he provided them.
The general view on the source of Adolf Hitler’s strong antisemitism is that they began to form likely after the death of his mother in 1907.
What did Bloch say about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi reign terror?
It must be a very disconcerting situation for Bloch as he watched in reasonable safety a former patient of his lead the Nazi reign of terror, which, according to very conservative estimates, claimed the lives of over six million Jews.
The Austrian physician stated that it was his fervent hope the German dictator could “at least see something good” in the Jewish race.
What happened to the postcard and wall painting Hitler sent to Bloch?
It was revealed by Bloch’s daughter, Gertrude Kren (1903-1992), that the postcard and painting her father received from Hitler got lost in the course of time.
Why did the CIA interview Eduard Bloch?
Knowing how much of a soft spot Adolf Hitler had for his former family doctor, the US Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor intelligence gathering organization of the Central Intelligence Agency) made contact with Eduard Bloch.
The objective of the US agents was to acquire valuable information that would aid them in better understanding the bloodthirsty dictator as well as device plans to outwit the Nazi leader during World War II.