Circleville Hitlers not related to the German dictator, whose real name was apparently Hiedler
Photo: AP

The Circleville, Ohio, Hitlers

Residents used to questions about roads named after well-known farming family; according to local lore, a Jewish family was once interested in purchasing a home one one of the roads, but was ultimately turned off by the connotation

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio - When he refers to his street address, Larry Harris always waits for the pause.


"Bitler?" people sometimes respond, thinking they've misunderstood.


No, the name begins with an H.


"Like Adolf," Harris says. "But he doesn't live in our neighborhood."


His wife said she often ends up spelling it out: H-I-T-L-E-R.


Otherwise, they're hardly bothered by their association with the Nazi dictator of World War II. After about 30 years here, the Harrises said they're accustomed to strange looks and questions. Their neighbors are, too.


Long before Adolf came to power in Germany, the Pickaway County Hitlers were well-known farmers in Circleville, where three rural roads are named for them: Hitler No. 1 Road, Hitler No. 2 Road and Huber-Hitler Road.


Neighborhood lore has it that a Jewish family once was interested in a house on one of the roads but ultimately was turned off by the name.


Longtime resident Idabelle White said she wishes the name could be changed, but that she wouldn't want to offend the family's descendants.


The latest person curious about her address was her niece's husband. In her living room, White unfolded a letter she has written to him, explaining the name and including with it a newspaper clipping about the Circleville Hitler family.


Down the lane from her home, several Hitlers are buried at the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery. The cemetery caretaker said he also fields his share of questions - and pranks.


"I get some weird calls on the answering machine," said Duane Howard, as he walked among tombstones on Hitler graves from as early as the 1800s.


Hitler refuses to change his name


Some callers ask for Adolf, he said. One requested a full Nazi funeral. A woman seeking travel directions didn't believe the road's name was Hitler.


Cemetery board president Tom Ebenhack's mother was a Hitler. He said he's among the few descendants left in the area.


"I haven't really been hassled by it," said Ebenhack, the local veterinarian. "I think it's more of a fascination point."


The generations before him endured some jokes but never were ridiculed, probably, Ebenhack speculated, because of their prominent local standing.


Those who left the area, however, faced harassment, particularly during Adolf Hitler's reign.


George Hitler Jr. said his father moved from Circleville to Akron and eventually became an executive at the Firestone tire company. At one point, the company president asked Hitler to change his name, but he refused.


One man's infamy


"During the war, my parents went through quite a siege of it," said Hitler Jr., who lives in North Carolina. "They had to change their telephone number."


That's not surprising, said Bettysue Feuer, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in Cleveland. "I would imagine that they took some heat, just like the Arab-Americans have taken some heat since 9.11."


People tend to lash out at groups associated with people their country is fighting, and many people with German-sounding names were harassed unjustly during World War II, she said.


"These people must have been pretty important people for (the area) to keep that (road) name," she added.


The Hitlers made their way to Circleville after an earlier George Hitler boarded a British ship in the mid-1700s and sailed to what is now the United States, said Ebenhack, who has studied his family's genealogy.


As far as he knows, theirs is the only family of true Hitlers in the world, he said. Adolf wasn't actually a Hitler. According to historical accounts, his father was born out of wedlock to a woman who eventually married a man named Hiedler. The name was once misspelled "Hitler," and it stuck.


The Circleville Hitlers weren't going to let one man's infamy force them to change their name, Ebenhack said. He also hopes the road names never vanish.


"In a way," he said, "it would be a shame."


One resident, a World War II veteran, said he's satisfied with his address. Jay White, who fought in the Army infantry in the Pacific, said he wouldn't want it changed. He smiled: "It's one of a kind."


פרסום ראשון: 06.23.05, 16:37
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