Triumph Over Violence is a Soviet movie from 1965 which talks about the nazi Germany. Among others, the movie contains a quote attributed to Hitler:

My mother was an ordinary woman, but she gave Germany a great son.

See, for instance, Speaking about images: the voice of the author in Ordinary Fascism:

The sequence begins with the text insert ‘Chapter VIII. About Myself’. In the original Russian version, we both read and hear: ‘My mother was an ordinary woman, but she gave Germany a great son (Adolf Hitler).’

The exact phrasing in Russian is:

Моя мать была обыкновенной женщиной, но она подарила германии великого сына.

Source: transcript of the movie.

A variant of this quote was also used by Vladimir Rezun, a Soviet intelligence agent who defected to the United Kingdom in 1978, in his book Suicide (full text in Russian), chapter 5, section 5, page 33:

10 марта 1942 года: «Моя мать была простой женщиной, но она подарила немецкому народу великого сына».

Instead of “обыкновенной,” the author uses “простой,” which has roughly the same meaning in this context; both words would possibly be translated as “ordinary” in English, and the difference could be due to the original translations from German to Russian.

The book also provides a date: March 10th, 1942. The book seems to imply that this was one of Hitler's speeches. A quotation just before is from what Hitler was saying in February “in a cosy atmosphere among adjutants, typists, stenographists” (“А вот в теплом кругу адъютантов, машинисток, стенографисток 27 февраля 1942 года”).

Unfortunately, among the sources at the end of the book, none seems to be relevant for this quote. As for the movie, it doesn't cite any source.

My impression is that Hitler's relation to his mother would prevent him from writing or saying such a thing. After all, he writes in Mein Kampf (English translation by James Murphy):

Two years later my mother's death put a brutal end to all my fine projects. She succumbed to a long and painful illness which from the very beginning permitted little hope of recovery. Though expected, her death came as a terrible blow to me. I respected my father, but I loved my mother. [...] I had not cried since the day that I stood beside my mother's grave.

Did Hitler actually say that?

  • I think most of this question is fine ("this quotation is repeated in many places but doesn't seem well sourced, is there an authoritative source?") but I don't see any particular conflict between the quotation you give at the end from Mein Kampf and the focal quotation - care to clarify? – Ben Bolker Apr 2 at 20:06
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    @BenBolker: as I understand it, the quotation denigrates his mother. Both the movie and the book seem to claim it too, the quotation being used to show how Hitler was proud of himself, by opposition to his mother who he calls “ordinary.” I have an impression that there is a form of lack of respect towards his mother, which doesn't sound compatible with the love for her he's mentioning in Mein Kampf. – Arseni Mourzenko Apr 2 at 20:20
  • Hard to say. I don't see any conflict between "she was an ordinary woman" and "I loved her and her death was terribly hard". (Note also that he contrasts his respect for his father with his love for his mother, which might imply that he loved her but did not consider her special; he doesn't seem to say much else about her in MK other than "My mother looked after the household and lovingly devoted herself to the care of her children.") – Ben Bolker Apr 2 at 20:31
  • Are you aware that Hitler was Austrian? – RedSonja Apr 12 at 6:31

Sort of, and "perhaps".

There is a saying that is attributed to him, similar to the one used in the movie, but coming from a poisoned well of unreliability. There seems to be no reliable written record by himself and this does not seem to appear in any of his official and transcribed speeches.

But even in the documented variant there is ample doubt remaining as to the veracity of the source.

The German retranslation from the Russian movie title card would be:

Über mich selbst - Zitat: ‚Meine Mutter war eine einfache Frau, aber sie hat Deutschland einen großen Sohn geschenkt.’

('My mother was a simple woman, but she gave Germany a great son.')
— Adolf Hitler

However, this exact phrase seems to only appear in German sources after the Soviet/Russian movie. Often quoted as seemingly exact, but without any source references. Indeed, in censorship happy Google, it mainly appears in works analyzing the very movie.
Example: — Joseph Weidl: "'Bilder als Zeugen gegen sich selbst'? Vom Schreiben und Umschreiben der Geschichte im historischen Kompilationsfilm.", Diploma Thesis, Wien, 2013. (German re-translation back from Russian found here, PDF, p56)

In the better known compilations of his speeches, only one questionnaire comes close to the looked after quote:

Regarding question 4:
My mother was a purely German woman, of purely German origin, so neither my mother nor my father knew a single word of Czech. Therefore, no Czech word was ever spoken in my parental home. My mother's maiden name was Klara Pölzl. She came from a purely German peasant family from the Waldviertel. My father was from the same region.

— Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Eds): "Reden Schriften Anordnungen. Februar 1925 bis Januar 1933", KG Saur München, London, New York, Paris 1992. Dok. 73, 23. November 1931 p207 (p3880/5172)(my translation).

A very close content match is found in this phrasing:

„Auf den Intellekt kommt es bei einer Frau gar nicht an. Verglichen mit den gebildeten intellektuellen Frauen war meine Mutter gewiss eine ganz kleine Frau, sie hat ihren Mann und uns Kindern gelebt, in der Gesellschaft unserer gebildeten Frauen würde sie sich wohl schwer getan haben, aber sie hat dem deutschen Volk einen großen Sohn geschenkt!"

(The intellect of a woman is not important at all. Compared to the educated intellectual women, my mother was certainly a very small woman, she lived her husband and us children, in the company of our educated women she would probably have struggled, but she gave the German people a great son!)


"(157* Wolfsschanze 10./11. 3. 1942, nachts)"

— Werner Jochmann (ed): "Adolf Hitler: Monologe im Führerhauptquartier — Die Aufzeichnungen Heinrich Heims", Knaus: Hamburg, 1980, p316. (my translation, version on Scribd, p271.)

This seems to be the closest match.

But it comes with a giant caveat.

The source is severly tainted and cannot be considered 'reliable'. (More on that entire genre of 'source' material with a focus on these hagiographic "Hitler in private talk' works here or here)
Just like "Table Talk", this source is allegedly from spoken words, written down the next day from memory of people close & loyal to Hitler, and evidently not with exact recollection, sometimes quite drunk, then redacted, often heavily, and repeatedly, authorized on multiple levels and written more to "not what he said, but what he meant" as the motto.

Not to mention the terrible provenience of the material, especially when an English version is translated from the French, which already has a great many of fantasy material inserted.

Consequently, in "Table Talk" the passage in the terrible English version reads as

My mother, for example, would have cut a poor figure in the society of our cultivated women. She lived strictly for her husband and children. They were her entire universe. But she gave a son to Germany.

— Hugh Trevor-Roper, Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens (eds &transl): "Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. His Private Conversations", enigma books: New York, 2000.

Whereas one of the supposedly original German version then reads this passage as:

Die Frau kann viel tiefer lieben als der Mann. Auf den Intellekt kommt es bei einer Frau gar nicht an. Verglichen mit den gebildeten intellektuellen Frauen war meine Mutter ganz gewiss eine ganz kleine Frau. Sie hat ihrem Mann und ihren Kindern gelebt. In der Gesellschaft unserer gebildeten Frauen würde sie sich wohl schwergetan haben, aber: sie hat dem deutschen Volk einen grossen Sohn geschenkt!

(A woman can love much more deeply than a man. Intellect does not matter at all for a woman. Compared to the educated intellectual women, my mother was certainly a very small woman. She lived to her husband and children. In the company of our educated women, she would probably have had a hard time, but: she gave the German people a great son!)

— Henry Picker: "Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier. Hitler, wie er wirklich war", Seewald: Stuttgart, 1976 (3rd ed, in publication since 1951).

So, there are sources bringing the gist of this 'quote' to bear.

But this is not much to rely on, and any conclusions anyone might want to draw from them need to first read:

We can be fairly certain that such things happened on other occasions as well, since Heim's notes often obscure the context of the conversations, even though there is often no way to say for sure when. We have also seen that the "monologues" give an inaccurate view of Hitler's reaction to the Japanese attack on the United States. This was clearly not an error on Heim's part, but most likely an example of deliberate distortion. Hitler also clearly repeated myths regarding his own biography that were then perpetuated in Heim's (and Picker's) notes.
Therefore, it is an idle question which version is the more authentic or reliable one, since both the "Monologues" and the "Table Talks" were edited to an unknown (and often no longer ascertainable) extent. Moreover, even the non-existent "original manuscripts" were the result of a process in the course of which added or omitted information rendered the designation "original" superfluous. The term "official final version" may be more appropriate for the "Bormann notes". All versions present a Hitler redivivus, but in the process of recreating Hitler's utterances, the content was inevitably distorted - sometimes intentionally, but mostly probably purely accidentally due to the limited capacity and tendency to mislead of the human brain regarding the creation and preservation of memories.

Historians must be aware of all this when using these sources. It is an inescapable conclusion of this essay that historians should refrain from directly quoting these sources as if they verbatim reproduced Hitler's words — this is simply not the case.

The Tischreden were written for the express purpose of giving the illusion of coming face to face with Hitler, that is, they were largely created to confuse and deceive.

— Mikael Nilsson: "Hitler redivivus. „Hitlers Tischgespräche“ und „Monologe im Führerhauptquartier“ – eine kritische Untersuchung", VfZ 67, H.1, 2019. (doi, my translation)
Cf also: — Mikael Nilsson: "Hitler Redux. The Incredible History of Hitler’s So-Called Table Talks", Routledge, London, New York, 2020.)

  • @BenBolker Thx. Maybe I slipped there, but please be more explicit to explain why it's not just a typo, or semantically meaningfully & importantly different? (Honestly, I struggle to find the right balance/path on that one.) – LangLаngС Apr 3 at 18:48
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    Sorry, I just learned a new word! I mistakenly assumed "provenience" was a typo/mistranslation for "provenance". – Ben Bolker Apr 3 at 18:56

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