Family background and marriage
Klara came from old peasant stock, was hard-working, energetic, pious, and conscientious. According to the family physician, Dr. Eduard Bloch, she was a very quiet, sweet, and affectionate woman.
In 1876, 16-year-old Klara was hired as a household servant by her relative Alois Hitler, three years after his first marriage to Anna Glasl-Hörer. Although Alois' biological father is unknown, after his mother, Maria Schicklgruber, married Johann Georg Hiedler, Alois was officially designated as Hiedler's son. Klara's mother was Hiedler's niece Johanna Hiedler, who married Johann Baptist Pölzl, making Klara and Alois first cousins once removed.
After the death of his second wife—Franziska Matzelsberger—in 1884, Klara and Alois married in 1885 in a brief ceremony held early that morning at Hitler's rented rooms on the top floor of the Pommer Inn in Braunau. Alois then went to work for the day at his job as a customs official.
Their first son, Gustav, was born four months later, on 15 May 1885. Ida followed on 23 September 1886. Both infants died of diphtheria during the winter of 1886–87. A third child, Otto, was born and died in 1887. A fourth son, Adolf, was born 20 April 1889.
In 1892, Klara Hitler and her family took the train to Passau, where they settled down for the next two years. Edmund was born there on 24 March 1894. Paula followed on 21 January 1896. Edmund died of measles on 28 February 1900, at the age of five. Of her six children with Alois, only Adolf and Paula survived to adulthood.
Klara Hitler's adult life was spent keeping house and raising children, for whom, according to Smith, Alois had little understanding or interest. She was very devoted to her children and, according to William Patrick Hitler, was a typical stepmother to her stepchildren, Alois, Jr. and Angela.
She was also a devout Roman Catholic and attended church regularly with her children.
Later life and death
In 1906, Klara Hitler discovered a lump in her breast but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, she finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch, in January 1907. She had been busy with her household, she said, so had neglected to seek medical aid. Dr. Bloch chose not to inform Klara that she had breast cancer and left it to her son Adolf to inform her. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that his mother had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical mastectomy. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. According to Dr. Bloch, Klara Hitler "accepted the verdict as I was sure she would – with fortitude. Deeply religious, she assumed that her fate was God's will. It would never occur to her to complain." She underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already metastasized to the pleural tissue in her chest. Bloch informed Klara's children that her condition was terminal. Adolf, who had been in Vienna ostensibly to study art, moved back home to tend to his mother, as did his siblings. By October, Klara Hitler's condition had rapidly declined and her son Adolf begged Dr. Bloch to try a new treatment. For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of iodoform, a then experimental form of chemotherapy. Klara Hitler's mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to "burn" the cancer cells. The treatments were incredibly painful and caused Hitler's throat to paralyze, leaving her unable to swallow.
Adolf Hitler, who had a close relationship with his mother, was devastated by her death and carried the grief for the rest of his life. Bloch later recalled that "In all my career, I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler." In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that he had "...honored my father, but loved my mother" and said that his mother's death was a "dreadful blow...." Decades later, in 1940, Hitler showed gratitude to Bloch (who was Jewish) for treating his mother, by allowing him to emigrate with his wife from Austria to the United States.
In 1934, Passau honored Klara Hitler by dedicating a street to her.
Removal of tombstone
On 28 March 2012, the tombstone marking Alois Hitler's grave (and that of his wife, Klara) in Town Cemetery in Leonding was removed, without ceremony, by a descendant, according to Kurt Pittertschatscher, the pastor of the parish. The descendant is said to be an elderly female relative of Alois Hitler's first wife, Anna, who has also given up any rights to the rented burial plot. The remains of Hitler's parents are still interred in the grave.