The Children of History’s Monsters

The Children of History’s Monsters

D.G. Hewitt - September 3, 2018

Nobody gets to choose their parents. In many cases, everything turns out well. But some people have the misfortune to be born to tyrants or infamous figures from history. They have to live with their family name for the rest of their lives, for good or bad. In some cases, the children of dictators of war criminals have done all they can to break with their dark past. But sometimes they go the other way, refusing to condemn their parents, no matter what atrocities they might have committed.

So, from the doting daughters of Nazi mass murderers and the pampered sons of African tyrants to the offspring who have tried to make amends for their dark past, here we have 20 cases of children struggling to live with infamous relatives:

The Children of History’s Monsters
Itanian Duce Mussolini with his daughter and her husband, who he executed. NY Post.

1. Edda Mussolini loved her infamous dictator father, until he had her husband shot

Beautiful, graceful, athletic and well-spoken: Edda Mussolini was presented as the ideal Fascist woman. Adding to her propaganda value, of course, was the fact that she was the daughter of the ‘Duce’ or leader of Fascist Italy, Benito Mussolini. However, their relationship went from being one of mutual admiration to being strained and then broken completely.

Edda was born to Mussolini and Rachele Guidi in 1910. Her parents did not marry for another 15 years, by which point her father was making a name for himself as a political agitator. By 1922, he was Prime Minister and three years later, Dictator. Along with her brothers and sisters, Edda moved to Rome. She frequently appeared in magazine articles and newspaper pieces, both at home and abroad, and was presented as the perfect young woman for a new Italy. Away from the cameras, however, she was a rebel, drinking and fraternizing with ‘undesirable men’.

When she finally fell in love and married in 1930, Mussolini was extremely relieved. She took Count Ciano as her husband. He was an aristocrat and the Duce made him an ambassador. Edda followed him to China and then back to Rome. Even though he was serially unfaithful (Edda too took lovers outside her marriage), she backed him when he and the Duce came to loggerheads: Mussolini wanted to support Hitler in the upcoming war, Ciano cautioned against it. Italy did end up allying itself with Nazi Germany, and Mussolini never forgot this perceived betrayal.

After Mussolini came to power for the second time as a puppet ruler of the Nazis, he had Ciano executed for treason, despite his own daughter begging him to show mercy. She denounced her father and the name Mussolini and escaped to Switzerland. After the war, she was briefly interred before she moved back to Rome to pen her memoirs. Aside from her writing, she carried on working in the fashion industry until her death in 1995.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and his young son before the Imperial Army went to war. The Japan Times

2. Akihito inherited the Japanese throne from his father, but ditched the militarism and divine rule bits

At the end of the Second World War, a number of Japanese politicians and military leaders were tried for war crimes. The country’s Emperor, Hirohito, however, was not. To this day, the decision to not put him on trial for his nation’s conduct in the bloody war remains controversial. Indeed, for some historians, Hirohito was directly irresponsible for the numerous atrocities perpetrated by the Imperial Forces during the 1930s and 40s. Others, however, maintain that he was largely a powerless figurehead with no real control over how war was waged.

As part of the peace process, Hirohito was forced to denounce the claim that the Japanese Emperor was divinely appointed. Thus, when Akihito, his eldest son, came to the throne in 1990, he began a new era. Unlike all of his predecessors, Akihito, who was born in Tokyo Imperial Palace in 1933, did not receive any military training. Instead, he moved away from warfare and instead studies politics at the renowned Gakushwin University.

Much of Akihito’s reign contrasts markedly with that of his father. While Hirohito believed the Emperor needed to be aloof, his successor has made a concerted effort to bring the royal family closer to the people. For instance, he married a commoner, breaking a 1,500-year-old imperial tradition, plus he has traveled far wider and met more other leaders than any Emperor before him. What’s more, Akihito has pledged to step down in 2019. Up until now, it has been unthinkable for a Japanese Emperor to abdicate, and his decision has split opinion in the country.

Perhaps above all, Akihito has helped guide Japan away from its militaristic and imperial past. Significantly, in 2015 he stated: “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.” Such a statement would never have been issued by his father.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Kim Il Jung, on the right, learned all there was to know about repressing a nation from his father. CNN.

3. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il inherited his father’s looks – and his tyrannical ruthlessness

Like father, like son: Kim Jong Il’s father was a dictator and tyrant, and his successor was one too. Indeed, in many ways, Kim Jong Il was the worse of the two, taking the regime his father had established in North Korea and becoming even more forceful in repressing its people. Indeed, Kim Jong Il has been accused of countless human rights violations and, according to historians, even starved his people in order to boost the nation’s military might.

Kim Jong Il was born in Russia in 1941. His father was stationed there, commanding a battalion of the Soviet Army. He was aged just four when the Second World War came to an end and Korea regained its independence from Imperial Japan. The family returned to Pyongyang and the young Kim began school. Whether he was educated in Korea is open to debate, however. According to some accounts, he was sent to China, to be kept safe during the Korean War, though he was definitely back in North Korea by the 1960s.

By 1980, Kim Jong Il had been singled out as the likely successor to his father. His chance finally came when Kim Il-Sung died in 1994. Far from adopting a different style of rule to his father, he went even further in his use of state oppression. Most notably, as “The Dear Leader”, his country suffered one of the worst famines in world history, with millions dying. Instead of feeding his people, Kim prioritized building up North Korea’s military. Any opposition to his policies was ruthlessly put down. Under Kim, the network of concentration camps his father built up was significantly expanded, and human rights groups routinely accused him of serious crimes against humanity.

Much of Kim Jong Il’s life was kept secret. Even his death was hidden from his people, only being announced two days after his passing. Upon his death, his own son, Kim Jong-un took control of North Korea. As with his father and his father before him, the young dictator immediately showed himself to be a ruthless tyrant unwilling to give up any of his absolute power.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Chairman Mao’s daughter could have made full use of her status, but opted for a quiet life instead. Wikipedia.

4. Chairman Mao’s little girl Li Ma chose to lead a quiet, modest life in China

Communist China famously enforced a ‘one child’ policy for many years, encouraging its citizens to have just one baby for the good of the nation. The regime’s founding father, Mao Zedong, however, did not practice what he preached. The revolutionary-turned-dictator had three children. Or at least he had three official children. Mao was a renowned womanizer who used and abused his power, so it’s likely he had many more children he simply never recognized. He certainly did recognize Li Na, however. The only child of his marriage to his fourth wife Jiang Qing, she was born in August 1940 and continues to live in Beijing.

Li Na was born just before the start of the Chinese Civil War. Still a revolutionary, her father assumed the alias of Li Desheng during the 1940s, which is why his daughter took the name Li rather than the more famous Mao. From the very start of the Communist regime in China, Li Na was indoctrinated and brought up as the ideal citizen. She attended a state school and then Peking University, from where she graduated with a degree in history in 1965. After that, she went to work for the newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army, furthering the cause of her father.

Despite her status, Li Na has always chosen to keep a low profile. According to most accounts, both she and her sister Li Min have preferred to stay out of the limelight. They both live in relatively modest apartments in downtown Beijing. At the same time, however, they have contributed to the state-led veneration of Chairman Mao, appearing in several official events over the years. Speaking of her father, Li Na recalls him as a good man rather than a ruthless tyrant. For instance, she has credited him with giving her a political and cultural education, plus she claims that he personally schooled her from the age of 7, while also teaching her ‘morals’.

More recently, Li Na has served as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. According to official accounts, she is married and has two children of her own, though her private life is kept just that.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Katrin Himmler chose to confront her dark family history head-on, finding some uncomfortable truths. The Sun.

5. Katrin Himmler looked into her past – and found that Heinrich Himmler was not the only Nazi in her family

In some cases, the descendants of infamous Nazis chose to change their names – and understandably so. For instance, up until 1945, while Hitler was not a very common name in Germany or Austria, the few people that did have it as their surname opted to change it, including relatives of the dictator. Katrin Himmler, however, took a different view. Her great-uncle, Heinrich Himmler, was unquestionably one of the vilest men of the Third Reich, and the architect of the Holocaust. But still, Katrin has refused to deny her family history. Instead, she has chosen to confront it head-on.

Born in 1967, Katrin Himmler is the granddaughter of Ernst Himmler. His brother was the infamous Heinrich, and Katrin was in no doubt about his role in the worst crimes of the Second World War. However, in researching her landmark book The Himmler Brothers, A German Family History, she discovered that he wasn’t the only member of the family to embrace Nazism. Indeed, she revealed that Ernst was also an enthusiastic Nazi. What’s more, far from being an innocent German who tried to keep his head down during the years of terror, her grandfather actively denounced a Jewish neighbor, leading to his deportation and probably death.

The book proved to be a best-seller, not just in Katrin’s native Germany but across the world. Alongside this, she has also taken part in several documentary films on the Nazi regime and its legacy in Germany. Though she did once consider changing her name, she has chosen to remain a Himmler. Indeed, even when she married an Israeli man, she chose to keep the name and own up to her heritage. She has claimed that in doing so she has broken with the family tradition – and a tradition quite common among German families – of not speaking about the past. She also explained of the book: “I wanted to give my son as much information as possible, so that when he starts asking questions about my family, at least I can answer him.”

The Children of History’s Monsters
When the Nazis captured Stalin’s son during their invasion of Russia, it was a huge propaganda coup. Wikipedia.

6. Yakov Dzhugashvili might have been Stalin’s son, but the dictator was happy to see him killed by the Nazis

Yakov Dzhugashvili did not get along with his father. In fact, the two hated each other. Which was bad news for Yakov, since his father was Josef Stalin, one of the cruelest tyrants who ever lived. In fact, Stalin despised his son so much that, according to most historians, he was happy to have him killed in the opening months of the Second World War.

Yakov was born to Stalin and his first wife, Kato Svanidze, in 1907. Tragedy struck early. Kato died when her boy was less than a year old, and Yakov was sent to live with his aunts. At 14, he left his hometown in Georgia and went to Moscow to pursue his university studies. He also hoped to get married, though his partner-to-be was a Jewish girl. When Stalin learned of this, he ordered his estranged son to end the union. Famously, Yakov was so distraught that he attempted to kill himself. But instead of shooting himself in the heart, the bullet entered his lungs and he lived. Stalin is reported to have quipped: “He can’t even shoot straight!”

When Russia went to war against Nazi Germany, Yakov served as a lieutenant in the Red Army. In July 1941, he was taken prisoner. The Germans offered to trade Stalin’s son for one of their own officers. Stalin flatly refused. Some say he believed Yakov actively surrendered, though even if he was taken prisoner, it was still testament to Stalin’s ruthlessness. With no prisoner exchange deal on the table, Yakov was taken to a Nazi concentration camp. He died a prisoner in April 1943, most probably by suicide. While the Soviet press mourned his death, Stalin did not, nor did he show any remorse at their fractured relationship.

Yakov had two children of his own, and both survived the Second World War. His son went on to serve as a colonel in the Soviet Air Force, while his daughter worked as a translator. Both actively worked to challenge the official accounts of their grandfather’s account. They maintained that he was not a coward who surrendered to the Nazis at the earliest possible opportunities but a brave defender of the Motherland.

The Children of History’s Monsters
The Milosevic family in happier times, with tyrant Slobodan close to his son. BBC.

7. Marko Milosevic used his infamous father’s power and connections to launch a career in the Serbian underworld

Having a president for a father is a good way of getting ahead in the competitive world of organized crime – as Marko Milosevic well understood. For more than a decade, the son of the former Serbian number one, took full advantage of his elevated status, amassing a fortune until the Yugoslav Wars erupted and swept his father from power and he and his family from the country and into exile.

Milosevic Junior was born in Belgrade in 1974. At that time, his father Slobodan was still making a name for himself in Serbian politics. Together, they would appear at political rallies, helping Slobodan cultivate a family man image he would use to rise to the very top. After a relatively normal childhood, he started going off the rails. Marko was sent away to a private school in Belgrade and here, his biographers claim, he saw more of his personal bodyguards than he ever did of his parents.

Marko was not interested at all in his studies. He preferred fast cars and guns. He dropped out of school and started easing himself into the Serbian underworld. Family connections meant that he was able to avoid being conscripted into the army, and instead, he made full use of his father’s contacts and influence to – allegedly – become a leading smuggler, brining cigarettes, drugs and stolen cars into the country. Marko was also not shy when it came to using violence to protect his interests, and some historians have linked him to several killings. For a while, he looked untouchable. Then, in October 2000, his father was ousted as President.

No longer protected by the highest office in the land, Marko fled to Russia. Though he lost much of his wealth, with the Serbian mafia taking control of his smuggling routes as well as taking his properties and luxury cars, at least he was safe in Moscow. Russia has since granted Marko and his family refugee status in the country, meaning he is safe from prosecution by the Serbian government. However, he remains unable to travel to many parts of the world, including all of Europe and China.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Monika Herwig was shocked to learn the dark truth about her Nazi father, camp commandant Amon Goth. The Sun.

8. Monika Hertwig Goeth was raised to believe her father was a war hero – but then she saw Schindler’s List

Growing up, Monika Herwig was told that her father had been a good man. She was even told that he was a hero and served with honor during the Second World War. It wasn’t until she was a young woman that Monika learned the truth. Her father had indeed played a key role in the war. But he was no hero. In fact, he was a monster. Her father was Amon Goeth, the Nazi death camp commandant made infamous by the movie Schindler’s List.

Monika was born at the very end of the war. Her mother was Ruth Kadler, Goeth’s mistress. She had been fully aware of what her lover had been responsible for. But still, she maintained that he was no war criminal. Indeed, she even brought her daughter up believing that Goeth had been carrying out important work. If Monika questioned this, she would be severely beaten. But then, in 1983, Ruth agreed to speak with the BBC. Her defense of Goeth crumbled as she was shown evidence of his crimes. She killed herself one day later. From then on, Monika was determined to learn the truth.

When the movie Schindler’s List came out, she claims she was angry, not at Goeth but at the filmmakers. She hated seeing her father depicted as a monster. But still, she visited the camp in Poland and even met relatives of the people killed there. Monika even agreed to take part in a documentary film in which she gave a full and frank account of what it was like living with the ghost of Amon Goeth.

Notably, Monika had a child herself. The girl was the result of a brief affair with a Nigerian man. Monika felt she couldn’t cope and gave the child up for adoption. Some 21 years later, that daughter found out about her mother and her direct link with history. She too penned a book, noting that her own grandfather would have had her killed simply because of the color of her skin.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Fidel Castro and his eldest son rarely appeared together in public. BBC.

9. Fidelito Castro got no help from his famous father as he made a name for himself as a top nuclear scientist

In 1959, Fidel Castro appeared on American television to talk about the aims of the Cuban Revolution, which had begun six years previously. Sitting beside the communist revolutionary was a nine-year-old boy, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart. Known more commonly as Fidelito (or ‘Little Fidel’), he was Castro’s first son, born from his short-lived marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart.

Young Fidelito had gone with his mother when she left for Miami following her divorce from Castro in 1955. However, he returned to his native Cuba a couple of years later. He remained on the island throughout his childhood and much of his adolescence, despite the fact his own mother and her family were vehemently opposed to Castro’s fledgling dictatorship. Unsurprisingly, Fidelito struggled to escape the shadow of his famous father, even when his own notable talents started to become apparent.

As a young man, Fidelito moved to Russia. Here, under an alias, he studied nuclear physics and excelled in the subject. With his Ph.D. in hand, he returned to Cuba and was soon leading the country’s nuclear program. However, a quarrel with his father saw the dictator remove him from this position. Castro even canceled funding for a planned new research facility his son was to set up. Upset, Fidelito moved back to Moscow to pursue a second doctorate.

In later life, Fidelito returned to his homeland. He was happy to serve his father’s regime in an official capacity. After Castro died in 2016, he was one of the Cubans who welcomed American delegations to the country. Fidelito died in February 2018. He killed himself after a long battle with depression. According to some observers, he would have been unable to seek help for his condition; the Castro regime would not allow the dictator’s own son to be seen as being weak in any way.

The Children of History’s Monsters
The Angel of Death tortured countless children, but had a son of his own. Pinterest.

10. Rolf Mengele tracked down his father, the ‘Angel of Death’ when the evil Nazi was hiding in South America

In the 1980s, Rolf Mengele decided to change his name. Up until that point, he had tried to live with it, even though it would forever link him with his infamous father, the so-called ‘Angel of Death’. Despite being a medical doctor who had sworn to “do no harm”, Josef Mengele was feared by the inmates of Auschwitz concentration camp – and rightly so. Mengele would select men, women and children for his cruel and sadistic experiments. His cruelty was legendary, though, tragically for his victims, he managed to evade justice by feeling to South America.

By seeking refuge on a different continent. Mengele left behind his son, Rolf. His disappearance also meant that, growing up, Rolf was the subject of much attention. Nazi-hunters in particular was sure that he was still in contact with his fugitive father. And, in a way, he was. Mengele wrote several letters to his son, and soon Ralf was intrigued and determined to meet him. He traveled to South America in 1977. However, any hopes Mengele might have had of building a connection with his boy were destined to be dashed.

Recalling his trip, Rolf noted that his father had shown no remorse for his evil actions in Auschwitz. He even tried to justify them. He stated: “I didn’t even bother to listen to him or think of his ideas. I simply rejected everything he presented. I will never understand how human beings could do those things. That my father was one of them doesn’t change my opinion.”

Though he hated his father and all he stood for, Rolf could not bring himself to betray him. He refused to say where Mengele was hiding in South America. As a result, the Angel of Death died without having to answer for his many crimes. With the face-to-face meeting behind him, Rolf changed his name and broke with the past completely. It’s believed he now has a family of his own and is a retired lawyer living a quiet life in Germany.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Romanian dictator’s son Nicu Ceacescu was found guilty of extreme corruption. EVZ.

11. Nicu Ceausescu took full advantage of his father’s absolute power to live a playboy lifestyle – but he faced justice in the end

For more than 20 years, Nicolae Ceausescu ruled over Romania with an iron fist. The Communist leader had the support of the Soviet Union and amassed a fortune while millions of his people lived in poverty. As well as being a dictator, Ceausescu was also a family man. His wife Elena loved the good life as much as her husband did and was infamous for her lavish spending. Together, they had three children. Of these, it was the youngest, Nicu, who was expected to take over from his father as the supreme leader of Romania.

Nicu was the archetypal dictator’s son. Born in Bucharest in 1951, he was indoctrinated into Communist politics from an early age. He was a teenager when his father started rising to power. Ceausescu had high hopes for his youngest child and tasked two of his smartest Communist party members to be his personal tutors. But far from being foreign minister material as his father hoped, Nicu was a hopeless student. He regularly skipped school and was even commonly mocked for never reading a book.

Despite his poor performance in high school, Nicu took advantage of his connections to earn a place at Bucharest University. There, he studied physics and also became a prominent member of the student Communist Party. But again, studying wasn’t his thing. Instead, Nicu embraced the playboy lifestyle. He was a notorious heavy drinker and gambler. He would visit Monaco to get drunk and hit the casinos with Uday Hussain, son of Iraqi dictator Saddam. Even worse, he had a habit of stealing ordinary people’s cars for fun, plus it’s alleged that he has a serial rapist.

Upon graduation, he moved into politics full-time and by the late-1980s, he was on track to be his father’s successor. In 1989, however, the Ceausescu dictatorship was overthrown as revolution swept across Eastern Europe. The tyrant and his wife were both arrested and executed by firing squad. Nicu was found guilty of using state money to fund his decadent lifestyle. He was sentenced to prison for 20 years. Though he only served two years, by 1994, he was dead in a Vienna hospital, his life cut short by his rampant alcoholism.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Hans Frank was more interested in his bloody Nazi career than he was in his young son. Jewish News.

12. Every year, Niklas Frank celebrates the fact his infamous Nazi father Hans Frank was executed for his crimes

Like many people, the German writer and journalist Niklas Frank carries around a family photo in his wallet. However, for Niklas, this is not some happy reminder of his loved ones. Rather, as he famously explained one time, he carries a picture of his father for a much darker reason. “I am pleased by what the picture show: He is dead.” In fact, Hans Frank has been dead for more than 70 years. As a convicted Nazi war criminal, he was hanged by the Allies in October 1946.

Niklas Frank has written extensively about his dark family connections. While some children of leading Nazis, including the most monstrous, struggled to reconcile their disgust with their happy family memories, Niklas has had no such problems. His childhood was a deeply unhappy one. Both his father and his mother were emotionally distant. Hans Frank worked as a lawyer for the Nazi regime and also their governor-general in occupied Poland. Under his watch, millions of Jews were murdered. His wife, Niklas’ mother, knew all about her husband’s crimes.

Far from trying to rehabilitate his father’s reputation, Niklas has nothing but contempt for his father – something he has written about numerous times as a journalist. He has come to conclude that his father was simply greedy, opportunistic and highly ambitious, and would have done anything to further his own goals. Indeed, though he had a hand in killing most of Poland’s Jewish population, Niklas believes his father would have killed anyone if Hitler had given him the order.

These days, Niklas Frank lives with his own family in northern Germany. Alongside his essays and books, he also regularly gives lectures and talks. He also takes care to celebrate the anniversary of his father’s death every year without fail.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Martin Bormann junior renounced his Nazi father’s politics and became a Catholic priest. Daily Mail.

13. Martin Adolf Bormann Junior’s father was Hitler’s right-hand-man, but he joined the Catholic priesthood

As Hitler’s private secretary, nobody in the Third Reich was closer to the Fuhrer than Martin Bormann. He not only respected the tyrant, he practically adored him. Which is why, when Bormann had a son, he asked Hitler to be his godfather. What’s more, he christened him Martin Adolf Bormann Junior. It was a name the boy would keep for the rest of his life.

Bormann committed suicide in May of 1945 with the end of the war looming. It’s unlikely that the son would have been too distraught. By all accounts, he was a dominant, even cruel father, constantly rebuking his boy. Indeed, Martin Jr. was probably relieved when he was sent away to boarding school. He was 15 when his father was killed. Fearing that he would be found guilty by association by the Red Army, he fled across the border to Austria. There, he was taken in by a kindly farmer, and he found the Christian faith to replace the hateful doctrine his father had instilled in him.

Moving away from Nazism, Martin Jr. joined the priesthood, becoming ordained in 1958. Though his new beliefs and position as a Jesuit priest were at stark odds with the evils of the Third Reich, he never did publicly condemn his father. Rather, he always insisted that only God can judge a man. Aside from that, he spoke little and rarely about his family, devoting himself instead to his vocation.

After a traumatic start to life, Martin Jr’s story had a happy ending. In 1971, he was severely injured in a car accident. He fell in love with one of the nurses treating him. Though he had to leave the priesthood to marry, his faith remained and strong as ever. In fact, both Martin Jr. and his wife worked as religious teachers up until his retirement in 1992. He died of old age in March of 2013.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Edda Goering was Nazi royalty and refused to say a bad word about her father. Foreign Policy

14. Edda Goering remains proud that her father was Hermann Goering, one of the leading figures of the Third Reich

Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, Edda Goering was the poster child of Nazi Germany – quite literally so, in fact. The daughter of Hermann Goering, she was born in 1938, just one year before the Third Reich plunged the world into war. Hitler was her godfather, though she saw little of him or her own father. Along with her mother, she lived on the Goering family estate just outside of Berlin. They stayed there almost until the very end, though with the Allied powers closing in, they fled to the mountains.

Goering, who as one of the most powerful men in the Nazi regime was a wanted man, wanted to escape with his family to South America. However, he was caught. When Edda was still just a little child, her father committed suicide, swallowing a cyanide pill to escape the hangman’s noose. Edda and her mother moved to a small town in Bavaria and tried to build a new life for themselves. After a private, all-girls education, she graduated from university in Munich and then went to work.

Despite her attempts to distance herself from her past, Edda found it had a way of catching up with her. Throughout the 1960s, she was embroiled in numerous legal cases as the owners of artworks and other valuables that were stolen and gifted to the Goering family tried – largely successfully – to get them back. Also at this time, Edda started attending events organized by old Nazis, and in many cases, she was the guest of honor, even if she refused to talk publicly about any difficult topic, above all the Holocaust.

In 1986, Edda agreed to an interview with Swedish television. Here, she spoke lovingly of her mother, and also of her father. What’s more, she defended his character. She said: “My father was not a fanatic. You could see the peacefulness in his eyes…I loved him very much, and you could see he loved me.” Unlike many other relatives of prominent Nazis, she has refused to change her name. In fact, Edda, now in her 80s and living in Munich, is proud of being a Goering.

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Jaffar Amin believes his dictator dad has been given a bad press. CNN.

15. Jaffar Amin argues that his father, Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, was a fair and effective leader

Idi Amin Jaffar has gone down in history as one of Africa’s worst strongman dictators. A career politician and soldier, he became President of Uganda in 1971 and ruled over the country for eight years. During that time, he gained a reputation for being a total tyrant. Though outwardly charming, he was ruthless in crushing his opposition. Human rights groups charged him with numerous atrocities and with the systematic persecution of certain minorities. Additionally, the Amin regime is also charged with gross economic mismanagement of Uganda. However, according to Jaffar Amin, the dictator’s son, his father has been judged unfairly.

Jaffar is just one of Amin’s 40 ‘official’ children (in reality, the womanizing ruler is likely to have fathered more). In most cases, his offspring have kept their heads down, concentrating on careers in law or business and distancing themselves from their father and his regime. Jaffar, however, is notable for taking the opposite approach. Born in 1967 and the tenth of Amin’s official children by seven official wives, he was prompted to act after seeing his father portrayed by Forrest Whitaker in the hit movie The Last King of Scotland.

For the past decade, Jaffar has publicly spoken in support of Amin. In particular, he has worked hard to challenge the assertion that his father was an incompetent economist who drove Uganda close to ruin. Additionally, he contests claims that Amin was a human rights abuser. Jaffar has conducted numerous interviews with the international press as part of his mission to rehabilitate his father’s reputation and is planning on releasing a book giving a ‘true’ account of Uganda under Idi Amin.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Baby Doc bled Haiti dry through his greed and never lived to face justice. CNN.

16. Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier picked up where his father left off – by ruling over Haiti with an iron fist

Like father, like son: Jean-Claude Duvalier, otherwise known as ‘Baby Doc’ took over from his father as President of Haiti. Any hopes that the change at the top would lead to better conditions for the country’s people were severely misplaced. In fact, Baby Doc was even crueler and more authoritarian than his father, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. For 16 years, he ruled Haiti with an iron fist, hoovering up its wealth and mercilessly suppressing his opponents.

Baby Doc was born in July of 1951. When he was just six, his father became Haitian President, a position he would hold for 14 years. Given his family status, then, Baby Doc enjoyed a privileged youth. However, despite enjoying the best possible education, when he inherited the Presidency in 1971 at the age of 20, he simply wasn’t interested in the affairs of office. Instead, he delegated most of his presidential responsibilities to friends of cronies and concentrated on doing what he did best: using Haitian wealth to fund his playboy lifestyle.

Nobody knows for sure how much he personally embezzled, or how much was stolen through corruption. At a time when most Haitians were living in abject poverty, Baby Doc blew $2 million on his wedding, earning him widespread criticism. However, criticism was limited to outsiders: in Haiti, the opposition was banned and the press was heavily censored. Only a perfect storm of circumstances, including a harvest, Papal condemnation of the regime and pressure from President Raegan, led to a popular revolt. In 1979, he was thrown out of office and into a luxurious life in exile in France.

Not content to live a quiet, pampered life in the sunny south of France, Baby Doc attempted a political comeback in 2011. Returning to his native Haiti for the first time in 25 years, he wanted to run for President. But, while he was welcomed by large crowds, the government placed him under house arrest. He died of a heart attack in 2014 at the age of 63, before he could be tried for charges of corruption and human rights abuse.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Bettina Goering has stated she refused to have children so that her family name will die out. The Sun.

17. Bettina Goering chose never to have children so that the legacy of Hermann Goering would finally die out

Sometimes, it’s not just children who are determined to escape the shadow of an infamous figure. Bettina Goering is neither the daughter nor the granddaughter of the Nazi leader Herman Goering. In fact, she is his great-niece: Goering was her father’s uncle and godfather. But still, she is linked to him – and, thus, to the evils of the Third Reich – by name, something that has had a profound impact upon her life.

Goering was born in Germany in 1956. Her father, Heinz, lost his own father at a young age and was then adopted by his infamous uncle. Looking up to the prominent Nazi, Heinz followed in his footsteps, joined the Party and fought in the war as a pilot. He was shot down and only returned home in 1952. By that point, Herman had killed himself to escape the Allies imposing the death penalty, while two of his own brothers had also committed suicide. Bettina recalls how, while her father never spoke of the war, her mother remained loyal to the memory of Hitler and Goering, telling the children that the Holocaust was a lie.

Horrified by her own mother, Bettina ran away from home. From the age of 13, she traveled the world. She joined a cult before moving to the United States. Even though she was many miles from Germany and even though she changed her name, she still felt the shame of her heritage. So, at the age of 30, she traveled to Mexico to be sterilized. “It’s my bloodline and I didn’t want to continue it,” she explained. “I didn’t want any more Goerings.”

Since then, Bettina has appeared in several documentaries on the legacy of the Nazis and their dependents, plus she has also written a book about her life in the shadow of one of the key architects of the Holocaust. In 2008, she traveled to Israel, where she revealed that, after years of struggling to come to terms with her ancestry, has now found peace and closure.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Wolf Hess was doted on by Hitler thanks to his father’s status in the Third Reich. Pinterest.

18. Wolf Hess dedicated his whole life to trying to get his father, the top Nazi Rudolf Hess, freed from prison

Not all children of Nazis spent their lives trying to distance themselves from their infamous parents. Some, like Wolf Rudiger Hess, actually dedicated their lives to trying to defend them. Indeed, Rudolf was his father’s number one supporter. He worked tirelessly for decades trying to show the world that, far from being a monster, his dad, Rudolf Hess, was innocent of war crimes and just did the job asked of him during the 1930s and early 1940s.

Rudolf Hess was, for a while, Hitler’s right-hand man. He was with the Nazi Party from almost the very beginning and rose to the position of Deputy Fuhrer of the Third Reich. However, his fall from power has always remained one of the great mysteries of the Second World War. In May 1941, Hess flew to Scotland solo. There, he announced his intention to hold peace talks with Britain. Whether or not he had the blessing of Hitler, or even from the British Royal Family, is not known. Either way, he was promptly caught and, when the war came to an end, stood trial at Nuremberg. Hess escaped the hangman’s noose but was sentenced to live the remainder of his life as the sole prisoner of Spandau Prison.

Wolf who was a teenager when his father made his ill-fated flight to Scotland, visited his father regularly. But he did much more than this. In the 1950s, he founded the Committee to Free Rudolf Hess. The movement had hundreds of thousands of supporters, including several prominent German politicians. Wolf also wrote several books outlining why Hess should be considered a German hero and not a criminal. And then, when Hess died behind bars, he argued that he had been murdered by his British captors.

After a lifetime advocating for his Nazi father, Wolf died in 2001. In his final book, he explained that he had no regrets about the life he had chosen. He said: “I never had time for myself; I spent all my free time on my father.” For all his dedication, however, Hess remains regarded as one of the key architects of the Third Reich, a regime that caused untold misery.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Himmler’s daughter continues to support far-right politics in her native Germany. NY Times.

19. Gudrun Burwitz was Heinrich Himmler’s doting daughter and she continues to praise her wicked Nazi father

To most people, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the fearsome Nazi SS, was the epitome of evil. To Gudrun Margarete Elfriede Emma Anna Burwitz, he was simply a loving father. Despite being made fully aware of the crimes of the Third Reich – crimes that Himmler had a significant hand in – she never condemned the Nazi regime. What’s more, she even remained involved in far-right politics in her native Germany into her old age, remaining a hero figure for the country’s neo-Nazis.

Gudrun was born in the summer of 1929, the only child of Himmler and his wife Margarete. She was brought up in Munich, though her father would have her fly to join him in Berlin on a regular basis. And when Himmler couldn’t be with his little girl, he would write to her or telephone her almost daily. She would also get letters and presents from her “Uncle Hitler”. What’s more, like many dads, Himmler also took his daughter to work with him sometimes – including one infamous father-daughter trip to a concentration camp.

By all accounts, Gudrun was largely unmoved by her visit to Dachau. Even though she was old enough to appreciate the suffering of the people she saw, people she recalled as being all “unshaven and poorly clothed”, she was more interested in exploring the camp’s vegetable garden. Such a lack of concern for the victims of her father’s policies is perhaps why she always defended Himmler. Even after her father committed suicide at the end of the war, and after the sheer horror of the Nazi regime became apparent, she continued to insist that he was a good man and that his cause was just.

In the 1950s, Gudrun became politically involved herself. She joined a support group for unrepentant Nazis and even set up her own far-right youth organization, the Viking Youth. She married a fellow Nazi sympathizer and raised two children in Munich. Their home became a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of Himmler. Though the Viking Youth group was banned in 1994, she continues to support the German right, even if old age limits now her involvement in nationalist politics.

The Children of History’s Monsters
Teodorin Obiang has amassed a vast fortune thanks to his father’s complete power. The Guardian.

20. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo has used his father’s power to fund his playboy lifestyle

As the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo was paid around $4,000 a month. However, when he wasn’t at his desk in the Ministry, he would be racing supercars through the streets of his impoverished country, or he might be chilling in his $15 million Malibu mansion or spending a weekend in his Paris penthouse. How did he afford such luxuries on a government salary? Well, when your father has been the President for more than 40 years, money usually isn’t an issue.

Teodoro, also known as Teodorin, was born in June 1969. That means he was 10 years old when his father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo ousted his own uncle in a coup to take control of Equatorial Guinea. From 1979 until the present day, the President has ruled over his country with an iron fist. While he has established it as a major oil producer, many people still live in poverty. The President has been charged with widespread abuses of power, including corruption and human rights violations. He has also been charged with nepotism, not least by making Teodorin his second-in-command and designated successor.

The President’s favorite son, Teodorin enjoyed the best education money can buy. After private school in France, he went to college in California before returning to his native country to begin his meteoric rise through the political system. However, it’s his lavish spending habits and playboy lifestyle rather than his political abilities which have ensued Toedorin regularly makes headlines around the world. On one occasion, it was reported that he blew several million in one weekend, splashing out on a new Bentley and a new Lamborghini while on holiday in South Africa. As well as these, he also owns some of the world’s rarest – and most expensive – supercars, plus he owns a global hip-hop music label and properties around the world.

It’s not always gone his way, however. Both France and Switzerland have conducted investigations into Teodorin for corruption. So far, however, he has only been hit with fines. The United States Justice Department has also seized some of his assets, including luxury cars, private jets and even Michael Jackson memorabilia. Again, however, he managed to reach an agreement with investigators, allowing him to carry on living a decadent lifestyle while millions in his country live on or below the poverty line.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Obituary: Edda Ciano.” The Independent, April 1995.

“Japan’s Emperor Akihito: Ten things you may not know.” BBC, August 2016.

“When family ties lead straight to Hitler.” The Times of Israel, November 2012.

“Who’s who: Milosevic family.” BBC News, March 2006.

“Fidel Castro’s eldest son ‘Fidelito’ commits suicide.” Reuters, February 2018.

“Nicu Ceausescu, 45, Flamboyant Son of Romania Dictator.” The New York Times, September 1996.

“How Nazi offspring dealt with their families’ hellish stories.” Larry Gelten, New York Post, February 2018.

“My Father Was a Better Economist Than Museveni – Jaffar Amin.” Chimp Reports, July 2016.

“Goering’s Grandniece Seeks Closure in Israel.” Haaretz, October 2008.