by Sabrina Oliveros
Hero. Martyr. Writer. Get these facts right about Dr. Jose Rizal, and you’d think you already know all there is to know about the Philippines’ national hero.
But did you ever hear about him being the father of Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong? Or about Rizal being the first serial killer in history?
The textbooks do not say it, but urban legends do. Are these tales part of history, or just a hoax? While they are most probably the latter, one thing’s for sure: Rizal can be the main character of the most remarkable stories ever.
Adolf Rizal, Rizal Zedong?
Urban legends have it that Rizal, noted for his globe-trotting and romantic affairs as well as for his patriotism, fathered the German dictator Hitler and Chinese communist leader Mao while on his travels.
Manuel L. Quezon III recounts the facts around which the story is woven:
Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Branau, a village near the border of Austria and Germany, to Klara Polz, who was once a maid in Vienna. Even so, Hitler always considered the town of Linz, in Austria, as his hometown.
Rizal, in turn, traveled to Germany in 1886, passing by various German cities in the process. In the same year, he finished the Noli Me Tangere in Berlin. In 1887, during his continued travels, he lost a diamond stickpin at a hotel in Brunn, which was later returned to him by the efforts of the maid who had found it. He then voyaged along the Danube River, and ended his travels in Linz. All in all, Rizal was in Europe at the time of Hitler’s conception and birth.
The connections among the places, Quezon says, make for a story that has Rizal and Hitler’s mother meeting anywhere he traveled, including Brunn. They could have even had their affair in Linz, accounting for why Hitler would have been raised there later. To put a flourish on the romance, Hitler’s mother—who Rizal could have met in any of his trips—shares almost the same name as the female romantic lead in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo: Maria Clara. Any other discrepancies could be worked around or attributed to cover-ups.
Historian Ambeth Ocampo explains that this legend was spun off excerpts from the memoirs of Maximo Viola, My travels with Dr. Rizal, which describe Rizal to have “encountered the figure of a temptress in the form of a Viennese woman” and to have frequented “houses of low-flying doves” while in Europe. This “indiscretion in Vienna”, Ocampo writes, led people into thinking that the Philippine national hero fathered the man behind the Holocaust and Nazism himself.
The flights of fancy, however, are run aground by a simple rebuttal cited by the Philippine Urban Legend Archive. Since Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, he should have been conceived around August of the previous year. But Rizal was nowhere near Austria at this time; he was in London from May 1888 to January 1889.
“Therefore,” quotes the Philippine Urban Legend Archive, “it is completely impossible for Jose Rizal to have been the natural father of Adolf Hitler.”
But is it possible that he could have been the father of Mao, as others suggest? That theory hits a brick wall as well, for, when Mao was born in 1893 in Hunan province, Rizal was already in exile in Dapitan. Quezon writes: “It would have been possible for Rizal to scamper around Europe and get Klara pregnant without anybody noticing, but he couldn’t possibly have jumped into a boat and rowed to Hongkong without being caught!”
No legends are laid to rest, though. For, conspiracy theorists insist, even if the great Filipino wasn’t wooing the ladies, he could have been doing one other thing: murdering them.
Joe the Ripper
From August 31 to November 9, 1888, five prostitutes were brutally killed—strangled before their throats were slit—in the East End area of London. Medical examiners then believed the killer, skilled with a knife, had some medical training because of the methodical way the murders were done, casebook.com relates. Police afterwards received letters signed “Jack the Ripper” owing up to the crimes, but the murderer’s identity was never ever known.
At the same time the mysterious “J.R.” was terrorizing London, Rizal was in the city, spending his days at the British Library as he copied Sucesos de las islas Filipinas by hand so that he could annotate them, says museumofhoaxes.com.
Jack the Ripper’s bloody spree, filipinohome.com further notes, began after Rizal arrived in London and ended only after he left England for continental Europe.
Given these, the conspiracy theory goes, Rizal could very well have been Jack the Ripper. Having been in London within the time frame of the murders, he had the opportunity to commit the crimes (“We do not know what Rizal did at night or on the days he was not in the library,” museumofhoaxes.com points out). Moreover, he had the means. Just like the anonymous killer, Rizal had medical knowledge—he was a doctor, after all. And his motive? “Jack the Ripper liked women,” says museumofhoaxes.com. “So did Rizal.”
Who else could the murderous “J.R.” have been but Jose Rizal himself?
Theories on theories
Reactions to the urban legends on online forums range from the sarcastic to scholarly.
Respondents to the thread “Could Jose Rizal be Jack the Ripper” on answers.yahoo.com also dismiss the story, saying that, in the first place, Rizal’s physique does not fit that of the murderer’s. He would have been too short or not as physically strong to attack and move the victims as Jack the Ripper did. Moreover, they say, Rizal’s psychological profile as a well-off intellectual does not match that of a psychopath’s.
“The Jack the Ripper theory—though ponderous—is probably a product of coincidence, hyper-analysis and vivid imagination,” writes starry01.
The Hitler legend is scoffed at just as much. But, says ako lang on answers.yahoo.com: “Even if it were true, so what? What would it change? As if Rizal would be responsible for his alleged son’s actions.”
The speculations, however foolish, are rooted in the idea that “The Filipino can!”, Quezon notes. For a brown man to be responsible for the man who shook the world’s history, he says, would be poetic justice.
Article originally appeared here.