Klara Pölzl was born in Austria in 1860. She was kind and gentle and set out to live the life of the typical girl of her time and place, intending to become a devoted wife and mother. Her cousin, Alois Hitler, brought her to his home to serve as maid for his children while is wife was ill with tuberculosis. While the wife was dying, Klara became pregnant with Alois's child, and as soon as the man was widowed, they petitioned the Church in Rome to be married. Because they were cousins, the Church needed to issue a special dispensation. Incest is an unpleasant business.
Klara and Alois had six children, but only two survived their childhood—a daughter named Paula and a son named Adolf. Yeah, that Adolf. Alois had other children from his previous marriage, but Klara stayed focused on her own. She was so focused, she spoiled them rotten. Her step-son Alois, Jr. asked for money for school, but Klara convinced her husband to save his money for Adolf's education. She wanted him to attend a school for architecture, although his grades were so mediocre at best, he didn't show much promise for admittance into any school at all.
Alois, Sr. was so determined his son would become a successful civil servant, a position requiring a solid education, he used all of his inbred parenting skills, like yelling and daily beatings and threats, to get Adolf to be disciplined in his studies. None of those things worked, and by the time little Adolf was sixteen, he had been expelled and was without a certificate of education that would have helped him get a reasonable job or be accepted by a university.
After her husband died, Klara could finally stop weakly protecting her prized son from baton beatings, but she continued to lavish him with affection, the dear boy. He had a reputation for being an arrogant, uncooperative and spoiled brat—"argumentative, autocratic, self-opinionated and bad-tempered, and unable to submit to school discipline"—but she kept trying to give him a leg up. Adolf so desperately wanted to be an artist that Klara paid for his training in a drawing school. He lacked discipline and lasted not quite four months, and then he was right back in his mother's house—no job, no education, no friends.
Klara watched as her weasel of a son floundered through his limited options with his limited education. He failed at school, he failed at art, he failed at piano lessons because of those darned scales, and he was expelled from singing in the church choir after being caught smoking in the gardens. When Adolf was eighteen, Klara was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she died soon after. She left him plenty of money, but he was without the unconditional emotional support only his mother provided.
It's easy to second-guess Klara Hitler's mothering, to judge her in retrospect. So, let's give it a shot. To a large extent, we can only guide our children. We can't mold them or create what they will become. But Klara might have tried encouraging her son to develop some personal discipline. Of course there is only so much you can do when your husband is a stick-wielding tyrant who is eager to leave welts and bruises on your kids. One thing Klara might have done differently is to marry someone other than her blood relative. Incest really is an unpleasant business.