The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who was very close with his mother, once remarked that "people who know that they are preferred or favored by their mother give evidence in their lives of a peculiar self-reliance and an unshakeable optimism which often seem like heroic attributes and bring actual success to their possessors."
Whether you subscribe to Freud's theories or not, it's certainly true that some of the world's most powerful rulers have had fascinating relationships with their mothers -- some surprisingly loving, others ambivalent or just plain bitter. Alexander the Great's power-hungry mother, Olympias, is thought to have been a driving force behind her son's ascension to the throne of Macedonia. Napoleon Bonaparte's mother, Letizia, taught her son discipline ("she sometimes made me go to bed without supper," he once recalled) and followed him to exile in Elba and then back to Paris before the Battle of Waterloo.
Modern-day dictators have had their share of complicated mother-son relationships as well. This Mother's Day, instead of giving your mother a flashy title like "anti-Japanese heroine" (Kim Jong Il's mom) or "Mother of Militants" (Saddam Hussein's mom), you may just want to thank her for not raising a tyrant.
Relationship: Although he often clashed with his father over his poor performance at school, the Führer adored his mother. Hitler left his home in 1907 as a teenager to try to make it as an artist in Vienna (Klara encouraged his artistic endeavors) but returned briefly after his mother died of cancer that same year, leaving him an orphan. In Mein Kampf, which Hitler wrote in the 1920s, he reflected on his reaction to her passing:
I am thankful for that period in my life because it hardened me and enabled me to be as tough as I now am. And I am even more thankful because I appreciate the fact that I was thus saved from the emptiness of a life of ease and that a mother's darling was taken from tender arms and handed over to Adversity as to a new mother. Though I then rebelled against it as too hard a fate, I am grateful that I was thrown into a world of misery and poverty and thus came to know the people for whom I was afterwards to fight.
Eduard Bloch, the Jewish doctor who treated Klara, would later recall that while Hitler "was not a ‘mother's boy' in the usual sense," he had "never witnessed a closer attachment." He had also never witnessed "anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler" as he sat by his mother's deathbed, sketching her to "preserve a last impression." Some have speculated that Bloch's failure to save Klara contributed to Hitler's hatred of Jews. But the Nazis permitted Bloch to leave Austria for the United States in 1940, and Bloch claimed that Hitler once remarked, "If all Jews were like him, there would be no Jewish question."
In March, the tombstone marking the grave of Hitler's parents in the Austrian village where he grew up was removed after it became a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.