Medicating a Madman: A Sober Look at Hitler's Health
There are myriad theories out there about Hitler's health. Some say he was a drug addict, others say he was the victim of a hypnosis gone wrong. Then there are the strange hypotheses about his genitalia. A new book, however, debunks most such ideas. Drugs and illness, the authors conclude, had little effect on his actions.
For a mass murderer, Adolf Hitler had a downright fatherly relationship with his personal physician. "My dear doctor, I so look forward to seeing you in the morning!" the Nazi dictator told his doctor, Theodor Morell, whom he trusted implicitly. In fact, Hitler was convinced that Morell had saved his life on several occasions. "My dear doctor!" the despot said to Morell in November 1944, "if we both make it through the war in one piece, you will see how generously I'll reward you!"
Traudl Junge, who was Hitler's private secretary during the war, later said that he was "utterly addicted to Morell." Ironically, however, the doctor didn't enjoy the best of reputations. When Eva Braun, Hitler's longtime companion, complained about Morell's poor bodily hygiene, Hitler stubbornly defended his personal physician, saying: "Morell isn't here to be smelled, but to keep me healthy."
But it was precisely Morell's ability to treat his patient that those in Hitler's inner circle questioned. For example, General Heinz Guderian called Morell a "fat, unappetizing quack," and Hermann Göring, the morphine-addicted commander of the Luftwaffe, disparagingly referred to Morell as the "Reich syringe master." Likewise, there were persistent rumors that the doctor had made Hitler dependent on certain medications and illicit drugs.
Even after the war, hardly any aspect of Hitler's private life fueled as much speculation as his physical ailments. Generations of historians, psychologists, psychiatrists and amateur sleuths have sought to uncover Hitler's real and imagined illnesses. To them, it seemed only logical that the irrational raging of a man who ordered millions of Jews, Roma and myriad others to be murdered was the outgrowth of a sick mind. Of course, the theory went, Hitler must have been somehow traumatized, a drug addict or even mentally ill!
Many facile theories were proposed soon after the war. Hitler was alternatively said to be either gay or schizophrenic. Some thought he had suffered for decades from the consequences of a hypnosis treatment gone wrong. His penis was said to be as stunted as his self-esteem, and the Führer allegedly had only one testicle and had contracted syphilis. There were claims that he was constantly high on illicit drugs and popped pills with abandon. Does this mean we're supposed to understand Hitler as the addict par excellence of the Third Reich -- and his personal physician as his main dealer?
Such attempts to explain Hitler's behavior are dangerous, of course. Should he be found to have had an unsound mind, wouldn't it mean that he could be held only partially responsible for the millions of deaths he ordered? Holocaust denier David Irving, for example, claims that medical mistakes induced Hitler into "euphoric trances," thereby suggesting that the dictator was more or less unaware of his actions.
On the other hand, serious academics have asked valid questions about Hitler's health and, indeed, part of the mystery lies in the paucity of significant source material available. After the war, Hitler's medical files disappeared, and the only evidence left were notes taken by his personal physician and eyewitness accounts.
Now, however, in their new book "War Hitler Krank?" ("Was Hitler Ill?"), historian Henrik Eberle and Hans-Joachim Neumann, a professor emeritus of medicine at Berlin's Charité University Hospital, have combined the use of documentary material with modern medical analysis to separate myth from verifiable facts. The book purports to offer nothing short of "conclusive findings" on Hitler's state of health. It also reveals quite a few ghastly details about the dictator. For example, it posits that Hitler may have had tooth fillings made of dental gold taken from Jewish concentration camp victims: His dentist had more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of the material in his possession.
Testosterone for Eva
The two authors meticulously list all 82 medications that historical documents say Hitler took during the course of his rule. The list shows that Morell was more than willing to cater to his patient's every desire. For example, he routinely administered a solution of dextrose and vitamins to help Hitler combat fatigue. Because Hitler was skeptical of pills and capsules, the solution was injected intravenously or intramuscularly.
In 1944, Morell began giving him injections of the testosterone, particularly when Eva Braun was around. They also posit that, before his rendezvous with Braun, Hitler occasionally had Morell inject an extract derived from the seminal vesicles and prostate glands of young bulls into his bloodstream.
Morell's notes also reveal that the man who considered himself to be the greatest military leader of all time suffered from several everyday fears and ailments. He was terrified of getting cancer. After having literally shouted his way into power, he was constantly hoarse and had polyps removed from his vocal chords twice. He had high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal cramps, and he was also relatively squeamish. When he caught a cold once from his personal barber, Hitler raged: "The man has had the sniffles for five days, and he doesn't even tell me!"
- Part 1: A Sober Look at Hitler's Health
- Part 2: Rat Poison and 'Hitler Speed'
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH