Adolf Hitler's health

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Adolf Hitler's health has long been a subject of popular controversy. Both his physical health and his mental health have come under scrutiny.

Syphilis[edit]

Adolf Hitler's tremors and irregular heartbeat during the last years of his life could have been symptoms of tertiary (late stage) syphilis,[1] which would mean he had a syphilis infection for many years. Along with another doctor, Theodor Morell diagnosed the symptoms as such by early 1945 in a joint report to SS head Heinrich Himmler.[citation needed] Some historians[who?] have also cited Hitler's preoccupation with syphilis across 14 pages of Mein Kampf, where he called it a "Jewish disease", leading to speculation he may have had the disease himself. His possible discovery in 1908 that he himself had the disease may have been responsible for his demeanor; while his life course may[weasel words] have been influenced by his anger at being a syphilitic, as well as his belief that he had acquired the disease from undesirable societal elements which he intended to eliminate.[citation needed] In several chapters of Mein Kampf, he wrote about the temptation of prostitution and the spreading of syphilis, specifically volume 1, chapter 10 "Causes of the Collapse".[2] Historians have speculated he may have[weasel words] caught the affliction from a German prostitute at a time when the disease was not yet treatable by modern antibiotics, which would also explain his avoidance of normal sexual relations with women. However, syphilis had become curable in 1910 with Dr. Paul Ehrlich's introduction of the drug Salvarsan.[citation needed]

No pictures exist of Hitler revealing any portion of his torso, such as wearing a bathing suit at the beach.[citation needed] The author Deborah Hayden[3] has written extensively regarding Hitler and syphilis.[4] [5]

Since the 1870s, however, it was a common rhetorical practice on the völkisch right to associate Jews with diseases such as syphilis.[citation needed] Historian Robert Waite claims Hitler tested negative on a Wassermann test as late as 1939, which does not prove that he did not have the disease, because the Wassermann test was prone to false-negative results.[citation needed] Regardless of whether he actually had syphilis or not, Hitler lived in constant fear of the disease, and took treatment for it no matter what doctors told him.[citation needed]

In his biography of Doctor Felix Kersten called The Man with the Miraculous Hands,[6] journalist and Académie française member Joseph Kessel wrote that in the winter of 1942, Kersten heard of Hitler's medical condition. Consulted by his patient, Himmler, as to whether he could "assist a man who suffers from severe headaches, dizziness and insomnia," Kersten was shown a top-secret 26-page report. It detailed how Hitler had contracted syphilis in his youth and was treated for it at a hospital in Pasewalk, Germany. However, in 1937, symptoms re-appeared, showing that the disease was still active, and by the start of 1942, signs were evident that progressive syphilitic paralysis (Tabes dorsalis) was occurring. Himmler advised Kersten that Morell (who in the 1930s claimed to be a specialist venereologist) was in charge of Hitler's treatment, and that it was a state secret. The book also relates how Kersten learned from Himmler's secretary, Rudolf Brandt, that at that time, probably the only other people privy to the report's information were Nazi Party chairman Martin Bormann and Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe.

Monorchism[edit]

It has been alleged that Hitler had monorchism, the medical condition of having only one testicle. Hitler's personal doctor, Johan Jambor, supposedly described the dictator's condition to a priest who later wrote down what he had been told in a document which was uncovered recently, 23 years after the doctor's death.[7]

Soviet doctor Lev Bezymensky, allegedly involved in the Soviet autopsy, stated in a 1967 book that Hitler's left testicle was missing (see Hitler Has Only Got One Ball). Bezymensky later admitted that the claim was falsified.[8] Hitler was routinely examined by many doctors throughout his childhood, military service and later political career, and no clinical mention of any such condition has ever been discovered. Records do show he was wounded in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, and some sources describe his injury as a wound to the groin.[citation needed] Hitler's World War I company commander said a VD exam found that Hitler had no testicles, but this individual was known to be politically critical of Hitler, and no documentation of the exam seems to exist.[citation needed]

Parkinson's disease[edit]

It has also been speculated Hitler had Parkinson's disease. Newsreels of Hitler show he had tremors in his hand and a shuffling walk (also a symptom of tertiary syphilis, see above) which began before the war and continued to worsen until the end of his life. Morell treated Hitler with a drug agent that was commonly used in 1945, although Morell is viewed as an unreliable doctor by most historians and any diagnoses he may have made are subject to doubt.

A more reliable doctor, Ernst-Günther Schenck, who worked at an emergency casualty station in the Reich Chancellery during April 1945, also claimed Hitler might have Parkinson's disease. However, Schenck only saw Hitler briefly on two occasions and, by his own admission, was extremely exhausted and dazed during these meetings (at the time, he had been in surgery for numerous days without much sleep). Also, some of Schenck's opinions were based on hearsay from Dr. Haase.

Other complaints[edit]

From the 1930s he suffered from stomach pains, in 1936 a non cancerous polyp was removed from his throat and he developed eczema on his legs.[9] He suffered ruptured eardrums as a result of the July 20 plot bomb blast in 1944 and 200 wood splinters had to be removed from his legs,[10] but he was otherwise uninjured. Some doctors dismiss Hitler's ailments as hypochondria, pointing out the apparently drastic decline of Hitler's health as Germany began losing World War II.

Mental health[edit]

As debated as Hitler's physical medical issues may be, his mental health is a minefield of theories and speculation. This topic is controversial, as many believe that if a psychological cause can be found for Hitler's behavior, there would be more reasoning behind his actions.

Waite, who wrote an extensive psychohistory of Hitler, concluded that he suffered from borderline personality disorder, which manifested its symptoms in numerous ways and would imply Hitler was in full control of himself and his actions. Others have proposed Hitler may have been schizophrenic[citation needed], based on claims that he was hallucinating and delusional during his last year of life. Many people believe that Hitler had a mental disorder and was not schizophrenic nor bipolar, but rather met the criteria for both disorders, and was therefore most likely a schizoaffective. If true, this might be explained by a series of brief reactive psychoses in a narcissistic personality which could not withstand being confronted with reality (in this case, that he was not the "superman" or "savior of Germany" he envisioned himself to be, as his plans and apparent early achievements collapsed about him). In addition, his regular methamphetamine use and possible sleep deprivation in the last period of his life must be factored into any speculation as to the cause of his possible psychotic symptoms, as these two activities are known to trigger psychotic reactions in some individuals. Hitler never visited a psychiatrist, and under current methodology, any such diagnosis is speculation.

Drug use[edit]

Prescribed 90 medications during the war years, Hitler took many pills each day for chronic stomach problems and other ailments.[11] He regularly consumed methamphetamine, barbiturates, opiates, and cocaine.[12][13] He suffered ruptured eardrums as a result of the 20 July plot bomb blast in 1944, and 200 wood splinters had to be removed from his legs.[14] Newsreel footage of Hitler shows tremors of his hand and a shuffling walk, which began before the war and worsened towards the end of his life.[11] Ernst-Günther Schenck and several other doctors who met Hitler in the last weeks of his life also formed a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.[15]

Criticism[edit]

In a 1980 article, the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler was highly dismissive of all theories that sought to explain Nazi Germany as due to some defect, medical or otherwise in Hitler. Wehler wrote:

"Does our understanding of National Socialist policies really depend on whether Hitler had only one testicle?...Perhaps the Führer had three, which made things difficult for him, who knows?...Even if Hitler could be regarded irrefutably as a sado-masochist, which scientific interest does that further?...Does the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question' thus become more easily understandable or the 'twisted road to Auschwitz' become the one-way street of a psychopath in power?"[16]

In Wehler's opinion, besides the problem that such theories about Hitler's medical condition were extremely difficult to prove, the problem was that they had the effect of personalizing the phenomena of Nazi Germany by more or less attributing everything that happened in the Third Reich to one flawed individual.[16] Echoing Wehler's views, the British historian Sir Ian Kershaw argued that it was better to take a broader view of German history by seeking to examine what social forces led to the Third Reich and its policies, as opposed to the "personalized" explanations for the Holocaust and World War II.[16] In his 1998 book Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, the American journalist Ron Rosenbaum sarcastically remarked that theories concerning Hitler's mental state and sexual activity shed more light on the theorists than on Hitler.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hitler syphilis theory revived". BBC News. 2003-03-12. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  2. ^ Mein Kampf: Causes of the Collapse]
  3. ^ "Pox". 
  4. ^ http://connections.smsd.org/veterans/hitlerface.jpg
  5. ^ See a documentary video file produced by the Armed Forces in the late 1940s about the very serious number of cases of the disease reported in Europe and the United States in the early part of the century.
  6. ^ Kessel, Joseph. The Man With the Miraculous Hands: The Fantastic Story of Felix Kersten, Himmler's Private Doctor. Classics of War Series. Springfield, NJ: Burford Books, 2004. ISBN 1580801226.
  7. ^ "Hitler HAD only got one ball". 
  8. ^ Bezymensky L. A. Operatsija "Mif" ili skolko raz choronili Gitlera. Moscow 1995
  9. ^ Ian Kershaw (2000). Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis. Penguin Press. ISBN 0-393-32252-1. 
  10. ^ Heinz Linge, Roger Moorehouse (2009). With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler's Valet. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 1-602-39804-6. 
  11. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 782.
  12. ^ Ghaemi 2011, p. [page needed].
  13. ^ Porter 2013.
  14. ^ Linge 2009, p. 156.
  15. ^ O'Donnell 2001, p. 37.
  16. ^ a b c Kershaw, Ian The Nazi Dictatorship : Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, London : Arnold 2000 page 72.

Further reading[edit]

Medical books[edit]

External links[edit]