Health of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler's health has long been a subject of popular controversy. Both his physical and mental health have come under scrutiny.
Adolf Hitler's tremors and irregular heartbeat during the last years of his life could have been symptoms of tertiary (late stage) syphilis, 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. 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; 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. 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". 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.
Since the 1870s, however, it was a common rhetorical practice on the völkisch right to associate Jews with diseases such as syphilis. 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. 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.
In his biography of Doctor Felix Kersten called The Man with the Miraculous Hands, 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.
It has been alleged that Hitler had monorchism, the medical condition of having only one testicle. In 2008, a UK newspaper reported that, in 1916, a German doctor named Johan Jambor had encountered an injured Hitler during the Battle of the Somme. Jambor allegedly asserted that Hitler—who is known to have suffered a groin injury in the battle—had in fact lost a testicle. Jambor had supposedly described the dictator's condition to a priest, who later wrote down what he had been told.
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. Eduard Block, Hitler’s childhood doctor, told U.S. interrogators in 1943 that Hitler's genitals were in fact "completely normal".
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It has also been speculated Hitler had Parkinson's disease. Newsreels of Hitler show he had tremors in his left 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 incompetent doctor by most historians and any diagnoses he may have made are subject to doubt.
A more reliable physician, 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. Werner Haase.
It has been speculated that Hitler had Huntington's disease. When many of the physical symptoms shown in newsreels during his later life – his hand tremor and shuffling gait – are coupled with his alleged mental and psychological deterioration, they may also point toward Huntington's. This is only conjecture, since a definitive diagnosis would require DNA testing. Although Huntington's Disease was known and considered a hereditary disease during the time period, even appearing in state papers on the sterilization list, it is not known if Hitler knew of this condition.
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. 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, 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.
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, 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.
Prescribed 90 medications during the war years by Theodor Morell, Hitler took many pills each day for chronic stomach problems and other ailments. He regularly consumed methamphetamine, barbiturates, opiates, and cocaine, as well as potassium bromide and atropa belladonna (the latter in the form of Doktor Koster's Antigaspills).
In a 1980 article, the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler was highly dismissive of all theories that sought to attribute the rise and policies of Nazi Germany to some defect, medical or otherwise, of Hitler's. 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. 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?
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.
In his book Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (1998), 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.
- "Hitler syphilis theory revived". BBC News. 2003-03-12. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- Mein Kampf: Causes of the Collapse]
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-01-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter
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- 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.
- 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.
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- "Huntington's disease - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
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