The Nazi leader wanted to control the world, but he couldn’t even control his own digestion, and nor could his half-baked doctor, writes Tony Perrottet, adding perhaps a touch more detail than you might think appropriate …
It may sound like a Woody Allen scenario, but medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonising digestive attacks would occur after most meals: Albert Speer recalled that the Führer, ashen-faced, would leap up from the dinner table and disappear to his room.
This was an embarrassing problem for a ruthless leader of the Third Reich. With uncharacteristic concern for his fellow human beings, Hitler had first tried to cure himself when he was a rising politician in 1929 by poring over medical manuals, coming to the conclusion that a largely veg diet would calm his turbulent digestion as well as make his farts less offensive to the nose. A rabid hypochondriac, he would also examine his own feces on a regular basis and administer himself camomile enemas.
Hitler decided to swear off meat completely in 1931, when his niece (and presumed romantic interest) Geli Raubel committed suicide: When presented with a plate of breakfast ham the next morning, he pushed it away muttering, “It’s like eating a corpse.” From that squeamish moment on, great piles of vegetables, raw or pulped into a baby mulch, were Hitler’s daily staple. (All cooked foods, he decided, were carcinogenic). He showed a particular fondness, culinary historians assure us, for oatmeal with linseed oil, cauliflower, cottage cheese, boiled apples, artichoke hearts and asparagus tips in white sauce.
Strangely, Hitler was unfazed by the fact that this high-fiber diet was having the opposite effect on his digestion than what he had intended. His private physician, Dr. Theo Morell, recorded in his diary that after Hitler downed a typical vegetable platter, “constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”
Hitler’s stomach problems may even have played their part in his losing the war, thanks to this shadowy figure of Dr. Morell, an incompetent quack who took over Hitler’s medical care in 1937. The pair had met at a Christmas gathering in the Berghof, the bucolic mountain retreat decorated with Bavarian knick-knacks and edelweiss, the year before.
Morrell was an unpleasant figure even by Nazi standards–grossly obese, with frog-like features, sulfurous B.O. and venomous halitosis. But when he cured a painful case of eczema on Hitler’s legs and provided temporary relief for his stomach cramps, the Führer was won over. To the irritation of other Nazi doctors, Hitler then proceeded to swallow any of Morell’s advice, no matter how hair-brained, for the next eight years.
For example, to combat recurrences of the volcanic stomach problems, Morell plied him with a remedy called “Dr. Küster’s Anti-gas pills,” which contained significant amounts of strychnine–and Hitler often took as many as 16 of the little black pills a day. The sallow skin, glaucous eyes and attention lapses noted by observers later in the war are consistent with strychnine poisoning; another ingredient in the pills, antropine, causes mood wings from euphoria to violent anger.
Even more peculiar were the injections of amphetamines that Morell administered every morning before breakfast from 1941, which may have exacerbated the erratic behavior, inflexibility, paranoia and indecision that Hitler began to display increasingly as the war ground on. And there was a barrage of other supplements–vitamins, testosterone, liver extracts, laxatives, sedatives, glucose and opiates, all intended to combat the dictator’s real or imagined ailments.
After the war, U.S. intelligence officers discovered that Morell was pumping Hitler with 28 different drugs, including eye-drops that contained 10 percent cocaine (up to 10 treatments a day), a concoction made from human placenta and “potency pills” made from ground bull’s testicles. But despite the barrage of medicines, Morell’s diaries (which were recovered from Germany and are kept in the National Archives in Washington, DC) make clear that the bouts of “agonizing flatulence” remained a regular occurrence.
A relatively healthy man when he met Morell, Hitler degenerated quickly towards the end of the war until he was a physical wreck. Hitler’s arms were so riddled with hypodermic marks that even the normally passive Eva Braun complained to her mother about Morell as “the injection quack.” When Hitler came down with jaundice in 1944, three Nazi doctors tried to have Morell fired. But the Führer remained fiercely loyal–or just as likely, addicted to his chemical cocktails–and dismissed the trio of troublemakers instead.
Morell stayed with Hitler in the Bunker almost until the bitter end, as his patient began to fall apart completely (and a tremor in his left hand became uncontrollable, a probable symptom of advancing Parkinson’s disease). On April 20, 1945, days before the Russians took Berlin, Hitler suddenly refused Morell’s hypodermic, ordered him to strip off his uniform and leave. Desperately ill himself, Morell was soon captured by the U.S. Army and kept in prison for two years of interrogations, but was never charged with war crimes. He was hospitalized immediately after his release and died in 1948.
If he had not been so cravenly devoted to Hitler, a hero-worship he expressed over and again to US interrogators, one might have thought Morell a spy. It was a suspicion that had occurred to other Nazis, especially during the 1944 jaundice attack. Heinrich Himmler interrogated Morell’s assistant Richard Weber in Berlin’s Gestapo Headquarters about whether the doctor was deliberately poisoning the Führer with his treatments. “Out of the question,” Weber replied. “Morell’s too big a coward for that.”
SOURCES/FURTHER READING: Gordon, Bertram, “Fascism, the Neo-Right and Gastronomy: A Case in the Theory of the Social Engineering of Taste,” Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery (1987); Heston, Leonard and Renate, “The Medical Casebook of Adolf Hitler: His Illnesses, Doctors and Drugs”, (New York, 2000); Irving, David, “The Secret Diaries of Hitler’s Doctor”, (London, 1983); Waite, Robert G.L., “The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler”, New York, 1993.
Theodor MorellFrom Wikipedia
Theodor Gilbert Morell Born July 22, 1886
Died May 26, 1948 (aged 61)
Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany
Occupation medical doctor Known for treating Adolf Hitler
Theodor Gilbert Morell (July 22, 1886 – May 26, 1948) was German Führer Adolf Hitler‘s personal physician. Morell was well known in Germany for his unconventional treatments. Morell had medical training and was licensed as a general practitioner in Germany long before he met Hitler.
Morell was the second son of a primary school teacher, born and raised in a small village called Trais-Münzenberg in UpperHesse. Morell’s paternal ancestry was of Frisian origin prior to the 12th century. He studied medicine in Grenoble and Paristhen trained in obstetrics and gynaecology in Munich beginning in 1910. By 1913, he had a doctoral degree and was fully licensed as a medical doctor. After a year serving as an assistant doctor on cruise ships, he bought a practice in Dietzenbach. He served at the front during World War I, then as a medical officer. By 1919, he was in Berlin with a medical practice and in 1920 married Hannelore “Hanni” Moller, a wealthy actress. He targeted unconventional treatments at an upscale market and eventually turned down invitations to be personal physician to both the Shah of Persia and the King of Romania.
Morell claimed to have studied under Nobel Prize-winning bacteriologist Ilya Mechnikov, along with having taught medicine at prestigious universities, and sometimes called himself “professor”. He also owned significant interests in several medium-sized European pharmaceutical companies. Morell had joined the Nazi party in 1933.
During a party at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden, Hitler first met Morell, who said he could cure him within a year. Morell’s wife was unhappy when he accepted the job as Hitler’s personal physician. Morell began treating Hitler with various commercial preparations, including a combination of vitamins and hydrolyzed E. coli bacteriacalled Multiflor. Hitler seemed to recover, and Morell eventually became a part of Hitler’s social inner circle, remaining there until shortly before the war ended. Some historians have attempted to explain this association by citing Morell’s reputation in Germany for success in treating syphilis, along with Hitler’s own (speculated) fears of the disease, which he associated closely with Jews. Other observers have commented on the possibility Hitler had visible symptoms of both Parkinson’s disease and syphilis, especially towards the end of the war.
As Hitler’s physician, Morell was constantly recommended to other members of the Nazi leadership, but most of them, including Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, immediately dismissed him as a quack. As Albert Speer related in his autobiography:
- “In 1936, when my circulation and stomach rebelled…I called at Morell’s private office. After a superficial examination…Morell prescribed for me his intestinal bacteria, dextrose, vitamins, and hormone tablets.“
- “For safety’s sake I afterward had a thorough examination by Professor von Bergmann, the specialist in internal medicine at Berlin University. I was not suffering from any organic trouble, he concluded, but only from nervous symptoms caused by overwork.“
- “I slowed down my pace as best I could and the symptoms abated. To avoid offending Hitler I pretended that I was carefully following Morell’s instructions, and since my health improved, I became for a time Morell’s showpiece.” (Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 1970).
When Hitler had trouble with grogginess in the morning, Morell would inject him with a solution of water mixed with a substance from several small, gold-foiled packets, which he called “Vitamultin” whereupon Hitler would get up refreshed and invigorated. A member of Himmlers SS acquired one of these and had it tested in a laboratory, where it was found to contain mephamphetamine.
Speer characterized Morell as an opportunist who, once he achieved status as Hitler’s physician, became extremely careless and lazy in his work; one who was more concerned with money and status rather than providing medical assistance.
Goering called Morell Der Reichsspritzenmeister, a nickname that stuck. This term does not have a precise English translation. Among the translations of this nickname are “Injection Master of the German Reich“, or Reichmaster of Injections “The Reich’s Injections Impresario” (Junge, Until the Final Hour), and “The Master of the Imperial Needle” (O’Donnell, The Bunker). When this term is translated, its underlying meaning is the same—it implied that Morell always resorted to using injections and drugs when faced with a medical problem, and that he overused these drug injections.
Morell developed a rivalry with Dr. Karl Brandt, who had been attending Hitler since 1933. The two often argued, though Hitler usually sided with Morell. Eva Braun later changed her opinion of Morell, calling his office a “pig sty” and refusing to see him any more.
In 1939, Morell inadvertently became involved with the forced annexation of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakian president, Emil Hacha, became so scared at Hitler’s outburst that he fainted. Morell injected stimulants into Hacha to wake him, and although he claimed these were only vitamins, they may have includedmethamphetamine. Hacha soon gave in to Hitler’s demands.
After the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, Morell treated him with topical penicillin, which had only recently been introduced into testing by the U.S. Army. Where he acquired it is unknown, and Morell claimed complete ignorance of penicillin when he was interrogated by American intelligence officers after the war. When members of Hitler’s inner circle were interviewed for the book The Bunker, some claimed Morell owned a significant share in a company fraudulently marketing a product as penicillin.
On 22 April 1945, about a week before committing suicide, Hitler dismissed Morell from the Führerbunker in Berlin, saying that he did not need any more medical help. Morell left behind a large amount of prepared medicine; during the last week of Hitler’s life, they were administered by Dr. Werner Haase and by Heinz Linge, Hitler’svalet.
Morell escaped Berlin on one of the last German flights out of the city but was soon captured by the Americans. One of his interrogators was reportedly “disgusted” by his obesity and complete lack of hygiene. Although he was held in an American internment camp, on the site of the former Buchenwald concentration camp, and questioned because of his proximity to Hitler, Morell was never charged with any crimes. His health declined rapidly. Grossly obese and suffering from speech impairment, he died in Tegernsee on May 26, 1948 after a stroke.
Substances given to Hitler
Morell kept a medical diary of the drugs, tonics, vitamins and other substances he administered to Hitler, usually by injection or in pill form. Most were commercial preparations, some were his own. Since some of these compounds are considered toxic, many historians have speculated Morell may have contributed to Hitler’s poor health. This fragmentary list of representative ingredients would have seemed somewhat less shocking during the 1940s:
- Cocaine (via eye drops)
- E. coli
- Nux Vomica (a form of strychnine)
- Oxedrine Tartrate
- Potassium bromide
- Proteins and lipids derived from animal tissues and fats
- Sodium barbitone
Morell apparently never told Hitler (or anyone else) what he was administering, other than to say the preparations contained various vitamins and “natural” ingredients—although this is discredited, as Hitler knew what was being administered. Some ingredients were later confirmed by doctors who had been shown pills by Hitler while temporarily treating him. A few of the preparations (such as Glyconorm, a tonic popular in Switzerland for fighting infections) contained rendered forms of animal tissues such as placenta, cardiac muscle, liver and bull testicles. During his interrogation after the war, Morell claimed another doctor had prescribed cocaine to Hitler, and at least one other doctor is known to have administered it through eyedrops after he requested it in the hours following an almost successful assassination attempt on 20 July 1944. Cocaine was routinely used for medical purposes in Germany during that time, but Morell is said to have increased the dosage tenfold; despite this, the concentration was still weak, as the eyedrops were only 1% cocaine. Overuse of cocaine eyedrops has been associated with psychotic behavior, hypertension and other symptoms; given the weak dosage, it is more likely they were caused by Methamphetamine, of which these are also common symptoms. However, historians have generally tended to discount any effects of Morell’s treatments on Hitler’s decision-making.
Morell was subject to many accusations by members of Hitler’s inner circle. Several people claimed he regularly injected Hitler with morphine without telling him, and that Morell himself was a morphine addict. Some went so far as to claim Morell used Hitler as a “guinea pig” for several of the drugs he tried to develop and sell, but these latter claims were made by people without medical backgrounds and may not be reliable.
(Tony Perrottet’s latest book, “Napoleon’s Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped”, will be published next year by William Morrow.)