Hitler’s hidden medical history — hidden no more

By now, many people know that Adolf Hitler was a paranoid crystal meth addict, with his quack personal physician acting as the drug pusher. But how many know how (and why) he ended up that way?

As this documentary shows, Hitler’s medical history is a plethora of health problems. Far from being a Superman of the so-called master race, he was a very ordinary middle-aged man with a list of Krankheiten that just kept getting longer as the years went by. He was not a well man, and the worry showed in his face. Among other things, he was a hypochondriac — and his doctor, Theodor Morell, was more than happy to cater to that side of him.

After Hitler became a vegetarian, subsisting mainly on beans, he developed digestive problems, including chronic flatulence. (Yup, the Führer farted. A LOT.) Worse, his stools were a horrible mess. Morell treated him with what must have seemed a very unorthodox method at the time — by feeding him capsules containing the intestinal flora (bacteria, that is) of healthy young German soldiers, taken from their stools. Today, we know that fecal transplants can save lives, at least for those who don’t have enough (or any) “good” bacteria in their guts. But those are given in the form of enemas today; Morell had to get Hitler to swallow the poopy microbes in pill form. (Don’t laugh. Probiotic supplements, however disputed their efficacy, are a big money industry nowadays, and so are yogurts with active bacterial cultures!)

But while the poop cure worked well on Hitler’s bad bowels, other treatments were considerably shadier. Hitler’s long-winded, bombastic speeches are the stuff of propaganda legend. Where did he get that energy? Well, among other things, from amphetamines — and from crystal meth in particular. But he didn’t take it in the form that the German housewives and soldiers of the day did in order to keep long hours on less and less nourishing food. Instead of taking Pervitin pills, he took it in shots — and kept up his mad mannikin act for hours on end.

But all that manic energy came at a price. After the “up”, Hitler had to come down…and did so with the help of barbiturates. More than two decades later, amphetamines and barbiturates both became illegal and were taken off the market because too many housewives and office workers were winding up in the so-called “Valley of the Dolls”, blanking out their days in a drug-induced haze. The so-called miracle drug for fatigue was hastening death for those who popped greater and greater doses to get their fix. And after every “up”, they needed a “downer” in order to sleep. The Rolling Stones even sang about the ills of a “Mother’s Little Helper” — Miltown, which eased the anxiety attacks brought about by abuse of “diet pills” (amphetamines, again).

All that medical horror was still relatively unknown in the 1940s, though. No respectable doctor would ever cop to pushing pills on a perfectly respectable speed freak, and in those days, speed was quite respectable. During the war, pep pills were popped like vitamins. In fact, Morell himself told Hitler it was “vitamins” he was taking, and the old boy believed him! It would be long after Hitler’s suicide in the Führerbunker before anyone took a harder look at all of those happy-pills.

Of course Theodor Morell had to know what was really going on. His prize patient was falling apart before his eyes, and he kept feeding him more and more different kinds of drugs — literally dozens of them. In the video, there’s even an outtake from one propaganda film that shows Hitler holding one hand behind his back, clutching something in a futile attempt to steady it. But the hand keeps shaking and shaking, like Dr. Strangelove’s, seemingly possessed of a life of its own. That tremor is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. Did Hitler develop that condition as a result of his steady diet of dangerous drug cocktails? Or was Morell frantically feeding him those drugs in an effort to stave it off — along with all the depression that comes not only from the stresses of heading up a losing war, but also from the nervous-system damage that psychoactive medications can produce if not used correctly?

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