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January 2011



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I’ve just found this fascinating 2007 snippet from the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience on Adolf Hitler’s mysteriously missing psychiatric file from the time he was admitted to hospital following First World War injuries.

The article mentions that he was reportedly diagnosed with hysterical or non-organic blindness, something that nowadays would be diagnosed as dissociative disorder or conversion disorder, which signifies that a seemingly ‘physical’ problem occurs without any detectable physical origin.

The traditional and still popular explanation is that the mind is converting trauma to a physical symptom to protect itself from distress, although there is not a great deal of evidence for this theory.

However, it seems his file from this hospital admission disappeared and everyone who had knowledge about the case was apparently killed by the SS.

The recent 60 years anniversary of the end of World War II and the Nazi regime may be reason for a short psychiatric-historical note to point out a frequently overlooked detail of Hitler’s life—his hidden psychiatric biography. Besides his extreme anti-semitism, mentally ill were among the most threatened individuals with some 200,000 being killed. This was made public during World War II by the Muenster cardinal Galen who most recently was beatified by pope Benedikt XVI. While Hitler’s late Parkinson disease has attracted some attention, his former functional ‘hysteric’ blindness is almost unknown.

In fact on 14th October 1918 Hitler, who served as a private in World War I, survived a mustard gas attack in Belgium near Ypern. There are some reports that he consecutively had a mild resultant conjunctivitis. He also suffered from nonorganic blindness. His further treatment is nearly unknown. Hitler was transferred to the military hospital in Pasewalk near Stettin/Baltic sea. Prof. Forster, chair at that psychiatric clinic, treated him by using hypnosis. Hitler was discharged on 19th November 1918 and never mentioned this period again.

His treatment is proven by eyewitness of Dr. Karl Kroner who later reported the facts to the US intelligence Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Hitlers’ file disappeared and all people who were closely involved or had special knowledge of this file were killed by the ‘Gestapo’, including Prof. Forster who probably was forced to commit suicide on 9th November 1933. Before that he succeeded in presenting these documents to exile writers in Paris where his brother was employed at the German embassy. The German Jewish writer Ernst Weiss, a physician himself, used the original documents in his novel ‘Der Augenzeuge’ (The Eyewitness) before he committed suicide during the German occupation of Paris on 6th May 1940.

The original file is lost but for all we know Hitler had a psychiatric history, which may not explain his savage ideas but throws an interesting light on his anti-psychiatric attitude.

Maybe it’s in the Albert Hall, along with that other important medical artefact from the Führer.

However, I note from the Wikipedia page on Hitler’s medical history that there have been many claims about Hitler’s health, many of them not well verified.

Nevertheless, he was subject to not one, but two, wartime Freudian character analyses commissioned by the OSS – the forerunner to the CIA. The first was completed by psychologist Henry Murray and the second by psychoanalyst Walter Langer.

The reports have many oddities and are largely opinion but they concluded that Hitler was a neurotic psychopath, probably had paranoid schizophrenia, was likely impotent, was a repressed homosexual and, most famously, would likely kill himself.

Although to be fair, the latter point did not describe dying a miserable death in a bunker but included various movie-style scenarios where he would blow himself up in a dynamite rigged mountain, use a single silver bullet or throw himself off a parapet as troops came to take him prisoner.

I’ve no idea how useful these reports ever were but they probably tell us more about the trends in psychology of the time than anything about the Nazi leader’s mind.

UPDATE: Grabbed from the comments… There’s an excellent post on the wartime character analysis reports over at the Providentia blog.

Link to short article on ‘Hitler’s missing psychiatric file’.

Source:  http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/01/the_missing_psychiat.html

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