Wolf’s Lair, Fuehrer HQ, East Prussia • October 10, 1944
Shortly after the July 1944 attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life, an adjutant of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army remarked that the 55-year-old Hitler had the “posture of an old man.” On September 24, 1944, Dr. Theodor Morell, the Fuehrer’s loyal, long-serving physician, noted in his daily calendar that “Patient A” was suffering from heart trouble, stomach aches, and a sore throat. Morell had first met “Patient A” during a party at Hitler’s Alpine retreat, the Berghof, and told the German leader, a notorious vegetarian, that he could cure him within a year of some of the intestinal maladies that plagued him. Morell prescribed various commercial preparations, including a combination of vitamins and E. coli bacteria (the probiotic Mutaflor to treat Hitler’s gastrointestinal disorders, primarily flatulence). Hitler seemed to recover and Morell eventually became a member of Hitler’s de facto family circle as well as a member on his team of personal physicians.
On this date in 1944 Hitler sacked Morell’s rival, Dr. Karl Brandt, Reich Commissar for Health and Sanitation and for a time the leading medical authority in the Nazi regime. Brandt had become convinced that the injections and pills Morell prescribed for the Fuehrer were actually poisoning him. Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, despaired of the medicinal regimen Morell had created for Hitler, saying the medications needed to be regulated for the sake of the Fuehrer’s increasingly wobbly health. Others in Hitler’s inner circle also viewed the good doctor and his satchel of needles and drugs with suspicion, and Morell became the butt of numerous jokes outside of Hitler’s earshot. Luftwaffe chief and Reich Marshall Hermann Goering called Morell “Mr. Reich Injection Master,” “Herr Reichspritzenmeister.” Armaments Minister Albert Speer, one of Hitler’s closest associates, called Morell “a bit of a screwball.” Hitler, however, chose to view negative comments about Morell as a conspiracy. Between 1941 and 1945 but especially after 1942 when his health was seriously deteriorating under the pressures of war, Hitler consumed up to 88 different substances, among them opiates, cocaine, barbiturates (Brom-Nervacit), methamphetamine (Pervitin, touted as an “alertness aid”), laxatives, tonics, an extract of bull semen, the painkiller oxycodone (Eukodal, a pharmacological cousin of heroin), glucose, and useless hormones. The Fuehrer’s late-war nonstop rants may be ascribed to Hitler’s being high on methamphetamine. (Common slang terms for methamphetamine include speed, meth, crystal, and crystal meth.)
By the time of the Normandy invasion in France (Operation Overlord) in June 1944, Hitler’s sleep disorder and daytime somnolence—common in people with Parkinson’s disease—had noticeably affected his decision-making faculties and allegedly contributed to the slow response of Axis forces in counterattacking Allied beachhead landings. In the month Hitler died, April 1945, Morell was treating Hitler with two belladonna-based drugs, the treatment of choice at that time for tremors. Interned by the Allies after the war, Morell, unlike Brandt, was never charged with any war crimes. Escaping Brandt’s fate, Morell died from obesity-related health issues in a Bavarian hospital in 1948.
Hitler’s Personal Physicians: Theodor Morell and Karl Brandt, Chief of the Nazi Euthanasia Program (T‑4)
Left: A Nazi Party member since 1933, Dr. Theodor Morell (1886–1948) was Hitler’s personal physician. Morell was well known in Germany for his unconventional treatments. A licensed general practitioner, most people in Hitler’s inner circle regarded him as a quack. From 1936 onwards Morell supplied Hitler with drugs. His medicinal “basic therapy” consisted essentially of a 10- or 20‑percent glucose solution, a drug called Vitamultin (which contained among its ingredients methamphetamine), and the metabolic stimulant Tonophosphan. The concoction was intended to cure both physical and mental exhaustion. The basic medication or adjuvant medicinal nutrition was administered by intravenous or intramuscular injection. This was perhaps one of the reasons why Goering described Morell as “Reich Minister of Injections” or “Reich Injection Master.” Morell’s notes reveal, however, that Hitler appears to have had no objection to these injections (he wanted a quick effect) and regarded them as genuine medication. Over time, though, Hitler’s veins were like those of an inveterate junkie—collapsed to the point that injections occasionally had to be cancelled to give his veins time to heal. Hitler’s health deteriorated under the impact of the myriad drugs Morell prescribed. This was most pronounced after the failed July 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life (Operation Valkyrie). The Fuehrer’s physical decline—stooped, drooling, and tremorous—coincided with his increasingly rare public appearances and his self-imposed isolation, first in the “Wolf’s Lair,” his military headquarters buried deep in the East Prussian forests, and then, from February 1945 onward, in his Fuehrerbunker in Berlin.
Right: A member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary SS (Schutzstaffel) since July 1934, Dr. Karl Brandt (1904–1948), a surgeon, was selected as Hitler’s “escort physician” the next month. From 1939 onwards he headed the Nazi euthanasia program (Action T‑4), in which thousands of people who were medically diagnosed as “incurably sick” (e.g., handicapped, physically disabled, or mentally ill) were granted a mercy death (Gnadentod). Appointed Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation in 1942, he became involved in grotesque medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners on a previously unimaginable scale. Brandt was prosecuted in the first round of the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trials. Convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he was hanged on June 2, 1948.
Left: A former jail, the Brandenburg Euthanasia Center, officially known as the Brandenburg Welfare Institute, was established in 1939 and acted as a killing center as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. At first patients were killed by lethal injection, but the doses of increasingly scarce and expensive drugs was soon apparent. Hitler himself recommended to Brandt that carbon monoxide gas be used. At his trial Brandt described this as a “major advance in medical history.” The first gassings took place at Brandenburg in January 1940 and by the end of the year 9,772 people had been asphyxiated.
Right: Hadamar in the German state of Hessen housed a psychiatric clinic where 10,072 men, women, and children were asphyxiated with carbon monoxide in a gas chamber designed to look like a shower in the first phase of the T‑4 killing operations there (January to August 1941). Another 4,000 died through starvation and by lethal injection until March 1945. Hadamar’s citizens were aware of what was taking place at the clinic, especially since the cremation process was faulty. This often resulted in a cloud of stinking smoke hanging over the town. Local students would often taunt each other by saying, “You’ll end up in the Hadamar ovens!”
Dr. Theodor Morell: “Patient A” and His Secret Illness