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” in 1936 at a Munich dinner party thrown by Hitler’s personal photo­grapher, Hein­rich Hoff­mann. Invited to the Berg­hof, Hitler’s alpine retreat near Berchtes­gaden a few days later, Morell 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, October 10, 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 his addic­tion-prone, multi­drug-using boss, saying the medi­ca­tions needed to be regu­lated for the sake of the Fuehrer’s increas­ingly wobbly health. Others in Hitler’s closest entourage—even his mis­tress, Eva Braun—viewed the plump 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, a mor­phine addict him­self, 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.” (A civilian, Morell took to wearing a mili­tary-style uni­form, golden rods of Ascle­pius on his collar, and a cap of his own design.) Hitler, how­ever, chose to view negative comments about Morell as a conspiracy.

Between fall 1941 and 1945 but espe­cially after 1942 when his health was seri­ously dete­ri­o­rating partly 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”), “anti-gas” pills that con­tained strych­nine (a poison), laxa­tives, tonics, the sexual hor­mone Testo­viron, an extract of bulls’ testi­cles (Orchi­krin, supposedly a cure for depres­sion), a sub­stance made from seminal vesi­cles and pros­tates of young bulls (Prosta­kri­num), the pain­killer oxy­co­done (Eukodal, a phar­ma­col­o­gical cousin of heroin), glucose, and useless hormones.

By the time of the Normandy invasion in France (Opera­tion Over­lord) in June 1944, Hitler’s insomnia 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 recorded treating Hitler with two bel­la­donna-based drugs, the treat­ment of choice at that time for Hitler’s violent hand tre­mors (Haende­zittern) and Park­in­son’s (Schuettel­laeh­mung), two dis­orders Morell had ten­ta­tively diag­nosed in his patient. Interned and inter­ro­gated by U.S. mili­tary author­ities 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)

Dr. Theodor Morell, 1886–1948Dr. Karl Brandt, 1904–1948

Left: Registered as a Nazi Party member in 1933 for the busi­ness it brought him, the bespec­ta­cled, over­weight, balding Theodor Morell (1886–1948) was Hitler’s per­sonal phy­si­cian until he was fired on April 17, 1945. Morell was well known in Germany for his uncon­ven­tional treat­ments. A licensed gene­ral practi­tioner and self-made phar­ma­cist, most peo­ple in Hitler’s inner circle regarded him as a quack. Not Hitler, who in 1938 awarded the good doctor an honorary profes­sor­ship and in Febru­ary 1944 presented him with the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross. From 1936 onward Morell supplied Hitler with drugs and pills. His medi­cinal “basic therapy” con­sisted essen­tially of a 10- or 20‑per­cent glu­cose solu­tion, a vita­min prep­a­ra­tion of Morell’s called Vita­mul­tin forte (it also came in a gold-wrapped, semi-tasty bar), the anti­dia­betic agent Gly­co­norm, and the meta­bolic stimu­lant Tono­phos­phan. The reg­i­men was intended to cure both physi­cal and men­tal exhaus­tion. Between August 1941 and April 1945 Morell treated Hitler essen­tially 24/7—“at all times of day and night,” he com­plained. 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 “Patient A” appears to have had no objec­tion to these injec­tions (he wanted a quick effect) and regarded them as genuine medi­cation. Over time, though, the veins of the doped-up dicta­tor resembled 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 doping agents Morell pre­scribed. This was most pronounced after the failed July 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life (Opera­tion Val­kyrie). The Fuehrer’s rapid phy­si­cal decline—pale sunken face, 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 the dense claus­tro­phobia of his subterranean 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. Up to October 1944 Brandt was one of two of Hitler’s assis­tant doctors. Morell, the self-styled “sole personal phy­si­cian” to Hitler, kept both assis­tant doctors in the dark over his treat­ment of the Fuehrer, much to their chagrin and mounting sus­pi­cion. From 1939 onwards Brandt 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.

Brandenburg Euthanasia CenterHadamar Euthanasia Center, Hessen, Germany

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 shortage of 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 form of system­atic murder 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