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 that he could cure him with­in a year of some of the mala­dies that plagued him. Morell pre­scribed various com­mer­cial pre­para­tions, in­cluding a combi­na­tion of vita­mins and E. coli bac­teria. 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 pills Morell pre­scribed for the Fuehrer were actually poi­soning him. Others in Hitler’s inner circle also viewed the good doctor 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, Hitler con­sumed up to 88 dif­ferent sub­stances, among them opi­ates, co­caine, bar­bi­tu­rates, meth­am­phet­a­mines, lax­a­tives, tonics, glu­cose, and use­less hor­mones. By the time of the Nor­mandy in­vasion (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.

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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: 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. Hitler’s health deteri­o­rated under the impact of the myriad drugs Morell pre­scribed. Hitler’s phy­si­cal decline coin­cided with his increasingly rare public appear­ances and his self-imposed iso­la­tion in the “Wolfs Lair,” his mili­tary head­quarters buried deep in the East Prussian forests.

Right: A member of the paramilitary SS (Schutz­staffel) since July 1934, Dr. Karl Brandt (1904–1948) 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 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 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