To what extent can we understand Hitler's conducting of the war in the light of his apparent Parkinson's disease?

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A.Plan of InvestigationHitler’s decision to invade Russia 66 years ago shocked not only the Russians with whom he had signed a non-aggression pact carving up Poland nearly two years previously, but also to the world at large. Hitler up to this time had been a coldly calculated man, and his biggest gamble according to Hitler himself was the invasion of the Rhineland on March 7, 1936. Historians thus have long been argued over the logic behind his decision to launch the invasion on the USSR that led Germany to a two-front war. In a provocative charge, world renowned Parkinson’s disease specialist Dr. Abraham Lieberman made the claim that Hitler’s Parkinson’s disease was responsible for “changing the whole course of World War II.” This investigation is aimed to examine the possibility that it was Hitler’s health that led to such a monumental decision, starkly illustrating the idea of a ‘Great Man’ manipulating the course of history.

Focusing on the extent Hitler’s apparent Parkinson’s disease played a role in the decision-making may provide a solid ground to determine if Operation Barbarossa was indeed inevitable using records by Hitler’s physician and book by Dr. Lieberman main sources.

B.Summary of Evidence1.Mein Kampf: Hitler’s Aimsa.To abolish the Treaty of VersaillesMilitarily, Treaty of Versailles limited the German army to 100,000 men, conscription abolished, and tanks and aircrafts were prohibited. However, Hitler announced rearmament in 1935 and was left unpunished, and Anglo-German naval agreement was signed in the same year. Furthermore, Rhineland was agreed to be demilitarized in the Treaty of Versailles. However, on March 7, 1936, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Rhineland, and it was re militarized. League of Nations did nothing to punish him. Additionally, Anschluss was prohibited in the Treaty, yet in 1938, Hitler fulfilled his promise in stated Mein Kampf, “German-Austria must return to the great German mother country,” the League did not punish him.

b.To include all German-speaking people in the Third Reich and LebensraumBecause of the Anglo-French policy of appeasement, from 1936 to 1939, Germany gradually annexed its neighboring area—from Rhineland to Austria, to Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. Finally, when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II.

According to Record, “World War II could have been avoided had the democracies been prepared to stop Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 or to fight for Czechoslovakia in 1938; instead, they did nothing.”2.Ideologies differences between the Soviet Russia (Communism) and the Nazi Germany (Fascism)Communism and fascism are similar in that both were determined to destroy parliamentary democracy and its bourgeois values, and replace it with different political systems based on single party rule. They differed in the following aspects. Firstly, on the ideological front, communism has a systematic doctrine with clear origins, whereas, fascism lacks coherent and disciplined ideological structures. Its main theories are based on the two fascist leaders’ works according to Todd (214-217) as shown in Mussolini’s article in Encyclopedia Italiana and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Secondly, theoretical communism was grounded on internationalism; contradictorily, fascism focused on glorifying the nation and calling for national rebirth. Thirdly, attitudes towards the state and its citizens are fundamentally different. Communism suggests state should ‘wither away’ as soon as the workers had taken power, but in fascism, state should be everything, and individual hold no importance when comparing to state. Fourthly, even though both detest capitalism, communism was committed to overthrow capitalism, but fascist government never promised to destroy capitalism.

3.Hitler’s Medical HistoryHitler was a “pronounced hypochondriac,” it was evident from the fact that since “his earliest youth he rarely traveled without his medicine cabinet and willingly believed himself incapable of survival without pills, injections and battalions of attendant doctors.” During the First World War, Hitler wounded his leg and was temporarily blinded by British gas attack. In his later life, it was said that he suffered from many different medical issues, e.g. skin lesions, irritable bowel syndrome and irregular heartbeats. It was even rumored that he had syphilis because Dr. Morell, Hitler’s most trusted physician, was a renowned venerologist. However, there is no concrete evidence that supports Hitler was definitely suffering from syphilis, but it was sure that his health slipped as World War II came to an end. He had tremors in his hands, his body was stiff, and he could not walk briskly as before. His handwriting became scrawnier and smaller (Appendix A), he was more lethargic and seldom appeared in front of the public.

4.Parkinson’s disease“Parkinson’s disease was described by James Parkinson in 1817 as a ‘shaking palsy’,” and it is a “chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by decreased production of dopamine,” and the lack of dopamine “disrupts [patients’] motor control, causing anything from uncontrollable tremor to muscular stiffness to slow as-molasses motions.” As the disease progresses, patients will “develop a peculiar shuffling walk and may suddenly freeze in space for minutes or hours at a time.” The criteria to diagnose Parkinson’s disease from the Core Assessment Program for Intracerebral Transplantations (CAPIT) “require a patient to have at least two of its four cardinal symptoms: resting tremor, bradykinesia, cogwheel rigidity and postural instability and at least one of the symptoms must be resting tremor or bradykinesia.”C.Evaluation of Sources-Irving, David. The Secret Diaries of Hitler’s Doctor. London, United Kingdom: Focal Point Publications, 2005.

Dr. Theodor Morell was Hitler’s personal and most trusted physician from 1937 till the end of April in 1945 Hitler did not like doctors to see his body. Only “Morell seems to have examined him in detail.” Besides showing the level of trust Hitler had in him, the resulting medical diaries provide invaluable information and the most authentic records regarding to Hitler’s health.

David Irving, “knows more about National Socialism [Nazism] then most professional scholars in his field.” His breadth of knowledge in the subject has been acknowledged over the past 25 years. However, he is now arrested for distorting history. History Professor Michael Greyer of the University of Chicago “believes that Irving’s bias is responsible for serious ‘flaws in his work,’” while Professor Lipstadt “had written that Irving was ‘one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial.’” Irving is a knowledgeable Nazi historian, although his bias in the Holocaust made him controversial and his opinions untrustworthy, he can still provide useful information regarding to Hitler’s health. However, it is also questionable as in how Irving chose the excerpts of Morells’s diaries: what was left out, and how important was the left out information.

-Lieberman, Abraham N. “Hitler, Parkinson’s Disease and History.” BNI Quarterly 11 (1996). 31 Jan 2007 Dr. Abraham Lieberman is an authority and an “internationally recognized expert on Parkinson disease and is the author of six books on the topic.” While his diagnoses are worthy of respect, he is only in the position to focus on the question about whether Hitler had Parkinson’s disease through eye-witness reports, photos and the Newsreels. He does not appear to offer other possibilities which could cause Hitler’s Parkinson’s symptoms. For example, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is caused by excessive anxiety and worry for at least 6 months, and the symptoms include fatigue, irritability, muscle tension and depressive symptoms. There is a possibility that Hitler was suffering from GAD than Parkinson’s disease, and his anxiety could be caused by the war pressure and assassination attempts.

His attempts at diagnosing Hitler are based on the scant and unreliable information available, dismissing diagnoses when there is too little evidence (much of which is hotly debated by Hitler scholars) or the known symptoms are inconclusive, although given that there is so little information and that neither Hitler nor anyone surrounding him is a reliable source, it is still primarily speculation.

D.AnalysisDr. Morell had never explicitly stated that Hitler was a Parkinson’s disease (PD) sufferer. However, he had subjected Hitler to daily doses of Homburg-680, a belladonna-type drug specifically indicated in cases of PD in Hitler’s last two weeks of life in April 1945. By then, he was demonstrating serious PD symptoms: “right hand shook uncontrollably…[and his facial expression was] mask-like.” This was resonant in Albert Speer’s memoirs, where one year before he noticed that “Hitler was shrivelling up like an old man. His limbs trembled, he walked stooped with dragging footsteps…His uniform, which in the past he had kept scrupulously neat… was stained by the food he had eaten with a shaking hand.” In fact, Schellenberg maintains that “from the end of 1943 [Hitler] showed progressive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.” Bullock (who wrote the introduction to my edition of Schellenberg) in his own book uses Guderian to support this view. Redlich goes as far as to state matter-of-factly that Hitler suffered two somatic illnesses, “temporal arteritis” and PD. Hitler developed PD symptoms as early as 1934, “the initial symptom, bradykinesia of his left arm.” As Lieberman said, these symptoms “strongly suggest” that Hitler did have PD.

Lieberman also pointed out that “Professor Maximilian de Crinis, a German neurologist, after seeing a German newsreel in 1944 and without examining Hitler, informed W. Schellenberg, Himmler’s Chief of Staff, that Hitler had Parkinson’s disease.” Here we have the first example found of someone during Hitler’s lifetime reaching such a conclusion. Ironically, the person who apparently first diagnosed Hitler with PD was not even a personal acquaintance. Could it have been possible that Hitler and his physicians sought to cover up Hitler’s tremor because “Tremor, in the public mind, is erroneously associated with senility” ? For instance, in an earlier example of physical infirmity, when he had an attack of hysterical blindness several weeks after being wounded by poison gas in the trenches, his "miraculous" recovery of his sight added with auditory hallucinations contributed to Hitler’s delusions. This shows how he took steps to cover up the episode.

Furthermore, Morell continue testing new methods on Hitler with many different kinds of medicine and injections. “Morell administered tablets and gragess, uppers and downers, leeches and bacilli, hot compresses and cold poultices, and literally thousands of injections-litres of mysterious fluids that were squirted into his grateful and gullible Fuhrer each year, whose arms were punctured so often that even Morell sometimes could not find anywhere to insert the needle into the scarred veins.” With such a large amount and variety of medicines, Hitler’s tremor or sickness could be resulted from the reaction between these medicines. Although Morell had mostly prescribed harmless medicines to Hitler, it is unknown what could the mixture of these harmless medicines do to a patient.

Furthermore, Hitler had reasons to be stressed after Operation Barbarossa in 1941 because it was now having a two-front war. The combination of the stress coming from the reverses at Stalingrad and the July Plot with all the medicine he took and injected daily could cause side effects and affect the Fuhrer’s health and mental capacity, which might result in the symptoms of PD.

E. ConclusionAll the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that Hitler was very likely a sufferer of PD. “Although the disease did not incapacitate Hitler mentally, tremors, and the lack of muscular control must have impeded his ability to mange the many details involved in directing the war.” At that time, being told as a PD sufferer was to have a sentence of death imposed. Without appropriate and effective medication at that time, he would have had four years to fulfil his plans as laid out in Mein Kampf. This would certainly have affected Hitler’s decision in attacking the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941.

F. BibliographyBooks in Print1. Brezina, Corona. The Treaty of Versailles, 1919. New York, U.S.A.: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2006.

2. Broxmeyer, Lawrence. Parkinson’s Another Look. Chula Vista, U.S.A.: New Century Press, 2002.

3. Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. London, United Kingdom: Fontana Press, 1998.

4. Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York, U.S.A.: Harper & Row Publishers, 1964.

5. Dull, Ralph. Nonviolence Is Not For Wimps. U.S.A.: Xlibris Corporation, 2004.

6. Dunn, Walter Scott. Heroes or Traitors: The German Replacement Army, the July Plot, and Adolf Hitler. Connecticut, U.S.A.: Praeger Publishers, 2003.

7. Gottfried, Ted. Deniers Of the Holocaust: Who They Are, What They Do, Why They Do It. Connecticut, U.S.A.: Twenty-First Century Books, 2001.

8. Gun, Nerin E. Eva Braun: Hitler’s Mistress. London, United Kingdom: Leslie Frewin Publishers, 1969.

9. Irving, David. The Secret Diaries of Hitler’s Doctor. London, United Kingdom: Focal Point Publications, 2005.

10. Lieberman, Abraham N. Shaking-Up Parkinson Disease: Fighting Like a Tiger, Thinking Like a Fox. London, United Kingdom: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2002.

11. Macdonald, Hamish. Mussolini and Italian Fascism. United Kingdom: Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd, 1999.

12. Mandell, Richard. The Nazi Olympics. New York, U.S.A.: Macmillan, 1971.

13. Maris, Ronald, Alan Berman, Morton Silverman, and Bruce Bongar. Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology. New York, U.S.A.: Guilford Press, 2000.

14. McDonough, Frank. Conflict, Communism and Fascism: Europe 1890-1945. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

15. Mera, Steven L. Understanding Disease: pathology and prevention. London, United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes, 2003.

16. Nutt, David, Karl Rickels, and Dan J. Stein. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptomatology, Pathogenesis and Management. London, United Kingdom: Martin Dunitz, 2002.

17. Pleshakov, Constantine. Stalin’s Folly: the tragic first ten days of World War II on the Eastern Front. New York, U.S.A.: Houghton Mifflin Books, 2005.

18. Plotnik, Rod. Introduction to Psychology. Belmont, U.S.A.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999.

19. Record, Jeffrey. Appeasement Reconsidered: Investigating the Mythology of the 1930s. U.S.A.:DIANE Publishing., 2005.

20. Saunders, Christopher D, and Kathleen Cahill Allison. Parkinson’s Disease: A New Hope. Boston, U.S.A.: Harvard Health Publications, 2000.

21. Schellenberg, Walter, and Louis Hagen. The Schellenberg Memoirs. A Deutsch, 1956.

22. Todd, Allan. The European Dictatorships: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

23. Victor, George. Hitler: pathology of Evil. Virginia, U.S.A.: Brassey’s, 2000.

Book Online1.Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. 1st ed. Vol. 1. 18 Mar. 2007.

Journal Article Online1. Lieberman, Abraham N. "Hitler, Parkinson’s Disease and History." BNI Quarterly 11 (1996). 31 Jan. 2007 .

Website1."About the Author(S)." Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 26 Feb. 2007 .