Friday, November 20, 2009

Pete's Parkinson's Portraits: Adolph Hitler

Is it true we share our affliction with arguably the worst person ever? While nobody searched for or found conclusive proof in an autopsy, there is convincing evidence that the Nazi leader did have Parkinson's. Further, there is interesting speculation that the disease may have cost Germany the war.

In an article from, maintained by the National Institutes of Health, the authors write:

"It has been proved that Adolf Hitler suffered from idiopathic Parkinson's disease. No indication for postencephalitic parkinsonism was found in the clinical symptoms or the case history. Professor Max de Crinis established his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in Hitler early in 1945 and informed the SS leadership, who decided to initiate treatment with a specially prepared 'antiparkinsonian mixture' to be administered by a physician."

As to how the disease affected Hitler, and hence the outcome of the war, the argument is outlined by the BBC as follows:

"The dictator suffered the disease, and the mental inflexibility associated with it could have been what led to his slow response to the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944, researchers said at the International Congress on Parkinson's Disease in Vancouver.

Dr Tom Hutton, a neurologist who co-authored the study, said Hitler was suffering physical and mental symptoms of the disease, but his aides kept it secret.

He said that by the time of the Normandy landings, Hitler had suffered the disease for 10 years and would have had problems processing conflicting information - hence his initial refusal to allow Panzer divisions to move to the site of the invasion.

Hitler is said to have been convinced that the Allies would launch their attack at Calais."

Again we are forced to confront the ironies of Parkinson's Disease. Consider this, the stricken Fuhrer would not have survived the process of selection in which the weak and sick were culled from the death camps. With his symptoms aggravated by stress he would have advertised his own weakness and perished for it.

And this: For once, the illness does something good, helping to bring down a mass murderer and changing the course of history for the better. Yet one of the more acceptable traits of the disease, its slowness, left him in place long enough to ensure the massacre of millions of innocent Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others deemed subhuman or troublesome. Parkinson's Disease crept bit by bit through his system idly allowing Hitler to cause the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians from all sides, and to leave Europe in ruins. Even when it does right, Parkinson's does it wrong.

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