Adolf Hitler's belief he was meant to rule the world may have stemmed in part from a hypnotic suggestion given during treatment for hysterical blindness in 1918, a Louisiana psychiatrist said in the November Journal of Forensic Science.
Dr. David Post, a forensic psychiatrist at the state's forensic hospital in Jackson, based his theory on a book he believes used material from a German military hospital where Hitler was treated after he was temporarily blinded in a mustard gas attack during World War I in October 1918.
Hitler was a corporal at the time, but the hospital records from that period were later destroyed by the Gestapo, although Hitler wrote of his sudden blindness and his resolve to enter politics if he regained his sight.
After Germany's surrender on Nov. 11, 1918, Hitler wrote that he had "a supernatural vision . . . A miracle came to pass," and he could see again.
In a book called "Eyewitness," by Ernst Weiss, an exiled German doctor and novelist, a German psychiatrist in a military hospital uses hypnotic suggestion in a still-accepted medical protocol for post-traumatic stress syndrome.
He tells the patient, A.H.: "I am a simple doctor. But perhaps you yourself have the rare power, which occurs only occasionally in a thousand years, to work a miracle. Jesus did it. Mohammed. The saints. . . . An ordinary person with such a condition would be blind for life. But for a person of particular strength and will and spiritual energy, there are no limits."
"You have to have a blind faith in yourself, then you will stop being blind . . . You know that Germany needs people who have energy and blind self-confidence. Austria is at an end, but not Germany," the book passage stated. Hitler was born in Austria.
Post believes that passage was based on the German Pasewalk Military Hospital notes and records of Weiss' friend, Dr. Edmund Forster, chief of the Berlin University Nerve Clinic, who treated Hitler at Pasewalk in 1918.
"It was chilling and disturbing to me to read what I believe may have been an account of his hypnotic session," Post told Reuters.
Weiss wrote the book for a literary competition in Paris in 1933. He committed suicide as the German army marched into the city, and the book was not published until the 1960s.
Weiss also was on the board of a German exile newspaper Forster contacted in Paris in 1933, taking copies of his records from Pasewalk. Forster warned the editorial board not to be surprised if he were killed.
Shortly after returning to Germany, Post said, Forster was picked up by the Gestapo on charges of "harboring a subversive attitude toward the new (Hitler's) regime." After 13 days of interrogation, Forster was reported to have killed himself.
The records of Hitler's 29-day stay at Pasewalk later were destroyed by the Gestapo, Post said.
Although Hitler suffered what are now considered classic symptoms of mustard gas poisoning, including depression, he was diagnosed as a "psychopath with hysterical tendencies" by Forster even before the hysterical blindness, Post said.
Post is a faculty member at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans.