The Inner Circle of the Third Reich and After
German historian Heike B. Gortemaker, author of a best selling biography of Eva Braun, has widened her scope to look at the men and women closest to Hitler. It has been argued that ‘Hitler did not have a private life’ but it is clear from from this study that he enjoyed a broad support network, consisting of a strange mix of odd individuals.
Many of them were close to him throughout his rise to power to the end of the war. All of them were devoted to him in some way, or devoted to the power and prestige that being close him meant.
Nazi propaganda sought to portray Hitler as a lone strong man, devoted to Germany to the exclusion of anyone else. This was pure propaganda. Gortemaker’s deeply researched study makes use of hundreds of diary entries, letters and other documents to show how he was closely followed around by this group of devotees.
A picture emerges of a group of unattractive individuals all vying for attention and influence with Hitler. It is clear that he too was dependent on them to varying degrees - although the extent that they were able to influence him is less clear.
This is a very valuable addition to the literature on Hitler. Gortemaker makes particular care to distinguish between what his entourage said about Hitler after the war - and what they were saying when they were with him.
The following exerpt concerns Dr Theodor Morell, his personal physician:
Hoffmann [Hitler’s photographer] recommended [Morell] to Hitler, who suffered from a chronic gastric disorder and eczema on his legs. At this time Morell was already a member of the NSDAP and had moved his practice, now called the Institute for Electro- and Hydrotherapy, to the prestigious Kurfurstendamm at the corner of Fasanenstrasse.
His entry into the party in 1933 clearly paid off for him, and he also benefited from the fact that the many ‘non-Aryan’ doctors in Berlin were no longer licensed by statutory health insurance plans after the Nazis had come to power, and from 1935 onwards were unable to practise medicine.
Morell’s healing methods based on water-and-warmth treatments and the use of modern drugs to suppress inflammation soon convinced Hitler, as they guaranteed him a discreet solution for his bodily problems.
From the beginning of his political existence he had taken steps to prevent any insight into his private life. He had avoided compromising situations, took no part in sporting activities and was vegetarian, a non-smoker and teetotal for his health.
Later, once the Third Reich had become established, it remained important that the carefully built Fuhrer myth should not be endangered by the admission of private weaknesses. Accordingly, there was no question of his entering any old clinic for these weaknesses to be exposed.
Morell was therefore Hitler’s ‘on call doctor’ and limited his daily practice on the Kurfurstendamm so as to be always available for his ‘Patient A’.
Together with his wife Johanna (Hanni) Moller, within a very short time he became part of the nucleus of the Berghof society. It is true that in retrospect, after the war, the members of the Fiihrer circle had a poor opinion of Morell and his methods. Karl Brandt, Speer and Christa Schroeder described him as a mysterious figure: fat, dirty, dark-skinned and with very hairy hands on which he wore ‘exotic rings’. A ‘charlatan’ who tried gold-packaged ‘wonder drugs’ on Hitler, some of which he had prepared himself.
In the 1970s, Winifred Wagner even went so for as to say that Morell had ruined Hitler’s health with his medicines.
After 1936 it seems that there was nobody in Hitler’s circle who had not been treated by Morell. The members of the support staff in particular were given anti-biotic injections at the first sign of a cold, and Hitler even had a prophylactic injection ‘as soon as he had to make a speech and it was raining’, as Karl Brandt later explained.
On Hitler’s recommendation, Morell included amongst his patients Eva Braun, Magda Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Lammers, Hess, the film director Leni Riefenstahl, Speer and one of his daughters.
The accusations against Morell after 1945 should therefore not just be seen as an attempt to exonerate Hitler who, thanks to Morell, was no longer in control of his senses and was therefore not answerable for the later crimes of the Third Reich. In this way it was possible to wash one’s hands of the guilt of having collaborated with a mass-murderer. On the other hand, before 1945, especially in Hitler’s presence, there had been hardly any criticism of Morell.
His biographer Ottmar Katz, publisher of the Munich magazine Quick, maintained that many had even ‘sung hymns of praise about him’.
In any case, Morell, a doctor who distributed injections unflinchingly, did not fit into the picture alongside the ‘genius man of action’ Hitler, who in 1938 was trusted by a majority of Germans to decide the fate of the nation by himself, without any outside help.
On top of this, when setting the scene for a regime ‘needful of extreme beauty’ when it came to photographs and film, Morell did not fit the bill at all. Therefore it was Karl Brandt, not Morell, who corresponded aesthetically to the desired image of the light-skinned, tall ‘Hellenic’ figure that was to be seen constantly behind Hitler at receptions and state visits.
The German people knew as little about Morell as they did of Hitler’s indispositions and hypochondria. Morell himself complained about this discrimination later, stating that his position ‘near the Fuhrer’ had been hard fought.
Amongst the Berghof guests, both Morell and his wife were keen to be near Eva Braun. She was also not particularly loved by other members of this society, and was often regarded by a number of them as not being 'good enough for the Fuhrer’. In a circle of married and engaged couples, she consequently held a difficult position as a spinster, which in turn gave her an inferiority complex, making her moody and spoilt.
Because she clearly had an unassailable role in Hitler’s life, Morell and his wife met her not only on the Obersalzberg, but also accompanied her to the rallies and on tour. According to Karl Brandt, they tried desperately to curry favour with Eva Braun and showered her with gifts.
This excerpt from Hitler's Court: The Inner Circle of The Third Reich and After appears by kind permission of Pen & Sword Books Ltd. Copyright remains with the author.
The above images are not from this book which is not illustrated.