20/06/07 - News section
Did Hitler unleash the Holocaust because a Jewish prostitute gave him syphilis?
by JENNY HOPE
A brief encounter with a Jewish prostitute may have led to Hitler's genocidal Holocaust, claim psychiatrists.
They believe he may have caught the sexually transmitted disease syphilis which, if untreated, can eventually cause madness.
According to a report, mental and behavioural disturbances triggered by the advanced stages of the disease could have resulted in Hitler targeting Jews and the mentally retarded.
There is "ample circumstantial evidence" for the theory, according to a team headed by psychiatrist Dr Bassem Habeeb.
Dr Habeeb said that there had been speculation that Hitler had syphilis from diary entries made by his personal doctor, Theo Morrell.
Yet despite significant medical and political clues, the theory has never been rigorously examined, he told the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual meeting in Edinburgh.
He said: "If Hitler's life is looked at through the lens of a syphilis diagnosis, one clue leads to another until a pattern of infection and progressive infection emerges, a disease that may have defined him from youth as an outsider and that progressively ravaged his body and mind."
The disease would have fuelled a "deadly logic and blueprint for the Holocaust" which focused on particular minorities, he said.
Hitler, who reportedly had sex with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna in 1908, put syphilis high on his political agenda, devoting 13 pages to the disease in his book Mein Kampf.
The job of "combating syphilis - the Jewish disease - should be the task of the entire German nation," he wrote.
"The health of the nation will be regained only by eliminating the Jews."
Dr Habeeb said: "Hitler's bizarre belief that syphilis was a hereditary disease that was originated and propagated by the Jews and resulted in insanity and mental retardation" could be the reason he attempted to eliminate the mentally retarded.
He said well-documented aspects of Hitler's behaviour and health such as mood swings, paranoid rages, rashes and stomach problems were typical of syphilis.
In his diary, Dr Morrell noted Hitler's severe gastric crises, skin lesions, Parkinson's disease and violent mood swings as evidence that he had syphilis, as well as "sudden criminal behaviour, paranoia, grandiosity and mania", all of which are characteristic of cases of the advanced stage, neuro-syphilis.
Dr Habeeb, who works at Hollins Park Hospital, Warrington, said that experts had previously explored the possibility that Hitler had syphilis, but had not put together the chain of secondary neuro-symptoms that meant the Holocaust became the focus of his psychotic behaviour.
Before antibiotic treatments were developed, syphilis was incurable and could cause madness after a latent stage lasting many years.
Dr Habeeb said: "This disease can send you mad and it could be a horrible explanation for the obsession that led to the Holocaust.
"It's very hard to say with certainty. There's ample circumstantial evidence, though no final proof, that he definitely had it.
"But many other historical figures in the 19th and early 20 th century suffered from syphilis without the murderous consequences wreaked by Hitler."
Some historians say Hitler was exempt from Army service because of early symptoms caused by syphilis, which then disappeared as it entered the latent stage.
Others have suggested that Hitler received iodide salts, a well-known treatment for advanced or tertiary stage syphilis.
Some historians have laid Hitler's health problems partly at Dr Morrell's door, claiming he may even deliberately poisoned his patient.
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