7/27/11 - young, humiliated, blind hitler vows to enter politics

In today's excerpt - in 1918, after one final military assault that fails, Germany is defeated. Young Adolf Hitler, blind after a mustard gas attack, and humiliated after the Fatherland's defeat, vows to enter politics. His entry is part of a wave that carries Europe from royalty to revolution—sweeping aside those kings and emperors that had carried Europe into the unprecedented carnage of a pointless war:

"Throughout Europe royalty was clinging to hollow power. From the untitled masses were emerging men like Hitler who would come to wield the substance of power, men of common and often vulgar beginnings, riding the relentless wave of popular revolt against a war which had demanded sacrifices for goals no one could define.

"As the train took Hitler to a hospital in the Pomeranian town of Pasewalk, his own pain and despair obliterated any such aspiration, but after several weeks of medical treatment be began to regain his sight. Inflammation of the mucous membrane and swelling of the eyelids had receded; 'the piercing in my sockets' began to diminish and 'slowly I succeeded in distinguishing the broad outlines of things about me.' With sight came an end to depression and the mental instability that had required special treatment from a consulting psychiatrist, Professor Edmund Forster, chief of the Berlin University Nerve Clinic. Little was known about mustard gas and Hitler's inexplicable recovery confirmed Dr. Forster in his diagnosis of the blindness as hysteria. In fact, the patient had experienced the usual symptoms of moderate mustard gas poisoning—burning, swelling, moaning, depression—and recovery in several weeks. 

"Sight also brought Hitler hope and renewed interest in the events of the day. Berlin itself was in a state of virtual siege as the new Chancellor urged the Kaiser to abdicate so that an armistice could be signed. Hitler had heard stories of rebellion throughout Germany but discounted them as rumor until a delegation of Red German sailors burst into his ward early that November in an attempt to convert the patients to the revolution. ... Indignation was followed by shock. Hitler took to his bed. 'I lay there broken with great pains, although I did not let on how I felt; for it was repugnant to me to cry out at a time when you could feel that the collapse was coming.' A little later, on November 9, a dignified elderly pastor arrived at Pasewalk hospital to confirm news of the uprisings. Revolution had even broken out in Munich.

"The patients were gathered in a little hall and the pastor, so Hitler recalled, 'seemed all a-tremble as be informed us that the House of Hohenzollern should no longer bear the German imperial crown; that the Fatherland had become a 'republic.' ' As the aged speaker eulogized the services rendered by the Hohenzollerns, he 'began to sob gently to himself—in the little hall the deepest dejection settled on all hearts, and I believe not an eye was able to restrain its tears.' The pastor went on to say that the war must now be ended, that all was lost and they had to throw themselves upon the mercy of the victorious Allies. To Hitler the revelation was intolerable. 'It became impossible for me to sit still one minute more. Again everything went black before my eyes; I tottered and groped my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blankets and pillow.'

"It was the first time he had wept since standing at his mother's grave eleven years earlier (she had died in agony of cancer), in the churchyard of the Austrian village of Leonding. He had borne the fear of blindness 'in dull silence,' endured the loss of so many good comrades. 'But now I could not help it. Only now did I see how all personal suffering vanished in comparison with the misfortune of the Fatherland.' Out of his black despair came a decision. 'The great vacillation of my life, whether I should enter politics or remain an architect, came to an end. That night I resolved that, if I recovered my sight, I would enter politics.' There was no medical reason for Hitler's second blindness and Dr. Forster reinforced in his initial conclusion that his patient was definitely 'a psychopath with hysterical symptoms.' Hitler, however, was convinced he was permanently blind.

"The shame of Germany's surrender on November 11 in the forest of Compiegne overwhelmed him. Life seemed unbearable, but that night, or the next, Hitler was abruptly delivered from his misery, as he lay in despair on his cot, by a 'supernatural vision' (perhaps deliberately induced Dr. Forster). Like St. Joan, he heard voices summoning him to save Germany. All at once 'a miracle came to pass'—the darkness encompassing Hitler evaporated. He could see again! He solemnly vowed, as promised, that be would 'become a politician and devote his energies to carrying out the command he had received.' "


John Toland


Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography


First Anchor Books Edition


Copyright 1976 by John Toland


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