1918: October–November, Pasewalk, Pomerania, East Germany.
Ten years after first encountering Dr Bloch, Corporal Adolf Hitler, the future Fuehrer, would cross life-paths with another Jewish physician. Dr Karl Kroner was born to a medical family in Berlin, in 1878. He studied medicine locally and practiced in several hospitals. He also worked for the Siemens Health Insurance Group until 1920, when he started private practice. Once the Nazis took power, his practice was limited, but maintained in the Moabite (Jewish) Hospital.
The meeting between Adolf and Dr Kroner took place in October 1918 in a lazarett, namely a military hospital in Pasewalk on the Baltic shore, close to Stettin (Szczecin) on the Polish border. This psychiatric hospital was one of several lazarett units in the country and was established to treat shell-shocked soldiers.
Backflash to 1907–8
Adolf, the teenager, had left Linz after the death of his mother and wandered for three more years in Vienna. He educated himself in German history, in nationalism, and in the Teutonic topics of Wagner’s music. Soon he ended up in Munich, in contact with the pan-German nationalistic movements. One might recall that he was born in a border town between Austria and Germany, and that he did not accept the division of the two countries or the separation of two peoples speaking the same language.
Adolf was elated at the prospect of war, and soon after the start of the Great War he joined in, becoming a messenger, running between units at great risk. He was wounded in the leg, for which he was decorated, but soon returned to his unit.
In October 1918, Adolf’s unit of over 100 soldiers was exposed to a gas attack whilst fighting the British at Wervicq-Sud (in the Pas-de Calais region of Northern French mountains), near Ypres on the Belgian border. The soldiers were treated locally in a makeshift hospital, with lavage of their inflamed conjunctiva. All were soon discharged except one, Adolf, who because of “blindness” was transferred to Pasewalk Hospital.
The British gas was most likely of the white phosgene type. It was characterized by conjunctival and nasal mucosal irritation; only in larger quantities did it produce respiratory mucosal irritation. It had an immediate effect, but was of a relatively short duration. In contrast, German mustard gas, the product used since 1915, was different. Indeed, it required hours or up to 2 days to affect the mucosa of the eyes and nose and had to be absorbed in larger quantities for there to be any lasting respiratory difficulties.
Loss of vision would have had to be the effect of either closure of the eyelids from swelling—a temporary reaction—or of corneal scarring, which took time to develop. Hence, it was suspected that Adolf’s immediate loss of vision was not organic in nature and required referral to a psychiatric hospital. The diagnosis was made locally in the nearby Oudenaarde Hospital in Belgium, and Adolf was sent to Ghent on his way to Pasewalk.
On admission to hospital in Pasewalk, Dr Karl Kroner, a Jewish neurologist (his picture can be viewed at http://www.dredmundforster.info/dr-karl-kroner), confirmed within minutes the diagnosis of “hysterical amblyopia,” one of the many forms of a reaction to trauma.5 Unlike the amblyopia, the chemical conjunctivitis cleared within days.
The diagnosis was further documented by a well-known German neuropsychiatrist Dr Edmund Forster, Chief of the Berlin University Nerve Clinic, who took over Adolf’s management from that time on.6–8
Traumatized patients at that time were treated differently. First they were criticized for their shameful and unmanly behavior. They were then treated aggressively with beatings, electro-shock, and various other punishments, all to bolster their self-esteem and promote a quick return to their unit. Another form of treatment was the “enlightened technique,” namely hypnosis. This is the technique that Dr Forster used on Adolf for his blindness: “it was to awake the patriotic duty in a future leader of a country.”7–9 Grasping the implanted idea, Adolf’s vision began to return.
A second relapse of Adolf’s “blindness” occurred in November 1918 when news of Germany’s capitulation arrived. It led to days of sobbing and moaning, and to sudden awakenings in screams converging into anti-Semitic rages. Hypnosis created in him the idea of a “divine mandate” for him to revive, lead, and revenge the humiliation that Germany had suffered. Later on, Adolf would write that this event brought about his decision to enter politics, a statement questioned by some historians.2,9–12
On the ascendance of Adolf to Chancellorship of the Reich in 1933, the psychiatric hospital documents and the people involved had to be erased. Dr Forster was “interrogated” by the Gestapo for days. He was then interned in Dachau, but soon after was released. He returned to his family, only to commit suicide a day later with a pistol, although he was not known to have owned one.9
All the hospital documents “apparently” vanished.
Dr Kroner, however, was in possession of the sole copy of hospital notes on Adolf. He forwarded them to a Jewish refugee surgeon-turned-writer, Dr Ernst Weiss in Paris.13
Tragically, Dr Weiss gave in to fear when the Nazis occupied Paris. In 1940, he committed suicide; unknown to him, Eleanor Roosevelt had already assured him an entry visa to the USA.14
Further quotes from the Pasewalk hospital notes were finally located in the Archives of the US Naval Service (disclosed only in 1972, the OSS Strategic Service).15,16
Dr Kroner was arrested in December of 1938, on Kristallnacht. He was deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, but was soon released, as his non-Jewish wife had obtained an entry visa to Iceland. He further emigrated to New York in 1945, where he lived until his death in 1954. He is buried in Iceland with his wife, whilst his son, Klaus, remained in the United States, practicing medicine.