There’s an article that has been floating around for the past few months wherein the authors conjecture that the atrocities of Adolph Hitler may have been linked to his having Parkinson’s Disease. I read this piece in Discover magazine. I’m curious what you think of it. Could he have indeed been suffering from Parkinson’s? Obviously, this couldn’t be rationalized as an excuse for his actions but where does this line of enquiry take us? Might it suggest that we who have PD share similar characteristics? What do you make of the purported link? Here’s an excerpt:
Did Parkinson’s Disease Influence Hitler?
By Neuroskeptic | June 30, 2015
A new paper from a group of American neurologists makes the case that Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s disease for much of his life, and that some of his most fateful decisions were influenced by the neurological disorder. The article is by Raghav Gupta and colleagues and it appears in World Neurosurgery – a journal with an interesting political history of its own.
Gupta et al. note that “The possibility of Hitler suffering from Parkinson’s has long been the subject of debate… [a researcher] Lieberman suggested that Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s as early as 1933: video evidence depicts that Hitler exhibited progressive motor function deterioration from 1933 to 1945”.
That Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s at the end of his life is not a new idea but Gupta et al. say that Hitler’s disease may have impacted large parts of his career, making him impulsive and reckless, and ultimately making him lose WW2. They suggest that “Hitler’s condition may have led him to attack Russia prematurely [in 1941]… Lieberman has suggested that the decision to invade Russia without and before defeating Britain on the western front and waiting for reinforcements from Japan, was not only reckless but also was influenced by Hitler’s failing health”.
The authors also cite other bad decisions of Hitler’s such as the failure to defend Normandy in 1944, and his refusal to allow his forces to withdraw from Stalingrad in 1942, as products of the dictator’s “volatile temperament” which, they say, may have been exacerbated by his Parkinson’s.
But military incompetence is not the end of it. Gupta et al. go as far as to suggest that Hitler’s inhuman policies were influenced by his disease. “Hitler often accused, deceived, and betrayed others for personal gain and was especially known for his lack of remorse and sympathy, which can be further associated with his Parkinson’s… The character traits which define Hitler as a notorious political leader and brutal dictator, one who carried out innumerous war crimes in the 20th century, may then be directly associated with his diagnosis”. Gupta et al. seem to be suggesting that Parkinson’s can make people, literally, prone to becoming like Adolf Hitler. I don’t think this will go down well with Parkinson’s sufferers. The authors go on to say that “Hitler’s inhumane personality, marked by a true lack of sympathy and remorse, can also be ascribed to his condition, often compelling him to act in ways that we today characterize as brutal, callous, and unethical”.