HITLER by Fritz Redlich


Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet
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A study of Hitler’s physical and psychological infirmities. There have been many attempts to explain Hitler’s obsessive hatreds by pointing to his numerous supposed mental and bodily “abnormalities.” Most of these efforts’sensationalistic or misguided—have been dismissed. But this work, the product of 12 years’ research, shouldn—t be. Born in Vienna in 1910, Redlich was chair of the department of psychiatry and dean of the school of medicine at Yale. And, in an ironic twist of history, he was completing his doctorate at the University of Vienna when Hitler himself was receiving treatment there (in 1938, the Anshluss ushered Redlich to the haven of America). Redlich defines his work as a “pathography”: the study of an individual as influenced by a disease. But this may give undue weight to Hitler’s illnesses; a “healthy” Hitler might well have committed the same atrocities. Part One appraises Hitler’s life and medical history and the growth of Nazi Germany. Part Two provides a detailed medical and psychopathological profile. The latter is probably of greater interest to most readers. Redlich uncovers information concerning mental illness in the Hitler family and some evidence of amphetamine abuse. Central to his portrait is the so-called “degeneration hypothesis,” in which Hitler’s obsession about his own physical and sexual perversities was translated into a genocidal obsession with the Jews. This is arguably the most detailed examination in existence of Hitler’s health, and readers may sometimes wonder if a discussion of Hitler’s every malaise is indeed necessary to understand the dictator. A countering strength of the book, however, is the author’s humility. In the end, Hitler emerges as a product of extraordinary physical and psychological pathologies. Not an original thesis, but an articulate addition to the literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-19-505782-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


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