Forensic psychiatrist David Post thinks hypnosis may have been responsible for Hitler’s dreadful deeds. When he was recovering from wounds suffered during World War I, he was given a hypnotic suggestion that he misinterpreted as divine revelation, telling him he was destined for leadership and glory.

Danny Heitman writes in that Post’s uncle Robert C. Holtze was once an honorary consul to the Federal Republic of Germany. Post found a copy of “Adolf Hitler,” a biography by John Toland, at his uncle’s house. In a footnote, Toland said Hitler may have been hypnotized during treatment for battle-related trauma he experienced during World War I. As a result of this, he might have experienced hallucinations that he interpreted as a divine summons to lead the German people.

Post began researching Hitler’s hypnosis treatment and its impact on world history, and discovered a restricted U.S. Navy Intelligence report, which was declassified in 1973. The report was written by Austrian nerve specialist Karl Kroner, who was working at a hospital in the town of Pasewalk when Hitler was treated there in 1918. “Just looking at that document, I was very impressed,” Post says. “It got me interested in following up.”

In October of 1918, while fighting on the Belgian front, the 29-year-old Hitler was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack and taken to Pasewalk to restore his health. He gradually began to regain his sight, but when he heard Germany was defeated, he became blind again. Consulting psychiatrist Edmund Forster concluded this was hysterical blindness, and put him through several sessions of hypnosis.

When Hitler rose to power in 1933, he had his Pasewalk treatment records destroyed. After being arrested the Gestapo and interrogated for 13 days, Forster committed suicide.

Hitler scholar Rudolph Binion discovered a connection between Forster and Ernst Weiss, who ran a newspaper in Paris for German exiles during Hitler’s regime. Forster traveled to Paris before his death and shared Hitler?s medical information with Weiss.

In 1938, five years after Forster’s trip to Paris, Weiss wrote “The Eyewitness,” a novel about a German corporal named “A.H.” who is blinded during a mustard attack and treated by a psychiatrist at Pasewalk. A.H. is described as a patient with an Austrian accent who gives hysterical speeches to the other patients. He has received the Iron Cross, loves the music of Wagner, and hates Jews. Weiss himself committed suicide in 1940, when the German Army entered Paris.

What interested Post was a chapter in which the psychiatrist hypnotizes A.H. and suggests that he must recover his sight in order to lead the German people. The doctor knows that A.H. thinks of himself as a natural born leader, and thinks this is a way to encourage the his recovery. “Perhaps you yourself have the rare power, which occurs only occasionally in a thousand years, to work a miracle,” the doctor tells him. “Jesus did it. Mohammed. The saints?You are young; it would be too bad for you to stay blind. You know that Germany needs people who have energy and blind self-confidence.”

Hitler later recalled receiving a divine message at Pasewalk, calling him to leadership, and believed it cured his blindness. Was it a hypnotic suggestion, rather than a message from the gods? “I think there’s clear and compelling evidence that he was hypnotized,” says Post. “?If Hitler hadn’t been in that battle, who knows? If he hadn’t gone to the hospital, who knows?”

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