Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK


Parkinson's part in Hitler's downfall

Hitler could have suffered the disease for 10 years

Parkinson's disease may have been a key factor in Adolf Hitler's downfall, a conference has heard.

The dictator suffered the disease, and the mental inflexibility associated with it could have been what led to his slow response to the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944, researchers said at the International Congress on Parkinson's Disease in Vancouver.

Dr Tom Hutton, a neurologist who co-authored the study, said Hitler was suffering physical and mental symptoms of the disease, but his aides kept it secret.

He said that by the time of the Normandy landings, Hitler had suffered the disease for 10 years and would have had problems processing conflicting information - hence his initial refusal to allow Panzer divisions to move to the site of the invasion.

Hitler is said to have been convinced that the Allies would launch their attack at Calais.

Debilitating disease

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that generally affects both men and women who are more than 40 years old. However, 10% of sufferers are believed to be under 40.

[ image: Hitler was slow to react to the Normandy landings]
Hitler was slow to react to the Normandy landings
The disease develops slowly and is associated with trembling of the arms and legs, stiffness and rigidity of the muscles and slowness of movement.

A third of Parkinson's suffers also develop senile dementia.

In many cases, sufferers eventually die from secondary complications such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, pressure sores, septicaemia and stroke.

It is thought to be caused by the death of nerve cells that would normally produce a chemical - dopamine - that carries messages around the nervous system.

"Hitler's slowness to counterattack at Normandy may have been secondary to mental inflexibility and difficulty in shifting concepts due to Parkinsonism," Dr Hutton's discussion paper said.

Dr Hutton, of the Neurology Research and Education Centre in Texas used records from officials who treated Hitler in 1944 and 1945 that described him as having lost "his mental flexibility".

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

27 Jul 99 | Health
'Breakthrough' in Parkinson's treatment

23 Jul 99 | Health
Fruit tea linked to Parkinsonism

12 Apr 99 | Health
The origins of the shaking palsy

23 Oct 98 | Medical notes
Parkinson's Disease

Internet Links

Parkinson's Information

Parkinson's Disease research

National Parkinson's Foundation

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99