Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck (3 October 1904 – 21 December 1998) was a German Standartenführer (colonel) and doctor who joined the SS in 1933. Because of a chance encounter with Adolf Hitler during the closing days of World War II, his memoirs proved historically valuable. His accounts of this period influenced the accounts of Joachim Fest and James P. O'Donnell regarding the end of Hitler's life, and were included in the film Downfall.
Schenck was born in Marburg. He trained as a doctor and joined the SS. During the war, Schenck was actively involved in the creation of a large herbal plantation in Dachau concentration camp, which contained over 200,000 medicinal plants, from which, among other things, vitamin supplements for the Waffen SS were manufactured. In 1940 he was appointed as inspector of nutrition for the SS. In 1943 Schenck developed a protein sausage, which was meant for the SS frontline troops. Prior to adoption, it was tested on 370 prisoners in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, some of whom died of hunger edema. In his own memoirs, Schenck stated that his only concern was to improve nutrition and fight hunger. However, a report in 1963 condemned Schenck for "treating humans like objects, guinea pigs". In the Federal Republic of Germany, Schenck was later not allowed to continue his medical career. He was also associated with Erwin Like's attempts to develop holistic methods to prevent cancer.
According to Waffen SS-Oberscharführer Hans Bottger (with the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler), Schenck left his government duty post to go to the Eastern Front (World War II) for his so-called "Iron Cross apprenticeship". However, instead of just manipulating his way into getting the award like many others, Schenck found himself taking command of a gun battery after the commander had been killed. Schenck performed "well" in combat and earned the Iron Cross, Second Class.
In April 1945, towards the end of the war, Schenck volunteered to work in an emergency casualty station located in the large cellar of the Reich Chancellery, near the Vorbunker and Führerbunker. Although he was not trained as a surgeon and lacked the experience, as well as the supplies and instruments necessary to operate on battle victims, he nonetheless assisted approximately 100 major surgeries.
During these surgeries, Schenck was aided by Dr. Werner Haase, who also served as one of Hitler's private physicians. Although Haase had much more surgical experience than Schenck, he was weakened by tuberculosis, and often had to lie down while trying in vain to give verbal advice to Schenck. Due to the combination of terrible conditions and his own inexperience, after the war, Schenck told author/historian James P. O'Donnell that he was unable to track down a single German soldier he had operated on who had survived (he kept records of the operations).
|Werner Haase |
Werner Haase (2 August 1900 – 30 November 1945) was an SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel), professor of medicine and one of Adolf Hitler's personal physicians.
Haase was born in Köthen, in Anhalt. He obtained his Doctor's degree in 1924 and then became a surgeon. He joined the Nazi Party in 1933. From 1934, forward, he served on the staff of the surgery clinic of Berlin University.
In 1935 he began serving as Hitler's deputy personal physician. On 1 April 1941, Haase joined the SS. He was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer on 16 June 1943. Hitler appears to have had a high opinion of him. The book Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB, based on documents in the Soviet archives, reproduces a telegram from Hitler sent to Haase on his birthday in 1943, saying: "Accept my heartfelt congratulations on your birthday."
In the last days of the fighting in Berlin in late April 1945, Haase, with Ernst Günther Schenck, was working to save the lives of the many wounded German soldiers and civilians in an emergency casualty station located in the large cellar of the Reich Chancellery. The cellar led a further one-and-a-half meters down to an air-raid shelter known as the Vorbunker. The Vorbunker was connected by a stairway which led down to the Führerbunker. By this time, the Führerbunker had become a de facto Führer Headquarters, and ultimately, the last one of Hitler's headquarters.
On 29 April, Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Himmler's SS. To verify the capsules' potency, Haase was summoned to the Führerbunker to test one on Hitler's dog Blondi. A cyanide capsule was crushed in the mouth of the dog, which died as a result. Hitler in conversations with Haase during this timeframe, asked the doctor for a recommended method of suicide. Haase instructed Hitler to bite down on a cyanide capsule while shooting himself in the head. He remained in the Führerbunker until Hitler's suicide the following afternoon. Haase then returned to his work at the emergency casualty station. Haase, Helmut Kunz and two nurses, Flegel and Chervinska were captured there by Soviet Red Army troops on 2 May.
On 6 May, Haase was one of those taken by the Soviet authorities to identify the bodies of the former Reich Propaganda Minister and (for one day) Reich Chancellor, Josef Göbbels, his wife Magda Göbbels and their six children. Haase identified Göbbels' body, despite it being partly burned, by the metal brace which Göbbels wore on his deformed right leg.
Haase was made a Soviet prisoner of war. In June 1945 he was charged with being "a personal doctor of the former Reichschancellor of Germany, Hitler, and also treated other leaders of Hitler's government and of the Nazi Party and members of Hitler's SS guard". The sentence is not recorded. Haase, who suffered from tuberculosis, died in captivity in 1945. The place of death is recorded as "Butyr prison hospital". Possibly this is a reference to the Butyrka prison in Moscow.
During the end time in Berlin, Schenck saw Hitler in person twice, for only a brief time: once when Hitler wanted to thank him, Dr. Haase and nurse Erna Flegel for their emergency medical services, and once during the "reception" after Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun. Schenck was captured by the Soviet Army during the Berlin "break-out" of 1 May 1945. He was released from Russian captivity in 1953 and returned home to (then) West Germany.
Prior to writing his memoirs, Schenck was interviewed in depth by O'Donnell for his book, The Bunker, who recorded his memories of Hitler's last days. Schenck died on 21 December 1998 in Aachen.
Doctor Who Was In Bunker Recounts Hitler's Final Days
October 10, 1985 By United Press International
CHICAGO — Adolf Hitler complained bitterly about aches and pains and needed several drug injections daily just to make it through the final days of his Third Reich, a doctor with him in his Berlin bunker said in an interview released Wednesday.
Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, a nutritionist for the Nazi army, was brought to the Berlin bunker on April 21, 1945, to stock food for the Third Reich's last stand against the advancing Russian army. He stayed to witness Hitler's physical breakdown and eventual suicide 10 days later.
Schenck, 81, related the last days of Hitler, as viewed through a physician's eyes, in a copyright interview in the Oct. 11 issue of American Medical News, published by the American Medical Association.
''His spine was hunched, his shoulder blades protruded from his bent back, and he collapsed his shoulders like a turtle,'' Schenck said of Hitler on his last day. ''He seemed to be carrying a mountain on his shoulders. His eyes, glaring at me painfully, were bloodshot, and the drooping black sacs under the eyes betrayed fatigue and sleeplessness.
''Suddenly, it hit me like a hammer stroke. I was looking at the eyes of death. We all were doomed. I was looking into the eyes of death.''
After his release from Soviet prison, where he spent 10 years after the war, Schenck devoted all his time to examining Hitler's medical records kept by Dr. Theodor Morell, who died in 1948.
Schenck has written a book about his studies, titled Patient A -- Adolf Hitler and His Private Physician, Professor Theodor Gilbert Morell.
Because Morell was such a meticulous record keeper, noting every drug injection and even saving the needle, Schenck was able to compose a fairly accurate medical picture of the Nazi leader.
Morell prescribed 92 different medications in all for the Nazi leader.
Before he died, Hitler suffered from Parkinson's disease, advanced heart disease, colitis, anxiety, depression and a host of psychosomatic illnesses brought on by the turning tide of the war.
Hitler did not have syphilis, as is often rumored, Schenck said.
''Hitler was not insane,'' Schenck also maintained. ''He had a political obsession that led him to attempt insane things.''
Despite all his ailments, real and imagined, Hitler was an almost impossible patient who complained bitterly and demanded to be coddled.
However, Schenck said, ''When the end was near, he no longer needed drugs. At that point, he needed a doctor for only one thing -- to assure his suicide would be swift and sure.''
Although a nutritionist, Schenck was -- out of necessity -- performing amputations on mounting German casualties when, at 3 p.m. on April 30, he was told that Hitler had taken a cyanide capsule, put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Hitler's Medical File
Drugs And Pain Ruled His Last Days
October 14, 1985 By Dennis L. Breo, (copyright) 1985, American Medical Association. Adapted by permission from American Medical News
On the night of April 30, 1945, in the Chancellory garden of the besieged city of Berlin, the mortal remains of Adolf and Eva Hitler were burned--as the Führer had ordered. German soldiers facilitated the disposition by pouring 180 liters of petroleum over the bodies.
While Hitler burned, Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck and the remnants of the Third Reich were planning their escape. The Red Army was but hours away from the garden and the bunker beneath in which the Führer had taken his own life. Now, four decades later, at his home in Aachen, West Germany, Schenck wanted to explain it all: the 10 days in the Berlin bunker in 1945; the 10 years in Soviet prisons after the war; and the years he had spent studying the papers of Hitler`s long-suffering personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morell.
He had his memorabilia and notes in hand, as well as the manuscript of his new book about Hitler and Morell. "I had to wade through 15,000 pages on microfilm", the physician said. "Not all the material was relevant, but much was. The result: Hitler`s entire medical file has been preserved."
It has probably ruined my eyes, but it is worth it. Morell`s papers contain very commonplace details that reveal Hitler to have been the poor slave of his medical complaints and not their master. Many of his symptoms were psychosomatic. Almost daily, he complained to Morell about numerous pains. He demanded injections of invigorating and tranquilizing drugs, complained of headaches, stomach aches, constipation and diarrhea, constant colds, insomnia and many other discomforts. He described every pain very carefully and he complained bitterly.
This first detailed look at the medical file shows that Adolf Hitler, who demanded that his troops be "pitiless supermen", himself required constant coddling to continue functioning.
To Morell, Hitler was "Patient A." (Later, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini would become his "Patient C.") "Dr. Morell was a urologist with a bent for psychology", Schenck said. "Hitler`s initial complaints were the colitis that had bothered him for years, a mild kidney condition and a problem with a leg injury suffered during World War I. Morell helped him with all three problems. From the date they met in 1937 until April, 1945, Hitler had absolute confidence in Morell. Only Hitler could overrule Morell when it came to Hitler`s health, and Morell was always available for Hitler. They were an odd couple, the obsessed German chancellor and Morell, who was fat, homely--and very powerful".
"Hitler would make medical demands", Schenck said, "and, in return, Morell would ask for favors. He was the vitamin czar of Germany, and at one time he owned 11 drug firms. I did not think very highly of him. I thought he was a quack who was simply building a personal empire".
Once, in 1943, he received permission from Hitler to attend his brother`s funeral. While he was gone, Hitler developed stomach cramps from his colitis, and he began to scream at his generals. When Morell returned to headquarters, Hitler screamed at him for not being available. The generals were even more upset with Morell. But with that exception, the two got along very well.
Because Hitler refused to be X-rayed or thoroughly examined, Morell`s primary method of treatment was with drugs.
Hitler would not, for example, allow compresses to be put on his legs because he refused to undress and be seen in a way that he thought made him look ridiculous or undignified. He did, however, allow blood and urine tests, and these Morrell recorded as normal.
At 5 feet 10 inches and 150 pounds, Hitler maintained ideal body weight. He neither smoked nor drank, and he stuck to a strict vegetarian diet. Other than head colds, he had no serious infections, indicating a healthy immune system. The son of a peasant family, he was physically sturdy, and, until the war went against him, he coped remarkably well with his stresses.
"Hitler had three major illnesses," Schenck said, "colitis, which probably represented the irritable bowel syndrome and included constipation and diarrhea, as well as two maladies that were not diagnosed until 1944: arteriosclerotic heart disease and Parkinson`s disease".
Dr. Morell treated him with drugs for these three illnesses and all his other complaints. Hitler`s basic treatment was pharmacological, and, by today`s standards, the amounts are incredible. But Hitler believed, as did many Germans of the time, in the magic of medicine, and Morell was glad to oblige him. Of the 92 different medications prescribed for Hitler during the war years, 20 were manufactured by firms owned by Morell. Some of them were used on Hitler before being scientifically tested.
Hitler used many drugs, but he never became addicted to any one, including morphine, which was administered to him 25 times during 1943-44, for his stomach cramps. But he was psychologically dependent upon the idea of drugs as magic.
Dr. Theodor (Theo) Gilbert Morell