David Lewis says hypnotism set Adolf Hitler on the path to dictatorship and destruction.
In his new book ‘Triumph Of The Will?’, he argues that before the First World War Hitler lived rough as a penniless vagrant on the streets of Vienna.
During the conflict he never rose above the rank of lance-corporal because his superiors considered he ‘lacked the personality to lead’.
So what transformed this purposeless drifter into a merciless tyrant able to manipulate the minds of millions and lead Germany into the Second World War?
Mr Lewis reveals how two little-known events changed Hitler’s personality and, by doing so, changed the world.
A century ago, in October 1918, a British gas attack on the Western Front had left Hitler blinded and helpless. Front line doctors diagnosed his loss of sight as due not to physical injury but mental breakdown. They immediately sent him for treatment in a remote ‘nerve’ clinic near the Polish frontier.
Here Dr Edmund Forster, an eminent German nerve specialist and expert on hysteria, used hypnosis to restore Hitler’s sight. In doing so he left him convinced he had been chosen by destiny to lead his country to greatness.
The book says that in 1931 Erik Jan Hanussen, a Nazi-supporting Moravian Jew masquerading as a clairvoyant Danish aristocrat, taught him how to hypnotise the masses. At this, Hitler proved himself the most skilled hypnotist of them all.
Mr Lewis argues that Hanussen was key in creating Hitler’s instantly recognisable stage presence including body language, gestures and tone of voice.
This stage presence was vital in disseminating the Nazi propaganda and indoctrinating the Nazi message into the public.
Forster’s subsequent death was classed as suicide and Hanussen’s death was prohbited from being investigated. Yet Mr Lewis draws attention to the suspicious nature of both these events compared to the common patterns of Nazi killings. Both of these men possibly dying at the hands of Hitler’s thugs further strengthens the author’s hypothesis.
Mr Lewis, from East Dean, utilises his extensive experience as a neuroscientist to also provide the readr with an insight into the treatment of mental health in the First World War and the development of neuroscience.
He explores the treatment of soldiers with shell-shock and related conditions while also tracking changing opinions over the use of electroshock therapy.
‘Triumph Of The Will? How Two Men Hypnotised Hitler and Changed the World’ is published by MLI Press and priced at £8.99.