In March 1941, World War II had broken out about a year and a half ago, but there were still eight months to go before Pearl Harbor was attacked, causing the US to enter the war. That’s why the magazine Collier’s Weeklyone of the most important and widely read weeklies in the country at the time, published an essay in two parts with a rather striking title: My patient, Hitler (My patient, Hitler). The author of it, as can be deduced, was one of the Führer’s doctors, but what is truly curious is that he was Jewish and the chancellor himself helped him leave Germany.
Eduard Bloch was born on January 30, 1872 in the Bohemian city of Frauenberg, currently called Hluboká nad Vltavou and belonging to the Czech Republic but at that time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the youngest of five children in a family that was not rich but well-off enough: his grandfather Joachim worked for Prince Jan Adolf II of Schwarzenberg and his father was one of the first Jewish university graduates in philosophy from Charles University in Prague, the the same one where Eduard entered to study medicine when he reached adulthood.
At the end of his degree he had to do his military service, coinciding with the war that the European powers declared against the Ottomans to liberate Crete and turn it into an international protectorate before handing it over to Greece. Bloch was posted as a medical officer at the Linz garrison hospital in 1899, where he remained until his discharge in 1900. He then moved to Dresden to work as an outpatient at a women’s clinic but soon returned to Linz and opened his own query.
As a private doctor he was quite successful and prospered, settling in a baroque house at 12 Landstrasse, the city’s main avenue, which also served as his home. Not only him but his family, since he married his girlfriend Lilli Kafka, who in 1903 gave him two daughters, Emilie and Trude (diminutive of Gertrude). His willingness to serve not only well-to-do patients but also the humblest earned him the nickname of doctor of the poor; he visited them at home in his horse carriage and tried to charge them according to his condition.
In this context came the key year, 1904, in which he had to cure a fifteen-year-old boy, orphan of a father who, frail and sallow, was bedridden due to a condition that was first believed to be pulmonary but later turned out to be a simple cold derived in tonsillitis. The boy recovered; his name was Adolf Hitler and his family continued to come to Bloch to the point that three years later, in March 1907, he had to care for his mother Klara when she became seriously ill.
It was a breast cancer that, given the limitations of surgery at the time and the failure of the operation that a colleague underwent, she tried to cure with iodoform, an antiseptic that was the only treatment left and that was painful and annoying. because of the smell it gave off. In reality, the iodoform only poisoned Klara and hastened her death, which occurred at nine months, but Bloch tried to dull the pain during the process with morphine injections, and Adolf, who had just come of age, was left with eternally grateful; especially when the doctor, aware of the poor economic situation of the Hitlers, charged them the minimum and sometimes even treated them for free.
From then on, their lives took different paths, but the young man’s gratitude was manifested again in 1908 by correspondence, when he sent him a postcard with a landscape made by himself, since he had begun his life as a professional artist in Vienna. Later he would send her other painted cards, always with the phrase “In Eternal Gratitude” or something similar. With the rise of the Nazis to power, a private individual offered him a fortune for them, although he did not think it was ethical to sell them. But that was later. At the moment, Bloch could not even imagine the surprising future that awaited the young man and he probably forgot about it for a while, since there were more serious things to think about at first.
And it is that in 1914 the First World War broke out and he decided to collaborate by enlisting as a military doctor. Again he was assigned to the Linz hospital, although this time as the main doctor. Her wife, Lilli, also volunteered and worked as a Red Cross nurse in the same place, dividing her duties between caring for the wounded and the poor. After the war, Bloch received the appointment of health counselor, a newly created title for those who stood out in the health field in those difficult times.
For a couple of decades, everything went without much news, except for the detail that the Blochs were Jews and their situation, already uncomfortable in a Central Europe of growing anti-Semitism, worsened after 1933, when the Nazis came to power. A priori it did not have to affect them, since they lived in Austria, but in March 1938 the Anschluss, that is, the annexation of the country by Germany, and everything changed. The Jewish community began to suffer legal and physical persecution.
The friendly relationship between Bloch and Hitler had remained intact until then. In fact, the second had sent him a postcard again the year before and at the Nuremberg conference, after asking about Linz and the doctor, he defined him as edeljudenoble Jew, adding that “If all Jews were like him, there would be no Jewish question”. Those postcards and the clinical case book were the things that the Gestapo demanded that the Blochs return when they paid them a surprise visit at their home, otherwise correct and without major consequences (they even gave them a receipt). It was clear that the political police had specific orders not to disturb them, something unusual in the country at that point and more so considering that they welcomed other Jews into their home.
However, one thing is that they were not pressured directly and another the legality. The laws prohibited Jews from practicing medicine except among themselves, so Bloch, as advantageous as his status had been until then – and it was, since he was exempt from marking his home with the yellow signs intended for those of his faith and that his ration card be marked with the J-, he understood that it was convenient to change the scene. As it was not easy, he took advantage of the excellent influence he had in the government and wrote to Hitler through his sister Klara asking for help. He ordered that the procedures to leave the country be facilitated and, meanwhile, the Gestapo made sure that no one bothered them. Martin Bormann personally supervised everything.
Thanks to this, the Blochs were able to sell their house at market price instead of for the merely testimonial and abusive value to which other Jews were forced by their forced transfer to Vienna, and they were even authorized to travel with an unusual amount of money, 16 reichmarks, compared to the regulation ten for the Hebrews. Finally, at the end of November, the Blochs, his daughter Gertrude and his son-in-law, Dr. Franz Kren (who was released after an arrest), were able to leave for Lisbon, where they embarked for the USA aboard the Spanish ocean liner Marquis of Comillassettling in the New York neighborhood of the Bronx.
As expected, his arrival raised some expectations and he had to undergo an interrogation by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, an intelligence service that preceded the CIA), which was seeking information on the childhood and youth of the German chancellor. It was there that he published the aforementioned essay My patient, Hitlerconsidered today a valuable primary historiographic source and in which he left a description of his former patient that broke with the stereotyped image that American journalists had hitherto managed, that of a choleric histrionic, poorly educated and tending to disheveled.
In return, he offered a friendly and positive portrait: a well-fed young man who wore classic Tyrolean leather shorts and was an avid reader of Fenimore Cooper and Karl May, though not very bright academically, history being the only subject he showed interest in. along with art. A deeply melancholic and self-absorbed boy who couldn’t help but have tears welling up in his eyes when he was informed of his mother’s cancer.
Bloch’s text raised a certain stir and the review he made of the deep love that Hitler showed towards his mother gave rise to some interpreting it as something pathological, finding in the frustrated treatment that Bloch applied to Klara the cause of his visceral hatred of the Jews; however, most historians believe that she took up anti-Semitism later, in the humiliating interwar period following the Treaty of Versailles. In any case, medicine had already been left behind because Bloch, who was sixty-nine years old when he left Austria, did not have his title recognized in the USA.
Stomach cancer ended his life on June 1, 1945, almost exactly a month after Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker.
My patient, Hitler (Dr Eduard Bloch in Collier’s Weekly)/Hitler: The man behind the monster (Michael Kerrigan)/Explaining Hitler: The Origins of His Evil (Ron Rosenbaum)/Hitler’s Vienna. A portrait of the tyrant as a young man (Brigitte Hamann)/Wikipedia