Theodor Morell: Hitler’s Particularly Odious Physician

Despised by many of his associates, Doctor Theodor Morell was the man responsible for Hitler’s health.

May 11, 2024By Greg Beyer, Assistant Editor; African History

theodor morell hitler physician


Adolf Hitler accrued a vast circle of close followers during his time in power. These men were powerful, and all had a hand in the atrocities committed in the name of the Reich. Of course, they didn’t all get along with each other.


Doctor Theodor Morell was one such character who gained a lot of negative opinions. He was seen as a boorish man with little interest in his own personal hygiene. He was also responsible for the health and well-being of Adolf Hitler, who rarely hesitated to sing his praises.


An oft-overlooked man in the story of Nazi Germany, Theodor Morell is remembered as one of the most self-serving and careless doctors in history, as much of his treatment turned the Führer into a hopeless drug addict, maddened by complex cocktails of drugs administered by his favored physician.


The Early Life of Theodor Morell

university of heidelberg
The University of Heidelberg at the turn of the century. Source: Public domain / Wikipedia


Theodor Gilbert Morell was born in the town of Trains-Münzenberg in the state of Hesse in central Germany on July 22, 1886. His father was a primary school teacher, and his mother came from a family of successful farmers. He was a middle child with an older brother, Adolf, and a younger sister, Emilie.

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As a child, he suffered from chronic stomach pain, a problem that also affected Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. It was this complaint for which Theodor would be hired by the leader of the Third Reich.


Theodor was a brilliant student. He excelled in secondary school and was exempted from having to take oral exams on account of the quality of his written work. After school, he trained as a teacher and taught near Frankfurt am Main and then for one year in Bretzenheim near Mainz. Meanwhile, he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, where he achieved top marks in his class.


After his studies in Heidelberg, he moved to France, where he studied medicine in Grenoble and Paris. He then moved back to Germany, where he followed up his education by studying obstetrics and gynecology in Munich. He eventually finished his doctoral degree in May 1913 and became registered as a licensed physician after writing his dissertation on gynecology.


theodor morell book
A book on Theodor Morell. Source:


By this point, Morell was already becoming well-known, and he was receiving good reviews from academics in their essays. His first job as a licensed physician was as a ship’s doctor. He served with several companies, traveling extensively and mastering his treatment of diseases associated with tropical climates. But when the First World War broke out in 1914, Morell volunteered for service at the front, serving as a battalion physician and then as a medical doctor at a prisoner-of-war camp.


With plenty of experience to his name, Morell opened a practice in 1919 in Berlin. The following year, Morell married Johanna “Honi” Möller, a wealthy actress who introduced Theodor to many of Germany’s social elite within the entertainment industry. With the help of his wife’s contacts, Morell established himself as a doctor popular with the upper echelons of Berlin society. His fortune grew considerably, and he spared little expense in decorating his workspace. His tastes were opulent and reflected the status of his clientele.


Morell’s treatments were unconventional and experimental, making use of Germany’s position as the world’s top pharmaceutical producer. Morell was able to procure many new substances that became popular at the time but in later years were proved to be harmful. This dynamic was a reflection on the entire industry of Germany at the time, and many drugs that are considered highly dangerous and addictive today were readily available.


Morell’s reputation reached far and wide. He was invited to become the personal physician of the Shah of Persia and the King of Romania, but he refused both positions as he was satisfied with his life in Berlin, where there were countless opportunities for him as a doctor and a businessman.


The Nazis Seize Power

hitler in 1935
Adolf Hitler in 1935. Source: Wikimedia Commons


In 1933, when the Nazis took power in Germany, Morell’s practice suffered. He was targeted on account of his many patients who were Jewish. Morell would later claim it was also on account of the fact that he had slightly Jewish features. He remedied this development by joining the Nazi Party. After he joined, he continued to treat Jewish patients until around the time of Kristallnacht in 1938, when it became clear that any association with Jewish people was likely to draw dangerous attention.


Morell Meets Hitler

morell and hitler
Doctor Morell and Adolf Hitler on the Berghof Terrace, 1940. Source: National Archives


In the mid-1930s, Hitler’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, met Theodor Morell, who treated him for gonorrhea. Hoffman was so impressed with Morell’s results that he became good friends with him. When Morell’s wife, Johanna, visited the Hoffmans, she was introduced to Hitler’s girlfriend, Eva Braun, who subsequently became a patient of Theodor Morell.


During Christmas of 1936, Heinrich Hoffman invited the Morells to spend Christmas Eve with him at the Obersalzburg resort. While there, Hoffmann suggested they visit Hitler at his Berghof residence nearby. Hoffman had previously mentioned Morell to Hitler, and the Führer had shown an interest since he was suffering from several ailments that he believed could be cured by Morell’s unorthodox methods. While at Berghof, Hitler called Morell to the side, and they went for a walk. What was said is unknown, but from that moment on, Morell served as Hitler’s private physician.


Morell and His Service to Hitler

hitler and morell
Hitler and Morell. Source: LA RAZÓN


Johanna was not immediately pleased. She questioned her husband’s judgment and asked whether it was wise when they already had such a good life in Berlin. The temptation of prestige, however, was too much for Theodor to resist, and he likely examined the Führer the next day. Of primary importance to Hitler were the stomach cramps from which he suffered and which also caused significant flatulence. He also had a rash on his legs, which was causing him concern.


Morell began treating Hitler with Mutaflor capsules – a medication containing a safe strain of E. coli, which is still produced today. Within months, Hitler was completely cured and could eat normally again.


Morell started Hitler’s health regime by giving his patient daily injections. This, however, would not be the safest medication administered to Hitler. Soon after, he started administering “Vitamultin,” a drug he had developed himself. It contained the methamphetamine Pervitin, which was popular at the time and widely distributed among German soldiers.


doctor theodor morell
Theodor Morell. Source: IMDb


Others in Hitler’s inner circle were not impressed by Morell. Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering considered Morell to be a quack. Joseph Goebbels, however, became one of his patients. Goering referred to Morell as Reichsspritzenmeister (the state’s master of injections).


As the war progressed, so too did Hitler’s need for the injections increase. His body formed a resistance to the effect of the Vitamultin, and Morell had to increase the dosages and look for an alternative. Hitler also began to suffer withdrawal from the medication, and this had a drastic effect on his health, both physically and mentally.


For Morell, his interests were primarily monetary in nature. He used his status and influence to start businesses. He supplied masses of substances to the German army, including multivitamins and delousing powder.


The Reich in Decline

eukodal german drug
Eukodal. Source: Museum Berlin-Karlshorst


As the Allied noose tightened around Germany, Hitler’s health began to fail. But he wasn’t the only one suffering. Theodor Morell’s excessive lifestyle was catching up with him, too. He had become obese – a condition that led the doctor to suffer from a heart condition.


Others saw the effects of Morell’s treatments and tried to warn Hitler. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s other physician, warned that Morell’s treatments were dangerous. Hitler responded by removing Brandt from his service. Even Eva Braun shifted her opinion of Morell, referring to him as having the manners of a pig.


Morell’s treatments were careless. Not only had he managed to get Hitler hooked on methamphetamines, but he was responsible for giving him jaundice. Morell prescribed “Dr. Koester’s Anti-Gas Pills,” which were found to contain strychnine and belladonna. The strychnine was the cause of the jaundice. Among other drugs given to Hitler by Morell was Eukodal, the early trade name of the drug oxycodone, an opioid with highly addictive properties.


hitler and friends
Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis. Fourth from the left is Doctor Theodor Morell. Source: National Archives


Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge, who had joined the Führer’s staff in January 1945, wrote that despite Morell’s inability to cure Hitler of his ailments, Morell never lost favor with Hitler. Junge wrote that when Hitler spoke of Morell, there was “something like pity in his eyes.”


“But for Morell,” Hitler stated, “I might have died long ago, or at least have been unable to work. He was and still is the only person who can help me.”


On April 22, one week before Hitler committed suicide, he fired Morell in a fit of rage. Morell begged Hitler to reconsider, but Hitler threatened to have him executed if he did not leave. Morell flew back to Munich. By May 1, Morell was suffering from heart problems and was admitted to the hospital. Two days later, the Americans captured the hospital, and a few days after, all of Germany surrendered to the Allies.


The End of Morell

interrogation report theodor morell
Preliminary Interrogation Report for Theodor Morell. Source: National Archives


When his wife visited her husband in hospital, she found a broken man weeping. His condition deteriorated over the next few weeks, and in July, Morell was formally arrested by American forces. He spent a short time in the same cell as Karl Brandt before being transferred. Because of his poor health, he was transferred to the prison hospital in the former concentration camp of Dachau. His health also delayed his trial, which dragged on until June 1947, when he was acquitted and released from Dachau. He was dropped off at a train station in Munich with nothing but a few items of clothing.


A few days later, he was picked up by the Red Cross and transferred to a clinic where he spent the rest of his life. He died 11 months later, mumbling to himself.


Doctor Theodor Morell was a caricature of a man, fitting a stereotype of Nazi excess, madness, and overconfidence. These qualities endeared him to Adolf Hitler, and these qualities served as his downfall, like so many of the Nazis around him.

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By Greg BeyerAssistant Editor; African HistoryGreg is an editor specializing in African history, he has authored over 200 articles. A former English teacher with a BA in History & Linguistics and a Journalism Diploma from the University of Cape Town, he excels in academic writing and finds artistic expression through drawing and painting in his free time.