Today’s guest post comes from Miriam Kleiman of the Public and Media Communications Office.
Before joining the Public Affairs staff, I was a researcher for the “Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group.” I reviewed records of Nazi war criminals, including those recruited by the U.S. intelligence. Needless to say, this was not an upbeat task.
But one day I found a file that was astonishing and entertaining: a file on the arrest and interrogation of Dr. Hugo Johannes Blaschke, Hitler’s dentist.
(In my many years of research, this file was the first and only war crimes–related file that I ever copied and shared with my dentist, who has never mentioned it in subsequent appointments. )
Born in West Prussia and raised in Berlin, Blaschke studied dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania from 1908 to 1911 and was a member of Psi Omega Zeta dental fraternity. Yet Hitler’s Ivy League–educated dentist was arrogant and unbothered by World War II and its aftermath.
During interrogation, Blaschke criticizes Hitler, but not for war crimes. Instead, he blasts Hitler as a frustrating patient who delayed appointments, was careless about dental hygiene, and only called when he was in pain. Blaschke mentions the war as a side note, and only as it relates to Hitler’s stalling tactics.
Dated March 18, 1946, the report is part of a series on Hitler’s physical and mental condition. The report lists three reasons for this interrogation: “identification of Hitler or his remains,” “knowledge needed to expose those frauds who in later years may claim to be Hitler,” and, thoughtfully, “research material for the historian, the doctor, and the scientist interested in Hitler.”
Following Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, the Russians claimed to find a fragment of Hitler’s jawbone and a dental bridge at his bunker. The U.S. Army hoped Blaschke would either confirm or deny that this was indeed a piece of Hitler’s skull.
Years before Hitler’s rise, Blaschke had opened his own office in Berlin in the fall of 1911. He was a dental officer with the German Army during World War I and then returned to private practice. In 1930, Herman Göring became a patient.
In 1934, on the recommendation of Göring, Blaschke was asked to treat the Führer for the first time because “Adolf Hitler had a toothache.” Blaschke performed a root canal, and the pain “soon decreased in intensity and disappeared completely overnight.” Hitler was pleased, and Blaschke climbed the ranks of the Nazi Party, joining the SS in 1935, becoming Sturmbahmführer (major) in charge of dental care for the whole SS, and then transferring to the Waffen SS, the elite paramilitary organization within the SS.
The Army Counter-Intelligence Corps interrogation started with an accounting of Hitler’s teeth. Blaschke noted numerous untreated cavities, crowns, and chipped teeth “with pieces broken off.” Hitler’s remaining original teeth were discolored and loose. He had gingivitis and needed extensive work. One of his incisors was broken. He had two old dental bridges and the arch connecting the bridges “caused annoyance because food particles got caught in it easily.” Hitler rejected a temporary replacement (until the new bridge was ready), fearing it might affect his speech.
Concerned that Hitler would have trouble eating solid food with a permanent bridge, Blaschke suggested a “removable prosthesis” that could be taken out at meals. Hitler stated that “for him as a vegetarian the fixed bridge would suffice, since he had a special kitchen at his disposal at all times” (presumably to prepare food that didn’t need to be chewed).
Eventually Blaschke and Hitler reached an understanding on dental care: “I agreed with Hitler that I would have to examine his teeth in intervals of three or four months at the most, since only constant supervision . . . could tend to avoid similar extensive work in the upper jaw.” This worked until the outbreak of the war. As the Third Reich extended its domination over Eastern Europe, Hitler was too busy for dental work. “Whenever I called I was told that treatment was not possible at the time, and that I should wait until notified,” Blaschke noted. “When I was finally called pain was present.”
While Hitler avoided regular checkups, he demanded Blaschke be on call for dental emergencies. Fortunately, Blaschke was willing to take his practice on the road. At the Wolfsschanze headquarters, “treatments were performed in a truck mounted dental station.” This complex, known as the Wolf’s Lair, was built for Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union. But Blaschke ignore the war and sticks to the dental facts, mentioning only that due “menace of air raids, a dental station was installed in one of the shelters.”
Blaschke was called to Reich headquarters in September 1944. Hitler complained about incapacitating pain in his upper left jaw and “was bedridden” (the August 25 liberation of Paris by the Allies surely compounded the situation). Blaschke found a severe infection.
Blaschke insisted Hitler schedule a root canal on another tooth. Blaschke was ordered to report to the new Reich headquarters on December 16, only to learn that Hitler was preoccupied once again, and “since the offensive in the West had started that morning I did not treat him.” The event that distracted the patient? The Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s Ardennes offensive.
Delaying tactics continued. Hitler only allowed Blaschke to clean his teeth. Blaschke last treated Hitler in mid-February of 1945. It’s unclear if that root canal ever happened.
After his release from captivity in 1948, Blaschke continued to work as a dentist in Nuremberg until his death at age 78. This file is from Records of the Army Staff, Counter Intelligence Corps collection (RG 319) at the National Archives at College Park. It was declassified in 1963, 17 years after the end of World War II.