1941: Attempted Suicide

That night, in the small hours of the morning, the psychiatrist was sent for by Hess, who was unable to sleep. As he was coming along the corridor, the guard unbolted and swung open the door of the wire cage which opened into a narrow passage off which lay Hess's bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. As the door swung outwards, from the shadows of his bedroom, the Deputy Führer, in full Air Force uniform and flying boots dashed through the mo­mentarily free passage. "The expression on his face was one of extreme despair, his eyes staring, his hair dishevelled;" he took a flying leap over the banister, and a heavy thud on the floor of the hall below was followed by agonized groans. He had fractured his femur.

    With the immobilization of his leg in extension, Hess came under the control also of trained mental nurses and a strict security regime. He became quieter, but in a day or two was voicing his delusional ideas again. One of his nurses noted evidence of hallucination, seeing him, when in a state of repose, suddenly turn his head and eyes towards a corner of the ceiling and look intently as if straining to identify some sound. He still believed that the officers surrounding him were being hypnotized and were under the control of an evil power. The psychiatrist's opinion at this point was that Hess was not medicolegally insane (!) and the whole of his symptoms and behaviour were to be regarded as capable of ready explanation along psychodynamic lines, given his characterological peculiarities. The possibility of a diagnosis of schizophrenia is not even mentioned at this stage.

    After this, on July 17, Hess came under the psychiatric care of Dr. Johns­ton. A large part of his time was taken up with writing, which, when trans­lated, was found to be "the typical effusion of a paranoic, with persecutory delusions and bizarre ideas of poisoning and torture." He thought that all his entourage were under the influence of some rare poison or mesmerism, which compelled them to poison and torture him. He was liable to odd behaviour, such as lying with his fingers in his ears and smiling to himself; when questioned about this, he only replied 'I am thinking.' At times he was fairly cheerful, but at others moody and depressed, staring at the walls smil­ing, grimacing and making no attempt to occupy himself. On November 21 he produced for the Foreign Office representative a bundle of papers wrapped around many times in tissue paper, with his signature scribbled over it in every direction: he explained he had done it up like this to prevent anyone tampering with the enclosures. At this time he was hiding odd pieces of paper about the room, under the couch, etc. He started to complain of loss of memory, and said he could not remember words, or what had happened even one hour previously; he also complained of confusion ‑‑later saying that he had pretended to be confused to prevent being drugged. However, his memory was at fault when examined, and he could not remember having had letters from his wife. He asked for containers for faeces and urine, so that they might be analysed. He still believed that noises within and outside the house were made as a subtle form of psychological torture. "The slamming of doors was particularly irritating to him and on one occasion, when I was present, he suddenly strode over to the door of his room and slammed it with great violence, and stood laughing in a hysterical manner." When the Swiss Minister visited him in April 1942 a good deal of the time was taken up by a careful wrapping up and labelling of various tablets of glucose, luminal, aspirin, etc., and samples of claret, all of which were to be investigated. He had left his Red Cross parcels untouched, since they had come through Switzerland, and might have been poisoned there even though they arrived with seals unbro­ken. Dr. Johnston writes "There is the picture... one that is only too familiar to the mental hospital doctor. The anxious gloomy paranoic. . ." The pos­sibility of a schizophrenic psychosis is not mentioned.