The Strange Case of Himmler's Doctor
Felix Kersten and Count Bernadotte
Felix Kersten was Heinrich Himmler’s personal doctor during the Second World War; he has also been decorated for outstanding services to humanity during the same period. This combination of activities might well seem a paradox; and since paradox naturally generates controversy, Kersten has been the center, since the war, of a good deal of controversy—from which, however, he has at last emerged triumphant. Since historical accident drew me into this controversy, and human interest prevented me from dropping it till I had satisfied myself on every point, I may claim an intimate knowledge of the matter, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to publish the facts.
First, how did Kersten achieve the strange position of Himmler’s doctor—and indeed more than doctor, for he was, as he has himself admitted, almost a “father-confessor” to that terrible ogre of the Third Reich. It is a cosmopolitan story, for Kersten is a cosmopolitan figure—at least a North European cosmopolitan. A Bait of Germanic origin, born in Estonia in 1898, and therefore originally a Russian subject, he fought in 1918 as a volunteer in the Finnish war of liberation against Russia. In 1920 he became a Finnish subject. Thereafter he studied manual therapy in Berlin under a famous Chinese specialist, Dr. Ko, and quickly became himself one of the most successful practitioners of this unorthodox but valuable art. His professional success began in Germany, where the aristocracy and the plutocracy of the 1920′s alike resorted to him; but since both these classes are international, their patronage soon carried him abroad. Thus, among the aristocracy, Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg passed him on to his brother, Prince Hendrik, the husband of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. This was one of the most important incidents in Kersten’s career, for in time he became a member of the Prince’s household and made his home in Holland.
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