The Man with Miraculous Hands

It was Simon Sinek who said something along the lines of “the president of the United States is the most powerful man in any room he steps into. Except when he steps into the doctor’s office.”

There is no better place where this applies in a similar way than in this book. It is here that we meet Himmler, the second most powerful man in Germany during WWII. He was Hitler’s right hand, responsible for the implementation of Hitler’s ideas and the death of thousands of people. He was also very ill. He had excruciating stomach pains that he kept secret. That’s where we can see how one doctor who intervenes to help him is later responsible to saving hundreds of lives because of his influence.

According to the doctor’s journals, these are all real events and that is so, so fascinating! According to historians, some of the claims are exaggerated, but it remains an important book for those passionate about history.

The Man with Miraculous Hands – The Plot

Doctor Felix Kersten is a Finnish citizen. His life and work take him through The Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. He makes friends and patients everywhere. He becomes renowned for his unique curing abilities, having learned the techniques from a Chinese doctor himself. Dr. Kersten meets Himmler at the hight of his career and is actually able to help him. Meanwhile, the WWII starts and he is forced to keep on treating Himmler. During his treatment sessions, he starts to understand how he can actually influence Himmler’s opinions and actions, leading to him saving thousands of lives.

The book was first published in the 1960s. It is now updated, the introduction bringing to light a few informations regarding the accuracy of dr. Kersten’s journals.

The Man with Miraculous Hands – My Thoughts

This was a fascinating perspective on the WWII. It certainly made monsters seem very human. Because of dr. Kersten’s journals we have an insight into the brain of a mass murderer. Surprisingly, it’s not all that dark. Himmler seems brainwashed into believing in Hitler with all his heart. Hitler was a god-like figure to him. He could do no wrong. He was genius. He was always right. Even in face of evidence that Hitler was not entirely sane, Himmler still sees him as perfect.

He develops a similar kind of faith in his doctor, though not equally powerful. However, it is this faith that allows the doctor a lot of freedom and privileges. Their relationship develops as Himmler becomes more and more dependent on dr. Kersten’s services. The trust he has in him allows him to be his confidant. He even gets to the point when he shares secret strategies and plans regarding the war.

It is in this type of discussions that we have a rare opportunity to see and judge how a personal opinion, a personal view of the world can affect policy in a state and ultimately the fate of thousands of people. To have one man with that kind of power, with no control and no oversight is frightening. When you understand that and then add a doctor who uses his power to influence the same thing it is even more frightening. It is at this point one understands how someone’s mind can be so fragile and easy to manipulate.

I found interesting how good dr. Kersten was by no means perfect himself. He sticks to his principles because his situation allows him, he is cunning for a good purpose, he is even risking his life at times. However, I am under the impression he was still not a good person. It is a very strange thing to say – completely irrational, given how much good he actually did. It is however the taste I am left with, after reading the book. The idea that in war “there is no simple good and evil, it’s all more about various degrees of collaboration for survival” seems accurate.

At the end of the book, I am also left with the doubt of how much it was real. At least some of it was, for sure, as these statements of the doctor were very scrutinised along the time. There are things that can’t be proven though, things for which we might never know the truth. However, they don’t make the book less interesting. It remains a great biography from which we can learn a lot!

You can find the book here:

The man with miraculous hands by Joseph Kessel

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