Why did America hide Franklin Roosevelt's disability

Roosevelt's secret suffering

In the United States, the publication of a book written by a doctor and a journalist has caused quite a stir. In its quintessence, the work says nothing less than that the USA was led through the Second World War by a terminally ill president.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States in office from 1933 to 1945 and the only President elected for more than two terms, is still very present in America's political and social consciousness. The American welfare state goes back to Roosevelt's New Deal, and President Obama has invoked it repeatedly during his election campaign and during his term in office. For the contemporary witnesses of his presidency, Roosevelt was and is a hero who unerringly led the American army to victory over National Socialist tyranny and Japanese imperialism. The fact that he recognized the danger that Hitler and his henchmen posed to the world earlier than many other leaders in the 1930s is evidence of the statesmanlike foresight of this politician. In the United States, criticism of Roosevelt still encounters a chorus of defense and justification by this man who usually occupies one of the top places in the presidential rankings, usually in competition with Lincoln and founding father George Washington.

Fight against time

So it is not surprising that a recently published book, which at first glance is devoted to a purely medical-biographical aspect in Roosevelt's life, is making waves and quickly provoking outrage. The neurologist Steven Lomazow and the journalist Eric Fettmann propose in "FDR's Deadly Secret" the thesis that Roosevelt had suffered from highly dangerous cancer since 1940 at the latest, knew about this ailment and was able to successfully conceal it in two election campaigns.

The president decided, the authors claim, to run for a third term in the summer of 1940 - although, no, because he knew about the deadly disease but trusted it, that he still had enough time to achieve his vision: the overthrow of the Nazis -Germany and Japan and the creation of a new world order under American leadership. If Lomazow's and Fettmann's approach were correct, this would at least in its final phase show the history of the Second World War in a new light - in the last two years, when Roosevelt was barely able to carry out his office due to metastases, including in the brain should have been.

The criticism that was immediately voiced of this thesis is based on the fact that there is no source evidence, no written evidence. That's right - and at the same time the crux of any biography of this president. Because Roosevelt's medical records disappeared without a trace shortly after his death. As the main suspect of this source-based cleansing act - or the concealment? - is Roosevelt's personal physician Ross McIntire. Like his patient, he had a remarkable track record when it came to keeping details about the President's health a secret.

Disguised diseases

Little did many Americans know in the 1930s that their president was paralyzed as a result of polio; There are only three photos from his entire tenure that show him in a wheelchair. His ultimately fatal condition, massive high blood pressure with heart failure and advanced arteriosclerosis, remained so hidden from large parts of the public that Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945 deeply shocked the nation. McIntire, the medical team and the campaign strategists even succeeded in belittling the state of the president in 1944, when Roosevelt was already looking terribly miserable. It was only clear to a few observant observers that in 1944 the Democratic Party, in the largely unknown Senator Harry Truman from Missouri, did not nominate a candidate for the vice presidency - but the 33rd American president.

In the absence of written sources, Lomazow and Fettmann base their evidence on a combination of photographs and testimony. The two authors claim that Roosevelt had a deadly disease that was literally written on his face: melanoma, an extremely malignant skin cancer, just above his left eyebrow. The change can be seen on numerous recordings from the 1930s. Shortly after a renowned cancer expert warned Roosevelt in a letter of the dangers of malignant melanoma, the president went on a two-week "recovery trip" on a warship. As Lomazow and Fettmann try to prove by means of enlarged photographs, Roosevelt was completely and cosmetically unobtrusively freed from the primary tumor during the sea voyage and with subsequent minor interventions. Admittedly, this procedure had no influence on the sowing of metastases.

Roll the story

The authors attribute the physical and mental decline of Roosevelt, which was clearly perceptible to those around him from 1943, to the metastasis of melanoma - a tumor that spreads daughter cells mainly into the brain. This is where the real political explosive lies: "FDR's Deadly Secret" suggests that a man sat across from Stalin in Yalta, whose brain was partially destroyed by metastases. As long as the medical documents remain missing, it is difficult to find out whether this was a reality. For the defenders of the undoubtedly strong president, proof of his ability to act and his rationality is his famous statement after his return from Yalta: “I am not saying that it was a good thing. I say it was the best I could do. "

The warning that could be derived from the Roosevelt case is formulated by Lomazow and Fettmann in the closing words, which in the USA is more capable of reaching a consensus than large parts of their book: “That is the real danger of Roosevelt's veiling: He played dice with the story and with the one worth discussing Exception. He won Yalta. The next similarly troubled president may not be so happy. "