A addiction epidemic consumes a nation while its outwardly abstemious leader escalates an ineffectual War on Drugs. Where are we again? Oh yeah, the Third Reich. Narcotics - cocaine, opiates, and especially methamphetamines - permeated every level of German society, from hausfraus to the military to the upper levels of the party, including the über user himself, Adolf Hitler. A form of crystal meth fueled the soldiers of the Wehrmacht, contributing to its blitzkrieg domination of Europe during the first years of the war.
The Führer's frailties are well known, but for five years, award-winning journalist Norman Ohler collected new evidence, including interviews with eye-witnesses, doctors, and historians and original documents unearthed from German and American archives. The result is Blitzed, a fascinating and speedy narrative that goes beyond previous investigations in exposing the depth and pervasiveness of drug use in World War II-era Germany.
We asked Ohler for three ways drugs affected WWII.
Volksdroge, or, The People's Drug
The Nazis portrayed themselves as a movement that is all about purity. They were the first government in Europe to impose a strict "war on drugs," putting drug users into concentration camps as soon as they gained power in 1933. In 1937, however, a Berlin-based company brought "Pervitin" onto the market, one pill containing 3 milligrams of methamphetamine. Pervitin became Germany’s drug of choice. There was even a chocolate on the market with meth inside, which became highly popular among German housewives. The stimulant helped the German civil society to work full steam and stay motivated in Hitler’s dictatorship.
Adolf Hitler: Infirmity, Addiction, and Very Poor Judgement
Hitler was presented as a teetotaler, abstinent from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and meat. However he loved injections, and received daily shots of vitamins from his personal physician, Theo Morell. Hitler was obsessed with always being in control of all decisions at headquarters, and he believed the vitamin-injections kept him healthy at all times. When he fell ill in August 1941 - during a crucial phase of the war against the Soviet Union - he received something stronger than vitamins: an opioid combined with an animal hormone. From that day on, he slid into abusing narcotics, steroids, and other stimulants - a drug cocktail that enabled him to stay in his fantasy world, and continue to make irrational, delusional decisions. He made the decision for the Second Ardennes offensive while being high on cocaine.
This Is World War II on Drugs
The German Army was the first army in the world to methodically use a synthetic stimulant. Early German military successes tie in with the massive abuse of methamphetamine - hundreds of millions of dosages were being used - and helped the German army in their speed-wars against Poland and the West. Other armies have since followed, and wars without drugs no longer exist.
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