German citizens of the Third Reich were taking amphetamines and opiates on a national scale. Author Norman Ohler spent years trawling through records of Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Theo Morell, in preparation for his new book Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich.
The records show that the Fuhrer himself received 800 injections over the years. Top-tier leaders like Herman Goring – who was in charge of the German air force – was a morphine addict; and the German army’s Blitzkrieg attack was only made possible by widespread use of speed.
The substance at the heart of Blitzed is Pervitin. A form of methamphetamine that the German pharmaceutical industry, which was the most advanced in the world in the 30s and 40s, was able to produce in staggering quantities.
Pervitin was promoted as the people’s drug, a magical chemical that could be consumed as a pill, an injectable liquid; and even in chewing gum form or inside chocolate! It’s military application is discussed at length in Ohler’s book.
Thousands of soldiers took the substance out of their field caps or were given it by their medical officers. It was laid on their tongues and gulped down with a swig of water. Twenty minutes later the nerve cells in their brains started releasing the neurotransmitters.
All of a sudden dopamine and noradrenaline intensified perception and put the soldiers in a state of absolute alertness. The night brightened: no one would sleep, lights were turned on, and the “Lindworm” of the Wehrmacht started eating its way tirelessly toward Belgium… There were no more breaks – an uninterrupted chemical bombardment had broken out in the cerebrum.
Away from the front line, Nazi doctors at Auschwitz and Dachau performed horrendously cruel experiments on Jewish inmates, forcing large-doses of various drugs on them and keeping them awake for days to determine which substances would provide the best stimulant for soldiers.
The use of drugs in combat is something that continues to this day. In 2014, an outnumbered and outgunned Islamic State launched simultaneous offensives in Syria and Iraq. It was later discovered that many of the soldiers had been taken significant doses of Captagon, a methamphetamine.
“It’s a good drug for a fighter,” says Ohler. “It reduces your fear level. Also for suicide missions, which are crazy to carry out because you must be beyond afraid. The ideology can be strong – but I think an amphetamine would help.”
Perhaps the most shocking revelation from Blitzed is Hitler’s heavy drug use. The Fuhrer spoke frequently about purity of the blood, he was both teetotal and vegetarian, but his close relationship with a sycophantic physician suggests he was a daily drug user. Even refusing to allow his doctor two days off to attend his brother’s wedding… you know what it’s like when your dealer is out of town!
Ohler summed it up best when asked about his personal drug consumption: “I haven’t tried every drug that I talk about in the book,” he said. “Especially because if I tried to get anywhere close to Hitler’s consumption levels, I wouldn’t have been able to write a book. Really, nobody could take that amount.”