Is there anything more terrifying than the Nazis? Politically, militarily, even fashionably—everything they did was perfectly evil. They believed in mass extermination; they built planes that screamed; they even wore skulls on their caps, for chrissake. I had thought nothing could make them more horrifying, but that was before I encountered Blitzed. Now I know the only thing more terrifying than the Nazis are the Nazis on meth—which most of them were, according to this chemical chronicle of the Third Reich. The entire Fatherland seems to have been hopped up to the eyeballs before, during, and after the Second World War.
Blitzed is not your typical history book, but that's because its author, Norman Ohler, is not your typical historian. A novelist and self-described "cyberpunk," Ohler was surprised to discover through his research just how unaware traditional historians have been about the impact drugs had on their subjects. "There was just not enough drug knowledge known by historians," he says, "which is fine, but if you know nothing about drugs, you can't write about them."
Fortunately, Ohler had the right kind of background for the job. As a devoted denizen of Berlin's electronic-music scene in the 1990s, he recalls heading out to raves every weekend. "Berlin was still a very wild place. You could still feel that the Wall had just come down. You would walk through a wasteland in the middle of the city, and suddenly there would be a literal hole in the ground with a ladder going down into it, and when you went down, there'd be hundreds of people dancing to the strangest music you'd ever heard before." From these depths, Ohler experienced his fair share of MDMA and LSD—and also saw the damage they did. "You would party for three days in a row and then sleep for four days. Although what I experienced was primarily party drugs, I can understand what withdrawal feels like. I can certainly get into the skin of a soldier who has been on methamphetamine for four days and four nights."
Drawing on such insight, Ohler brilliantly depicts how the Blitzkrieg's success depended on a new drug that gave users boundless energy, massive self-confidence, and laserlike concentration. Created by the German pharmaceutical company Temmler in 1937 and released to the public under the brand name Pervitin, it soon became a daily cure-all, popped by students, secretaries, firefighters, and housewives. Doctors doled out the tablets like they were aspirin, but Pervitin was in fact methamphetamine, and meth perfectly encapsulated the escalating madness of Nazism. This was a drug that made you feel like an übermensch.
THE BLITZKRIEG'S SUCCESS DEPENDED ON A NEW DRUG THAT GAVE USERS BOUNDLESS ENERGY, MASSIVE SELF-CONFIDENCE, AND LASERLIKE CONCENTRATION.
Ohler tells of Panzer-tank crews being ordered to take the pills daily so that they could drive for 72 hours straight. (It was not always a successful effort.) He also describes Luftwaffe pilots who accidentally ingested too many pills and suffered out-of-body hallucinations midflight, as well as troops on the front line who wrote home begging for more Pervitin. At the center of this medicated regime was Adolf Hitler himself, who, while searching for a cure for his interminable stomach cramps, fell under the narcotic sway of Dr. Theodor Morell, a man so trigger-happy with a syringe he became known as the "Reich Injection Master." Morell began by injecting Hitler with hormones and steroids but then moved on to cocaine and the powerful opioid Eukodal, which were often mixed together as a speedball.
These injections initially helped Hitler with his pains but were soon administered to "prepare" him for meetings with his generals and even Mussolini. It's amazing that biographers haven't focused on the drug angle this rigorously before, given that Hitler's contemporaries often recounted that he would leave meetings looking worn and haggard and return minutes later looking fresh and lively. On one occasion, he actually halted his private train as it rattled through a war zone just so Morell could deliver his injection without being jostled.
Even the best Hitler biographers have faltered when trying to explain the Führer's increasingly irrational decisions from the autumn of 1941 onward. Seen through the prism of addiction, however, the illogical becomes much more understandable. The drugs allowed Hitler to continue his "megalomaniac Führer-trip" in the face of all intrusions of reality. That is, until they eventually ran out in that bunker, deep underground in Berlin—a place similar, coincidentally, to where Ohler's own research began.
From: Esquire US.