People do some pretty fucked up things while on drugs -- like invading Europe and committing genocide, apparently.
A new book on drug use in Nazi Germany has shown that drug abuse was prevalent in every sector within German society at the time. "Der totale Rausch" by Norman Ohler (which translates to "The Total Rush") describes how meth was used as a substitute for coffee and consumed with the same frequency and normality.
Pumpkin spice meth. Iced crack latte. I'm intrigued.
From soldiers marching 40 hours while high on wakefulness pills, to housewives and children eating meth-laced chocolates, to Hitler shooting up opiates before meetings with Mussolini (I shit you not), drugs were par for the course for Germans at the time.
Germany could probably be called the birthplace of meth. Amphetamine, discovered before methamphetamine, was first synthesized in 1887 in Germany by Romanian chemist Lazăr Edeleanu. Under Hitler, the drug was marketed and sold under the brand name "Pervitin."
Pervitin was exclusively produced by Berlin-based pharmaceutical company Temmler. It was controlled by Theodor Temmler who, conveniently, was pals with a certain nutcase named Adolf.
The drug was developed by scientists to enable the German forces to carry out strategies that would simply not have been possible normally. Norman Ohler's book argues that part of the reason Hitler's 'blitzkrieg' (lightening war) invasions of Europe were so effective was because the German forces were being pumped with performance enhancing drugs.
"In the beginning the army didn't realize Pervitin was a drug: Soldiers thought it was just like drinking coffee."
Seriously? Either the soldiers were really dumb or I need to find some German coffee.
And, unsurprisingly, the drug was a commercial success, as Ohler described,
"The Nazis wanted Pervitin to rival Coca Cola, so people took it, it worked and they were euphoric."
In a recent interview, Ohler said,
"It was used for the first time when Germany invaded Sudetenland and then Poland, and then when Germany attacked France in 1940, a Blitzkrieg strategy. Before that attack, the German army ordered 35 million tablets of Pervitin for the soldiers advancing on France."
German military doctor Otto Ranke described use of the drug as "out of control" and "being used en masse, without any medical supervision.” Staying awake for two days and two nights was a routine requirement for a lot of the military, and soldiers were provided with the pills in order to carry out their orders.
And that isn't all. Back on the German home front, the desire for Pervitin was escalating in 1939. Housewives in menopause were “popping the stuff like candy." According to Ohler, young mothers with postpartum depression took it prior to breastfeeding and widows looking to remarry swallowed high dosages to reduce their inhibitions before going on a first date.
Hm, fair enough on that last one.
The Führer was definitely not going to be left out. Ohler admits, "I found Hitler's own personal drug use most astonishing." The Nazi leader was dependent upon a number of drugs, and during the war years it wasn't unusual for him to have multiple injections a day.
One drug that Hitler was particularly dependent upon was "Eukodal," which is an opiate derived from the opium poppy - the same plant from which heroin is made. Eukodal was developed as an anesthetic, and was given to soldiers post-operation to address severe pain.
Ohler's research shows that Hitler was being injected with this drug, which is more potent than morphine, on a daily basis. Horrifyingly, just before a meeting with Mussolini, at a point where Italy was considering severing their relations with Germany, Hitler had been injected with the drug by Morell.
But if you think it was just the Germans that were high as kites, you're wrong.
According to Ohler,
"Basically, the Germans used crystal meth and the Brits used speed. Many of the American soldiers who joined the war effort went through Britain to get to the war theater and received amphetamines in Britain. The Americans took the drug to keep up with these crazed German soldiers."