A book published in Germany this summer adds new information to old stories about Adolf Hitler's drug use and amphetamine use among German soldiers during World War II. The author even suggests that drugs played a major role in the war, proving decisive in some of the Third Reich's military successes, but also leading a drug-addled Hitler to make decisions that led to Germany's defeat.
"Doctors and drugs account for much of the internal structure of Nazism," writes Norman Ohler, author of the just released Der Totale Rausch (Total Euphoria: Drugs in the Third Reich).
And it started at the top. According to Ohler, Hitler's interest in drugs grew excessive under the ministrations of Dr. Theodor Morell, who became his personal physician in 1936. Morell started off prescribing the probiotic Mutaflor for Der Feuhrer's painful stomach cramps, From there, Morell became Hitler's own personal Dr. Feelgood for years to come, prescribing him the most powerful drugs of the day, including IV methamphetamine injections.
Ohler calculates that during the height of World War II from 1941 to 1945, in a period of 1,349 days, Hitler received no fewer than 800 injections of meth, steroids, and other substances from the good doctor. He also gobbled down more than 1,100 medications in pill form. Hitler was never "clean" throughout the whole war, Ohler writes.
That could help explain Hitler's manic chatter in private meetings and at public events, his sudden changes of mood, and his sometimes sense-defying decision-making. But it also took a physical toll: By the spring of 1945, Hitler's teeth were falling out and he was eating large amounts of sugar to cope with withdrawal symptoms, Ohler writes.
The British Channel 4 TV documentary Hitler's Hidden Drug Habit asserted that Hitler spent his final days in his bunker being injected with Vitamultin, a drug that included meth among its ingredients, but Hitler was also a hypochondriacally pill head and "splenetic" man who took 74 different medications, according to a World War II American military intelligence dossier.
The meth Hitler was doing was Pervitin, created by Dr. Fritz Hauschild, and he was far from the only one in Nazi Germany using the stuff. It was also a hit with housewives, especially Pervitin-laced chocolates produced by Hauschild's company.
Germans were far from the only ones obsessed with amphetamines in the 1930s. Benzedrine had recently come on the scene in the US, and the amphetamine stimulants were popular among students, artists, and bohemian types in various European and American cities.
Pervitin also proved popular with the Nazi military high command, with the Third Reich's chief doctor, Otto Ranke, calling it a "militarily valuable drug." Ranke strongly urged Nazi generals to use Pervitin. Many followed his advice, including the "Desert Fox," General Erwin Rommel.
Rommel and his tweaked out soldiers undertook an "amphetamine blitzkrieg" during the 1940 Ardennes offensive, with tanks and men advancing for four days without sleeping, leaving French troops in disarray. Similar Drang Nach Osten (Push Eastward) offensives against the Soviet Union followed in the east.
It was an army that marched on Pervitin pills. Between April and July 1940 alone, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe went through 35 million 3 miligram doses of the drug.
But Germans were by no means the only military to use amphetamines in World War II–or beyond. The stimulants were also gobbled down by the millions by Allied soldiers and pilots in World War II, and were used by Green Berets in Vietnam and American pilots in Afghanistan. Amphetamine is a drug for productivity, in war-making as much as anything else. But if you take it for too long, it can get on top of you. Ask Hitler.
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