03/06/2013 07:34 BST | Updated 03/06/2013 09:20 BST

Hitler's Nazi Troops Took Crystal Meth To Stay Awake, Heinrich Böll's Letters Reveal

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Hitler's troops took crystal meth to stay alert

Nazi troops used crystal meth as a 'miracle pill' to stay awake during marches, according to letters from one of Germany's leading post-war writers.

Called an 'alertness aid' and packaged under the name Pervitin, Hitler's soldiers popped the class A drug to keep motivated despite the desperate conditions they faced on the front lines.

The widespread use of the drug is confirmed in letters home penned by Nobel prize winner Heinrich Böll, published by Der Spiegel on Sunday.

The highly addictive nature of methamphetamine is clear from Böll's pleas to his family.

Nobel prize winner Heinrich Böll

In November 9 1939, whilst Böll was in Poland, he wrote to his parents:"It's tough out here, and I hope you'll understand if I'm only able to write to you once every two to four days soon. Today I'm writing you mainly to ask for some Pervitin... Love, Hein."

As he became, by his own admission, "cold and apathetic, completely without interests," he asks for more and more of the speed-like drug.

On May 20, 1940 , the 22-year-old soldier writes home: "Perhaps you could get me some more Pervitin so that I can have a backup supply?"

And again on July 19, 1940 , he wrote: "If at all possible, please send me some more Pervitin."

He comments that just one pill helped him stay as alert as litres of coffee, reports Der Spiegel, and after taking it all his worries seemed to disappear.

Aside from handing out Pervitin, Military doctors dosed chocolate with methamphetamine too, giving Fliegerschokolade or "flyer's chocolate" to pilots. The speed sweet was given to tank crews too, and dubbed Panzerschokolade or "tanker's chocolate."

Hitler had injections of the speed-like drug administered

This wonder war drug taken by Hitler's troops was administered to the Nazi leader too. From 1942 onwards, Hitler was given daily injections of methamphetamine from his doctor. It is speculated that the drug was either used to treat, or responsible for Hitler's Parkinsons-like symptoms.

Letters published in 2011 showed how it was used to buoy troops as the Nazi mission failed in Russia.

In January 1942, one letter from a medical officer says that he used the drug after troops became surrounded by Russians and were attempting to escape in sub zero temperatures.: "I decided to give them Pervitin as they began to lie down in the snow wanting to die," wrote the officer.

"After half an hour the men began spontaneously reporting that they felt better.

"They began marching in orderly fashion again, their spirits improved, and they became more alert."

But the drug came with horrendous side effects. Aside from dizziness, depression, sweating and hallucination, some soldiers died of heart failure while others who shot themselves in a psychotic haze.

Former Reich Health Leader Leonardo Conti warned of the dangers in a speech to NSD Medical Association in Berlin City Hall, arguing: "Whoever wants to eliminate fatigue with Pervitin who can be sure that the collapse of its performance must one day come. That the agent may be against fatigue for a high performance aircraft that still have to fly two hours once applied, is probably correct.

"It should not be applied to any state of fatigue, which can be compensated for in reality only through sleep. This must be readily apparent to us as physicians. "

The drastic physical effects of methamphetamines, taken in much larger quantities by addicts today, are laid bare in the below gallery of users.

The images feature on, an American website which gives information on the treatment of various addictions, lists of clinics and general advice.

It also provides an account of the rehabilitation process and recommendations for relapse prevention.

Free, confidential information and advice is available by calling the Release Drugs Helpline on 0845 45 00 215