History has long informed us that Adolf Hitler was a regular user of Class A drugs.
Indeed, that a nervous hypochondriac who presided over a social policy of eugenics and ordered the slaughter of six million Jews before and during World War II, was also high on a cocktail of drugs makes an awful kind of sense.
But now the true scale and escalation of Hitler’s drug addiction has been laid bare in Norman Ohler’s tome Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany.
Ohler has gone through existing archives with a fine toothcomb and has narrowed down the Fuhrer’s drug use to three distinct stages of intoxication.
Sourcing his material directly from the notes of Hitler’s personal physician Dr Theo Morrell, which are kept in federal archives in Germany and national archives in the US, Ohler reveals that between the years of 1936 to 41, Hitler favoured vitamins and glucose intravenously in high dosages.
In 1941, the Germans invaded Russia, with many labeling Hitler as virtually insane for taking such a risk. By this point, Ohler told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He had turned to steroids and hormone products like liver extracts of pigs, stuff like that, pretty unsavoury things got into his veins.”
He added: “In ‘43 and especially ‘44 he turned to opiates. His favourite drug then was Eukodol, which is a pharmacological cousin of heroin but with a much higher potential for making you euphoric.”
Historian Antony Beevor, who has written extensively on World War II also appeared on the show.
He said: “It explains a huge amount, for example in 1944, Hitler’s completely irrational planning of the Battle of the Ardennes (also known as the Battle of the Bulge), his great offensive then.
“All of this was based on this euphoria, which coming from some of these drugs, the idea that one could force Britain or Canada out of the war by this attack through the Ardennes.
“All of these elements show how he was really no longer in control of himself, but he was still in control of the German armies.”
Calling Ohler’s book a “remarkable work of research”, Beevor added: “What we’re seeing is an explanation of the fact why the British in 1944 decided no longer to attempt to assassinate Hitler. Operation Foxley was cancelled because they realised at this particular stage that the Allies would win the war more rapidly with Hitler in command, than Hitler being replaced by somebody else.”
According to some historians, Hitler is said to have been hooked on a cocktail of over 74 different types of medications, including crystal meth. The drug can give an intense and prolonged high but a severe comedown, where feelings of hopelessness and despair are common.
Hitler said to have taken crystal meth before his final meeting with Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini in July 1943, during which he reportedly ranted solidly for two hours.
Dr Morrell’s diaries also suggest Hitler was treated with Mutaflor for stomach cramps, barbiturate Brom-Nervacit, bulls’ semen for testosterone boosts and crystal meth.
Ohler’s book reveals that despite the fact that the Nazis presented themselves as warriors against moral degeneracy, the entire Third Reich was riddled with drugs, including cocaine, heroin, morphine, used by everyone from factory workers to housewives.
Indeed, the Nazi’s leader’s predilection for methamphetamine was also pushed onto his soldiers. In 2013, one of Germany’s leading post-war writers claimed Nazi troops used the drug in order to stay awake during marches.
Called an “alertness aid” and packaged as Pervitin, widespread use of the drug was confirmed in letters home penned by Nobel prize winner Heinrich Böll, as published by Der Spiegel.
Commenting on the exhaustion suffered by troops, Ohler remarked: “The massive use or should I say abuse of methamphetamine, which we today call crystal meth, by the German army shows that the enemy number one were not the British or the French or the Russians, but it was fatigue, it was sleep, the German army was trying to win the battle against sleep.
“That’s why they used methamphetamine and in the beginning it worked wonders in the attack on Poland and especially in the Western campaign against France and Great Britain and the so-called Blitzkrieg, you can see exactly how methamphetamine, which was branded as Pervitin, was used.”
Ohler estimates that up to 35 million dosages were given out to soldiers just before the attack on May 10 in 1940.
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 asked for more and more of the speed-like drug.
On May 20, 1940, the 22-year-old soldier wrote 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 claimed that just one pill helped him stay as alert as litres of coffee, 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.”
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.
While drugs alone cannot explain the events of World War II and its outcome, Ohler shows they can change our understanding of it.
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany is available to buy from 6 October.