“Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich,” by Norman Ohler, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 304 pages, hardcover, $28
It seems Nazi faith in Aryan supremacy may literally have been a pipe dream.
“Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich,” by Norman Ohler, is a book-length study of drugs in Nazi Germany. According to Ohler, the Third Reich was founded on drug abuse, ran on methamphetamines, and led by an addict.
His first chapter follows development of Germany’s drug industry in the 19th and early 20th century. Germany was to pharmaceuticals what the United States is to aircraft. Bayer and IG Farben led the world in drug development. “Made in Germany” was synonymous with quality drugs.
After World War I pharmaceuticals were one of Germany’s few remaining exports. Germany became the drug pusher to the world, and drugs were casually used in Germany.
At least, Ohler shows, until the Nazis came to power. Cocaine and heroine abuse were labeled degenerate. Recreational drugs were banned, lest Germans become less useful to the state. In actuality, it went underground.
A new wonder drug emerged: Pervitin. Promising greater endurance, increased intelligence, and increased alertness; its use spread everywhere, including Pervitin-laced chocolates. Pervitin, a methamphetamine, had all risks associated with amphetamine use.
Ohler shows how Nazi armed forces systematically abused Pervitin. A second chapter documents its use in Poland and France. Armor columns were kept moving by troops popping Pevertin, remaining awake for days. It had a cost. Judgment disappeared early. Nazi arrogance may have been drug induced.
A third chapter outlines Hitler’s drug dependency and its effects on his leadership. It shows how he fell under the influence of Dr. Theodor Morell. A classic feel-good doctor, Morell pepped up patients with injections. Morell used ever-increasing doses of opioids and stimulants to make Hitler feel good. By late 1944 the Fuhrer was simultaneously taking opioids and cocaine.
Ohler wraps up with a chapter showing how Germany’s drug-enhanced edifice collapsed. Soldiers, including generals, burned out through amphetamine abuse. The Nazi upper leadership was in a fog, unable to separate reality from fantasy.
“Blitzed,” a fascinating book, shows the extent Nazi Germany doomed itself. Ohler illustrates what happens when an entire nation’s brain is on drugs.