Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany, by Norman Ohler

Staff review by Chris Saliba

The untold story of how German society and its leadership got hooked on drugs. 

Millions upon millions of words have been written trying to figure out the enigma of why Germany followed a murderous dictator like Hitler to their ultimate ruin. Enter German historian and novelist Norman Ohler. His thesis is that the Germans could not face the reality of their defeat in 1914 and took refuge in self-delusion. To immunise themselves against reality, the country took to drugs. All levels of society were involved: civilian, military and the elite leadership.

The German wonder drug was Pervitin, a synthetic methamphetamine, what's known as a methylamphetamine. It was sold extensively and even came laced in commercially made chocolates. As Ohler writes, “Pervitin spread among all social circles...Doctors treated themselves with it, businessmen who had to rush from meeting to meeting pepped themselves up; party members did the same, and so did the SS. Stress declined, sexual appetite increased, and motivation was artificially increased.”

The military were soon using it as well. Germany's stunning early successes against Britain and France can be attributed to its soldiers being high on methamphetamines. The reason Hitler stopped the onward march of his soldiers at Dunkirk was because he didn't know of their drug use. He couldn't understand their sudden military successes and felt the army was at risk of running on ahead of him.

Hitler, however, would turn out to be the biggest junkie of them all. He placed great faith in his personal physician, Theodor Morell, who kept him pumped up on a wild cocktail of animal hormones and opioids, most notably Eukodal. Hitler was attending some of his most serious military meetings high as a kite, according to Ohler. By the war's end, Hitler was a physical and psychological write-off. The great mystery is: how did he allow himself to be taken in by Theodor Morell, such an obvious quack?

Blitzed provides a fascinating study of the German body and mind during the Nazi period. It tells of how a population, believing itself to be physically and mentally pure, was hopelessly addicted to mind altering substances.

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany, by Norman Ohler. Published by Penguin. ISBN: 9780141983165 RRP: $24.99

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