Heil Hitler: The Nazi’s Drug Addiction

Today, I saw the WWII movie Dunkirk directed by Christopher Nolan. It’s an exceptional movie, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about one of the most important events in the war. What made this film exciting for me was the knowledge that hard-core drugs made Dunkirk a possibility. Did you know that Hitler was a hardcore drug addict? Did you know the blitzkrieg was only possible because of meth? Did you know Nazis were given speed balls before kamikaze submarine missions? All of these questions are explained in the international bestseller Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler. I highly recommend this book because it completely changed my perspective on Nazi Germany. Up until this book, I saw the Nazis as superhuman- zealot nationalists who performed their tasks through the spirit of their beliefs; now I understand that their relentless drive came from drugs which kept them motivated, alert, and addicted to the war machine.

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In 1938, the German pharmaceutical company Temmler introduced Pervitin to the market. Pervitin was marketed as a magic medicine that provided energy, happiness, and the work ethic needed to expand the Third Reich. The magic of Pervitin lied in its main ingredient – methamphetamine aka Crystal Meth. This meth was available to all Germans and was given to soldiers in healthy doses during the blitzkrieg invasion of France. The blitzkrieg was only possible with Pervitin because the soldiers were able to go three days without sleep – the French soldiers couldn’t comprehend the artificial stamina of their opponents. The German tanks kept rolling because of the drugged soldier’s synthetic feelings of invincibility, and they ended up surrounding the Allies like a boa constrictor. The only escape route available for over 300,000 Allies was the coastal city of Dunkirk, France.

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Hitler, early on in his power, suffered from a host of stomach ailments which were probably due to stress and his diet. He searched for a doctor to help him, but no expert could help his infirmities; there was one doctor however that tried a different approach – his name was Theodor Morell. Morell gave Hitler vitamin injections which helped Hitler’s stomach issues – these injections quickly secured him as the Fuhrer’s personal physician. At the time of Dunkirk, Hitler was being lifted up by these daily vitamin injections which propelled his ego and narcissism – he halted the blitzkrieg because he didn’t want the military acting without his orders – in the end allowing all the allies to escape. By 1941, Hitler was in need of stronger drugs; Morell began a regimen of vitamins, animal hormones (Hitler was a strict vegetarian), and Eukodal. Eukodal is better known today as oxycodone – the fraternal twin to heroin.

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It didn’t take long before Hitler was addicted to these injections and by 1943 he was receiving even more drugs several times a day – high-grade cocaine, morphine, testosterone, and meth. Most of the high ranking Nazi staff were receiving similar injections from Morell while statewide propaganda ironically decried the drugs as “Jewish” poison not fit for the Aryan race. By the time of Hitler’s suicide in 1945, Morell had injected the “role model of Nazi health” over 800 times with 74 different substances. In the last years of his life, Hitler was receiving so many injections that he had track marks running up and down his veins. It was said that when Hitler received his injections, a cracking noise could be heard from his damaged vasculature and his blood oozed like gelatin because of its continuous exposure to animal hormones.

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The German army as a whole continued to receive state sanctioned meth throughout the war. The Third Reich would eventually experiment with cocaine and heroine – soldiers were given combinations of these three drugs to keep them fighting even when faced with utter defeat. Drugs were a tool for the Nazis and helped them accomplish superhuman tasks like the blitzkrieg, but in the end, both leaders and soldiers became burned out by their fleeting effects. Hitler was fueled by drugs, but drugs did not lead to the events of the Holocaust. Hitler’s hatred of the Jews began long before his first injection – as a healthy young man he dreamed of their extermination. The drugs hurt the Nazis more than anything. If Hitler weren’t addicted to drugs, he would have made less poor military decisions and prolonged the war – allowing greater time to kill victims in the concentration camps. Drugs in the Third Reich provided the energy for terror at the beginning of the fight but not the stamina needed for marathon fighting – oddly enough,  Morell was the Allies best weapon. 

“Hitler would go as white as a sheet and tightly clench his jaws, while his eyes would dilate. Everyone in his entourage would get panicky because these fits were always followed by an order to dismiss or to execute somebody.”
-Theodor Morell

The Nazi Bible

Did Hitler one day just wake up with the revelation, “I don’t like Jews and I like blond-haired-blue-eyed people!” Of course this is not how Hitler came to some of his beliefs but what did shape his beliefs and those of the Nazi party? This question was answered in A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich by Christopher B. Krebs. Enter Cornelius Tacitus. Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian who lived between 56 to 117 AD. He was quite a famous writer during his time and is most known for writing the Annals and the Histories which cover the reigns of certain Roman Emperors. Tacitus also wrote the Germania in 98 AD which described the Germanen people who lived in the northern unconquered areas of present day Germany, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic, and a few Scandinavian countries. The people that lived in these areas during the days of Tacitus were a hodgepodge of barbaric tribes which were not united and fought each other regularly. In the Germania, the land and the customs of the various tribes are described: a people that were unmixed with other races who had fierce blue eyes, tawny red hair, large frames, athletic builds, strong work ethics, habitual drunkenness, and harsh punishments for breaking societal rules. Tacitus never went to visit these lands or tribes and received his information from literary sources and third-person accounts. By no means was the Germania meant to be an accurate historical account but rather a mosaic of political and moral underpinnings meant to send a message to the Roman people. The message was that the barbarians had certain traits which were lacking in Roman society (simplicity, bravery, and hospitality) and that the Germanen tribes were a discernible threat to the empire.

The Germania went into obscurity and was not rediscovered until 1421. The accidental unearthing of this document by post-medieval humanists couldn’t have come at a better time. In the 1500’s, Germany was not a country and the people living in the area did not have a strong understanding of their history, language, or culture. Scholars clung to the Germania as true “German” history and took it as proof that they descended from a  pure, hardy, and moral stock. For the next two centuries, the Germania was sorely misinterpreted to show that Germany actually was the birth of republic government, culture, and the human race. In the 1800’s, with increases in scientific understanding, the Germania was interpreted to show the Germans to be biologically superior through racial purity-further uplifting the Nordic/Aryan image. During this time, students and the middle-class were able to read publications that used excerpts from the Germania to push for German nationalism and moral rectitude (Germany became an independent country in 1871).  Picking up steam in the 1900’s, the Völkisch movement (similar to the Populist movement in America) was a set of beliefs that used the Germania to argue that Germany had to return to its past when there were no demoralized cities and the virtues of the farmer were held to the highest regard; the profession of farming represented purity and this further stemmed the belief that Aryans were the pure race. Antisemitism has roots in this movement because the Jews were foreigners tainting the German race and they many times had communities in cities where they worked in business.

The Germania directly influenced philosophical ideals in Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf. Furthermore, Hitler’s top SS commander, Heinrich Himmler, was obsessed with the Germania and pushed the idea of racial purity much more then any other Nazi member. Himmler was extremely influential in the implementation of the Holocaust and made sure the Hitler Youth received twisted education on the Germania. If the Nazi party had a bible I would say the Germania would be the number one candidate. It is now clear to see how just one book can influence people in a very dangerous way. The Germania was misinterpreted throughout the ages to suit the desires of the readers. When not critically analyzed and put into historical context, all books lose their original meanings. Education is powerful and if this one book was never written would World War II have ever occurred? Interesting to think about and it makes me wonder if there is a book out there that could repeat this warped ideology in the future.