Consequences and Aftermath
Millions of Pervitin pills were issued prior to launching Operation Barbarossa, the German surprise attack against the Soviet Union. The pills became incredibly popular with the troops, who nicknamed them “tank chocolate“. However, hooking the troops on cocaine-laced crystal meth produced serious problems. The long term effects were devastating, and short rest periods were inadequate to make up for the long stretches of wakefulness while tweaking. Millions became addicts, with side effects such as sweating, dizziness, depression, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes during which soldiers shot themselves or their comrades. But in the meantime, Nazi soldiers performed feats of stamina and endurance that awed their opponents.
Even as his troops raged across Europe and the Mediterranean basin while tweaking on cocaine-laced crystal meth, the Fuhrer himself became a daily user of Pervitin. That, perhaps, sheds light on some of his inexplicable wartime decisions. As the war progressed, Hitler found it increasingly difficult to even get out of bed in the morning without shots of a drug concoction that included Pervitin. That was thanks in large part to a quack doctor, Theodor Morell, who eased Hitler’s chronic digestive ailments by prescribing him cultures of live bacteria.
The relieved German dictator rewarded Morell by making him his personal physician, and the doctor’s popularity skyrocketed, especially among high ranking ranking Nazis. That popularity was not due solely to the boost that Morell got from his status as Hitler’s doctor: he routinely treated his patients by injecting them with concoctions of addictive drugs, that had them coming back for more. Herman Goering, himself an all out drug addict and copious pill popper, sarcastically referred to doctor Morell as “the Reichmaster of the injections”.
In addition to getting the Fuhrer hooked on crystal meth, via Pervitin, Morell also turned Hitler into a cocaine addict, after the quack prescribed it to soothe the dictator’s sore throat and clear his sinuses. Hitler soon had a compulsion to frequently soothe his throat and clear his sinuses. By 1945, Hitler was a full blown junkie with rotting teeth, addicted to a bewildering variety of drugs. When his drug supplies ran out in the war’s closing weeks, the Fuhrer suffered all the symptoms of severe withdrawal: delusions, psychosis, paranoia, extreme shaking, and kidney failure.
Pervitin remained popular and readily available in Germany after the war, frequently prescribed by doctors as an antidepressant or as an appetite suppressant, or readily obtainable on the black market. German students – especially medical students – were huge fans of the drug, which they used as a stimulant to help them cram for exams. It was only removed from medical supplies in East Germany in the 1970s, and in West Germany in the 1980s, before finally getting banned outright and declared illegal after German reunification in the 1990s.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading
All That is Interesting – How Drugs Like Pervitin and Cocaine Fueled the Nazis’ Rise and Fall
Guardian, The, September 25th, 2016 – High Hitler: How Nazi Drug Abuse Steered the Course of History
Ohler, Norman – Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich (2017)
Ranker – Historians Now Think Rampant Meth Addiction Caused Hitler & the Nazis to Lose WWII
Rolling Stone, March 15th, 2017 – Hitler and His Drugs: Inside the Nazis’ Speed Craze
Spiegel, May 30th, 2013 – The German Granddaddy of Crystal Meth
Wikipedia – Drug Policy of Nazi Germany