Hitler's Nazi Troops Were Hooked on Meth
Hitler’s Nazi Troops Were Hooked on Meth

Hitler’s Nazi Troops Were Hooked on Meth

Stephanie Schoppert - March 20, 2017

When Hitler came to power Germany was not a paradise, nor was it a place of progress, wealth or happiness that Hitler envisioned it being or that the people of Germany wanted. They were still struggling under the burden of World War I and German people were looking for a way out and a way forward. They wanted freedom from the stress and anxieties.

Drugs like opium, morphine, and cocaine were easy to get in Germany and they provided the energy and stress relief that the people of Germany and their leaders wanted. The problem was that Hitler wanted a “clean” Germany, one that did not succumb to drugs that polluted the body. These drugs were touted as “Jewish” and completely rejected by the Nazis. Drug use was so despised that a drug user could be sentenced to death or sent to a concentration camp. Instead, the Nazis wanted their chemists to come up with something else, something better.

In 1937, Dr. Fritz Hauschild patented Pervitin. He had been working on a drug that would work as well as Benzedrine had worked for the Americans during the 1936 Olympics. Pervitin was a methamphetamine that promised to give people confidence, remove their anxieties, and give them the energy to keep working. It was a drug that made it much easier for everyday Germans to accept their situation and keep working long hours to support the war effort.

Hitler’s Nazi Troops Were Hooked on Meth
A Pervitin pill bottle. Theparisreview.org

Pervitin was used by everyone from truck drivers to secretaries to housewives. The drug was even put into chocolate. Hildebrand chocolates advertised that that their products were always a delight. Women were recommended to eat two or three of them every day in order to get through their housework in no time at all. The idea was to have something that would rival Coca Cola and keep women who were alone on the home front happy and able to maintain their homes while their husbands were off at war.

Pervitin became a massive success and the drug company Temmler Werke began manufacturing the pills by the millions. They were sold in chewable form and were available without a prescription. Needless to say, the success of Pervitin on the general public was nothing compared to the impact Pervitin would have on the German military.

Hitler’s Nazi Troops Were Hooked on Meth
A German tank crossing the Aisne River in France, 1940. The Atlantic

As soon as Pervitin was developed, the Nazis knew it was the perfect drug for the military. Not only did it give soldiers energy and keep them awake, but it also made them happy. Soldiers given the drug could march for days without feeling tired at all. The tests showed some side effects, but not enough to stop the German army from giving Pervitin to soldiers during the invasion of Poland in 1939.

The invasion of Poland and the drug were a success. It made German soldiers feel invincible for a time and the army ordered 35 million tablets to prepare for the move on France. There are some who claim that without Pervitin, the German march on France would not have been nearly as successful or may have failed altogether. The German advance on France took more ground in four days than Germany took in the entirety of World War I. They were able to march through the mountains without stopping, which caught the French off-guard.

Without the drugs, the Army High Command believed attacking France through the Ardennes was impossible. When the German army stopped to rest in the mountains, the Allies would simply retreat and regroup at the bottom of the mountain and leave the Germans stranded. But with a special prescription handed out to Army doctors, there was never any need for the Germans to rest and therefore they never got stranded in the mountains and the Allies were never given time to retreat, according to author Norman Ohler.

Army doctors advised soldiers to take one pill a day and two at night. If needed, the men could take another one or two tablets a few hours later if they still felt fatigued. It was a dangerous prescription that may have earned a victory in France, but it got many of the men hooked on the drug. Some would even write home throughout the war asking their family to get them Pervitin and send it to them.

The British saw the effect of the new wonder drug and thought to try it out for themselves. Unlike the Germans, they were not willing to accept the side effects. While it would keep a pilot or soldier up and functioning for days in the short term, in the long term it hampered decision-making skills, concentration, and it made the men agitated and aggressive. Many German soldiers died of heart failure or committed suicide from a psychotic episode after being kept awake for days. Some became addicted and then suffered debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Despite the negative effects and the overuse of the drug in World War II, Pervitin continued to be used by the military until 1970s in West Germany and the 1980s in East Germany.

Hitler himself, who touted having a clean body and not consuming any harmful substances, was also said to have been addicted to the drug. German citizens believed that Hitler was the epitome of health and was a strict vegetarian. But according to records of his personal physician, Hitler was directly injected with meth so often that he was assuredly addicted by the end of World War II.

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