An intense chronicle of “systematic drug abuse” in Nazi Germany.
Although the use of opiates and other drugs was pervasive in the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, the Nazis ostensibly opposed them, offering “ideological salvation” instead, writes German journalist Ohler in this nonfiction debut. In fact, the Third Reich depended heavily on drugs, notably cocaine, heroin, morphine, and methamphetamines, to sustain the fearless blitzkrieg attacks of its advancing armies and to keep Adolf Hitler in a euphoric, delusional state. Drawing on archival research in Germany and the United States, the author crafts a vivid, highly readable account of drug use run amok. He describes systematized drug tests conducted by Dr. Otto F. Ranke, a defense physiologist, who waged war on exhaustion with Pervitin, an early version of crystal meth. The fierce Nazi invasion of France, lasting three days and nights without sleep, was made possible by use of Pervitin: “It kept you awake, mercilessly,” recalls a former Nazi medical officer. Relying heavily on the diaries of Dr. Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician (Hermann Göring called him the “Reich Injection Master”), Ohler writes at length about Hitler’s drug use throughout the war, which began with a “power injection” of glucose and vitamins before big speeches, then escalated to cocktails of hormones, steroids, and vitamins, and finally, in his last year, to the use of both cocaine and Eukodal, a designer opioid that even infamous heroin addict William Burroughs called “some truly awful shit.” With Morell treating him daily, Hitler spent his last weeks in a fog of artificial euphoria and “stable in his delusion,” and his veins had a junkie’s track marks. Because of Allied bombing of manufacturing plants, supplies of the drugs favored by Hitler dried up, his health deteriorated, and he entered withdrawal. He would fire his doctor before committing suicide in 1945.
Written with dramatic flair (Ohler has published several novels in Germany), this book adds significantly to our understanding of the Third Reich.