Army Rumour Service

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

Blitzed- New book on the German drug industry in WWII

Looks like it might be an interesting read. The Fuhrers' habits were well known, as was Goering's morphine habit, but the extent of State sponsored drug abuse in the Reich seems to have been huge.
High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history

Naturally, it wasn’t long before soldiers were relying on it too. In Blitzed, Ohler reproduces a letter sent in 1939 by Heinrich Böll, the future Nobel laureate, from the frontline to his parents back at home, in which he begs them for Pervitin, the only way he knew to fight the great enemy – sleep. In Berlin, it was the job of Dr Otto Ranke, the director of the Institute for General and Defence Physiology, to protect the Wehrmacht’s “animated machines” – ie its soldiers – from wear, and after conducting some tests he concluded that Pervitin was indeed excellent medicine for exhausted soldiers. Not only did it make sleep unnecessary (Ranke, who would himself become addicted to the drug, observed that he could work for 50 hours on Pervitin without feeling fatigued), it also switched off inhibitions, making fighting easier, or at any rate less terrifying.
In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a “stimulant decree” was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35m tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production. The likes of Böll, it’s fair to say, wouldn’t need to ask their parents for Pervitin again.


Was Blitzkreig, then, largely the result of the Wehrmacht’s reliance on crystal meth? How far is Ohler willing to go with this? He smiles. “Well, Mommsen always told me not to be mono-causal. But the invasion of France was made possible by the drugs. No drugs, no invasion. When Hitler heard about the plan to invade through Ardennes, he loved it [the allies were massed in northern Belgium]. But the high command said: it’s not possible, at night we have to rest, and they [the allies] will retreat and we will be stuck in the mountains. But then the stimulant decree was released, and that enabled them to stay awake for three days and three nights. Rommel [who then led one of the panzer divisions] and all those tank commanders were high – and without the tanks, they certainly wouldn’t have won.”
Thereafter, drugs were regarded as an effective weapon by high command, one that could be deployed against the greatest odds. In 1944-45, for instance, when it was increasingly clear that victory against the allies was all but impossible, the German navy developed a range of one-man U-boats; the fantastical idea was that these pint-sized submarines would make their way up the Thames estuary. But since they could only be used if the lone marines piloting them could stay awake for days at a time, Dr Gerhard Orzechowski, the head pharmacologist of the naval supreme command on the Baltic, had no choice but to begin working on the development of a new super-medication – a cocaine chewing gum that would be the hardest drug German soldiers had ever taken. It was tested at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, on a track used to trial new shoe soles for German factories; prisoners were required to walk – and walk – until they dropped.

“It was crazy, horrifying,” says Ohler, quietly. “Even Mommsen was shocked by this. He had never heard about it before.” The young marines, strapped in their metal boxes, unable to move at all and cut off from the outside world, suffered psychotic episodes as the drugs took hold, and frequently got lost, at which point the fact that they could stay awake for up to seven days became irrelevant. “It was unreal,” says Ohler. “This wasn’t reality. But if you’re fighting an enemy bigger than yourself, you have no choice. You must, somehow, exceed your own strength. That’s why terrorists use suicide bombers. It’s an unfair weapon. If you’re going to send a bomb into a crowd of civilians, of course you’re going to have a success.”
 

happyuk

War Hero
I recently read this while on holiday very recently. I agree this book once started is un-putdownable.

One particularly tragic episode was the last-gasp employment of one-man midget submarines (Biber or "beaver") in which teenaged draftees were placed with the intention of firing a torpedo at British ships in the Thames or English channel. They were given a cocktail of methamphetamine and cocaine-laced chewing gum to stay awake for days at a time but still sustained very heavy losses, many of these subs remain at the bottom of the sea, along with their occupants.

Goering's morphine addiction is another compelling read. In fact the Jewish artist Imre Goth depicted his state so accurately he had to flee for his life!

Goering the morphine addict, by the Jewish painter who fled for his life
 
Last edited:
I recently read this while on holiday very recently. I agree this book once started is un-putdownable.

One particularly tragic episode was the last-gasp employment of one-man midget submarines (Biber or "beaver") in which teenaged draftees were placed with the intention of firing a torpedo at British ships in the Thames or English channel. They were given a cocktail of methamphetamine and cocaine-laced chewing gum to stay awake for days at a time but still sustained very heavy losses, many of these subs remain at the bottom of the sea, along with their occupants.

Goering's morphine addiction is another compelling read. In fact the Jewish artist Imre Goth depicted his state so accurately he had to flee for his life!

Goering the morphine addict, by the Jewish painter who fled for his life

Interestingly there is an article in the same paper about a month later rebutting many of Ohler's (the author of Blitzed) claims and insinuating that the book's success in Germany is because it presents the German nation as off their heads on drugs and therefore not culpable for the rise of Hitler!

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler review – a crass and dangerously inaccurate account
 
Last edited:

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
I recently read this while on holiday very recently. I agree this book once started is un-putdownable.

One particularly tragic episode was the last-gasp employment of one-man midget submarines (Biber or "beaver") in which teenaged draftees were placed with the intention of firing a torpedo at British ships in the Thames or English channel. They were given a cocktail of methamphetamine and cocaine-laced chewing gum to stay awake for days at a time but still sustained very heavy losses, many of these subs remain at the bottom of the sea, along with their occupants.

Goering's morphine addiction is another compelling read. In fact the Jewish artist Imre Goth depicted his state so accurately he had to flee for his life!

Goering the morphine addict, by the Jewish painter who fled for his life

I think one of them remains in the IWM in London or Duxford, but without the occupant, on account of the fact that he'd suffocated.
 

Latest Threads

Top