World war II: frontline hundred grams was stronger than the drug

The Berlin writer Norman Oler (Norman Ohler) spent five years searching for archival materials on addiction in the “third Reich”, and, as he says, drugs used almost everything from the ordinary soldiers of the Wehrmacht to Hitler himself. His book “the Third Reich on drugs” (Der totale Rausch) is translated in 24 languages (including to Russian).

Vladimir Esipov: How did the idea for the book?

Norman Oler: once my friend fell into the hands of the old package “pervitin”, released during the Second world war. Under this name, starting in 1920-ies in the German pharmacies sold methamphetamine. This is a drug, which today go by many names: meth, ice blue, crystal… I was very interested. The first thing I found on the Internet study on the use of methamphetamine in the Wehrmacht. The author is an historian of medicine — introduced me to documents from the Federal military archive. Then in another archive in Koblenz, I began to study the diary entries Morella Theodore (Theodor Morell) — the personal physician of Hitler. There were materials on the history, telling the story of the Temmler producing methamphetamine. Finally, I went to Sachsenhausen and Dachau: these concentration camps were experimented on with drugs. To work on the book took me a total of five years.

— What was the scale of drug use in the Wehrmacht?

— There are several figures. Before the attack on France, the Wehrmacht ordered 35 million doses of pervitin. And soldiers of one of the armies involved in the attack on the Soviet Union, only one month used 100 million doses. That’s a lot.

Since 1940, there was even a government program. The fact that at that time, methamphetamine was considered a legal stimulant and not a drug. At the beginning of the Second world war, during the German offensive in Poland, these pills were each nursing. They were issued at the request of the soldiers. By the way, while methamphetamine is still sold freely in pharmacies. And before the attack on France was an order about the use of stimulants, which it is in details stated, how many pills you can give the soldiers: the first one, after 12 hours the second. Welcome pervitin was voluntary. Methamphetamines at the time was not considered drug — it was legal, like coffee. The soldiers did not know about the possible negative consequences. It was known that the pills suppress fear and increase combat capability. They evoked a sense of vitality, self-confidence, decreased pain threshold.

— That is, something like front hundred gramme, which was in the red Army… And now this meth is banned as a drug.

Yes. But the drug is the same. Only in the 1930-ies it was produced in Berlin in industrial scale, and today is manufactured illegally in clandestine laboratories in Eastern Europe.

— The armies of other countries have used such stimulants?

— No, this is a purely German invention. That day, when the soldiers of the Wehrmacht invaded France, the French wine regions was sent to 3,500 truckloads of wine to the front in support of the army. But what is the red wine against a very strong drug?

In the beginning of the war methamphetamine did not use any one army. Only then, when England started to shoot down German planes and in the cockpits of the pilots found the packaging of pervitin, and then the Royal British air force has launched its own program of stimulation of the pilots.

— It is known that meth was short-lived, only a few hours.

— Yes, and Stalingrad no methamphetamine was not helped. I spoke with a former nurse of the Wehrmacht, he is now 96 years. He distributed methamphetamine to the soldiers at Stalingrad, and it didn’t work. Because short-term stimulation has lost its meaning. Meth was good for blitzkrieg, but in a protracted war, front-line hundred grams was much more effective. We can say that, in the end, the vodka won methamphetamine.

— Hitler also used stimulant drugs…

— And most of all! His personal doctor injected him intravenously over 90 different substances. Hitler met Theodore Morellet in 1936. Morelle was already known as an expert on intravenous injection. He has been in private practice in the centre of Berlin and it went celebrity. Then vitamin injections were in fashion. Over dinner Hitler complained of abdominal pain, and Morelle said he could help. After some time Hitler made him his personal physician.

And the closer was the outcome of the Second world war, the more stimulating drugs were taken by Hitler. Among them were opiates, cocaine… He almost became an addict. In his diaries, the doctor calls it “patient A.” (Adolf) or “patient” (the Fuhrer) and detailed records of how much and what he typed. At the end of the war, Hitler hid from the world in the bunker, not only from concrete but also from pharmacology: it has completely lost touch with reality.

In April of 1945 at Morella over all stocks, Hitler began a real breakthrough. The doctor sent his deputies on motorcycles to look for the remaining supplies in pharmacies in bombed-out Berlin. In the end, Hitler yelled at the doctor and kicked him out. Morell had on one of the last aircraft to fly in April 1945 from a besieged Berlin to Munich. After the war the Americans arrested him, and he some time spent in prison. Morelle was seriously ill, almost lost it. In the summer of 1948 he died in the hospital.