Day 6

Blitzed: How drug use fuelled Nazi Germany and turned Adolf Hitler into a junkie

In his new book, Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany, German writer Norman Ohler argues methamphetamines and opioids played a significant and previously under-appreciated role in fuelling the Nazi war machine and Adolf Hitler's paranoid delusions.
The cover of Norman Ohler's new book, "Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany"; youth at a Nazi Party Congress rally in Nuremberg. (Penguin Random House; Hulton Archive/Getty Images )
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Hitler was in rough physical shape at the end of the Second World War, and while his poor health and shaky hands have generally been attributed to Parkinson's disease, Norman Ohler says there's more to the story.

Ohler is the author of Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany, and he believes that while bombs were falling on Berlin, the Führer was going through drug withdrawal.

He said, 'What will I do if you're gone for three days [and] I don't get my injections?'- Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany

Ohler has spent years poring over archival records related to the war. And he's uncovered evidence of pervasive drug use in Nazi Germany — from tank drivers and submarine operators to Adolf Hitler himself.

As Ohler tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury, Hitler likely became hooked on a number of hard drugs during the war — including cocaine, methamphetamine, and Oxycodone-like opiates, all administered by his personal physician and meticulously documented in the German leader's medical records.

"In Germany, we know everything about World War Two and the Nazi regime, and suddenly I was discovering something in the archives that I'd never heard of," he says.

"I immediately knew that this was a big story."

                                 

Hitler's physician

According to Ohler, few people spent as much time with Hitler as his physician Theodor Morell — a celebrity doctor who was well-known for his injections.

"He was famous for treating illnesses that didn't exist," says Ohler.

After Morell was officially appointed as Hitler's personal physician in 1936, he was rarely permitted to leave the leader's side, not even to attend his own brother's funeral, Ohler says.

"He said, 'What will I do if you're gone for three days [and] I don't get my injections?'"

Those injections were remarkably routine for Hitler, Ohler says. From 1936 to 1945, Hitler's personal physician Theo Morell documented the German leader's treatment in a detailed daily log.

"They describe each day that Morell was treating Hitler… we can see that Hitler received an average of one to two injections a day."

German writer Norman Ohler describes how Hitler's drug use developed through the course of WWII. 2:00

                                  

Hooked on opiates

Hitler was receiving injections of everything from vitamin C to animal hormones to heavy painkillers. But one substance, in particular, caused Ohler to raise his eyebrows: Eukodal.

An opiate similar to heroin or Oxycodone, Eukodal was popular in Germany in the 1920s.

"Eukodal was one of the first designer drugs of mankind," says Ohler.

Hitler's medical records show that he was receiving high-dosage injections of Eukodal regularly during the latter part of the second world war.

We can basically say that Stauffenberg wasn't able to kill Hitler, but he certainly turned him into a drug addict.- Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany

While Hitler was rarely ill, Morell's notes indicate the leader often requested injections of opiates and steroids before public appearances or meetings with generals.

"Hitler actually used these to enhance his mood and to boost his self-esteem," says Ohler.

Hitler's drug use escalated after July 1944, when an assassination attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg left Hitler severely injured with two perforated eardrums.

From that point on, Hitler received injections of 20 mg of Eukodal nearly every other day — four times the amount in a standard medical dose.

"Eukodal leads to a physical addiction after two weeks of regularly use, so we can be sure that Hitler was physically addicted to it," Ohler says.

He was also being treated with cocaine. Medical records show Hitler was given cocaine over 50 times in two months following the attack.

"We can basically say that Stauffenberg wasn't able to kill Hitler, but he certainly turned him into a drug addict."

The conference room after an attempt on Adolf Hitler's life in his HQ at Rastenburg, East Prussia, in July 1944. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

                   

Nazis on crystal meth?

Hitler was not the only one using drugs in the Third Reich.

The German army experimented extensively with methamphetamines and other drugs as a means of boosting Nazi soldiers' performance, Ohler says.

One drug in particular played a key role in many of the Germans' offensives: a pill called 'Pervitin,' known today as crystal meth.

"Pervitin was used by the army in order to reduce fear and the need for sleep," Ohler says.

Methamphetamine… gave the Germans a tactical advantage.- Norman Ohler, author of "Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany"

Ahead of the Nazis' famous Blitzkrieg attack in 1940, 35 million dosages of Pervitin were officially distributed to the soldiers, particularly the tank troops who were leading the advance.

Hopped up on methamphetamine, the soldiers were able to travel for three days and three nights without sleep — a breakneck pace that helped them catch the Allied troops by surprise.

"Methamphetamine … gave the Germans a tactical advantage," Ohler says.

Pervitin was not the only drug used by the Nazis. Late in the war, the German navy attempted to develop a new drug that would allow submarine operators to stay awake for five days and five nights — long enough to travel undetected up the Thames and attack the Allied troops who were amassing for the Battle at Normandy.

"These poor … soldiers were given a combinations of Eukodal, cocaine and methamphetamine all rolled into one pill," Ohler says.

"There's reports from those soldiers that they were so hopped up and blasted out of their minds that it was hard for them to read the instruments within their submarines."

We'll never know for certain how the use of these drugs may have influenced the outcome of the war, Ohler says. But he believes his research offers valuable insight around the actions that Hitler and the Germany army took during the war.

"I think we get a more precise picture; I think it's a puzzle piece that has been missing."

Check out our Day 6 playlist for Hitler's final days in the bunker: