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Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany
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In theory, the Nazis were “bitterly opposed to drugs”, said Roger Boyes in The Times. Upon assuming power in 1933, they promised an end to decadence – a vow that included clamping down on narcotic use, which had been widespread in the Weimar era. In reality, though, this campaign was “always phoney”. The Nazis “needed somehow to sustain the national mood”. In Blitzed, the novelist-turned-historian Norman Ohler tells the “remarkable story” of how they did this. Top chemical firms were “put on the job” of producing drugs such as Pervitin, a form of methamphetamine that became a prop for stressed-out civilians, and the preferred choice of soldiers. The drug transformed tank commanders into “Teutonic Easy Riders” who could “drive all day and night”, said Gavin Jacobson in the New Statesman. “The blitzkrieg across Europe was fuelled less by an iron will than by the kick of crystal meth.” And Hitler himself, despite his reputation for purity, joined in the craze. Between 1941 and the end of his life, Ohler writes, the Führer “hardly enjoyed a sober day”.

Ohler has done diligent research, but he lets himself down by seriously overstating his case, said Richard J. Evans in The Guardian. He presents a picture of an “entire nation high on drugs”, but analysis of the facts reveals this to be a fantasy: the “vast majority of troops” couldn’t have taken drugs (not enough were produced), and there’s no evidence of widespread use among the general population. Ohler’s argument is also “morally and politically dangerous”, because it carries the implication that the German people were not really responsible for supporting the regime, and even that Hitler “was in the end not responsible for his actions”. No wonder the book was a bestseller in Germany.