There are so many weird facts out there about Adolf Hitler, the leader of the German Nazi Party and one of the most brutal dictators in modern history. The party rose to power quickly in the 1920s and soon became a terrifying force to be reckoned with, both for the citizens of Germany and the surrounding countries Germany would soon be invading. There is still a plethora of mysteries about the Nazis, but one theory has recently gained some traction with historians as more data and documents have come to light — that part of the reason they were so successful at the beginning of World War II was that they were high on stimulants.
Drugs in the Third Reich were rampant, despite initial attempts by the German government to ban substances such as coke in order to better control the public. Not only were most military members taking crank, but Hitler himself was addicted and had a massive drug problem. The question still remains: Did drugs, which initially helped the Germans take control of Europe by allowing them to stay alert for days on end, eventually lead to their downfall?
WWI inflicted a sort of psychological trauma on the people of Germany, leaving them with a "psychic pain" that scientists and doctors took it upon themselves to solve. By 1926, Germany was a world leader in dealing heroin and coke, and Berlin became the capital of experimentation in Europe. Many WWI veterans became addicted to morphine, which was readily available, and the price of coke and heroin was incredibly low. Basically, Germany had an involved history with drugs long before scientists invented the meth-based stimulant, Pervitin, that would carry them into WWII.
Scientists took note of how, during the 1936 Olympics, Americans were doping with Benzedrine, and took it upon themselves to create their own strain of performance-enhancing drugs. In 1937, Dr. Fritz Hauschild created Pervitin, Germany's first methamphetamine.
The drug became increasingly popular after being marketed as a cure-all, and was even sold without a prescription. As socialism fueled by extreme nationalism was on the rise, people took drugs not only to numb the pain but to increase productivity and energy. Pervitin largely contributed to the Third Reich's economic boost, coming out of the depressive economy of the 1920s. Some considered the drug to be "National Socialism in pill form."
With the rise of Hitler's party came the decline in drugs such as coke and heroin that had been so popular in the days after WWI. The party lambasted these drugs as toxic, and even used them to further their anti-Semitic rhetoric, claiming the Jewish people were addicts, and that addicts were "undesirable social elements." It got to the point where those who used drugs were deemed legally "insane" and either executed or sent to concentration camps.
It was likely that officials were less concerned with the health issues connected to drugs, and more concerned with being the only source of intoxication. Norman Ohler, the author of the book Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany, wrote: "For them, there could be only one legitimate form of inebriation: the swastika."
However, by the time the drug Pervitin was invented, the idea of a performance-enhancing drug was popular both with the public and the government, which was using the drug to keep its members awake and perform better during invasions.
Pervitin was marketed as a cure-all for anything from weight gain to mood imbalance, and was sold without a prescription. It became so popular and easily accessible, it was even sold in boxes of chocolates. The chocolates were recommended to women, who were told to take two to three chocolates a day to both breeze through their housework and also lose weight in the process (Pervitin depletes appetite). It's no wonder the wonder drug became popular with the German army, which relied on the drug to combat fatigue during battle.