📚 Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler
Patrick O'Shaughnessy asked for a 'radical' book recommendation the other day, and this immediately came to mind. Norman does a great job using archives of journals, contracts, and prescriptions among other documents to illustrate the neurochemistry of Nazi Germany. It does not try to point to the consumption of drugs as the sole reason for why things happened the way they did, but rather detail the importance of pharmacology at the beginning of World War II, as well as the end.
The main character of the story is Theo Morell, the personal physician of Hitler (Patient A). He first encounters Patient A when he is brought in to treat a case of eczema in 1936. Slowly but surely Morell becomes the dealer to Patient A and other high ranking officials. Pervitin was first.
The commercial name for methamphetamine in Nazi Germany. It would allow soldiers to stay up for days, proving extremely valuable in early stages of the war. You could call blitzkrieg a direct result to soldiers, pilots, and tank operators strung out on meth.
In the final stages of the war, Patient A was taking morphine derivatives such as eukodal or oxycodone, meth, cocaine, hormone-rich animal liver injections, and other hormonal treatments that today we would call bat-shit crazy. Eventually the injections (the preferred method of Patient A) would stop due to thick, jelly-like blood. 14 year old soldiers were taking Pervitin while operating one-man (too small for a man, so children operated) submarines. A last ditch effort to retake the sea as U-Boats had lost their might. Morell, liked by Patient A for his untraditional and experimental approach to pharmacology, was eventually banished by Patient A in the waning days of defeat.
Morell, the dealer, had run out of product. The British bombing manufacturing facilities resulted in no more drugs. The withdrawal began and Patient A's paranoia, and nihilistic tendencies amplified. The junkie who ridiculed those who were not sober would eventually kill himself in a matter of days. Morell ended up in Tegernsee after being a prisoner for 2 years with the Americans. Homeless and demoralized, a half-jewish Red cross nurse took pity on him and put him in a hospital until he died a year later in 1948.
I took a break from Cryptonomicon to read this. It proved worthy as the story captured me by trying to imagine, and theorize the neurochemistry of a nation, a leader, and the nature of addicts to the war that set the playing field for modern day.