Norman Ohler, 2015
If you’ve ever wanted to read a detailed description of
Hitler’s bowel movements, have I got the book for you!
The professor of one of the WWII classes I audited back when I had time
for such things recommended this book, so when it popped up while I was
looking for audiobooks to listen to as I drove between tutoring
appointments, I added it to the queue.
The author makes four main claims:
- Though we tend to associate them with later eras, both cocaine and
heroin were developed in Germany in the nineteenth century, and the Weimar
Republic was awash in both.
It had Merck and Bayer pumping out the drugs; it offered a culture
experimenting with new freedoms after centuries of authoritarian
government; and it hosted a population looking to escape reality following
an economic collapse that followed on the heels of a devastating
Those attracted by Nazi rhetoric about the importance clean living and
treating the body as a temple may well have been largely reacting against
the drug‑fueled libertinism of Berlin’s cabaret scene.
- In the initial phases of WWII, Nazi troops pounded down handfuls of
pills that came in cheerful red and blue packages stamped with the name
Developed in 1938 by the Temmler corporation,
Pervitin is better known to us by its generic name, methamphetamine.
The blitzkrieg Germany used to knock France out of the war got its name
both from the lightning speed of the Nazi advance and from its shocking
German divisions would assault fortified positions head‑on, sending
the defenders running, and then race onward day and night as if sleep
were no concern.
What traditional accounts of the blitzkrieg miss, Ohler contends, is that
both that fearlessness and that breakneck pace are easily explained if
you realize the Nazi soldiers were all on crank.
- In perhaps the least surprising revelation on record, the Nazis tested
their attempts to formulate a sort of super‑Pervitin on prisoners in
the extermination camps.
They also used the prisoners as guinea pigs for mind‑control drugs.
- But the bulk of Blitzed is devoted to Hitler himself
and, even more, to his personal physician, Theodor Morell.
Morell had been a Berlin doctor, popular with German celebrities, who
offered Hitler a remedy for a stomach ailment that Hitler declared a
Hitler decreed that Morell was never to leave his side, and soon was
demanding, and receiving, multiple injections every day.
Initially these were fairly harmless: vitamins, glucose.
Then came the hormone concoctions made of things like liquefied pig
livers and bull prostates.
Eventually Morell introduced Hitler to a Merck product called
Eukodal—better known to us by its generic name,
oxycodone—which Hitler took to demanding on a routine
Then, following his injuries in a 1944
assassination attempt, Hitler added cocaine to his regimen, which combined
with the Eukodal meant that the self‑professed teetotaler was doing
The twitching, drooling, jaundiced Führer of the last days, Ohler
submits, was not only ravaged by years of hard toxins and foreign
hormones, but with Germany’s pharmaceutical factories reduced to
rubble, was also in the throes of withdrawal.
I’ve noticed that the critics of this book tend to zero in on the
depiction of Hitler as drug‑addled, charging that it constitutes an
attempt to let Hitler off the hook for Nazi atrocities, and waving off the
author’s pre‑emptive response that his book is no such
This strikes me as strange for a few reasons.
First, there’s the matter of the timeline: if Hitler started getting
injections in the late 1930s and turned to the
hard stuff around 1943, that hardly makes drugs
responsible for Nazi ideology, which was formulated long before.
Second, these criticisms reflect a mindset in which voluntary intoxication
is a mitigating rather than aggravating circumstance.
(“Don’t put me in jail for running over those
kids—I was drunk!”)
But third, and most relevant to today: whether Hitler was drug‑addled
at the end of the war is a question of fact.
You can certainly argue that Ohler has misinterpreted Morell’s
notes, and why we should interpret “X” to mean Eukodal when
in many places Morell explicitly writes “Eukodal” is a good
You can argue the math of how widespread Pervitin use was, both among the
German soldiery and among the civilian population.
But you can’t argue that you don’t accept Ohler’s facts
because you don’t like the implications.
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