Pervitin, the drug that aided the Nazis in their blitzkrieg (but slowly destroyed them)

Pervitin, the drug that aided the Nazis in their blitzkrieg (but slowly destroyed them)

Pervitin, the drug that aided the Nazis in their blitzkrieg (but slowly destroyed them)

It was in the heart of the Temmler plants, on the outskirts of Berlin, that pervitin was patented in 1937. It is a derivative of methamphetamine with psychostimulating properties. At the time, Germany is the capital of man-made paradises: the country produces 80% of the cocaine consumed in the world and its laboratories are at the forefront of pharmaceutical research in this sector. In a postwar society with broken morale, morphine and heroin are common palliatives, particularly among veterans, thus easing their trauma.

Mass-produced as early as 1938, pervitin quickly won the hearts – and bloodstream – of thousands of Germans. Advertising conveys the promises made by this “miracle pill” (“miracle pill”), available without a prescription at the pharmacy.

More effective than coffee, this substance keeps you awake for tens of hours, increases concentration and delays the effects of fatigue. A Berlin pastry chef even adds it to his praline recipe! But the free-access drug, it seems, ended up worrying the authorities: taken off the green lists of pharmacies in 1939, pervitin was banned two years later.

Super soldiers, instructions for use

The brief success of the miracle pill was enough to arouse the curiosity of Otto Ranke, a university professor who then headed the Reich Institute of Military Physiology. According to him, pervitin could be the key to the coming war.

During its circulation in the body, it increases resistance, allows soldiers to travel sixty kilometers a day and stay awake for forty consecutive hours, delays the feeling of hunger and thirst, anesthetizes fear … In short, it is the perfect compound of add to military bowls!

After testing the compound on students, Dr Ranke had his first large-scale experience during the lightning-fast invasion of Poland in September 1939. Cameo to the eye, the Wehrmacht brought the country to its knees in less than five weeks.

Reports from the front are ecstatic: “Everyone is fresh, cheerful, excellent discipline. No accidents. The effects last a long time. He sees double and with colors after the fourth pill “. Despite the side effects, pervitin became, according to Professor Ranke’s formula, “a militarily valuable substance”.

The junkie under the kepi

All that remains is to transform the test, with the blessing of the Führer. Since the spring of 1940, Hitler distributes 35 million doses to his legions, particularly targeting fighter pilots and tank drivers, who consume it in the form of chocolate bars. In between, we dubbed this brand new drug “Panzerschokolade “or “the chocolate of oil tankers”: Blitzkrieg’s speed owes much to the effects of stimulantswhich multiplied the aggression of the soldiers and crowned the success of the German offensive of May 1940.

In a few weeks it was all over: the humiliating capitulation of June 22, 1940 marked the end of the “war of lightning”. The Wehrmacht won the first round with formidable efficiency, the Allies are on the ropes. But the German general staff is approaching bad trip: because the side effects of consuming pervitin do not take long to be felt.

Among drug addicts in uniform, insomnia, depression, cardiac arrest and hallucinations are reported. Not to mention the flash addictions: “It’s hard out there, and I hope you will understand if I will soon be able to write to you only once every two or four days, Heinrich Böll, a 22-year-old recruit, writes in a letter to his family. Today I am writing to you only to ask for pervitin “.

It even seems that some soldiers would have killed each other during psychotic episodes! Recognizing the dangers of this stimulant, German doctors sought to regulate its use. But although pervitin consumption was divided by ten between 1940 and 1941, it still surpassed one million tablets each month …

From excitement to overdose

The trivialization of the intake of this substance contrasts sharply with the sobriety policy promoted by the Nazi regime. Since 1933, drug addicts have been locked up in a specialized institution for two years (minimum); German doctors are also encouraged to break the seal of medical confidentiality to report that their patients are taking drugs.

By polishing his image as a providential man, Hitler assures that he refrains from drinking alcohol, smoking and eating meat … Yet the Führer himself tastes the “Jewish poison”, absorbing exasperated amounts of addictive substances to fuel his hyperactivity and fight it. stress. His personal physician, Theodor Morell, he would then have given more than eight hundred injections of amphetamines, steroids and various opiates on behalf of his “patient A”.

Gradually, the explosive cocktail that saturates the Führer’s veins threatens his health: paranoia, tremors, kidney failure, loose teeth … His relatives see his hollow features and hear him making incoherent comments. Dependent, Hitler believes himself invulnerable; his military capabilities suffer, for he soon renounces the advice of his generals.

Morell’s barbiturates also corrupt his sleep cycles, the Führer generally sleeps until noon (we were unable to wake him on the morning of D-Day, which delayed the German counteroffensive). The dictator does not stop poisoning his body until supplies become impossible – in the spring of 1945, in a ruined capital.

Shortly thereafter, the Führer ended his days. His reign of terror ends here. But not that of the pervitino, which takes refuge in the underground economy to nest there. Now it is called the “crystal method”.

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