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Nazi Soldiers Fed a Diet of Methamphetamine During WWII


There have long been suspicions that Nazi soldiers were fed a diet of drugs to keep them alert, awake, and utterly ruthless. Letters from Heinrich Boll, a Nazi soldier during WWII who later became a Nobel Prize winning author, confirmed these rumors. His letters and subsequent conversations reveal that soldiers became reliant on a pill called Pervitin – essentially crystal methamphetamine capsules that were handed out to keep the soldiers on their toes.

Pervitin was the brand name of a pill that the Nazis supplied to soldiers on the front line. It was used to increase self-confidence, concentration, and risk-taking behavior (Ulrich). It also reduced pain sensitivity, feelings of hunger or thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep. One can see that in a time of war and desperate conditions, a pill like this could be regarded as a wonderful thing. However, pills like Pervitin and Isophan weren’t the only way that the soldiers got their unnatural energy. Tankers and pilots received methamphetamine-laced chocolate to give them the same effects the pills were giving their land-bound counterparts (Associated Press).

Unsurprisingly, these pills had some of the very detrimental side effects that are commonly associated with abusing methamphetamine. Soldiers, after the initial onslaught of frantic energy and focus, became dizzy and depressed. Many also experienced depression and hallucinations, while still others died from heart failure or committed suicide during a psychotic episode. Despite these telling side effects, the Nazi army continued to use Pervitin in mass quantities. In 1940, in the span of three months, more than 35 million methamphetamine-based pills were distributed to the German army (Lewis).

Heinrich Boll’s letters to home during his deployment as a soldier in the Nazi Party show the desperation for more Pervitin, highlighting the addictive nature of the drug that was being handed out as a ‘miracle’ pill. In 3 letters to home over the span of about six months, Boll begs his family to send him more Pervitin. In his own words, he became “cold and apathetic…without interests,” and asked for more and more of the drug he had come to rely on (Associated Press). These letters seal the suspicions that many of the young, exhausted soldiers were reliant on a dangerous drug to keep them going during the war.

Under no circumstances does methamphetamine abuse qualify as an excuse for the atrocities these armies committed during World War II, but it does shed some light on the state of mind that many of the Nazi soldiers were in while they were in service to the Third Reich. As we know today, methamphetamine is a drug that drastically increases violent tendencies and ruthless behaviors.

Combined with the nature of the service that many of these young men had been brought up in, it is no surprise that the steady consumption of meth and constant violence went hand in hand.
Works Cited

Associated Press. “Hitler’s Nazi Troops Took Crystal Meth To Stay Awake, Heinrich Boll’s Letters Reveal.” 06 March 2013. The Huffington Post. Web. 13 June 2013.

Lewis, Jamie. “Letters show Hitler’s troops stayed alert during WWII by taking crystal meth tablets.” 2 June 2013. The Independent. Web. 13 June 2013.

Ulrich, Andreas. “Hitler’s Drugged Soldiers.” 06 May 2005. Spiegel Online. Web. 13 June 2013.

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A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Alcohol and Drugs, Substance Abuse · Tags: crystal methamphetamine, Heinrich Boll, Isophan, Methamphetamines, Nazi, Nazi soldiers, Pervitin, Third Reich is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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