December 1st, 2023
World War II was a time of unprecedented global conflict, marked by incredible heroism and unimaginable atrocities. As we explore this tumultuous period in history, it’s essential to shed light on the lesser-known aspects of the era, and one such aspect is the use of methamphetamine by Nazi Germany.
This blog will delve into the historical context, motivations and consequences of the Nazi regime’s use of the drug “Pervitin.” This little-known facet of World War II reveals a striking contradiction within the Nazi ideology and serves as a reminder of the risks and consequences of drug addiction.
To understand the use of methamphetamine by Nazi Germany, we must first examine the rise of the Nazi regime and its underlying ideology. The Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, came to power in Germany in the early 1930s, advocating for an extreme form of nationalism that emphasised racial purity, militarism and the superiority of the Aryan race.
Nazi ideology strictly condemned drug use, particularly those deemed “degenerate” substances. They portrayed themselves as the defenders of a morally pure and disciplined society, in stark contrast to the perceived moral decay of the Weimar Republic that preceded them. The Nazis vilified drugs like cocaine, marijuana and opioids as threats to the Aryan race.
However, this condemnation of drug use would soon reveal a startling contradiction within the Nazi regime. As World War II unfolded and the demands of warfare intensified, the Nazis made the hypocritical decision to supply their soldiers with a drug that contained methamphetamine, known as “Pervitin.”
What is Pervitin and is it different from modern day meth?
During World War II, Nazi leaders turned to a seemingly miraculous solution to cope with the relentless demands of warfare –Pervitin. This methamphetamine-based drug became emblematic of the era and profoundly affected both the soldiers who consumed it and the war’s course.
But how does this compare to modern-day crystal meth that has plagued countries all over the world? Below, we compare both Pervitin and ‘modern day’ methamphetamine to highlight the differences and show similarities.
|Historical Context||Developed in the 1930s and used during World War II.||Originated in the mid-20th century, primarily in the United States, as an illicit drug.|
|Chemical Composition||Typically contained methamphetamine as its active ingredient.||Contains methamphetamine as the primary active ingredient but may vary in purity and production methods.|
|Legal Status||Initially available as a prescription medication but eventually banned for non-medical use.||Classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in many countries, including the United States, making it illegal without a prescription.|
|Form and Use||Available in tablet form and used for various purposes, including as a stimulant for military personnel.||Typically found in crystalline form (crystal meth) and abused as a recreational drug.|
|Social and Health Impacts||Used during World War II with consequences like addiction and negative side effects.||Associated with a range of social, health and legal issues, including addiction, cognitive impairment, dental problems and criminal activity.|
Why did the Nazis choose to give their soldiers Pervitin?
The decision by the Nazi regime to provide Pervitin to their soldiers during World War II was driven by a combination of strategic and logistical factors. Pervitin was considered an ideal solution to address the challenges faced by the German military, both physically and psychologically, during the war.
The relentless pace of warfare placed immense physical demands on soldiers. Pervitin’s stimulant properties allowed soldiers to march for extended periods without succumbing to fatigue. This was especially valuable during rapid advances, where resting for extended periods could allow the enemy to regroup.
Pervitin’s ability to keep soldiers awake and alert for extended periods was invaluable in maintaining continuous vigilance on the battlefield. It allowed soldiers to operate efficiently during night manoeuvres, ensuring they were ready to respond to any threat immediately.
Pervitin was believed to boost soldiers’ confidence and morale. The euphoria and increased energy levels provided by the drug could temporarily alleviate the psychological stress of combat, making soldiers feel invincible and more willing to engage in combat.
Reduced fear and inhibition:
Methamphetamine’s effects included reducing fear and inhibitions, which could be strategically advantageous in warfare. Soldiers were less likely to hesitate in the face of danger or when ordered to carry out risky missions.
Pervitin helped soldiers cope with the stress and trauma of war by providing a psychological escape from the horrors of battle. It temporarily suppressed anxiety, allowing soldiers to focus on their duties.
Pervitin’s ability to enhance performance meant fewer soldiers were required to achieve specific objectives. This efficiency was particularly crucial as Germany faced shortages in manpower as the war progressed.
Reduced need for supplies:
The drug’s appetite-suppressing effects meant that soldiers consumed fewer rations, reducing the logistical burden of supplying troops in the field.
It’s also safe to assume that fear-mongering was part of the decision to give soldiers Perviin. In fact, newspapers in Britain were awash with fears over German paratroopers whom they had come into contact with. Reports suggested that these soldiers were “heavily drugged, fearless and berserk”, showing the effects of the drugs on the soldiers.
The consequences of Pervitin
The Nazi army did not completely discontinue the use of Pervitin during World War II, but its use was gradually reduced and became less widespread as the war progressed. This was due to the negative side effects which included:
- Severe physical exhaustion as soldiers pushed their bodies beyond their limits. The suppression of hunger and fatigue often meant that soldiers ignored their basic needs, resulting in malnutrition and sleep deprivation.
- Methamphetamine’s effects on the brain triggered intense mood swings, paranoia and hallucinations. Soldiers experienced heightened anxiety and were prone to making impulsive, often reckless, decisions.
- Many soldiers became addicted to Pervitin, leading to a dangerous cycle of dependency. The drug’s initial benefits were outweighed by the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that followed.
Withdrawal symptoms included:
- Increased appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood Swings
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Physical symptoms (muscle aches, headaches and general discomfort)
After the war, veterans exposed to Pervitin faced not only the physical and psychological scars of battle but also the challenges of overcoming addiction.
Was Hitler taking methamphetamines?
Hitler’s actions, speeches, and, perhaps most notably, his erratic behaviour have been subjects of endless scrutiny and debate among historians. Among the many theories attempting to explain his puzzling conduct, one stands out prominently: the suggestion that Hitler was addicted to methamphetamine. However, the truth behind this theory is far from definitive and other possibilities, such as his suspected Parkinson’s disease, have also been explored.
While there is no solid, irrefutable evidence that Hitler took methamphetamine, compelling accounts and historical records strongly suggest he was involved with drugs.
Hitler’s erratic behaviour is one of the most telling signs of his methamphetamine use. Reports from those who interacted with him described moments of extreme energy and enthusiasm, followed by bouts of intense anger and paranoia. These mood swings were characteristic of methamphetamine abuse and were particularly evident during his public speeches and private meetings.
Health issues caused by drug abuse
Hitler was known to have a plethora of health issues, including tinnitus (drug abuse symptom), GI (meth abuse symptom), tremors and mobility issues (meth impacts the nervous system). In his 1999 book, “Hitler: Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet”, psychiatrist Fritz Redlich concluded that “Hitler engaged in amphetamine abuse, particularly between 1939 and 1943 and experienced temporary impairment as a result of this abuse.”
The 1936 Olympic Games
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin offered a prominent stage for Hitler to showcase his regime’s prowess. During these games, there are accounts of Hitler’s frenetic energy and excessive movement. While there is no direct footage of him consuming methamphetamine, his behaviour at the time aligns with the effects of the drug.
Are you affected by meth?
While Pervitin is no longer accessible in contemporary society, the unfortunate reality is that methamphetamine remains a concern. If you find yourself caught in the grip of meth use that has spun out of control, seeking assistance is paramount. You can take the first step towards recovery by visiting our website or contacting our free 24/7 confidential helpline at 0808 258 1773. Reclaiming your life from the clutches of methamphetamine is possible, and we are here to support your journey.