Crystal meth May 1940

It was speed wot did it.

In his bestselling book, “Der Totale Rausch” (The Total Rush)—recently published in English as “Blitzed”—Ohler found that many in the Nazi regime used drugs regularly, from the soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) all the way up to Hitler himself. The use of methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, was particularly prevalent: A pill form of the drug, Pervitin, was distributed by the millions to Wehrmacht troops before the successful invasion of France in 1940.

And that’s how the troops were able to keep going all day and all night, which the French had not expected and thus had not prepared for. Bam, game over.

Developed by the Temmler pharmaceutical company, based in Berlin, Pervitin was introduced in 1938 and marketed as a magic pill for alertness and an anti-depressive, among other uses. It was briefly even available over the counter. A military doctor, Otto Ranke, experimented with Pervitin on 90 college students and decided, based on his results, that the drug would help Germany win the war. Using Pervitin, the soldiers of the Wehrmacht could stay awake for days at a time and march many more miles without resting.

Carrying all that heavy equipment. It couldn’t be done without the drug.

A so-called “stimulant decree” issued in April 1940 sent more than 35 million tablets of Pervitin and Isophan (a slightly modified version produced by the Knoll pharmaceutical company) of the pills to the front lines, where they fueled the Nazis’ “Blitzkrieg” invasion of France through the Ardennes mountains. It should be noted that Germans were not alone in their use of performance-enhancing drugs during World War II. Allied soldiers were known to use amphetamines (speed) in the form of Benzedrine in order to battle combat fatigue.

Better living through chemistry.

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