Norman Ohler

March 7, 2017

My name is Norman Ohler, and I’m here to tell you about all the drugs Hitler and the Nazis took.

Thanks to you all for such a fun time! If I missed any of your questions you might be able to find some of the answers in my new book, BLITZED: Drugs in the Third Reich, out today!

What was the weirdest thing you found in your research for this book?

I believe it is the chapter in the book titled "Slaughterhouse Ukraine". About Morell's monopoly on all the organs of all the slaughtered animals, making weird concoctions out of these, testing them on Hitler.

I have never heard about Hitler eating organ cocktails. Was this some sort of fad pseudoscience or something?

Morell, his doctor, was a pioneer - or at least that is what Hitler called him. He liked to experiment - and so did "Patient A", which was Hitler's nickname for Morell.

This youtube clip is highly relevant: Hitler shaking at the 1936 Olympics.

Is Hitler's favourite food/sandwich known?

Edit: As many noted this is slightly sped up, and he's watching the olympics intensely. Hitler apparently also suffered from Parkinson's.

Hitler shaking at the 1936 Olympics.

Hitler was a vegetarian. And he was really into sweets. Does this answer your question? (I actually studied all the menu cards for the headquarters)

Thanks for answering! I read up on Hitler's vegetarianism while waiting, interesting stuff.

Do you have any menu cards to show? :)

I am in NY right now, didn't bring any copy of menu cards. Perhaps you can find some online?

On a personal level, what are a few of your favorite films?

Certainly Taxi Driver. Also Bladerunner, and many of Fassbinder's films. You know his work?

Did the Nazis view the soldiers as having a meth problem? I remember hearing that Japan gave soldiers drugs to reduce inhibitions about certain missions (kamikaze attacks, etc.). There are also reports of Allied soldiers being given amphetamines. Was the Nazi leadership giving soldiers meth strategically?

Strategically, absolutely. They issued the so-called "stimulant decree" in April 40, just before the attack on France. I dedicate a large of Blitzed on this.

Were drugs used at all levels of the military, or just foot soldiers? How about within the Nazi government?

Pervitin (meth) was used by many officers, and it was especially popular among the Panzer divisions who led the Blitzkrieg. In the government there was also rampant use - all the way up to Hitler. But he didn't use meth, he preferred opiods.

So foot soldiers weren't on meth? If Hitler wasn't on meth, why was he rocking and shaking during the footage of the 1936 Olympics?

edit: added link

He might have been on something. But I can only write about what the records show... Foot soldiers were also on meth. For the France invasion 35 million dosages were distributed.

What drugs did Hitler take?

Too many! You have to read that part in Blitzed, because it truly is outrageous. His favorite drug was Eukodal - the active ingredient being Oxycodone.

How much drug use was involved in the V-unit divisions? And how early did the meth use start into the war?

I didn't find anything about the V-units and their drug use. I would imagine they were on it. The meth use started with the attack on Poland. It was officially used a bit later, however, with the attack on France starting May 10.

Thanks. Anything specific for guards in the camps?

Found nothing on camp guards except that they drank heavily. But I am sure they used Pervitin - since Pervitin and alcohol "go well together".

Is it true that hitler suffered from parkinsons and was taking medication to treat it?

Morell (Hitler's physician) gave him a medicine called Homburg once. Homburg is supposed to treat Parkinson's. Other than that there is little evidence. Perhaps Hitler's tremor. But I reckon this comes from withdrawal from opiods.

Was Hitler a drug user before he came to power, or was he driven to it by pressure? Do you think drug abuse drove him to believe delusional Jew conspiracies?

He became a drug user later in the war. In order to cope with the stress, and in order to keep himself artificially up. So, no, drugs were not responsible for his world views, and views on Jews.

Do the bad reviews bother you?

Yes, and no. Obviously Blitzed is a controversial book. I think the many positive reviews, and reactions by readers are what is most important.

Why, after SEVENTY YEARS, do you think we somehow do not know?

Can you clarify what you mean by "do not know"?

I have a college education (engineering) and have no memory of learning about the meth use of Nazi soldiers or heavy drug use of Hitler. This is very interesting!

This topic was completely under-examined so far. I also didn't know about it until I started my research in several archives.

How do academia and other historians view your focus on drug use?

prominent historians like the late Hans Mommsen, or Ian Kershaw, and Antony Beevor have praised the book, saying it is a missing puzzle piece. this makes me very happy.

Do you think a lot of History is kind of moralistic, and sand off edges (like drug use) from their accounts to be taken more seriously?

Absolutely. Especially when it comes to the Third Reich. But I think this will change, thanks to Blitzed - at least I hope so.

Did German civilians know about this at the time?

Did they know about Hitler's drug abuse? Absolutely not. Hitler was presented as a sort of healthy saint. Did the people know about meth? Yes, because many were taking it. It was legal in Nazi Germany, under the brand name of Pervitin.

Do you think the outcome of the war could have been different if not for the drug use?

I believe so. The meth abuse by the Wehrmacht was so heavy, and fit the military strategy of the Blitzkrieg like a glove, that it is hard to imagine how the outcome of the campaign against France would have been without the drug.

So you think meth gave the Blitz an advantage?

Absolutely. This is a huge chapter in the book, and I did very long and careful research about this. Hard to sum it up in a few lines...

How common was the use of the same drugs in general? Were downsides known?

The Temmler company that manufactured Pervitin neglected the downsides, and praised only the "good effects" of meth. Only later people started realizing that meth was an addictive drug - and it was made illegal in Germany in May 1941. Does this answer your question?

Some of your research came from US archives. What was it you found here in the US?

US intelligence interrogated Theo Morell, Hitler's physician, and only shared part of those files with Germany after the war. I learnt quite a few things about Morell's actions in DC.

How did you connect with Douglas Coupland, or how did he connect with your work?

We have a mutual friend in Berlin, Douglas Gordon, and met at a dinner at Douglas Gordon's home. There I invited Douglas Coupland to join me on a boat ride on my boat on the river Spree in Berlin. We're friends since then.

Any stories about people buying their way out of the camps by selling drugs?

Sorry, I know nothing about this. You have any information?

In your opinion, how valid is the thesis behind The Architecture of Doom?

I am not familiar (yet) with the Architecture of Doom. Will look into it. Thanks for pointing it out. What do you think?

Were there other nations participating in similar programs?

The Allies learnt from the Nazis, and started developing their own programs later in the war, deciding to use amphetamines.

That's pretty standard though, I'm pretty sure the entire aerospace program and jet fighter programs ran by every country since the end of World War 2 are run on Nazi Techniques and Ideas.

We still use swept-wing aircraft today which was a Nazi Idea. Look at the Me 262 with its wing shape, then the Shooting star and all the American jets produced after the war. They soon learnt straight-wings are awful for jet aircraft and the classic "Nazi scientists" that came over to the west after World War 2 taught them all about swept wing planes.

Edit : Oh yeah History people lol

The US learnt from the Nazis in many ways, for sure.

I remember reading Live and Let Die when I was a little kid and having to go look up what a Benzedrine was and being shocked that Bond was so cavalier about taking drugs like that. Weird to think how commonplace its usage was back then.

Also Billy Wilder has James Cagney order coffee with meth in his formidable "1,2,3".

Did you come up with your username? I might have to buy the book just for that.

We thought about calling the book "High Hitler" in Germany. But my publisher decided it is too jokey for the topic. However, the Spanish translation that is being published in Latin America is called "High Hitler". Enjoy the book!

Since the book is so controversial, were there any parts or topics that you fought for that couldn't be included?

No. Everything is exactly how I wanted it to be. And all of my research is included.

The book has such a crazy cover, very different from most history books. Why did you decide to go that route?

This was my publisher's decision. I think they did a great job. Each country's cover looks very different. I also like the German. It was done by artist Douglas Gordon. Try google: "Der totale Rausch" (the German title)

Was there an 18th or 19th century equivalent to the use of meth in warfare?

Nothing was ever as powerful as meth. But soldiers have always looked for potent substances to boost their performance. War and drugs cannot be separated. Also alcohol has played a role. Check "Shooting Up", an excellent book on the subject.

Did Hitler's health decline from taking too many drugs? Was there any recorded evidence of it?

It certainly did. The Nazi propaganda machine tried to keep this a secret. But some footage got out, showing how deranged Hitler was, and how strong his tremor. Especially the organ concoctions (described in the chapter of Blitzed called "Slaughterhouse Ukraine") paint a vivid picture of this.

What inspired you to do this research and then eventually write your book? Was there an "aha" moment when you realized Hitler & his nazis may have been on drugs?

The aha-moment came in Koblenz, in the Federal Archives of Germany, when I studied Theo Morell's notes, and felt like a fly on the wall. Fascinating material!

What made you want to research and writie a book about this particular topic?

A friend of mine is a DJ in Berlin. He is a history and a drug buff. When he told me about massive drug use in the Third Reich, I thought this was worth checking out. And my first visit to the Federal Archive of Germany was so fascinating (because I found so much evidence) that I seriously pursued the project.

Did you ever consider naming your book Kristallnacht to Crystal Meth? My psych professor keeps saying that would be a great title for a book on that subject.

I thought about "Kristall" actually, when I was still considering writing a novel about the subject. But I think Blitzed is an amazing title. Don't you agree?

How prevalent was drug use within all the different countries? We're the Germans the only ones doing it or was pretty common? I'd imagine amphetamines would be a pretty good performance enhancing war drug.

Germany was the leading drug country in the world. German pharmaceutical companies had the patents on Cocaine, Meth, Heroin. Amphetamines, however, were an American specialty. But the Germans beat them by marketing Meth, which was more powerful...

Have these drugs been a major factor in the brainwashing of mind manipulation carried out by hitler? And we're the doctors and physicians administering it fully aware of the effects?

Brainwashing experiments were being done in the concentration camp of Dachau, using Mescaline on inmates. The findings there, by the way, were being picked up by US intelligence when American forces liberated the camp.

I assume the meth was taken in pill form? How is it different than the meds used today for ADD/ADHD?

Also, did Albert Speer use drugs? If not, was he aware of his "buddy's" habit? I ask, because in all of Joachim Fest's "Conversations with Hitler's Architect" I don't recall it ever being slightly hinted at, and that was indeed a very insightful book, relative to this space... or so I thought.

Meth was usually taken in pill under the brand-name of "Pervitin". This is similar to the meds used today for ADD/ADHD - but in Germany the use was unregulated. Not even a prescription needed until Nov 1939. And remember, Meth is different than amphetamines: stronger, and more addictive.

In regards to Speer: He was a patient of Morell (Hitler's doctor) as well, so I would assume he received similar treatment. Morell loved injecting Eukodal (Oxycodone) to all of his patients. But there are no notes I could find proving this. Morell's notes are mainly on Hitler. So we cannot be sure.

As this is your first non-fiction book, what were some the challenges associated with making the transition between fiction and non-fiction?

My aim was to combine academic research with a fluid writing style. Many non-fiction books are a bit dry - and I tried to avoid that. But of course I also had to avoid inventing things! So it certainly was an interesting challenge in general. And I must say, I love writing non-fiction. It is fun (I thought it wouldn't be).

First off, I would like to thank you Norman as I've read Blitzed and very much enjoyed it. Did you come across any interesting anecdotes from the people you met whilst researching the book? Do you have any plans to work on any further projects in the same field? Thanks for doing the AMA!

I actually discovered another and quite fascinating story (about resistance against Hitler), which is pretty much unknown, and I am currently examining whether that could be my next book. On the other hand, I continue writing novels, and my next novel called "The Equation of Life" will be published in Germany in the fall.

Happy you liked Blitzed!

Why was Hitler a vegetarian?

In the late 19th century, vegetarianism was en vogue among right wing populist people in Germany. The composer Wagner for example was a vegetarian. There was the belief that you became superior if you didn't eat meat. Hitler bought into that.

How extensive was Nazi research on methamphetamine before it became widely used by them? Do you know what dosages they were taking? Did they take it orally or what route of administration was used?

The first research was done at several German universities before the war. Most professors (also taking it themselves) concluded that meth was great. Sometimes they used high dosages. One conclusion was that meth reduces fear if administered in those high dosages. I dedicate quite a bit of space in Blitzed on this subject. Usually the meth was taken orally. But Temmler also manufactured ampoules for injection.

how can we be sure hitler actually took these types of drugs ? was it uncovered during autopsy ?couldnt his doctor be lying ?

There is no reason to doubt Morell's notes. They are very detailed. Also, there are reports of other doctor's within the headquarter describing Morell's practice. Autopsy played no role in this - Hitler's body was burnt after he shot himself.

How did the army handle addiction? Was there any form of crisis after the war was over, and doses were not longer bring supplied?

The Army tried to set programs into place that would take care of addicted soldiers. But they failed in the end due to lack of resources. After the war, many soldiers were still addicted, and my research shows that Pervitin (meth) use is very high in Germany even in the 50s.

What turned Germany away from drugs, and meth in particular? Was there somewhat of a nationwide withdrawal when meth became illegal? Are there any lasting effects from this period on drug culture and markets in Germany today?

Meth was very popular in the civilian population even in the 50's. Your question is very interesting: Why did it get less? I would have to do more research on this - in Blitzed I focus on the Third Reich itself.

The East German Army was still using it in the 60's, supplying their border troops with it.

Listened to you on the recent episode of Mysterious Universe! I was hooked immediately and ordered a copy. Are you planning on going any further int researching other leaders and their drug habits? Surely Hitler isn't the only one.

I certainly intend to. Do you have any information?

Today's military (and other) extensively uses Modafinil, which is a wakefulness agent? Are you familiar with that, and do you draw any parallels?

I first heard about Modafinil when I researched Blitzed. The German Army (its elite units) was using it in Afghanistan, and I believe the US troops are using it as well. It is like taking amphetamines without the high. Very "efficient" I suppose.

So when you say that they were on meth, going under the brand name Pervitin, do you really mean methamphetamine or an assortment of amphetamines?

Methamphetamine. Each pill contained 3 mg of it.

How did the drugs get to the front line where they standard issue or handed out by medics who was supplying them?

They were handed out by medics. They received the so-called "stimulant decree" in April 1940, telling them how much to dish out.

Did Nazis use anabolic steroids at all? If so, which ones? Also, was it mandatory for the soldiers to use the various drugs that you've said?

Hitler did. There is a list in Blitzed with all his drugs. Over 80.

No, it was not mandatory for the soldiers to take Pervitin.

I remember reading something about experiments on Jews finding that the best drug cocktail for a sustained forced march was a combination of heroin and amphetamines (don't remember if it was meth or just regular amphetamine). Is there any evidence of this specific combination having been used in the field?

Those experiments were done at Sachsenhausen - but mostly on political prisoners, not Jews.

Morphine and Pervitin (meth) was combined in the field, given to wounded soldiers.

What was your favorite thing to research?

I believe Morell's notes describing Hitler's drug abuse. Fascinating material.

At least some finnish soldiers were given pervitine during the war(those drugs can still be found in houses of older people) did we get those from the germans since we were allies with them? And how usual it was to give regular jaegers some "boost"?

The Fins had their own approach I believe. I never read that they got it from the Germans. But I would have to do more research on this.

Was just the german soldiers taking drugs back then? Or also some of the "allied forces", russia, uk, french...?

The French were being given red wine! 3500 trucks filled with it made their way to the French lines on May 10, 1940. The Russians used vodka: 10 grams a day. UK examined Pervitin from shot-down German planes, and decided to give their soldiers amphetamines, later in the war.

Have you watched Man in the High Castle? I wondered if you did, given the user name.

I watched some of it. But the user name is not connected to it. Is it a good show?

I've heard ISIS uses drugs for its soldiers as well as Norweigan Berzerkers. Has any conquering or invading army NOT used drugs in a similar way? Did the Mongols or Romans? I would think it would be hard to be that evil without drugs of somekind.

drugs have always played a big part in war, absolutely. ISIS used Captagon.

I heard a legend that there was a surplus of cold medicine (like Sudafed), and to try to remedy the problem -- they then made it into meth. Is there any truth to that, or just urban legend?

Urban legend. At least I think so. ;-)

Great book! I'm totally enthralled by it. I'm just wondering, what happened to Morell's wife? I take she lived in luxury during the war. Was she investigated at all after war? What happend to their fortune?

She was never investigated. Morell lost his fortune. But in fact I am not sure exactly how she lived after the war. Happy you like the book!

Are there any records showing the progression to issuing drugs to troops? Was it something the Nazi leadership thought about for awhile and eventually did, or did it happen sporadically?

There was one guy responsible for it, Professor Otto Ranke. He discovered Pervitin (meth) for the Army, made tests in Berlin before the war, and then designed the meth program. Fascinating character - he got addicted to the stuff himself. Check out the chapter on him in Blitzed if you like.

Did Hitler only start drugs after the war or was it a lifelong issue?

he started in the fall of 1941. But Morell had been his doctor starting 1936, already giving him daily shots (of Vitamins in the beginning). So Hitler early on is addicted to those daily injections.

Was there anything that Hitler did that you would consider good despite all of the fucked up shit he did? What would you say is the nicest thing he did for humanity during the period of time you studied his life?

Nothing he did was good. There is no good in the bad - that is my opinion. Some people say "the Autobahn". But even that is not good.

I see the use of the word meth all over here, and I was already aware of the use of stimulants by German soldiers- But I guess I'm wondering just how similar those stimulants were to what we now know as methamphetamine?

Pervitin was the brand name in Germany. Each pill contained 3 mg of pure methamphetamine.

I actually heard about your book on NPR this morning, sounds interesting. How much cocaine did hitler use on a daily basis?

He only used cocaine from late July 1944 to October 1944 - over 50 times during this period.

Did Hitler smoke pot?

He never smoked anything. Marijuana was not popular among Nazi officials.

Guten Abend Herr Ohler!

The Guardian newspaper has described Blitzed as both 'spurious' and 'crass', and argues that whilst your book is 'readable' it is at the expense of truth and accuracy.

In particular, your argument that drug use was commonplace amongst the entire German population is highly contentious; the historian, Richard J. Evans went so far as to describe your conjectured idea of drug use under the Third Reich as both 'wildly implausible' and 'having no basis in fact'.

How would you respond to those critics and your peers who have cast suspicion on the authenticity of the claims made in your book? What is your response to the idea that you may have purposefully misinterpret Morell's journals in order to substantiate your own view-point?

Finally, numerous historians have agreed that Hitler exhibited signs of Parkinson's disease; however, you claim that his tremors were resultant from experiencing withdrawals or going 'cold turkey'. Do you have any evidence to corroborate your claim?

It is undeniable that your book touches upon interesting subject matter, but I think we have to be careful when producing any piece of historiography not to mislead readers through the misrepresentation of information derived from primary sources.

Well, there was even a chocolate laced with Pervitin on the market. And from the production figures of Temmler it becomes clear that the product was very successful in Germany. There are many many reports of doctors and psychiatrists describing the effects it had on their patients. In regards to Hitler, I think I rather understated Morell's notes. I don't dwell on Barbiturates, for example - Hitler became dependent on them at a certain point in time. Parkinson's? It is a theory (because Morell gave Hitler a medicine called Homburg once, and because of Hitler's tremor), and it might be true. But I think it is more likely that Hitler suffered from withdrawal because Morell's notes definitely indicate this. I hope this answers some of your doubts. Have you read the book yet? Thanks, N

What was your writing MO and did you use an editor?

I had several editors in fact. One checking the pharmacological facts, one checking the historical facts, and an overall editor. Also I worked closely with the late German historian Hans Mommsen, an expert on NS. my MO? The fascinating material I found in several archives.

Were there any close calls with Hitler overdosing? How do you think his regime would've handled it?

There is one report by Dr. Giesing, saying Hitler nearly overdosed on the Cocaine he gave him in the fall of 1944. I think everyone would have been relieved, in fact.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Norman Ohler conducted on Reddit on 2017-03-07. The Reddit AMA can be found here.