A look into the megalomaniac’s drug addiction.
Image from Flickr user RV1864.
By Andrea Maurer
At the end, when he was already hiding in his wet and dark Fuhrerbunker and his beloved Eukodal was no longer available, the dictator was in a frail state. He had lost his teeth, he was drooling and he was hallucinating. Hitler, the man who believed in what he called the “Aryan master race,” had ended up a junkie.
In Der totale Rausch: Drogen im Dritten Reich (The Total Rush: Drugs in the Third Reich), author Norman Ohler attributes the downfall of Hitler to drugs, primarily Eukodal, a preform of heroin. From time to time, the veins of the pure vegetarian also contained the anabolic steroids of pigs. And his “dealer” was none other than his personal doctor, Theodor Morell.
“I have a good friend, a Berlin underground DJ, who told me once that the Nazis took loads of drugs. I couldn’t believe it.”
In the book that is shaking up the history of the Third Reich, Ohler explains that several high-ranking Nazis were addicted to opioid drugs, while civilians and frontline soldiers took Pervitin, a pill form of Crystal Meth. Before the Final Battle of World War II, the Nazis were in search of a miracle drug to transform “men into predators,” Ohler writes, quoting Gerhard Orzechowski, a leading pharmacologist of the Navy. According to the book, the Third Reich was a reigning Drug Empire; “This book changes the overall view of the Nazi regime,” German historian Hans Mommsen echoes in the Epilogue, “this dimension of the Nazi Regime has not been adequately taken into consideration.” Until now—but what motivated Ohler to do so?
“I have a good friend, a Berlin underground DJ, who told me once that the Nazis took loads of drugs. I couldn’t believe it,” Ohler an award-winning German journalist and novelist told me over the phone last week. From 2009 to 2014, he conducted research in the Federal Archive of Koblenz, in the Military Archive of Freiburg, and in Washington, DC. He also analyzed Dr. Morell’s personal records, whose role in Hitler’s life has been largely ignored by historians.
“A lot of historians thought working on the personal doctor of Hitler was a yellow press topic,” Ohler said, referring to tabloid journalism. He pointed out that Dr. Morell’s notes have also been profoundly misunderstood: “After World War II, the Americans who captured Morell translated the word ‘Eukodal’ as ‘Enkodal.’ They thought it was a legitimate medical treatment and dosage.” Ohler kept digging, and found people who had used Eukodal. He included their testimony in his narrative—“People felt like they always wanted to: splendid, completely calm, clearheaded; it was a golden feeling”—to illustrate how this pharmaceutical cousin of heroin would have been “a perfect drug for the Fuhrer.”
Temmler Werke invented Pervitin, a methamphetamine, and predecessor of what we know today as Crystal Meth.
Ohler’s book opens in the 1920’s when the Nazis began campaigning against cocaine and morphine in the Weimar Republic. The self-appointed ‘Masters of Universe’ condemned drug abuse as “Jewish,” and when they came to power, deported drug addicts to concentration camps. The real “Aryan German” was supposed to be strong and awake. Hitler pretended to be the role model: abstinent, ascetic, and ardently vegetarian.
“But the change of power only meant a change of substances,” Ohler reveals. A pharmaceutical company in East Berlin, Temmler Werke, invented a new pill for the meritocracy of the Nazis: Pervitin, a methamphetamine, and predecessor of what we know today as Crystal Meth. In 1937, they patented it, and advertised it to everyone, even as bonbons to housewives: “Just one pill keeps you alert for hours. Self-confidence increases and doubts disappear,” they promised. “People were euphoric,” Ohler says. Pervitin created “a mood that matched the mood before the war.”
In 1939, Hitler’s soldiers brought Pervitin into the battlefields. Spiegel Magazine first reported on this in 2005, and Ohler elaborates in his book. The military physiologist Otto Ranke evaluated Pervitin as “a substance that is very valuable for war.” In 1940, before attacking France, the German army ordered 35 million tablets of Pervitin for its soldiers. Doped up tank drivers stayed on the move until engines stopped; troops marched day and night without a break. Ohler claims that the Blitzkrieg was “led by methamphetamine.”
Pervitin was probably the only drug that Hitler did not try. “He was more the type for opioid drugs,” Ohler says. In 1936 Hitler met Theodor Morell in Munich, who, until then had run a successful practice in Berlin’s Kurfurstendamm. He “mastered the injections like no one else” and became the Fuhrer’s personal doctor—as well as his dealer. Years later, Dr. Morell boasted that he was “the only one who had seen the Fuhrer every day since 1936.” In Morell’s records, the intimidating dictator was referred to simply as “patient A.”
“Dr. Morell held a very strong position within the Nazi Regime,” Ohler says. “From Josef Goebbels to Alfred Speer, every important Nazi went to Dr. Morell for various injections. Being treated by him earned you Hitler’s trust. If you didn’t go to him, you could immediately fall into Hitler’s disgrace.”
Hitler became a dictator on drugs, a strict vegetarian into animal hormones.
In 1941, Hitler felt sick. He had fever, diarrhea and pain in the limbs, and Dr. Morell didn’t know how to help him. He created a cocktail of vitamins and pig-made anabolic steroids—“behaving like a doping doctor,” Ohler says. Morell even set up a steroid manufacturing plant in the Ukraine, and became what Ohler calls a “One-man-pharma-industry”.
Hitler became a dictator on drugs, a strict vegetarian using animal hormones. “To keep his arm outstretched for the Nazi salute, Hitler did some training with an expander and injected himself full of vitamins,” Ohler explains.“ Before each big speech, the Fuhrer indulged in an anabolic syringe” to keep him going.
As a heavy steroid user, Hitler changed. The dictator was reduced to a pale inhabitant of his Bunker. For years this puzzled historians, but Ohler says he has found the reason in Dr. Morell’s notes: “X.”
The “X” that stands for Eukodal; Ohler is sure. Morell has documented 800 injections given to Hitler over 1,340 days, including when the Americans landed in Sicilia and Mussolini, the Duce of Italy, was thinking about canceling his alliance with Hitler. The Fuhrer was unable to travel to Italy because of a heavy stomach pain, so Morell injected a substance that he had avoided until then: Eukodal. A radically high-spirited Hitler convinced the Duce to keep up the alliance—and pledged his own to Eukodal.
Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt in 1944 wounded Hitler more deeply than he let on, and he needed his dealer-doctor more than ever. He implored Dr. Morell for Eukodal. By winter of that year, Hitler had “long known no more sober days,” Ohler writes. Worse, “Morell’s supplies were dwindling,” and on April 17, 1945, a frenzied Hitler threatened to shoot Dr. Morell. The doctor fled, but was caught by the Americans and intensively interrogated. He died in Munich two years later, a victim of mental illness.
Before what would become the Final Battle of World War II, the German military started to look for a miracle drug to rally their troops once again. Gerhard Orzechowksi combined Eukodal, Cocaine, Pervitin and Dicodid to create DIX, the strongest substance in the world. But the soldiers who tried it immediately fell sick: paralysis, sweating, dizziness. The Navy administered it in spite of these reactions, and “the mission became a fiasco.” The SS continued looking for a miracle drug, making sure to test it in concentration camps this time. They developed a bubble gum form of pure cocaine that users could actually chew. “Despite hunger and bad constitution the concentration camp prisoners mutated into real marching machines,” writes Ohler. The search for a wonder drug had been turned into perverted human experiments.
What happened to all the Pervitin addicts after World War II? “There has not been adequate researched on how deep the impact of Pervitin has been on postwar Germany,” Ohler says. “There are indications that the German economic miracle has profited a lot from Pervitin, and that the so called ‘Truemmerfrauen’, the “rubble women”, couldn’t have delivered such a performance without Pervitin,” Ohler says. “The tired German after-war-body really needed Pervitin to get back onto his feet.”
Germans are not the world’s only drug addicts, nor have they led the world’s only war on drugs. “The British used Speed during World War II, and the Korean War in 1950 was “an amphetamine war where [American] pilots were doped up.” Ohler concludes, “contemporary history should more focus on drug abuse” before adding, “I don’t want to know what Putin takes to remain operational.”
What does this mean for Hitler? “The drugs probably offered Hitler the option to stay in the state of delusion he needed to commit such evil crimes,” but there is still no excuse. “I believe in the principle ‘actio libera in causa’—whoever planned a crime is guilty of it.” There is no doubt about Hitler’s guilt; he planned the mass murder of six million people well before he began using drugs. The “total rush,” the loss of reality and megalomania have always been his state of mind—the state of mind of a vegetarian mass murderer who died a sickly junkie.
Andrea Maurer, 33, is a German journalist. She is working as a magazine writer, as well as a reporter and editor for ZDF, one of Europe’s largest broadcasters. Currently, she is on the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship that has brought her to VICE News in New York.