Speed Freaks

Rachel Cooke has an interesting story on the drug fueled WW II German War machine. Hitler was addicted to both meth-amphetamine and opiates (oxycodon) which he took by injection. Meth and cocaine kept the blitzkrieg moving.

In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a “stimulant decree” was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35m tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production. The likes of Böll, it’s fair to say, wouldn’t need to ask their parents for Pervitin [meth-amphetamine] again.

Was Blitzkrieg, then, largely the result of the Wehrmacht’s reliance on crystal meth? How far is Ohler willing to go with this? He smiles. “Well, Mommsen always told me not to be mono-causal. But the invasion of France was made possible by the drugs. No drugs, no invasion. When Hitler heard about the plan to invade through Ardennes, he loved it [the allies were massed in northern Belgium]. But the high command said: it’s not possible, at night we have to rest, and they [the allies] will retreat and we will be stuck in the mountains. But then the stimulant decree was released, and that enabled them to stay awake for three days and three nights. Rommel [who then led one of the panzer divisions] and all those tank commanders were high – and without the tanks, they certainly wouldn’t have won.”

The allies used speed too, I think. When Bush invaded Iraq, American soldiers were kept awake by Provigil, a less nasty wakefullness promoter. Astronauts use it and I understand that it's also popular with college students. I was prescribed it once for sleep apnea related daytime sleepiness, and it really works - well enough that I soon quit it for fear of getting addicted.


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