It’s long been suspected that Adolf Hitler took cocaine for sinus problems (and other reasons), but a new book by Norman Ohler due out in March, Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, details a widespread drug culture that permeated the Nazi military. A demagogue suspected of clandestine cocaine use will obviously earn special attention in 2016. But it’s Ohler’s examination of the drugs the Nazi soldiers took, often a version of the devastating crystal meth — and the effects they may have had on their brains — that startles the most. As the intro says: “On the eve of World War II, Germany was a pharmaceutical powerhouse, and companies such as Merck and Bayer cooked up cocaine, opiates, and, most of all, methamphetamines, to be consumed by everyone from factory workers to housewives to millions of German soldiers.”
Drugs have long been a weapon in military campaigns, as commanders look for any advantage in the field. They are often put to use before being fully tested — or more aptly, giving drugs to soldiers in the field is the testing. The journal Nature published a thorough review by Paul Weindling of Ohler’s book, which also points to Giles Minton’s very readable When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain.