Book Review: Blitzed, by Norman Ohler

Norman Ohler’s Blitzed is an extensively researched book that provides another view of Hitler’s Germany. Despite Der Fuehrer’s official (and hypocritical) pretence of abstemiousness, he did eat meat, and he did drink, and he did have a mistress. We can add drug use to that list, not just by Hitler, but on a national scale all the way down to ordinary German soldiers, hopped up on Pervitin (methamphetamine) tablets during the invasions of Poland, France, and Russia.

Once an over-the-counter medicine in Germany, Pervitin was readily available to the Wehrmacht, despite official efforts by Leo Conti, Reich’s Health Fuehrer, to make it a controlled substance. It is estimated in Blitzed that over 100 million Pervitin tablets were distributed.

Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Theo Morell, was a corpulent, smelly, slovenly, venal individual, as shown by several photos in Blitzed. He successfully treated Hitler once, and apparently his unconventional therapies worked well enough to keep him in Hitler’s good graces for a long time.

Few other than Hitler thought Morell was any more than a quack. Hermann Goering referred to Morell as “Der Reichsspritzenmeister,”  or “Reichmaster of Injections,” because of his tendency to give patients a shot for almost any condition. Even though Morell actually did prescribe pills and physical therapy on many occasions, the name stuck.

According to Ohler’s sources, Morell introduced Hitler to Pervitin*, Hitler, well aware of his inherited alcoholic tendencies, feared addiction greatly, but became dependent on  Pervitin and, later, Eukodal (oxycodone). Those and over 90 varieties of other medicines were used to “treat” him, as many as 28 different substances in one day, including oxygen. In mid-1943, Morrell gave him Eukodal subcutaneously, attempting to avoid addiction. Just hours later, he gave Hitler an intramuscular dose in preparation for an Axis conference.

*  Other sources indicate that Morell added Pervitin to Hitler’s vitamin and glucose injections without telling anyone, destroying the containers afterwards.

After the July 20 assassination attempt, it was an eye-ear-nose-and-throat specialist, Dr. Erwin Giesing, who treated Hitler with 10% cocaine swabs for his injuries. Hitler told him, “Please don’t turn me into a cocaine addict.” But Adolf liked the cocaine and asked for more frequent application. This may have turned another corner in Hitler’s drug-induced deterioration.

As Ohler explains, Morell’s records are a bit cryptic in spots, so it’s not known exactly what Hitler received during the final months leading up to his suicide in the bunker. Ohler records that Hitler had become addicted to whatever it was that Morell gave him, possibly a mixture of Eukodal, Pervitin, and cocaine, along with other substances. As the Third Reich crumbled around him, Hitler was falling apart from withdrawal, Morell’s sources having been bombed out of existence.

Blitzed gives an extensive history of these events and more, along with a full bibliography and an index. The book contains many fascinating facts, such as a description of Goering’s bizarre ‘uniform:’ “A white silk blouse with yellow, fur-lined vest; long bloomers; a wide, gold embellished leather belt holding a short sword; silk stockings, gold Saffiano sandals; makeup, and enameled fingernails.” Goering resembled nothing less than a veritable Götterdämmerung-meets-Cabaret tragi-comic opera character.

Regarding Hitler’s December 16, 1941 “No Retreat Order,” Ohler says: “There was a convincing reason for the frantic insistence on refusing to give up any conquered territory: to keep the chimneys of the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Majdanek, and Belzec smoking for as long as possible, to hold all positions until all the Jews were dead.” Ohler is correct. The Holocaust was the driving force behind Hitler’s Russian strategy from the start. That’s where the remaining Jews were.

Blitzed is a good read, accurate, rich in details, and well written. It’s a valuable resource for anyone trying to fully grasp Hitler and the Nazi era.

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