To radically increase performance of Wehrmacht and especially Waffen SS, Nazi medics used chemical tools. Drugs. From the very first days of WWII, German infantry, Panzerwaffe, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine (i.e. the whole Wehrmacht and Waffen SS) used methamphetamine-based drugs to enhance their battlefield performance.
Used quire successfully, in fact – some historians believe that the truly miraculous successes of Blitzkrieg in Polish, French, Russian, European and (initially) North African campaigns were achieved to a significant extent due to these “battlefield performance enhancers”.
Which is entirely possible as in April-June of 1940, Wehrmacht and Waffen SS consumed 25,000,000 tablets of the drug. It is estimated that 200 million (!) pills were given to Wehrmacht and Waffen SS military personnel during the war.
Initially, the German armed forces used Pervitin (the early version of what we know today as crystal meth). German soldiers referred to it as “pilot’s salt” or “tank chocolate”.
One of the drug usage reports from the front lines read:
“Everyone fresh and cheerful, excellent discipline. Slight euphoria and increased thirst for action. Mental encouragement, very stimulated. No accidents. Long-lasting effect. After taking four tablets, double vision and seeing colors”
Another report stated:
“The feeling of hunger subsides. One particularly beneficial aspect is the appearance of a vigorous urge to work. The effect is so clear that it cannot be based on imagination.”
Pervitin allowed soldiers to weather days at the front — days consisting of little sleep, copious trauma, empty stomachs, and violently enforced obedience — better than anything else.
Not surprisingly, German soldiers were actually required to use the drug. Commander of one of the Panzer division wrote in his report to the superiors:
“Pervitin was delivered officially before the start of the operation and distributed to the officers all the way down to the company commander for their own use and to be passed on to the troops below them with the clear instruction that it was to be used to keep them awake in the imminent operation. There was a clear order that the Panzer troop had to use Pervitin”
Pervitin proved to be an efficient performance enhancement tool; however, there is always a room for improvement. So German chemists (arguably the best in the world) came up with a more powerful and efficient drug that they called D-IX.
It was essentially a wild cocktail of methamphetamine (Pervitin), cocaine, and a powerful painkiller eucodal (which was initially tested on inmates of Sachsenhausen concentration camp).
Basically it was the equivalent of a “super speed” rolled up with strong painkillers. It was found that D-IX would significantly increase focus, concentration, fearlessness, heroism, and self-confidence, as well as boost stamina and strength, negate pain, and reduce hunger, thirst, and the need for sleep.
Prison camp tests turned out to be so promising that very quickly it was decided to move to the second stage – extensive testing on German military volunteers in a simulated battlefield environment.
Soldiers were given the capsules and then forced to take long treks over harsh terrain with fully loaded packs, and indeed D-IX showed a dramatic increase in stamina and attention span in the test subjects, allowing them to march nonstop for up to 80 miles before collapsing.
Drug addiction was a problem, obviously, but it was found to be manageable (apparently, Wehrmacht medics found the way to make soldiers kick the drug habit quickly and efficiently).
Consequently, D-IX was considered a resounding success and officially used in the field to a limited degree starting from March 16th, 1944, with only the Allied victory preventing it from being truly mass produced and squashing the ultimate plan to supply the super drug to the entire Nazi military force.
Interestingly enough, in the civilian realm Nazis instituted and ruthlessly pursued draconian anti-drug policy, correctly considering it incompatible with the Übermensch (i.e. superhuman).
Before the Nazis came to power, Germany (i.e., Weimar Republic) was mired in drug use epidemic, being the #1 producer and consumer of “recreational substances” (mostly cocaine and heroin).
Not surprisingly (given Nazi obsession with Übermenschen and thus with the physical health of the German population), Hitler made anti-drug campaign one of the key components of his political platform.
To give you an idea of the magnitude of drug problem in Weimar Germany, the year before the victors of World War I compelled Germany to sign the treaty of the International Opium Convention in 1929, Berlin alone produced two hundred tons of opiates.
The whole Germany was responsible for forty percent of global morphine and cocaine production between 1925 and 1930. To put it bluntly, the Weimar Republic became the world’s premier drug producer and drug dealer. And yes, the organized crime (i.e., criminal syndicates) were very much involved in these highly lucrative operations.
Obviously, these operations (both legal and illegal) employed individuals of several nationalities. Including Jews. However, Nazis – with their Judeophobic “tunnel vision” – did not even noticed any players except the Jews. Whom they immediately labeled “the poisoners of the German people”.
When the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers in Germany in March of 1933 (after the Reichstag Fire), one of the first laws that they passed was the ant-drug law. Which allowed the imprisonment of addicts for up to two years, extendable indefinitely and created secret anti-drug Kripo (criminal police) units.
The Nazis also threw medical confidentiality out the window and required doctors to refer any person with a narcotics prescription lasting longer than two weeks to the police.
Which immediately sent addicts to newly-established concentration camps where they were brutally (but often successfully) cured from their drug habit and then released. Obviously, repeat offenders were promptly set back to the camps.
Not surprisingly, these brutal and comprehensive measures essentially did away with civilian drug use in now Nazi Germany. With the exception of Pervitin (developed by a German chemical company Temmler).
The German civilians used the drug to achieve essentially with the same objective as Wehrmacht – as a powerful performance enhancer. Pervitin provided extra energy- very much needed in a country first rebuilding itself after World War I and then mobilizing for World War II. In that situation, it was highly unpatriotic not to be hardworking, and Pervitin helped when nothing else could. And it was much cheaper than coffee.