Science & Technology

Ach Du Lieber! The Nazi's Secret Pep Pill Was Methamphetamine


Courtesy of RealClearPolitics comes this link to a Der Spiegel article about the Nazi roots of methamphetamine. From the story:

On May 20, 1940, for example, [the German solider] wrote: "Perhaps you could obtain some more Pervitin for my supplies?" He found just one pill was as effective for staying alert as liters of strong coffee. And—even better—when he took the drug, all his worries seemed to disappear. For a couple of hours, he felt happy.

This 22-year-old, who wrote numerous letters home begging for more Pervitin, was not just any soldier—he was Heinrich Böll, who would go on to become one of Germany's leading postwar writers and win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. And the drug he asked for is now illegal, notoriously so. We now know it as crystal meth.

The story continues:

It was in Germany…that the drug first became popular. When the then-Berlin-based drug maker Temmler Werke launched its methamphetamine compound onto the market in 1938, high-ranking army physiologist Otto Ranke saw in it a true miracle drug that could keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric. It was the ideal war drug. In September 1939, Ranke tested the drug on university students, who were suddenly capable of impressive productivity despite being short on sleep.

From that point on, the Wehrmacht, Germany's World War II army, distributed millions of the tablets to soldiers on the front, who soon dubbed the stimulant "Panzerschokolade" ("tank chocolate"). British newspapers reported that German soldiers were using a "miracle pill." 

Read the whole thing, which is cliche-heavy on the dangers of meth abuse but interesting throughout, including an explanation of how the drug came to the U.S.