Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Norman Ohler's Blitzed

No top ten list of the 20th century's most enduring faces would be complete without a little man from Austria-Hungary who sported a half-mustache that since his time could not be more rare, Adolf Hitler. 

Ever since the blitzkrieg drove into and through Poland in 1939--or before that, the Kristallnacht,--people have been speculated about the man's pure evil, on what it was that created both him and his fanatical following of National Socialists. Stalin may well have been just as ruthless, just as evil; but it's Hitler whose presence looms most spectacularly over the 20th century's entirety. 

Somewhere in the world this morning, some graduate student is working on a bibliography of Hitler biographies. It must be a stunning list, and I'm sure more are appearing every month because our speculation, own human imagination really, not only allows more but encourages ever more attempts at understanding the evil mystery of the man.

In Blitzed, the German writer Norman Ohler, who refers openly to his own drug-infested youth, has created a new take on der Fuhrer, one that builds a case for drug dependency. Hitler may well have been the most famous vegetarian of his time, but, if Ohler is right, he wasn't at all sheepish about shooting up amphetamines, specifically, a form of methamphetamine. 

But Ohler insists that you shouldn't think of the Third Reich's drug-addled culture in any images similar to what you might think of such a scene today. Germany's drug industry had done well during the days preceding the Reich's ascension to power, so well that when Hitler became Chancellor, he outlawed drug usage, associated the horrors of "seductive poisons" with the nation's Jews, then sent users off to prisons and finally concentration camps. Some he simply had had killed.

But that didn't mean there'd be no drug usage in Germany. In Blitzed, what Norman Ohler has brought to light, according to an article in the Guardian, is the role of Dr.  Theodor Morell, a physician as oddly reclusive as Hitler sometimes appeared. Way back in the 20s, Morell became the Fuhrer's personal physician when he treated him for belly aches. Their relationship grew famously, or so Ohler claims:
   When Hitler fell seriously ill in 1941, however, the vitamin injections that Morell had counted on no longer had any effect – and so he began to ramp things up. First, there were injections of animal hormones for this most notorious of vegetarians, and then a whole series of ever stronger medications until, at last, he began giving him a “wonder drug” called Eukodal, a designer opiate and close cousin of heroin whose chief characteristic was its potential to induce a euphoric state in the patient (today it is known as oxycodone). It wasn’t long before Hitler was receiving injections of Eukodal several times a day. Eventually he would combine it with twice daily doses of the high grade cocaine he had originally been prescribed for a problem with his ears, following an explosion in the Wolf’s Lair, his bunker on the eastern front.
All of this is well-researched speculation, but historians, even World War II historians, have been taken by Norman Ohler's work, even though Ohler is not, nor has he ever been a historian. 

Within the nation itself, a research chemist named Dr. Fritz Hauschild had realized the potential for performance-enhancing drugs after the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich, and developed something similar, a drug he named Pervatin, which became, at least to the Reich's storm troopers, as ubiquitous as breath mints, or so the story goes. Among other effects, Pervatin acted like rich caffein on steriods, kept storm troopers awake, wide awake, which prompts the quite obvious question: was the blitzkrieg actually blitzed? Ohler speculates yes.

What Ohler's doesn't do--and Ohler himself regrets it--is help us understand what made National Socialism a religion, a vision of life so ingratiating that the German people appeared to give up their very human souls for what it--and Hitler--offered. 

Norman Ohler's Blitzed builds a case for drugged-up Third Reich, but it doesn't and can't diagnose what human depravity really is. Evil is just there, like a little madman from Austria/Hungary who once considered the priesthood but eventually got into politics the world cannot forget. 

About that level of human depravity, all we can do is speculate. 

No comments: