Author: Norman Ohler
Rating: 3 Stars
Review By: Shana
Ohler takes what feels like a too brief (or at least not broad enough) look at drugs in Germany during the interwar and World War II period. The general public (at least those who are history buffs) have known for decades that amphetamines (e.g., the drug colloquially known as speed) have been used by soldiers in wars throughout much of the twentieth century. But historians have known for decades that it wasn’t just amphetamines, but also methamphetamines. Both drugs were copiously consumed during World War II. In this book, Ohler covers the history of these drugs, how they came to be mass produced and mass ingested, and how this fueled and then derailed the Nazi war effort.
The book is most interesting, and most deserving of its title, in the chapters offering the foundation of the drug industry in Germany. Ohler also explains how use of such drugs made the Blitzkrieg possible – allowing soldiers to go on with minimal rest, manically energized and moving forward at blinding speed in that lightning war. Sections of the book examining use of drugs by the military and civilians are quite interesting and eye-opening.
But such sections end and the bulk of the book ends up being about Hitler’s private doctor and the regimen of injections (including addictive drugs) that Hitler was on for the duration of the war. This is worthy subject matter to cover, but overwhelms the rest of the book. What started out as a broader look at wartime Germany becomes a study of Hitler and his doctor, both of their motivations and psyches, and a description of Hitler’s degrading health and increasing dependence on drugs. This does not make the book a failure, but does end up narrowing the focus in a way that might be unexpected given the book’s title. Personally, I would have preferred a book with a broader lens on the entire German state and not such a tight and extended focus on Hitler.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...