The Martin Pollins Blog

History, economics, business, politics…and Sussex

Picture Credit: “Hitlers Blitzkrieg-Droge PERVITIN. – Wachhaltemittel. Vorsicht! 12 Tabletten zu 0,003 Gramm.” by quapan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

During World War II, amphetamine (made in Germany from 1887 but shelved until the 1920s when German researchers started looking at options to use it as a treatment for almost any ailment, including depression) and methamphetamine (developed in Japan in 1919) were used extensively by both the Allies and Axis forces for their stimulant and performance-enhancing effects – principally to keep awake. But when the addictive properties of the drugs became known, governments began to impose controls on their availability and usage. Kamikaze pilots received high doses of Pervitin (one of Hitler’s favourite drugs) before suicide flight missions, whilst Japanese factory workers also used methamphetamine to work longer hours and offset fatigue.

The opium poppy started out as a plant, then led to weird and horrible uses. It can be grown in most parts of the world, mostly illegally[1]. Its first usage can be traced back to a time over 5,400 years ago when it was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia[2]. In circa 460 BC, Hippocrates, generally called ‘the Father of Medicine’, acknowledged its usefulness as a narcotic and styptic in treating internal diseases, diseases of women and epidemics. About 130 years later, Alexander the Great introduced opium to the people of Persia and India. In the 1600s, ships chartered by Queen Elizabeth I of England were instructed to purchase the finest Indian opium and transport it back to England.

Opium can thus be traced back to ancient times and is mentioned in texts from the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans and traded throughout the Mediterranean and the known Ancient world.[3]

In some countries, the opium poppy is grown for its seeds and not for opium at all. But it is as a drug that opium has long been widely used in certain parts of the world. Heroin is an opiate – a derivative of opium. Pure opium contains morphine, as well as codeine and other opiates that are processed for illegal narcotic use.

In days long ago, opium was used to control the actions of leaders in some countries. For example, members of the court in Persia used it to control the shah of Persia in the late 16th and the early 17th century, according to Lucy Inglis in her book, Milk of Paradise.

Unlike Germany, drugs were not widely used in Russia, although some say Stalin was not entirely drug-free. Legislation against drugs first appeared in post-revolutionary Russia, in the 1922 Penal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), which criminalised drug production, trafficking, and possession with intent to traffic. Within two years, it was expanded to cover the whole of the Soviet Union. Stalin may not have been overly fond of drugs, but he was very fond of his liquor and drank prodigious amounts of alcohol, probably a high proof vodka. He prided himself on being able to drink his men under the table.

The Italians

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini served in the Royal Italian Army during the Great War but was wounded and discharged in 1917. During the Spanish Civil War, Italy provided huge amounts of military support to General Franco’s forces, and in doing so, distanced itself from Britain and France. Aligning his country with Germany and Japan at the start of World War II as part of the Axis didn’t work out well for Mussolini. The Italians suffered defeat after defeat, but Mussolini continued to party with several mistresses, an indulgence of which he appears to have been amorously successful.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, GermanyPicture Credit: “Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, Germany” by Marion Doss is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mussolini was the leader of the National Fascist Party in Italy during World War II. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943. Not unlike Adolf Hitler, he removed all political opposition through his secret police and outlawed labour strikes during a period when Italy was transformed into a one-party dictatorship. In June 1941, Italy participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union, and when the Japanese attacked the US base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Italy declared war on the United States. More military disasters for the Italians occurred until the Italian elders could stand it no more and passed a motion of no confidence in Mussolini. He was dismissed and placed in custody. In September 1943, he was rescued from captivity by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos. He died on 28th April 1945 when he was executed, together with his mistress Clara Petacci, by Italian communist partisans as the couple attempted to flee to Switzerland. His body was taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station to confirm his death publicly. Mussolini, like Stalin, was a short man (height 5′ 6½” – 1.69m). He was colloquially known as Il Duce (‘The Leader’).

Dr Theodor Morell, the personal physician who administered drugs to Adolf Hitler (called ‘Patient A’) in huge quantities, also treated several other high-level patients, including Mussolini (who was called ‘Patient D’). We don’t know who Patients B and C were. Although Mussolini was given the same drugs as Hitler (but not the same quantities or frequency), there’s no evidence to say whether or not he was an addict.

The Japanese

The Japanese Kamikaze (‘divine wind’) tactic was suggested on 19th October 1944 by Japan’s Vice-Admiral Onishi, who later became known as ‘The Father of the Kamikaze’. Onishi was opposed to the attack on Pearl Harbor because he felt it would lead to a full-scale war with a foe that had the resources to overpower Japan into an unconditional surrender.

The Japanese Prime Minister

Tōjō Hideki, was a soldier and statesman and Prime Minister of Japan from 1941 to 1944) and military leader during most of the Pacific theatre portion of World War II. He was a strong supporter of the Tripartite Pact (Axis) between Japan, Germany and Italy. After the war ended, he was tried for war crimes and executed.

The Japanese Emperor

Emperor Hirohito was the Japanese monarch throughout World War II. He was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional or natural order of succession. He reigned from Christmas Day 1926 until he died on 7th January 1989, a fair stint by any measure. At the start of the Emperor’s reign, Japan was the ninth-largest economy in the world, the third-largest naval power, and one of the four permanent members of the council of the League of Nations. After Japan surrendered in 1945, Hirohito was not prosecuted for war crimes as many other leading government figures were, and his degree of involvement in wartime decisions remains controversial.

Picture Credit: “Public Domain: WWII: Pearl Harbor Attack (NARA)” by is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Chūichi Nagumo
During World War II, Nagumo was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and one-time commander of the Kido Butai (the carrier battle group that carried out the Pearl Harbor attack on 7th December 1941), when a Japanese force of six carriers and 423 aircraft attacked the United States base. He was later criticised for failing to launch a third attack on Pearl Harbor, which might have destroyed essential fuel oil storage and repair facilities. Nagumo committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan, shooting himself in the temple.

Mitsuo Fuchida
Fuchida was a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and a bomber aviator in the Japanese navy. He is perhaps best known for leading the first wave of air attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941. Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack. After the war ended, Fuchida became a Christian evangelist and travelled through the United States and Europe to tell his story.

The Russians

Joseph Stalin (also known as ‘Uncle Joe’)
Joseph Stalin was the Russian leader in World War II and is generally regarded as one of the most notorious dictators in history. He was born with a webbed left foot and contracted smallpox at the age of seven, scarring him for life with pockmarks on his face. He also had a slightly deformed left arm, thought to have happened from a childhood injury.

As an adult, Stalin was short – measuring only 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 m) tall. It was because of his ruthless attitude that the Soviet Union was transformed into one of the biggest and most-feared superpowers. His birth name (Ioseb Besarionis Jughashvili) was changed to Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.

Stalin was the dictator of the USSR from 1929 to 1953. Under his rule, the USSR was transformed from a society ineptly backward in technological advancement into an industrial superpower. He may be described as a Soviet revolutionary and politician who held his country iron grip. Indeed, the name he adopted means’ man of steel’. For over three decades, he ruled the Soviet Union and formulated his policies as ‘Stalinism’. The notion of propaganda was greeted with open arms and often relied on what they called the ‘miracles of science’ to boost the status of their fledgling State.

Stalin started out in World War II as an ally of Nazi Germany: in 1939, on the eve of World War II, Stalin and Hitler signed a nonaggression pact, the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Stalin then proceeded to annex parts of Poland and Romania, as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He also launched an invasion of Finland. However, when the Germans turned away from an invasion of Britain and chose to attack Russia instead (on 22nd June 1941), the man of steel eventually rose to the challenge, albeit not straightaway. Perhaps Stalin was stunned by Hitler’s audacity to invade Russia, or because he was in shock (but his first stroke was in the months after the war finished) and he could not believe Hitler would break the agreement they had, or even had a nervous breakdown – but whatever the reason, he reacted extremely slowly to the German invasion. In hindsight, the Soviets and the Germans could never be friends: the two regimes were ideological enemies who were ideologically miles apart, and a war between the two was almost bound to happen at some time or other. When Hitler invaded Poland, and with the nonaggression pact reached with Russia in his back pocket, he was confident that the Soviets would not oppose him.

The Yalta[4] Conference (also called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference), held in early February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to discuss Germany’s and Europe’s post-war reorganisation. – see the picture on the next page. The problem of Poland’s future was a particular focus of the Yalta conference. Stalin agreed that free elections should be held in Poland as soon as possible. He also accepted Churchill’s pleas that members of the Polish and Yugoslav governments-in-exile should be included in the new administrations of those countries.

Over the years, there have been many rumours which have circulated about how Stalin died or even where he died. An official view was that he died in the Kremlin, but there is perhaps too much evidence that says he died at his home. What is agreed is that he died on 5th March 1953. He had previously suffered a breakdown or heart attack after Hitler invaded Russia on 22nd June 1941 despite the nonaggression pollical and economic pacts the two countries had previously signed. The most popular explanation for Stalin’s death is that he died from a cerebral haemorrhage (or blood clot in the brain), a common and often fatal subtype of a stroke. Shortly before his death, Stalin had turned on Soviet Jews in a campaign that promised a new wave of purges and party upheaval. Jewish doctors were among those targeted by Stalin. Little wonder then that it took some hours for a doctor to attend at the scene of Stalin’s death. Statements from the party leaders tried to reassure the Russian public that none of the doctors treating Stalin was connected to the alleged conspiracy. The popular belief is that the cerebral haemorrhage was caused by an excess of the blood thinner Warfarin but how it got into Stalin’s blood remains a mystery.

Picture Credit: “Conference of the Big Three at Yalta” by Marion Doss is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Stalin, like Churchill in London, raised the fighting morale of his military forces, although he was not a great orator. He stopped the persecution of the Orthodox Church. It was a popular step in the right direction. As the Soviet resistance against German forces intensified, Stalin asked the Allies to agree on a division of territorial spoils after the war.

The Germans

The Nazis presented themselves as warriors against moral degeneracy. Yet, the entire Third Reich was permeated with drugs: cocaine, heroin, morphine and, most of all, methamphetamines, or crystal meth, used by everyone from factory workers to housewives and crucial to troops’ resilience – even partly explaining German victory in 1940.[5] There is strong evidence that Adolf Hitler was heavily influenced by opiates – author Norman Ohler thought so and wrote about it in his best-selling book Blitzed. Hitler’s addiction may have started as early as June 1934, in the so-called Night of the Long Knives, Hitler’s purge of Nazi leaders.

But Hitler was not alone. Most of Nazi Germany was high on drugs. Taxi drivers, actors, secretaries, grocers, top businessmen and sportsmen and women – almost everyone was taking pills of crystal meth called Pervitin. The Japanese were also flying high as a kite – particularly the Kamikaze pilots.

There have always been doubts about Hitler’s alleged suicide in his bunker in Berlin. Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin was convinced that Hitler escaped to Spain in April of 1945. In a well-researched book by H. D. Baumann and Ron T. Hansig titled ‘Hitler’s Escape’, the authors argue that Stalin was correct in his statements to his western Allies in 1945, telling them that Hitler (and his wife Eva Braun) were still alive. It is claimed that the Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller told his US CIC interrogators in 1948 that he arranged Hitler’s escape from Berlin and that Hitler, together with Eva Braun, flew to Barcelona, Spain on 26th April 1945.

Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, did not believe Hitler committed suicide at all because (Morell said) ‘Hitler was not that type,’ In 1933, Morell had joined the Nazi Party and two years later was treating Hitler’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, for gonorrhoea. Then he treated Franziska Braun, the mother of Eva Braun. This ultimately brought him into contact with Hitler. Morell was a specialist in skin and venereal diseases and had established his medical practice in Berlin. ‘Hitler was obsessed with the fear of cancer and had severe digestive troubles’, said Morell, who examined Hitler daily for nine years. It is said that many well-known actors and film stars were his patients, but for which maladies we are unlikely ever to know.

Morell was never far away from Hitler as he injected and pumped into the Führer a cocktail of many different drugs (some reports say as many as 74). Morell often accompanied Hitler to meetings. He was always on tap, ready to administer daily injections, syringe at the ready. In the last few days of Hitler’s life, the half-Jewish doctor was by Hitler’s side, holding his hand and a fully primed syringe at the ready in the other. Perhaps he was Hitler’s last connection with this mortal life.

The methamphetamine-based drug Pervitin was manufactured from 1937 by the Germans and widely distributed among the armed forces. Industrial chemicals, cleaning products, and other nasty substances that can be toxic to the human body often went into the manufacture of Pervitin. The chances are as near to 100% as makes no difference that Adolf Hitler and his Generals used it[6]. Adolf Hitler was himself a regular drug user, particularly Pervitin, which was prized among addicts for its feeling of euphoria and invincibility as well as eliminating fear and tiredness. Yet, it was feared for its mental destructiveness. According to a 47-page wartime dossier compiled by American Military Intelligence, the Führer was a famous hypochondriac. They had evidence that he took over 74 different medications, including methamphetamines.[7]

Nazi Germany’s defeat in the Battle of Britain has been attributed to the fact that Luftwaffe pilots were drugged to their eyeballs or stoned out of their minds. Or both, take your choice. The evidence was there to prove that Hitler was a junkie – the trembling in his legs and tremors in his hands – and Hitler displayed other symptoms associated with prolonged use of amphetamines[8].

The Allies were fighting not just a Nazi army of men but an army of drug-crazed near lunatics high on Pervitin and a leader high on whatever else Dr Morell had chosen to inject into the Fuhrer’s veins.

In Blitzed, German author Norman Ohler describes how the Third Reich was riddled with drugs, including cocaine, heroin and crystal meth, used by everyone from soldiers to housewives and factory workers in Germany. Pervitin was used by the Nazi army, almost as a trial, when Poland was invaded on 1st September 1939. The Poles had no chance. The German military placed an order for 35 million tablets of Pervitin for its unsuspecting soldiers before they advanced, at full throttle and fully drugged, upon the French in the spring of 1940. The Blitzkrieg was truly a war fuelled by drugs. Adolf Hitler was a serious addict. The Nazis’ narcotics intake provides a new meaning to the term war on drugs. During World War II, amphetamine and methamphetamine were used extensively by the Axis forces and the Allies for their stimulant and performance-enhancing effects. When the addictive properties of the drugs became known – the flip side to usage – governments began to place strict controls on the sale of the drugs.

Hitler’s doctor, Dr Theodor Morell, was half-Jewish[9] – how he overcame Hitler’s prejudice against Jews is a mystery. He was required to be on call most of the time, day and night, and didn’t think the war was rewarding him enough. True, his monthly salary had doubled, and some tax favours were extended to him as well – but that was nowhere near enough so far as he was concerned. Morell kept a note of the 74 drugs, tonics, vitamins etc., that he administered to Hitler, usually by injection (up to 20 times per day). Most were commercial preparations, but some were Morell’s own concoctions. The drugs included psychoactive drugs like heroin and other substances sold on their own as poisons.

Eye-wateringly, the most surprising drug that Dr Morell prescribed to the Führer was cocaine. Yes, even Hitler’s eye drops contained 10% cocaine. All in all, dangerous stuff. But Morell had started to become greedy. Enter centre stage another concoction called Vitamultin and an alleged stake in a company marketing an early form of penicillin. Morell may have felt it was all worthwhile as he hoped it would provide a retirement fund. It didn’t work out as he planned as he only survived the war by three years.

In Conclusion

The Axis powers weren’t the only ones relying on performance-enhancing drugs. According to LiveScience[10], both American and British soldiers boosted their physical alertness using cocaine and Benzedrine, an amphetamine that allowed GIs to make it through gruelling, endless hours of exhaustion, thanks to the stimulant and performance-enhancing effect of these drugs. As TIME magazine wrote[11], whilst Japanese, American and British forces consumed large amounts of amphetamines, the Germans were the most enthusiastic early adopters, pioneering pill-popping on the battlefield during the initial phases of the war.

  • The German military was supplied with millions of methamphetamine tablets during the first half of 1940[12].
  • Seventy-two million standard-dose amphetamine tablets were distributed to the British Armed Forces alone[13].
  • The amount of Benzedrine supplied to the United States servicemen by the British has been estimated at nearly 80 million tablets and pills, and probable another 80 to 100 million were supplied by US medics[14].

After the British discovered the Nazis’ meth-like secret weapon in a downed German plane, they decided to develop their own performance-enhancement programme. US General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered half a million Benzedrine tablets for American troops deployed to North Africa in 1942[15].

How effective was Pervitin? The answer is very effective. Created in the 1930s by a German pharmacologist and manufactured by Temmler Pharmaceutical, the methamphetamine Pervitin was marketed for consumption by the general public using a campaign modelled on Coca Cola’s global strategy.

The stimulant was then given to Luftwaffe pilots to keep them awake and alive if their plane were shot down.  In May 1940, German troops under the influence of Pervitin had conquered Poland and were preparing for an attack against France. Ahead of the battle, 35 million Pervitin pills were delivered to three million Wehrmacht soldiers within 10-12 weeks. The Wehrmacht soldiers then managed to fight and march virtually without stopping, covering an average of 22 miles per day[16].

Sources and Further Reading

Picture Credit: “D-DAY – June 6, 1944: Normandy” by Templar1307 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  1. Source:

  2. Source:

  3. Source:

  4. The Yalta Conference was an important conference in which the leaders of the Big Three met in February 1945 to discuss plans for the end of World War II and the future of the world. Yalta is a resort city on the south coast of the Crimean Peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea.The reason it was chosen as the location for the meeting of the Russian, American and british leaders was that Stalin disliked flying and Yalta could be reached more easily from Moscow with only minimal flight time compared to London or the USA.

  5. Source: Promotional text used for Blitzed by Norman Ohler.

  6. Source: – Research has revealed that Adolf Hitler was a regular drug user, particularly Pervitin.

  7. See article in the Independent, dated 12th October 2014:

  8. Source:

  9. Source: Various, including:

  10. See:

  11. See:

  12. Source:

  13. Source: Google Books, HERE.

  14. Source: Google Books, HERE.

  15. Source:

  16. Source:

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