Pervitin: The Wonder Drug That Fueled Nazi Germany


When Heinrich Böll, the German writer and Nobel laureate, was a young man in his twenties, like many able-bodied youths of his time, he joined the Wehrmacht, the German Armed Forces of Nazi Germany. During World War 2, he served all over Europe as well as the Soviet Union.

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On November 9, 1939, while fighting in occupied Poland, Böll wrote to his parents back home in Cologne: “It's tough out here, and I hope you'll understand if I'm only able to write to you once every two to four days soon. Today I'm writing you mainly to ask for some Pervitin.”

Some months later, he wrote to his family again: “Perhaps you could get me some more Pervitin so that I can have a backup supply?”

Pervitin was Nazi Germany’s wonder drug, one that was designed to enable pilots, sailors and infantry troops deliver superhuman performance. Soldiers who took Pervitin stayed awake for days at a time, walked for miles without resting, and felt no pain or hunger. Today we know this drug as methamphetamine, or crystal meth.


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