In his new book focusing on the German Home Front during the Second World War, author Nathan Morley describes how the workers unfortunate enough to be bundled off to toil in factories, could find themselves on shifts totalling up to 70-hours-a-week.
“Understandably, such workers were grateful recipients of government supplied stimulants like Pervitin – a pill which achieved a rare level of notoriety,” Morley says.
“It was sold in small cardboard vials with screw-top lids, as an ‘alertness aid’ to ‘maintain wakefulness”.
In fact, the book – Hitler’s Home Front, explains how over 35 million Pervitin tablets had been issued to troops during the French campaign in 1940, and although being classified as a prescription drug – due to the danger of addiction – curbing misuse became impossible. In essence, Pervitin was nothing more than neatly packaged, highly addictive, crystal meth, known nowadays as ‘ice’ or ‘speed’.
“After popping a few pills, soldiers and pilots felt that they could defy danger and fight furiously without needing rest or nourishment,” Morley explains. “Even better, Pervitin kicked-in the ‘happiness hormone’ dopamine, making users euphoric and ooze confidence.”
The after effects of Pervitin could be appalling: sickness, psychotic phases, sweating, dizziness, insomnia, depression, unconstrained fury, hallucinations, and even heart failure. “Inevitably, doctors took a sceptical view of Pervitin but calls to regulate it were ignored, and it remained in production throughout the war,” Morley adds.
“There were many quite bizarre products on the market during the Third Reich, another was a genuinely radioactive toothpaste, which contained Thorium-X. “What is unthinkable these days and looks frighteningly naïve, really did exist.”
Hitler’s Home Front: Life in Nazi Germany during World War Two provides a compelling and comprehensive year-by-year account of ordinary life in wartime Germany, chronicling how the population tried to find normality during an unprecedented emergency and is available from Amazon on March 15th.