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3.6 Stars

A short, readable, layman's take on drug use in the Nazi regime. This isn't so much a magisterial history book as it is an author who found an interesting angle and sources and then ran with it. The book is full of stories and tidbits and stats about Nazi drug use and policy, and looks at the entire Nazi period through the lens of pharmacology. The Communists had a phrase which I like, "Being is consciousness". They meant it mostly in class terms, but I think it is even more apt when expanded to look at the whole body system rather than just your job. This book makes frequent use of the "Being is consciousness" view to explain Hitler's policy/military actions through his doping regimen.

Around 20% of the book covers the institutional role of drugs in German society and the third reich. For example, there is the the 35 million doses of meth that they ordered and distributed to the military before the invasions of Poland and France (best name for it: "Pilot's Salt"). Or later on there were the wild experiments to try to find a miracle drug that could banish tiredness in the pilots of single-man submarines. It turns out that a massive dose of cocaine, meth, and oxy is not the answer. Instead this just leads to your submariners hallucinating for 4 days straight before coming down and immediately surrendering to the first people they see. Other interesting bits of institutional trivia include the Nazi War on Drugs (which resembles our own about as much as you would expect), the tons of pure cocaine shipped around by the Nazi intelligence services as bribes to their allies, and how drug experimentation programs tied together the army, navy, SS, and the concentration camps. Oh, and the use of meth laced chocolates, meth laced chewing gum, meth tablets, and meth-paste tubes. Meth! It's a hell of a drug.

The other 80% of the book is the more personal tale of Dr. Morell, who became the doctor and personal drug distributor to Hitler. Morell started off catering to high end Berliners, offering shots and other cures. He was recommended to Hitler's personal photographer to take care of an STD, and that in turn earned Morell an invitation to a dinner with Hitler, who was suffering from digestive problems. Morell treated this with a fecal transplant, which was sensible and worked, and which in turn earned Morell the present of a large mansion in a ritzy neighborhood and his initial place as Hitler's physician. A this point Morell was basically riding a tiger; he now had a large mansion that he couldn't afford the maintenance on, as well as a murderous dictator who was constantly looking to him for cures/fixes. Morell made the best of the situation though. He quickly learned to abuse his position of influence, and to secure his position by doping Hitler up on ever wilder ingredients. Over five years he took the dictator on a grand journey across the entire field of pharmacology. I think the only thing Morell didn't inject him with was marijuana. He did though use glucose, caffeine, meth, morphine, cocaine, oxy, a variety of heart medications and uppers, belladonna, strychnine, testosterone, ground up and liquefied animal organs, glands, and testes, and approximately 80 other substances. In a typical week there could be dozens of injections and pills. There are many stories about this, but two of my favorite are:
1) Hitler was feeling very low and nearly catatonic because he was obviously losing the war and his health was in shambles and he had an upcoming meeting with Mussolini where it looked like the other dictator was going to break up with him and withdraw from the war. Morell comes up with one his best injections yet, sending Hitler into the stratosphere. Hitler pops up and goes to his meeting, where he literally talks for three hours straight, not allowing Mussolini to get a single word in edge-wise (sound like anyone we know?). In frustration Mussolini puts off the break up for a later date.
2) Morell needed money to pay for the upkeep on his house, since even though Morell was Hitler's physician the job carried only a nominal salary. So he has the plan to get into the "vitamin" business and creates his own brand of vitamin cakes (basically little sugar pastries with a few odd herbs in them). First he convinces Hitler to eat them, with the idea that once Hitler is doing it everyone else will want to. And it works! From there it spreads to the general staff, and from there Morell picks up contracts to sell his vitamin cakes to the army and to the civilian population. Morell tries to sell them to the air force, however a competent general in the air force looks into it and refuses to buy, on the grounds that they don't need to purchase over priced lemon bars and send a dozen of them up with every plane as essential materials. Morel in turn uses his influence and has the general fired, so that he can continue his biscuit-selling scheme in order to pay for his mansion. Teutonic efficiency at its finest.

Anyway! I liked this book overall. It has a wealth of interesting details, it provides a compelling explanation for some of the high level Nazi dysfunction and bad decisions, and it never wavers from depicting these people as terribly as they deserve.