BBC History Magazine
Is it true that Hitler and his top generals were drug addicts?
Ron Nicholas, Bracknell
Much ink has been spilt on this subject over recent years – but, regrettably, only some of it has resisted the lure of hyperbole and described the situation accurately.
Hitler, certainly, had what we might call a drug problem. An obsessive hypochondriac, he was easy prey for the dubious quackery of his personal physician, Dr Theodor Morell.
Consequently, by the end of his life, Hitler was on a cocktail of drugs that included painkillers, methamphetamine injections, cocaine eyedrops, bovine testosterone and indigestion tablets containing strychnine and belladonna. The extent to which these treatments directly affected his decision-making is unknown and unprovable, but it is certainly fair to assume that he was at least psychologically addicted to the drug that was most regularly administered; the painkiller Oxycodone.
The head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, meanwhile, also had a drug problem, being addicted to morphine ever since being shot during Hitler’s abortive Munich Putsch of 1923.
The extent of his addiction is disputed by historians, with some suggesting that he was mainly given placebos by his doctors, but he seems nonetheless to have maintained at least a manageable habit until he was weaned off the drug by Allied doctors at the end of the war.
Low-level drug use – especially of the stimulant Pervitin – was not uncommon in Nazi Germany, but, beyond Hitler and Göring, there are no other senior members of the German political or military hierarchy during the Second World War who one might sensibly class as ‘drug addicts’.