WORLDPOST
06/04/2013 06:33 pm ET

Nazis Took 'Meth' Pills To Stay Alert, Boost Endurance During World War II, Letters Reveal

Getty Images

In an attempt to fuel its youthful but increasingly exhausted fighting force during World War II, the Nazis reportedly turned to addictive and potentially dangerous substances, including a form of what is known today as the illegal drug methamphetamine, currently a rising problem in Europe.

This narcotic-fueled side of the Nazi war effort is illuminated in letters sent home by Nazi soldiers such as Heinrich Boll, a famous German author awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972.

While a soldier in his 20s, Boll wrote to his parents to beg for refills of a drug called Pervitin, an "alertness aid" that was actually an early form of crystal meth, according to German news outlet Der Spiegel. The drug was popularized in the 1930s by Berlin-based company Temmler Werke, and a Nazi officer then passed the compound -- and its "miracle pill" reputation -- along to the German front, which was soon flooded with millions of Pervitin tablets.

The truth about the substance, however, is much less miraculous.

Modern meth users initially experience an intensely pleasurable high and an energy surge, but this high becomes harder and harder to achieve over time. Meanwhile, the drug wreaks havoc on abusers' psyche and brain functions, leading to anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, violent behavior, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions.

A 2005 report by Der Spiegel suggests that even as German leaders were pumping their foot soldiers full of the drug, some German doctors had reservations about it. The Reich's minister of health, Leonardo Conti, reportedly attempted to curtail Previtin use, but had only limited success.

These regulatory efforts could not have been helped much by the fact that Adolf Hitler himself was given daily injections of methamphetamine by his doctor from 1942 until his death in 1945, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, meth was not the only addictive substance used by Nazi troops to perform everyday duties. Alcohol abuse was also prevalent and even encouraged among the German military during the same time period, per Der Spiegel.

Today, the popularity of crystal meth use is growing in Germany, and the drug's prevalence increased significantly in 2012, reports The Local. Dr. Roland Härtel­-Petri, an expert in addiction, psychiatry and psychotherapy, suggested it is easier for meth addicts to escape notice in Germany than it is in the U.S., where anti-drug campaigns use gripping images to publicize the horrifying damage addiction can do to the user's teeth and body.

The drug has also become an issue across the border in the Czech Republic, where it is cooked in small kitchen labs and has proved popular among partiers, according to the Prague Post. The two neighboring countries have vowed to crack down on the fast-spreading stimulant, according to The Local.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Germany Surrenders

CONVERSATIONS