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.
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May 1945: Remnants of the German Army in Prague surrendering to the Allies. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
General Alfred Jodl, Hitler's military advisor, controller of German High Command, and chief of the Operations Staff (centre), signs the document of surrender (German Capitulation) of the German armed forces at Reims in General Eisenhower's headquarters. He is joined by Major Wilhelm Oxenius (left) and Hans Georg von Friedeburg, Admiral of the Fleet (right). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
A picture taken 07 May 1945 in Frankfurt am Main shows (from L) British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Soviet Marshal Gregori Zhukov and British Air Chief Marshal Arthud Tedder, toasting in Frankfurt after the signing of the German surrender in Reims. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)
8th May 1945: New Yorkers shout their joy at hearing reports of Germany's unconditional surrender. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
A picture dated 09 May 1945 showing a crowd of Parisians reading the newspapers announcing the unconditionnal German surrender. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)