In 1939, the Nazis made an unprecedented move: they were able to occupy Poland in less than a month. In many ways, they succeeded thanks to a well-developed attack scheme. However, just a deliberate offensive was not enough. The Germans had another weapon that kept the soldiers awake for several days. Only it turned out to be as destructive as it was effective.
During the preparation of the attack on Poland, the command of the Third Reich decided to use the mechanism of the so-called "blitzkrieg" or "lightning war". The principle is to concentrate mechanized units in one place with the aim of breaking through the enemy's defense line and further destroying it.
Hitler after the capture of Poland, 1939.
This tactic made it possible to advance long distances in a short period of time. The author of the "lightning war" in Poland was the commander of the armored forces, Heinz Guderian.
Colonel General Heinz Guderian.
However, as part of the developed strategy, the soldiers were required not to sleep for at least two days in a row. Moreover, this condition was fundamental: in another case, the speed of the attack and advance of the troops falls, the Polish army would have time to mobilize to hold back the offensive - and Guderian's plan would have simply failed. Therefore, the colonel-general personally instructed the crews of the mechanized units that in order to complete the assigned task, they must stay awake for 48 hours. But it was not immediately clear how to do this. The doctors found a way out.
Back in 1937, the German Temmler laboratory developed a new drug called Pervitin. The drug was a derivative of methanfetamine and affected the human body in the following way: after taking it, there was excitement and exacerbation of feelings, the person felt cheerful, full of strength and energy, felt lightness and euphoria, was confident and thought clearly.
The Temmler factory where pervitin was produced.
Initially, pervitin was a commercial drug produced for the civilian population and was actively used in medicine. A year later, its distribution reached a new level: it was even added to confectionery - the substance was in the composition of sweets. But in 1939, pervitin began to be used in the military sphere. Control over the introduction and use of the drug was entrusted to the director of the Institute of General and Military Physiology, psychotherapist Otto Ranke.
Otto Friedrich Ranke.
The psychotherapist officer became seriously interested in research, in particular, he organized a series of tests to analyze the main properties of the drug. The results of the study showed that patients who took pervitin for a long time felt vigorous, energetic, both physically and mentally, and the effect continued to hold even after 10 hours of the "regime" of constant attention.
However, in the course of research, the negative consequences of taking the substance were also revealed: the subjects, being under its influence, were unable to perform tasks of increased complexity.
German armored vehicles during the invasion of Poland.
But these problems did not bother Ranke. He continued to argue that the use of Pervitin was appropriate for the needs of the army, describing it as "an excellent medicine for the immediate revitalization of tired troops," justifying this as follows: actions".
Packaging of the medicine Pervitin.
After a while, after an additional series of tests, Ranke realized that his "medicine" is in fact a drug, the consequence of the regular use of which is the strongest addiction, both physical and psychological. A week before the invasion of Poland, the doctor sent a letter to the medical general of the General Staff of the Army, where he pointed out the potential danger of the substance: "You can give soldiers this medicine without restrictions only in urgent cases, since it, apparently, can have a negative effect." …
German tank in Poland, 1939.
But it was already too late: more than 35 million Pervitin tablets were already manufactured for the German troops, which were soon delivered to the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht. The drug was presented as a "stimulant" and cheaper alternative to caffeine. Also, along with pervitin, a slightly lighter form of it was released - isophene.
The soldiers began taking pills literally from the very beginning of the invasion, on September 1, 1939. Tankers who used pervitin during hostilities sent information about the results. The impressions of many were purely positive: they felt euphoria, cheerfulness, they could work for a long time without fatigue. Moreover, the substance made it easier to endure pain and even dulled the feeling of hunger.
Tanked chocolate containing pervitin.
Having received such encouraging information, Otto Ranke already believed that the use of the drug did not become as dangerous as he believed. However, his initial guesses were correct, and the warnings were forgotten: after the "effect" experienced, the soldiers began to take it regularly, on the eve of each night throw.
The constant use of pervitin led to the fact that the organisms of the tankers got used to it, and they needed more and more pills to maintain the effect. Some had to take already a double dose of the drug. Soon, the practice of uncontrolled drug use began to show more and more negative properties.
An artilleryman under the influence of pervitin.
One of the first symptoms was achromasia - a violation of color perception. Then other side effects appeared: the constant stay in a state of nervous tension caused mental health problems, which led to nervous breakdowns. Younger soldiers experienced bouts of visual and auditory hallucinations, sometimes delusional states.
However, the use of pervitin had another, more severe result: its effect can accumulate over time. According to Novate.ru, many soldiers and officers died from the consequences of uncontrolled intake of the drug months after the capture of Poland, already during the occupation of France.
The soldiers were becoming inadequate.
Doctors, realizing the danger of the drug, in 1941 added it to the list of "restricted substances". But the soldiers, already addicted to pervitin, even in letters to their relatives asked to send another portion of the pills. The flow of drug-drugs to the front did not stop.