Ever wondered why the Nazis are zombies in Call of Duty? Turns out that the Wehrmacht, Germany’s World War II army, distributed millions of Pervitin tablets, or “Panzerschokolade” (“tank chocolate”) as it was known, to soldiers on the front to boost their awareness and energy levels. You may know Pervitin by its modern name, methamphetamine, or crystal meth.
Letters have been found from soldiers, including Nobel Prize in literature winner Heinrich Boll, writing home for the “alertness aid” Pervitin. Boll’s letter dated May 20, 1940, contains a request: "Perhaps you could obtain some more Pervitin for my supplies?" He claims that they were as effective at keeping him awake as several cups of coffee, and helped him temporarily forget the trials and terrors of war.
Known as a “miracle pill,” Pervitin was popularized in the 1930s by Berlin-based company Temmler Werker. Hitler himself was known to have taken daily injections of the methamphetamine from 1942 until his death in 1945. In a four month span in 1940 more than 35 million three-milligram doses of Pervitin were manufactured for the German army and air force.
This practice continued after the war, with Temmler Werke distributing the pills to both the East and West German armies. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the West Germans removed the drug, and until 1988 for the East.
Today the hazards of such drugs are well known. Although users initially experience an intensely pleasurable high and energy surge, the drug wreaks havoc on brain function, often leading to anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, violent behavior, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions.
News of Hitler using crystal meth to keep his soldiers awake has even inspired a parody of the 2004 film Downfall: