The Story Behind Norman Ohler’s Drug-Heavy Nazi History

The novelist’s latest book, the nonfiction title “Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich,” was published in the U.S. on Tuesday.
Young conscripted recruits undergo a medical examination in Berlin, Germany on June 22, 1937.
04_14_Nazi_01 Source: Keystone/Getty

When Norman Ohler was just a kid, he and his grandfather were playing the board game Mensch ärgere Dich nicht, similar to Parcheesi. He and his classmates had just had one of their early-and-often lessons on the Third Reich, which perhaps even then included horrible footage filmed by American troops while liberating Buchenwald. Ohler wanted to know what his grandfather’s role was in Nazi Germany. So he asked. His grandfather disappeared for a few moments into the yellow house he’d built after the war on the edge of the small town Ohler grew up in. He returned to hand Ohler an envelope containing his Nazi party membership booklet and a swastika pin. He didn’t say much, and Ohler says he was too young to know what to make of this odd “inheritance.”

But he was aware that sometimes, when there was a problem in the democratic West Germany of the 1980s, his maternal grandfather would say that “under Hitler, this never would have happened,” or that “under Hitler, everything was in order.” Ohler’s grandfather portrayed the Nazis as “clean-cut.” Ohler would later discover that many Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, weren’t as clean-cut as his grandfather remembered.

His most recent book was released in the U.S. on Tuesday with the title Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich and translation by Shaun Whiteside. It was a bestseller in its native Germany—published under the title Der totale Rausch (The total intoxication

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