Blitzed Baby! Psychedelic Marines, Subterranean Dreams & the Heroin Epidemic
Hilarious two-minute clip of British Marines in 1964 after secretly being
administered LSD-laced water.
"Don't listen to me. I'm on mescaline. I've been spaced out all day."
Mescaline was the first hallucinatory substance that I tried in my youth.
"You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday
you'll join us, and the world will be as one."
In the interesting and mind-boggling topic of drugs and the Nazis, Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler, takes the reader through the dirty details of the Third Reich and its stance on mind-altering substances while hypocritically appeasing its unquenchable thirst for crystal meth. Blitzed is a reference-filled narrative that is at times funny, serious, and replete with tidbits of information about a topic that hasn't been completely broached until now.
Prior to reading Ohler's book, I came across some reviews of Blitzed that criticized its content as taking creative liberties with history, painting a not entirely accurate account of events. However, as I have posted several months back, history is perhaps one of the most challenging topics to tackle, as it can be approached from a myriad of angles and perspectives. For instance, I have books on the Normandy invasion that chronicle both the German and American perspectives, each book highlighting its individual frame of reference that separates it from its counterpoint. Ohler likewise makes a point of this in his book. He also addresses his concern over previous historical biographies about Hitler and the omission or disregard for the dictator's dangerously high medication consumption. Furthermore, he underscores the challenges of having to sift through the vastly chaotic archives in the US and in Germany, adding a complex layer to the already challenging aspect of writing about history.
The synergistic blend of the Pervitin high and "autotelic violence" allowed soldiers to remain impervious to the psychological consequences of war, killing for the sake of killing and the pleasure derived from "mowing down" civilians.
Pervitin (crystal meth) would eventually unravel the Werhmacht into withdrawal and a state of dysphoria, but at the beginning of the war, the "snow-white splendor" dispensed in pill form as well as in chocolate (sometimes called Panzerschokolade—tank chocolate; distributed by Hildebrand chocolates) was in high demand. Perceived as a miracle drug, Pervitin quelled all kinds of ailments, from fatigue to low libido and everything in between.
For soldiers in particular, fatigue was the primary adversary. Otto Ranke, defense physiologist for the Third Reich, "declared a war on exhaustion," rapidly embracing Pervitin as a panacea. Those who consumed it praised the drug's ability to diminish sleep for 24 hours or more. Pervitin could produced euphoric states which often resulted in lowered inhibitions, transforming the soldiers into jacked-up "animated engines" responsible for successfully undertaking Blitzkrieg.
The synergistic blend of the Pervitin high and "autotelic violence" allowed soldiers to remain impervious to the psychological consequences of war, killing for the sake of killing and the pleasure derived from "mowing down" civilians. Pain stemming from injuries incurred during battle were reduced with Pervitin. Fear of dying was all but eliminated.
This was a gift from the gods, although time would prove that this powerful drug had its terrible consequences.
"Damn girl, you have gorgeous veins!": From Heroin Dreamscape to Heroin Epidemic
I was in my early 20s in the early 1990s, during what I considered to be a revival of the "Subterranean" lifestyle, filled with uninhibited hallucinatory states of living a Kerouac-inspired life. I desired to traverse the American landscape with friends, from Orlando to Seattle, stopping along the way to meet other neo-hippie punks full of creative aspiration—girls with shaved heads, boys with long hair—hooked on music, shirking responsibility, escaping reality to the fullest. And as I look back at my youth, I don't regret a single part of it. I was free, creative, passionate and perpetually pushing the limits of my existence.
But despite my bohemian lifestyle, I never tried heroin. I had friends who shot up. Sometimes in front of me. I recall a moment when I received the strangest of compliments.
"Damn girl, you have gorgeous veins!" One of my heroin-addicted friends said of my strong and branching vessels, my interior beauty, blood-red, bulging and succulent.
Back then, I romanticized heroin. My idols at the time had all done it—William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain, and my friend Jack whose poetic genius, Gatsby-esq wealth, and James Dean looks made him the coveted demigod in our group of friends. Heroin-inspired films ruled supreme. Drugstore Cowboy was one of my favorite films at the time—the junky posse and that scrawny blond boy tanked on meth.
Then Jack fatally overdosed in his girlfriend's arms, carving out my first negative experience with heroin. More deaths soon followed and before I knew it, my adopted home state of Vermont, like much of New England, became ravaged by the Heroin Epidemic.
In my day job, many of my clients are personally afflicted by heroin in one form or another. There are countless stories of death and if I don't personally know the victim, I certainly know someone who does. In this bucolic town, heroin has destroyed everything that once made this place a nice getaway from the concrete jungles. The community is virtually non-existent. We've all become too suspicious of one another.
Gone are the days when heroin was a distant muse that I vicariously experienced through media and friends. Gone is my youthful fearlessness brought on by mind-altering substances (although I still consume marijuana in edible form, albeit sparingly). What remains is my ability to transcend the here and now and to drift into the past—to what I deem as seemingly less dangerous days when I was still young and naive.
To bring this post to full circle, I must pose a question: What would've happened if WWII troops had all taken LSD instead of amphetamines (in the UK) and methamphetamines (in Germany)? If the top video featured in this post is any indication, then I'd like to believe that Blitzkrieg would've turned into Blitzedbaby! and soldiers from opposing sides would've fallen to the ground in uncontrollable laughter. And if John Lennon's "Imagine" had been around, its lyrics would've been the basis for a peace treaty drawn up on acid.
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler.