The hipster-as-historian persona occasionally feels forced—Ohler characterizes Hitler as a junkie and his doctors as dealers a few too many times—but the book is an impressive work of scholarship, with more than two dozen pages of footnotes and the blessing of esteemed World War Two historians ... Ohler offers a compelling explanation for Hitler’s erratic behavior in the final years of the war, and how the biomedical landscape of the time affected the way history unfolded ... A number of books have covered the same material as Ohler, but none have focused as strongly on how pharmaceuticals ran in the blood of the Third Reich ... Ohler’s book makes a powerful case for the centrality of drugs to the Nazi war effort, and had he wanted to, he could have easily made it two or three times as long. He only briefly touches on drug experimentation in concentration camps.
There is no other way to put this: Norman Ohler has written a book that is sympathetic to the Nazis ... In Ohler’s narrative, Pervitin is the great untold story of the Third Reich. In Germany, he writes in Blitzed, the drug 'landed like a bomb, spread like a virus, sold like sliced bread, and was soon as much of a fixture as a cup of coffee.' More importantly, Pervitin 'allowed the individual to function in the dictatorship.' This is a dangerous assertion, one that mitigates individual responsibility, and suggests that Hitler’s rise may have been facilitated by a collective German drug high. As Ohler knows, there is scant evidence to actually support his remarkable claim ... Blitzed offers an unnecessary and misguided revision of history, concocted with circumstantial evidence and unsubstantiated claims.
The strengths of Ohler’s account lie not only in the rich array of rare documents he mines and the archival images he reproduces to accompany the text, but also in his character studies ... the larger conclusions Ohler draws are unsubstantiated. For whether the availability of Pervitin was simply a supplemental aid or whether it provides an essential explanation for the success of the blitzkrieg approach remains an open question. Similar problems arise in the other major tale at the heart of Blitzed: Hitler’s own journey into addiction...This is a thesis pieced together from a mix of hard evidence and complete speculation. No full history of these dark times can ever be so simple, and Ohler’s analysis does not withstand close scrutiny ... while “Blitzed” makes for provocative reading, and while the encouragement to look at the Third Reich from a fresh vantage point is salutary, anyone seeking a deepened understanding of the Nazi period must be wary of a book that provides more distraction and distortion than clarification.
Although Ohler’s book does not fundamentally change the history of the Third Reich, it is an account that makes us look at this densely studied period rather differently ... Ohler is on less certain ground when he ascribes Hitler’s famous order to halt the tanks short of Dunkirk to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring’s morphine dependency ... Ohler’s book may well irritate some historians; he makes flippant remarks and uses chapter titles such as 'Sieg High!' and 'High Hitler.' But as Ian Kershaw, the great biographer of Hitler, has recognized, he has written 'a serious piece of scholarship,' and one that is very well researched.
...a revelatory work...that rare sort of book whose remarkable insight focuses on a subject that’s been overlooked, even disregarded by historians ... Ohler makes a strong case that one of the most powerful men on the planet — 'Patient A,' as the dictator was known to his personal physician — became a junkie.
Ohler goes much further than claiming that methamphetamine was central to the German military effort, however. He claims that its use was universal among the civilian population of Germany, too...This sweeping generalisation about a nation of 66 to 70 million people has no basis in fact ... What’s more, it is morally and politically dangerous. Germans, the author hints, were not really responsible for the support they gave to the Nazi regime, still less for their failure to rise up against it ... Ohler is of course aware of the moral implications of this argument, and in a brief paragraph he provides a disclaimer suggesting that 'this drug use did not impinge on his [Hitler’s] freedom to make decisions,' and concludes that 'he was anything but insane.' But the two pages in which he makes these points are contradicted by everything he says in the other 279 pages ... Ohler’s skill as a novelist makes his book far more readable than these scholarly investigations, but it’s at the expense of truth and accuracy, and that’s too high a price to pay in such a historically sensitive area.
Ohler has a habit of pushing things too far, eschewing nuance for headlines. He proclaims Pervitin the 'favourite drug' of Germans, when it was only briefly available over the counter. He proclaims Germany a 'land of drugs,' when hard drugs were endemic elsewhere, too ... There are some memorable passages here, as well as some jarring ones, where Ohler appears to mix fact and fiction: several highly cinematic scenes — complete with close-ups of Hitler’s pale face and body — are not fully referenced ... The story of the 'fat doctor' (as Ohler dubs Dr Morrell) is based on some diligent research. But it is buried beneath the breathless prose, like other interesting aspects of the book. Again and again, Ohler’s hyperbole stands in the way of sober understanding.
Even in translation, Ohler is an unfailingly engaging guide to all this sordid material, sketching the long history of his subject and the surprisingly widespread infiltration of all kinds of powerful stimulants into German civilian society ... Over and over, he portrays Hitler and his leading henchmen as drug addicts so strung out on cocaine and amphetamines that they could scarcely think of anything else...If this isn't a portrait of what law enforcement knows as 'diminished capacity,' it would be hard to imagine what would be. The fact of that drug use is now unavoidable. Making sense of its implications lies outside of the purview of Blitzed – and will be the work of future historians.