Saturday November 18, 2017

Book Review: ‘Blitzed – Drugs in Nazi Germany’- Straight dope about the Fuehrer and the Nazi war machine

Reasons that explain the performance of Hitler's irresistible troops who vanquished Poland in barely over a month and overran Western Europe within six weeks

Nazi war troops
Nazi's Germany troops. Wikimedia

June 12, 2017: Title: Blitzed – Drugs in Nazi Germany; Author: Norman Ohler (translated by Shaun Whiteside); Publisher: Penguin Books; Pages: 368; Price: Rs 499

His vegetarianism, teetotalism, non-smoking and concern for animals (his regime had stringent laws for their protection and mulled closing slaughterhouses) didn’t prevent Adolf Hitler’s megalomania, psychopathic racism and callous disregard for human suffering. But did these or a string of erratic decisions that lost him the war stem only from his strange mind or some external stimuli aggravate them?

Or for that matter, what can explain the performance of his irresistible troops who vanquished Poland in barely over a month (helped by Stalin) and overran Western Europe within six weeks. Professional competence, their opponents’ errors, belief in their messianic leader or something else entirely?

ALSO READ: Scientists discover Adolf Hitler’s Secret Nazi Base ‘Schatzgraber’ in the Arctic

Behind both, contends German author Norman Ohler in this eye-opening book, were drugs — no matter how incongruous for a regime with a fetish for fostering pure and healthy living patterned on an idealised past, which launched a major anti-smoking campaign, and a strict anti-drug policy.

But, as is common to most ideological regimes, practising what they preach does not always happen and, in the process, quite a bit of what we know about the German conduct of the Second World War acquires a new aspect from Ohler’s stunning revelations.

“National Socialism was toxic, in the truest sense of the word. It gave the world a chemical legacy that still affects us today: A poison that refuses to disappear. On one hand, the Nazis presented themselves as clean-cut and enforced a strict, ideologically underpinned anti-drug policy with propagandistic pomp and draconian punishments.

“In spite of this, a particularly potent and perfidious substance became a popular product under Hitler. This drug carved out a great career for itself all over the German Reich….,” says Ohler, an award-winning German novelist, screenwriter, and journalist.

In this eye-opening book, which took him five years to research, visiting numerous archives in Germany and the US and interviewing witnesses, military historians and doctors, he first traces the role of ‘Volksdrogge’ (people’s drug) Pervitin in enabling the “blitzkreig”.

But this can only be seen in context with Germany’s long tryst with chemical drugs, starting in the early 19th century and the unified nation becoming the world leader in producing opiates and cocaine.

Ohler goes on to recount these drugs’ heavy domestic use in the “decadent” Weimar period after World War I and the Nazis’ abhorrence and action against them after coming to power. While he details Hitler’s first meeting and treatment by portly Munich doctor Theodor Morell who would go on to change the Fuehrer’s life, the key part is about Pervitin.

Describing the genesis of the drug, comprising powerful stimulant methamphetamine, he sketches its effects (and side-effects) but above all its aggressive marketing to power the “new Germany” envisaged by the Nazis.

Germans, he notes, did not need much urging. “The so-called ‘speedamin’ 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,” says Ohler, noting users encompassed students, nurses on night duty, secretaries, actors, writers, workers on conveyor belts, furniture packers, firemen, barbers, night watchmen, train and lorry drivers and even housewives.

And when the war broke out, Pervitin powered the stupendous performance of German arms — but not without cost and controversy — while the morphine addiction of another key figure resulted in a major strategic blunder.

Parallel is the story of Hitler, who once drew strength from adulation of crowds but from 1941 onwards to a varied cocktail of drugs injected regularly by Morell as Ohler seeks to investigate “what did Hitler really take, and what is its significance?”

Combining Morell’s unique medicines ranging from sexual hormones to eventually cocaine, with Hitler’s condition and surroundings and the war’s progress, Ohler makes a compelling, quite convincing, case how the dictator’s declining health and increasingly losing grip on reality affected the conflict’s outcome.

Alongside there is also the story of how Morell also sought to benefit from his closeness to power to create his fortune from his questionable medical products before the advancing Allies destroyed his dreams.

While as noted, Ohler’s account will spark a rethink about the Nazis, it will also have a resonance among perceptive readers about present conditions and the myth of strong, inspired leaders. (IANS)

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Austrian Government to Demolish Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler’s Birth House

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the new structure will be used thereafter by either a charity or the local authorities

FILE - This Sept. 27, 2012, photo shows an exterior view of Adolf Hitler's birth house, front, in Braunau, Austria. Austria's government said on Mondaythat it plans to tear down the house and replace it with a new building.VOA

Austria, October 18, 2016: After years of bitter legal wrangling, the Austrian government announced plans Monday to demolish the house where Adolf Hitler was born and replace it with a new building in efforts to erase any link to the Nazi dictator’s birthplace.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in an exclusive interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presse the Hitler house in the western town of Braunau will be torn down. He said the new structure “will be used thereafter by either a charity or the local authorities.”

Sobotka said he wants to ensure any association with Hitler be eliminated and to prevent Hitler’s birthplace from becoming a kind of “pilgrimage [site] and memorial” for neo-Nazis.

The owner had repeatedly refused to sell the building. It is unclear whether she changed her mind or if the government dispossessed her.

Sobotka said, “a thorough architectural remodelling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building.”

Die Presse provided the following information about the house:

– Hitler was born in the house in Braunau, at “Salzburger Vorstadt 15” on April 20, 1889, but the family moved elsewhere in the town a few weeks after his birth.

– In 1938, Hitler’s confidant Martin Bormann bought the building at a high price. The Nazis rehabilitated the house and established a “cultural center” there.

– By the end of World War II, Nazis tried to blow up the building, but Americans entered the town before such plans were materialized.

– In 1952, the original owner’s family bought the house back and a library was set up. Afterwards, a school, a bank and a technical institute rented the rooms until it became a home for the disabled, but they moved to more modern homes in 2011 because the owner did not agree to the necessary accommodation changes of the house.

– In 2012, there were plans to demolish the house. Russian politician Franz Klinzewitsch wanted to buy the building and demolish it, but nothing went through, since the house was under monument protection as a building from the 17th century.

– Negotiations about selling the house to the Austrian Republic had failed. The house is empty and needs a general renovation. The owner nevertheless earns money from it, because the Ministry of the Interior and the town of Braunau pay their monthly rent of 4,700 euros.(VOA)

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Swastika (卐) : How 12,000 year-old Symbol of Good Luck became Symbol of Evil and its significance in Hinduism

It is one of the 108 symbols of the Hindu God, Vishnu as well as a symbol of the Sun and of the Hindu Sun God, Surya

Swastika symbol on elephant statue. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

August 30, 2016: The word Swastika, originated from a Sanskrit word Svasti-, “su” meaning “well” and “asti” meaning “being,” which means fortune, good luck and well being. This symbol is found in the It is an ancient symbol, considered to be highly propitious, found worldwide, but especially common in India, among Hinduism and later among Buddhism and Jainism.

The symbol of Swastika is spotted almost everywhere. While some see it as a symbol of peace or prosperity, other believe it as a symbol of luck or hope- depending on when and where it is used. Swastika is very common in Hindu art, architecture and decoration. This symbol has religious significance attached to it and therefore it finds a special place in the wedding decorations, doorways, wedding cards, temples, clothing, cars, and much more, especially among Hindus. But, what’s the reason behind Swastika, to be considered so significant

The reason why ‘Swastika’ is considered to be significant in several religions and for several religious purposes are mentioned below-

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Hindu child with head shaven and red Swastika painted on it as part of his Upanayana ceremony. Image source: Wikipedia
Hindu child with head shaven and red Swastika painted on it as part of his Upanayana ceremony. Image source: Wikipedia

The ‘Swastika’ is a cross of four arms- of equal lengths with the ends of each arm bent at a right angle. It is one of the 108 symbols of the Hindu God, Vishnu as well as a symbol of the Sun and of the Hindu Sun God, Surya. These four arms of ‘Swastika’ represents, the four main directions: North, South, East and West; the four Vedas: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva; the four aims of human life called ‘Purushartha’ in Sanskrit: Dharma, Arth, Kama, and Moksha; and the four stages of life, called ‘Ashrams’: Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and Sannyas.

The right side of Swastika represents the rotation of The Sun, which begins from the northern hemisphere to pass from the East, then South and finally to West whereas, the left side of the Swastika, is named as Sauvastika- that represents the God of Darkness, Goddess Kali n Hinduism. Though, this form is most commonly used amongst Buddhism.

Buddhist temple, with the sign of Svastika. Image source: Wikipedia Commons.
Buddhist temple, with the sign of Sauvastika. Image source: Wikipedia Commons.

Apart from these religious significances, numerous other importance is attached to the symbol, especially by people belonging to the Hindu community. Therefore ‘Swastika’ is considered as-

  • a lucky object that is believed to bring peace and happiness
  • a mark of good luck and fortune, designed on a human body (in palm lines), a place or a thing- associated with Goddess Laxmi, and other deities
  • a meeting place of four roads regarded as the meeting place of four guardians of direction or ‘Dikpala’, which leads to better chance of meeting people from all directions- resulting in more trade and wealth to the traders from all directions
  • a particular form of sitting posture by a yogini, at the practice of Laxmi Tantra or any other forms of Tantras
  • a free spirited happy woman and much more is associated with the symbol

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Swastik symbol used by Nazis. Image source: Pixabay
Swastik symbol used by Nazis. Image source: Pixabay

How the symbol became evil-

Now, you might be wondering that, how the Swastika, being such a sacred symbol, with a lot of positivity, could be banned in some countries like Germany and Poland! According to this Jewish community, it is one of the symbols of hatred that means: Nazism, Evil, and Death. The reason behind this is that the Nazis adopted this symbol, as it was understood as an Aryan symbol indicating racial purity and superiority.

Not known to many, Adolph Hitler was an artist and when i 1920, he was assigned the charge of propaganda for the fledgling National Socialist Party, he developed an idea to create an extremely vivid symbol for the party so that his party can be distinguished from the rival groups. As a result, known to many, as a symbol of purity, people got attracted to it and Hitler

As a result, known to many, as a symbol of purity, people got attracted to it and Hitler selected the ‘swastika’ symbol as the emblem of ‘racial purity’ displayed on a red background to win over the confidence of the workers.

The Swastika is also known as the Hakenkreusz, Gammadion cross, Cross Cramponnee, Pellabydren and Tetraskelion according to places where it has been adopted. It is regarded as the first Christian symbol. In the early 20th century, Rudyard Kipling had used it as his coat-of-arms and American pilots used to put it on planes during World War I.

– by Riashe Chakraborty from NewsGram. Twitter: @itzriashe


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Donald Trump: Nip the evil in the bud


Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, unfortunately, evokes terrible memories of Adolf Hitler, a man whose hatred for Jews knew no bound, to the extent that he was on the verge of exterminating them. First the Jews were segregated and forced to live in ghettoes in horrible conditions in the 1930s and 40s. They were also required to wear an identifying mark under the threat of death.

Millions of Jews were allegedly killed in concentration camps set up on Hitler’s orders through most painful means like gassing them to death in groups. Horrible medical experiments were conducted on them as though they were lab rats.

The terrible part of this saga is that Hitler had clearly expounded on his hatred for Jews in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ in 1925, years before he implemented his appalling plans. Yet the international community did nothing about the man who would be responsible for so much death and destruction after being ‘elected’ to power by the Germans.

Here are some excerpts from Mein Kampf:

“And so he [the Jew] advances on his fatal road until another force comes forth to oppose him, and in a mighty struggle hurls the heaven-stormer back to Lucifer. Germany is today the next great war aim of Bolshevism. It requires all the force of a young missionary idea to raise our people up again, to free them from the snares of this international serpent…”

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

Republican front-runner Donald Trump set the cat among pigeons when he suggested that there should be a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States until the country’s representatives could figure out, “what the hell is going on.”

Trump does not even try to hide his tremendous dislike for Muslims and minces no words in elucidating how to deal with ‘radical Islam’; the most worrying aspect is that with each of his controversial statement his poll numbers seem to be going north.

America does have issues, but the solutions offered by Trump to those problems are too radical and extreme in nature. For instance, he wants to build a ‘big wall’ on the US-Mexico border in a bid to prevent illegal immigration from their neighbor.

“We’re going to do a wall; we’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall; we’re going to have people come in, but they’re going to come in legally,” Trump vowed. 

Trump seeks surveillance of mosques and a national database to register all Muslims living in the US to protect the country against terrorism. He also wants a ban on entry of Muslim refugees fleeing violence and destruction in Syria because “we do not know who they are.”

What others call xenophobia, racism, bigotry and white supremacism, Trump considers ‘common sense’.

And when he’s confronted on his outrageous ideas, he brings people’s attention on huge, cheering crowds at “my rallies who gave me a standing ovation when I read out my statement.”

He has been excoriated by his own Republican colleagues, but their concerns roll off Trump like water of a duck’s back.

“I am not bothered because I believe I am doing the right thing. I have common sense,” he told a CNN anchor.

Islamaphobia has been there in the United States for a long time, especially after the 9/11 attacks it grew at a rapid pace among the citizens. Trump is apparently just speaking what’s there on many of the American minds; his growing popularity is a testament to this fact.

But Hitler was also ‘popular’ among Germans. In fact, he was democratically elected by his fellow countrymen despite being aware of his radical views and plans. They should have known who they were voting for, so should the Americans now. For what happens in the US will have ramifications for the whole world.

“One has to wonder what Donald Trump will say next as he ramps up his anti-Muslim bigotry,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted as saying by The Washington Post, adding that “Where is there left for him to go? Are we talking internment camps? Are we talking the final solution to the Muslim question? I feel like I’m back in the 1930s.”

The world cannot afford another Hitler, especially not in America. This evil should be nipped in the bud.