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Drugs and Death in Nazi Germany

Terrifying and intriguing article in the NYTimes, reviewing Norman Ohler's new book Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany:

From the review:

“Blitzed” begins with Germany’s success in the 19th century as the world’s pre-eminent inventors, manufacturers and exporters of drugs, ranging from the benign (aspirin) to the infamous (heroin). One of those drugs was meth, which was initially marketed over the counter to the German public as an all-purpose upper that beat back everything from depression to hay fever.

Red, white and blue tubes of pills, sold under the trade name Pervitin, caught the attention of a doctor at the Academy of Military Medicine in Berlin, who would oversee the logistics of ferrying millions of pills to troops. Hopped-up soldiers would sprint tirelessly through the Ardennes at the onset of war, an adrenalized performance that left Winston Churchill “dumbfounded,” as he wrote in his memoirs. A German general would later gloat that his men had stayed awake for 17 straight days.

“I think that’s an exaggeration,” Mr. Ohler said, “but meth was crucial to that campaign.”

"Mendelssohn, the Nazis, and me"

This movie by Sheila Hayman, a direct descendant of the Mendelssohn family, digs into Felix's religion and how the family's heritage and conversions affected their descendants during the Nazi years. Read more here:

Felix Mendelssohn was a passionate Christian. He was also born a Jew. This film, marking the 200th anniversary of his birth, tells the extraordinary story of what happened, generations later, both to Mendelssohn's family and to his music, when the Nazis remembered the Jewish roots of Germany's most celebrated composer.
Growing up in a London suburb, I never thought much about my relationship with Felix Mendelssohn. I always felt a bit weird but I put that down to having a father with a strong German accent and eccentric table manners.
— Sheila Hayman

"Never again"

I wanted to share some excerpts from “What Old Nazis Make Us Remember,” an article in the NY Times by Anna Sauerbrey, published on May 1st, 2015. (read the whole thing here)

Anna is an editor on the opinion page of Der Tagesspiegel.

The article is a reaction to the trial of Oskar Groning, 93-year-old “accountant of Auschwitz," who was charged with complicity in the murder of at least 300,000 people. It is the remaining "old Nazis," the perpetrators, who remind us of how bureaucratic and "normal" their perception of horrific, widespread murder was. We have to actively practice tolerance, to make clear that "never again" cannot be taken for granted.

From the article (emphases mine):

"Survivors of the Holocaust still regularly speak in classrooms in Germany. Everyone reads the “Diary of Anne Frank,” over and over. I have read it knowing that my grandparents had at least tolerated the regime that murdered her – and that both my grandfathers served in the war. We have all grown up with the vague feeling of inherited guilt.

It is the horrifying, mind-wrecking banality of evil condensed in a sentence like “that’s how things went in a concentration camp” that has sustained the German self-narrative of guilt, much more than compassion ever could have.

Mr. Groning makes us question ourselves. I, too, am afraid I wouldn’t have resisted. The victims tell us: We must never forget. The perpetrators say: we might do it again.

One afternoon, when I was a teenager, I asked my grandfather, “Didn’t you know back then?” His answer took me by surprise. “How could we have known?” he said with a violence that revealed more than his actual answer.

One day, when my young son takes an interest in German literature, he’ll inevitably read Gunther Grass. But as strong and indicting as a novel like “The Tin Drum” is, it won’t have the same effect as being confronted with Oskar Groning, or being uncertain about your own grandfather’s moral integrity. How will he understand his own responsibility, as a German, to combat ideologies of hatred and prevent crimes against humanity?

We must find a new narrative, a new way to ensure “never again.” Not through ideology, but through action – for example by more generously helping the refugees that seek asylum in our country. Instead of trying to transfer a vague feeling inherited guilt to yet another generation, we should change from remembering what we must never forget, to knowing why."

Migrants, Nationalism, and Fear

"Anyone who says these things in public “is immediately labeled a Nazi,” he said. Often, my efforts to talk to local residents were met with reticence. Graf von Rechberg, the priest, told me Germany’s “brown history” — a reference to the Nazi era — made many people reluctant to voice their true feelings."