Friday, May 31, 2013

On "Panzerschokolade" and other fun German inventions

Not least because a couple of friends have pointed me to it, I thought I would pass along a reference to this fascinating little article from the English-language version of Spiegel Online that explores the origins of 'crystal meth', finding it in late 1930s Germany.

When the then-Berlin-based drug maker Temmler Werke launched its methamphetamine compound onto the market in 1938, high-ranking army physiologist Otto Ranke saw in it a true miracle drug that could keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric. It was the ideal war drug. In September 1939, Ranke tested the drug on university students, who were suddenly capable of impressive productivity despite being short on sleep.

From that point on, the Wehrmacht, Germany's World War II army, distributed millions of the tablets to soldiers on the front, who soon dubbed the stimulant "Panzerschokolade" ("tank chocolate"). British newspapers reported that German soldiers were using a "miracle pill." But for many soldiers, the miracle became a nightmare.

As enticing as the drug was, its long-term effects on the human body were just as devastating. 

And 'devastating', of course, remains an accurate term for the drug's impact.

On discovering that yet another major illegal drug has its origins in German chemistry I was reminded of an earlier post I wrote at this blog pointing out that, in the early 20th century, my adopted homeland was the leading global supplier of cocaine.

The above facts combined with another recent online reference pointed out to me by a friend -- to a Bayer-branded bottle of heroin -- got me thinking.

If we -- as in we Germans -- ever need a new motto to replace 'unity and justice and freedom' (which is, I will admit, not bad), can I now just suggest that the following might be appropriate for the country that invented heroin, cocaine and crystal meth: 'Germany: getting the party started since 1855'.


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