The Nazi Speedball


Imagine a pill designed to redefine human motivation and endurance, ridding its taker from both fear and the need of sleep. Such a pill has been the subject of science fiction movies (don’t think I forgot about you, “Limitless”), but what if modern man actually created it? At one point in time, such a pill was believed to be invented, and the group it behind was so strongly convinced in its efficacity that mass production came within inches of happening.

Who else would be behind the creation of a substance that rendered its user both mindless and tireless all at once than the 20th century’s most reviled organization, the Nazis? The year was 1944 and the war, unbeknownst to the depraved experimenters, was nearing its end. It was common knowledge that troops all over the Western front had been using and abusing a synthetic amphetamine called Pervitine to keep them going through long days of combat – some say it not only stimulated the soldiers but transformed them into fearless heroes in the face of gunfire and chaos. But as the drug grew in popularity, so did the young soldier’s resistance to it. Supplies could barely keep up with demand and the Nazis knew they needed to come up with something stronger to give them that extra push against the advancing enemy.

They enlisted the help of the Kiel University labs and by late fall, the new, more potent pill, named D-IX was being tested on prisoners in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Left. Left. Left, right, left. On and on the prisoners were ordered to march nonstop the semicircular courtyard, carrying backpacks weighing over 44 pounds on their backs. They marched and marched, and marched some more until the unfortunate souls would just drop dead right there, giving the supervisors the data they needed on the limits of human endurance the wicked pill would push.

Those who survived the “pill patrol” experiments the longest were said be able to walk over 55 miles in a single day. To Nazis, this was the solution to their problems, a miracle pill that could transfer soldiers into indefatigable robots set to fight longer than any other army could ever dream of.

As we already know, this was too little too late for the vicious scientists: the Allies soon prevailed over the Nazis and the formula for D-IX was hidden away for decades among the war’s countless other secrets.

It was eventually revealed the pill contained 5 mg of oxycodone, 5 mg of cocaine and 3 mg of methamphetamine – the speedball they thought would change the course of history.

—Alix / @alixmcalpine

Artwork by Richard Colman

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