The awarded German journalist and novelist Norman Ohler in Athens

The awarded German journalist and novelist Norman Ohler will be visiting Athens on 22 October 2018, as an invited guest of Athens 2018 World Book Capital by the City of Athens. The writer is going to present his book “Blitzed”, which is just published in Greek by Metaixmio Editions. The book is based on a research about the extended use of drugs during the Nazi times, from the working people and housewives to the soldiers, officers and Hitler himself. The event is taking place at Public Café at Syntagma square at 21.00 (lang. German-Greek).

A few days before arriving in Athens, he shared some thoughts with Athens 2018 World Book Capital and Anna Routsi about his book and the issues he handled:

How did you decide to write a non-fiction book and why this topic? Is it a topic that you believe it hasn’t been investigated that much, is it also a thematic that interests you particularly?

This true story is more interesting than any fiction. I have always been interested in the topic of the Nazi dictatorship, since it effects my family (just as any family in Germany). And, of course, being of the 90’s generation of Techno, and electronic music culture, I am interested in the politics of drugs.

You mention the archives that you turned to for your research, but I wanted to have some more details about the specific data you were based on. It seems that a lot are diaries and letters and Ι guess reports. How did you find and ‘decoded’ them?

I found a lot of data on methamphetamine abuse by the German army – these records are stored in the Military Archive in Freiburg, Germany. Also of interest were the notes of Theo Morell, Hiter’s personal physician, stored in the Federal Archives of Germany. Decoding was possible with the help of a pharmacologist who could explain the specific drugs Hitler used.

Could the extended drug use in Nazi times be an explanation for a horrifying human behavior? Why is it not analysed that much during those after the war decades? And also, can it be an excuse? You write that Hitler is absolutely responsible for what he did, but what about the soldiers, that as you mention were on drugs during the whole war?

The Nazi crimes are not related to drugs. Drugs were used to carry out certain crimes – but since the drugs are not part of the planning of the crimes it does not work as an excuse. 

Soldiers are always in a difficult position in case they are ordered to commit certain acts. That is why the people who give the orders are also responsible. In my opinion, though, also a soldier who simply follows orders is responsible. In World War II it was often easier to carry out crimes while intoxicated (also alcohol played a big role) but it does not excuse this kind of behavior.

At some point towards the end of the book, you say that “Germany, country of drugs, escape from reality and depression was in search for the super junkie and in its’ darkest hour it found it at Hitler’s face”. You refer to the past or also to the present? Could you please share this thought with us?

I refer to the past. Germany now is still an aggressive country, but not on such a pace as it was in the late 30’s and 40’s. We cannot compare today’s leaders with Hitler – even though today’s leaders such as Angela Merkel commit horrific crimes in the name of „democracy“ and the European Union. 

Your book is brand new in Greece. Have you ever been in Greece before? How do you feel about participating in the Athens 2018 World Book Capital programme?

Greece is my favorite country in Europe. I have been a few times, and hope to come back even more. It is a great honor to participate in the Athens WBC 2018.