Nazi Germany and Chemicals

The History vault

New chemical compounds are discovered or created regularly, some are created where the properties can already be guessed at, others are complete surprises, in 1930 a new compound was discovered by Ruff and Krug in Germany. It was very volatile so was ignored until a few years later interest was rekindled by Nazi scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

It was here the compound was dubbed n-stoff (substance n) and it showed some remarkable properties. It boiled at room temperature and produced a toxic gas, if the gas ignited (which it did VERY easily) it burned at over 2,400 degrees Celsius. If it decomposed, it turned into a hydrofloric and hydrochloric acid, usually in steam form. It was corrosive and explosive on contact with water.

If it bonded with carbon it would form an explosive that if touched would detonte. It turned out to be a better oxidising agent than…oxygen. What does that mean in layman’s terms? It was so good at setting fire to things that it made substances you wouldn’t normally consider flammable, flammable- like sand or glass or … asbestos.

Research and production was moved to Falkenhagen Industrial Complex and bunker network in Brandenburg. Here it was manufactured with other nasty chemicals like Sarin gas. The plan was to produce 50 tons of n-stoff a month and use it to melt defences, burn tanks, destroy armies, set fire to cities. It really was a mad scientist type weapon.

However by the end of the war only about 30 tons of it was ever produced. The reason? The stuff was simply so unstable and so dangerous there was no practical way to use it. One plan to put it into flamethrowers had the simple problem of it eating through all the components of the flame thrower that weren’t steel and then setting fire to everything just for good measure.

The Falkenhagen Industrial Complex was captured by the Soviet Union and exactly what happened for the next few years is unknown, but n-stoff disappears from the pages of history. However the technical chemical name from this highly dangerous compound is Chlorine triflouride and a very different organisation took an interest in it.

Oxidising agents are vital in rocket fuel and it was Chlorine triflouride’s extremely effective oxidisation properties that made NASA look into it as a potential rocket fuel. That was until in the early 1950’s a tank ruptured and spilled 900 kilograms of Chlorine triflouride over a concrete floor.

The substance caught fire (as it inevitably does- it was a miracle it didn’t just explode) and proceeded to set fire to the concrete. The fire was so fierce it burned through 30 cms of solid concrete and then, as a finale burned through 90cms of gravel.

Under any other circumstances gravel doesn’t burn, it can get scorched, melt under immense temperatures, but it takes a very special kind of chemical fire to make gravel burn.

NASA also faced the other problem with Chlorine triflouride which is that when it was mixed with any other fuel or propellant to be turned into rocket fuel it instantly ignites, so leading to fuel fires…every time. Clearly Chlorine triflouride doesn’t play well with others.

In the words of Dr. John Drury Clark (an expert in rocket fuels for Nasa)

“…the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.”

NASA unsurprisingly ended tests on this nasty little compound and that you would think is that. However finally there has been a peaceful use created for this compound. It is now used (in small amounts) to clean superconductors chambers without having to dismantle them.


How Nazi Germany Fought a War on Drugs

‘Blitzed’ reveals how meth almost led to German victory — and doomed Hitler.

by Crawford Kilian|

960px version of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1940. Happy, and high? Creative Commons licensed.Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi GermanyNorman Ohler, translated by Shaun Whiteside

  • Allen Lane (2016)
  • Of all the thousands of books on Hitler, Blitzed seems to be the first to focus on the role of drugs in the Nazis’ conduct of the Second World War.

    It puts Nazi Germany in a new perspective: a country and an army on speed, under the direction of a vegetarian drug addict.


    is also a masterpiece of history as black humour, portraying a world ruled by fools and grotesques.

    Even before the First World War, Germany was Big Pharma. Early in the 19th century, a German chemist named Friedrich Sertürner isolated morphine, a key alkaloid in opium. In 1827, Emanuel Merck began producing consistently good morphine, launching a. pharmaceutical company that still flourishes.

    By 1850, injectable morphine was in use. In the U.S. Civil War and the brief and bloody Franco-Prussian War, Ohler writes, the discovery helped many wounded soldiers recover, if only to be sent back into combat.

    Morphine was available without prescription and a key ingredient in many patent medicines. Cocaine, morphine’s opposite, was also widely available, an upper included in many products, including the early versions of Coca-Cola.

    German pharma explored endless ways to achieve chemical well being.

    On Aug. 10, 1897, Felix Hoffman, a chemist with the Bayer company, synthesized acestylsalicylic acid from willow bark, Ohler writes. It went on sale as Aspirin and conquered the globe.

    Eleven days later, Hoffman invented another substance that was also to become world famous: diacetyl morphine, the first designer drug. Trademarked as “Heroin,” Bayer promoted it as children’s cough syrup and said it was good for babies with colic or sleeping problems.

    Fighter pilots high on cocaine

    After the First World War, when German fighter pilots went into action high on cocaine, the German pharmaceutical industry helped sustain the economy. It was the world’s major morphine producer and heroin exporter, and controlled 80 per cent of the world’s cocaine market.

    Germany itself was awash with drugs; in the Weimar Republic, anything was available and all was permitted. “In 1928 in Berlin alone 73 kilos of morphine and heroin were sold quite legally on prescription over the chemist’s counter. Anyone who could afford it took cocaine,” Ohler notes.

    When the Nazis took over in 1933, they launched an anti-drug offensive.

    “They hated drugs because they wanted to be like a drug themselves,” says Ohler. Jews and drugs were equally demonized, and addicts were treated as incurable psychopaths; many would be euthanized early in the war. Much of the Nazis’ rhetoric, Ohler argues, survives in our own endless wars on drugs.

    The 1930s were also a period of quack remedies, and German Dr. Theodor Morell flourished. His gimmick was injections of vitamins, still little understood, sometimes laced them with stimulants. His growing reputation led to an invitation to treat a Nazi official’s embarrassing gonorrhoea.

    That led to his introduction to Hitler, seeking treatment for stomach pains that had troubled him for years. Morell’s treatment, eerily foreseeing our own understanding of the gut microbiome, worked — boosted by a glucose injection that made Hitler feel better instantly.

    And Morell became not just Hitler’s personal physician, but his only real friend. Morell considered himself a researcher, and Hitler became his guinea pig.

    Conquering Europe on crystal meth

    When a legal new drug called Benzedrine enhanced American athletes’ performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, German pharma responded with a comparable drug — methamphetamine. Trademarked as Pervitin, it instantly became the German drug of choice. Doctors received free samples to give to patients, and were asked to report the results.

    Both doctors and patients loved Pervitin. Demand soared, as customers sought greater energy and mental alertness. You could even buy chocolates loaded with speed for your sweetie — energy and weight loss in one box.

    As Germany rearmed and prepared for war, Pervitin interested the military. They understood what a menace fatigue could be, and looked for solutions. Pervitin — speed — met their requirements, first for troops in training and then for combat.

    The German forces conquered Poland in 1939 high on meth, troops working far longer than undrugged soldiers could have.


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