Unknown until 2013, a team of around 15 women were employed to taste the Führer’s food to check if it was poisoned.
Imagine knowing every plate of food you eat could be your last. That breakfast, lunch, and dinner are potentially deadly. And you have to eat them anyway.
For a group of young women in the Third Reich, this was their daily reality. They tasted Hitler’s food during the last two-and-a-half years of World War Two.
The Führer demanded young women of good German stock sample each of the meals made for him, in case the Allies, or one of his own were trying to poison him. Such a role was seen as a kind of honor – a way to serve.
The astonishing story of these young women’s experiences only came to light in 2013, when the then 95-year-old Margot Woelk revealed her former role to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Demised in 2014, Wölk was the last surviving member of a team tasked with keeping Hitler alive as he hunkered down in the Wolf’s Lair in the final chapters of World War II. Woelk was the sole survivor of the Nazi leader’s poison paranoia.
In her mid-20s, she was swept away from her home in Ratensburg (now Ketrzyn, Poland), “drafted into civilian service” to join 14 other women in the dictator’s wartime bunker where she and the others were charged with taste-testing the leader’s meals.
As the war dragged on, food supplies in much of German-occupied territory suffered. Within the Wolf’s Lair, however, the food was delicious, only the best vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, everything you can imagine. And always with a side of rice or pasta.
”He was a vegetarian. He never ate any meat during the entire time I was there,” Woelk said of the Nazi leader. “And Hitler was so paranoid that the British would poison him — that’s why he had 15 girls taste the food before he ate it himself,” said Woelk.
Nearing the end of the war, after tensions mounted following an unsuccessful attempt on Hitler’s life from within the bunker, Woelk fled.
When Soviet troops took the Wolf’s Lair a year later, the other taste testers were all shot. But the end of the war was not the end of Woelk’s ordeal. She later suffered abuse at the hands of Russian troops long after the war ended.