Sixty-eight years after his suicide in the Führerbunker beneath the smoking rubble of Berlin, the life of Adolf Hitler remains an enigma. Lingering questions and conjecture surround his psyche and just what drove the Nazi dictator to undertake a world war and commit genocide on a scale unsurpassed in human history. Other topics of continuing interest to historians and to the casually curious include his sexual orientation, relationship with his neice Geli Raubal and the possibility that the young woman was murdered, the idea that he actually had Jewish ancestors, and even his dietary habits.
With respect to his diet, the Führer has long been known as a teetotaler and strict vegetarian. Hitler reportedly never partook of alcohol and shunned meat entirely. It has been suggested that he might even have intended to turn Germany into a vegetarian nation after victory was assured during World War II.
A few months ago, Hitler’s daily dietary demands came to the fore once again when 95-year-old Margot Woelk, a food taster for the Führer for 21/2 years during World War II, finally spoke out about her role in preventing the assassination of the Nazi leader by poisoning his food. Woelk told the Times, Daily Telegraph and other news organizations in the United Kingdom that she was a German whose husband had been inducted into the Army. Following his departure, she was living in the home of her mother-in-law.
Members of the SS came to the door one day, and she was sent to East Prussia, where Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters was located. There, she joined 12 other women who tasted his meals prior to their being served.
“Between 11 and 12 o’clock, we had to taste the food, and only after all of us had tried it was it driven to the headquarters by the SS,” Woelk remembered. “It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat, and I do not remember any fish.”
Woelk admitted that she feared for her life. A mouthful of poisoned food might have spelled her demise. However, there is no evidence that such an attempt on Hitler’s life was ever undertaken. “Of course, I was afraid,” she said. “If it had been poisoned I would not be here today. We were forced to eat it; we had no choice.”
Despite confirmation that Hitler was a strict vegetarian, it has been reported by his prewar chef, Dione Lucas, that at some point during his life Hitler indulged in the occasional sausage, stuffed pigeon, or even a slice of ham. Nevertheless, some historians have concluded that Hitler viewed vegetarianism as a component of the Aryan lifestyle. An instruction manual published for the Hitler Youth promoted the consumption of soybeans and called them “Nazi beans.” The Führer was also said to have referred to beef or chicken stock as “corpse tea.”
Hitler abandoned Wolf’s Lair in November 1944, as the Soviet Red Army advanced into Germany. Today, Woelk is believed to be the sole survivor among her group of food tasters. She was helped to escape from East Prussia to Berlin by a kind German soldier.
“He put me on Goebbels’s [Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels] train, and I got out,” she recalled, still asserting that the other members of her group were captured and executed by the Red Army.
As the war progressed, Woelk gave up hope of ever seeing her husband, Kurt, again, believing that he had been killed in action. However, in 1946 the two were reunited. They remained married until Kurt passed away in 1990.
-Michael E. Haskew
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