When Being a Food Taster is Not Fun

While I was eating breakfast this morning, which by the way was a hearty, fiber-packed blackberry oat bran muffin with a mix of salted almonds, pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes on the side, I came across an interesting article on the Daily Mail (my go-to for a quick and easy review of what’s going on in the world, as well as a very updated report of celebrities’ whereabouts…) about a woman who was forced to taste Hitler’s food to ensure it was not poisoned.

Saturday morning breakfast while reading the news online.

Saturday morning breakfast while reading the news online.

Margot Voelk, Hitler’s food taster (left), and Hitler sitting down to a lavish meal (right)

The article in its entirety is interesting, largely because few people are educated on the phenomenon of being a designated food taster, but the information that most stood out was learning that “Hitler would only deign to touch his food after all 15 women had sampled it and at least an hour had elapsed.” Understandably, Margot Woelk admits to fearing for her life, but, at the same time, she was “lucky” because, “As her fellow Germans were existing on rations, Mrs Woelk feasted on fresh fruit and vegetables, including asparagus, peppers and peas.” Still, I think it would be nearly impossible to enjoy such delicacies when death is potentially at your doorstep, so to speak.

Rationing: An example of a week’s worth of food during World War II

Woelk goes on to say, “I felt like a laboratory rabbit but if you learned one thing about life in Nazi Germany it was you didn’t argue with the SS.” To further describe her duty, Woelk says, “All of us girls sat around a big table and we each received a plateful of what was being served that day…It wasn’t like we were given a spoonful or a forkful. We were given plates of the stuff to eat. Only after we had eaten did the SS commander of the day give instructions for the food to be boxed up and driven over to the compound inside the Wolf’s Lair.” Sadly, Woelk was the only one to escape Hitler’s “lair”; the rest were shot dead.

With my appetite whetted, I proceeded to Google Hitler’s Food Tasters. And here are the most interesting things I learned:

  • During the two years of being his food taster, Woelk reports that Hitler never ate meat. The Telegraph explains that “Hitler’s vegetarianism was motivated by his desire for Aryan bodily purity. It describes a Hitler Youth manual which promoted soybeans – or “Nazi beans” – as a meat alternative,” and that “Hitler told Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels that after winning the war he intended to institute vegetarianism in all of Germany.” Also, apparently he used to call meat broth “corpse tea.” However, the vegetarian historian, Rynn Berry, reports that ““There’s absolutely no evidence he was a vegetarian. It simply isn’t true,” and asserts that while Hitler followed a vegetarian diet, “he cheated big time,” taking part in the occasional stuffed pigeon, ham, and liver dumplings. Berry adds to this argument by claiming that “propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels furthered the notion of Hitler as a strict vegetarian to make the ruthless dictator seem like an ascetic without vices who neither drank, nor smoked, nor ate meat, and was devoted above all to his people.”
  • A German soldier who dined with Hitler habitually wrote in a secret diary that, “Hitler eats rapidly, mechanically. He abstractedly bites his fingernails, he runs his index finger back and forth under his nose, and his table manners are little short of shocking.”

Hitler eating with Goebbels (A German politician and Minister of Propoganda in Nazi Germany) at a “Fintopf” – a one-pot meal.

Relevant Articles

I was Adolph Hitler’s Food Taster

Hitler’s food taster speaks of Fuhrer’s vegetarian diet

‘I was Hitler’s food taster’: German woman, 95, reveals her terror at testing paranoid Fuhrer’s meals during Second World War

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