Adolf Hitler didn't trust too many people – and he always lived in fear that someone would try to kill him. Like kings of old, he even had someone taste his food to check for poisoning.
One of those food tasters, Margot Wölk, is still alive.
Now, Wölk, 95, said she was one of 15 young women who toiled as Der Fuehrer’s official food tasters for more than two years during World War II and lived in constant fear knowing that each time she bit into a morsel of food she could die. Ironically, given wartime rationing and restrictions in place, while the average Germans were denied certain staples, Wölk feasted on scarce delicacies like white asparagus and real butter … with the catch, of course, that each meal might be her last.
According to a report in Spiegel Online in Germany,Wölk was 24 when she escaped her bombed out Berlin home in the winter of 1941 and went to Gross-Partsch, a village in East Prussia -- now the Polish town of Parcz -- less than two miles from Wolfsschanze ("The Wolf’s Lair"), Hitler’s military headquarters on the Eastern Front.
"The mayor of the little nest was an old Nazi," Wölk told Spiegel.
"I'd hardly arrived when the SS showed up at the door and demanded, 'Come with us!'"
She and other young women were forced into the barracks in nearby Krausendorf and recruited to taste-test food meant for the dictator of Nazi Germany. After the food was deemed safe, SS members brought the remainder of the meal to their boss to consume.
"There was never meat because Hitler was a vegetarian," Wölk noted.
"The food was good -- very good. But we couldn't enjoy it."
Wölk’s services were only necessary when Hitler was in the Lair – and she personally never laid eyes on the man.
Things became worse in July 20, 1944 when Hitler’s fears of assassination almost came true -- Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a Germany army officer, tried to kill Der Fuehrer by planting two bombs at the Wolf’s Lair.
"The explosion ripped us off the wooden benches," Wölk said.
The plot failed and Hitler survived. In response, the SS tightened security around the leader. The food tasters were subsequently forced to move away from the Lair and into an empty school in the area.
"We were guarded like caged animals," Wölk said.
She also claimed that she had been raped by an SS officer during her enforced stay at the Lair, but couldn't complain to anyone about it.
Eventually, as the Soviet Army approached, a Nazi lieutenant implored Wölk to flee and placed her on a train to Berlin. That saved her life as the remaining food tasters were all shot to death by the Russians who seized the Lair.
However, after she returned to her old Berlin neighborhood, Schmargendorf, she found herself at the mercy of the occupying Soviet army – soldiers raped her for two weeks, resulting in such injuries that she was unable to ever bear children, she said.
"I was so desperate," she told Spiegel. "I didn't want to live anymore."
Spiegel reported that Wölk despised Hitler and Nazism, and that she had refused earlier to join the Bund Deutscher Mädel, or League of German Girls, the female version of the Hitler Youth organization. Her father had also refused to join the Nazi Party, leading to his apparent arrest.
“Hitler was a really repugnant man,” she said. “And a pig."
Following the war, she was reunited with her husband Karl, who had been fighting. They spent another happy 34 years together before his death in 1980.
After all these years, Wölk now lives in the same flat in Berlin's Schmargendorf neighborhood, where she was born in 1918.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.