Snacking on delicious food might sound like a dream job—but not when it could have you dropping dead at any moment.
Such was the dangerous reality for a group of 15 young German women employed by the Nazis as Adolf Hitler’s taste testers for two and a half years in the 1940s.
A new Off-Broadway show titled H*tler’s Tasters, which runs on Theater Row until May 21, is inspired by the little-known troupe, one of whom finally got hers in 2013 at the age of 95 harrowing story told.
“Young women who are forced to be in a room together with nothing else to distract them other than the fact that they could die at any meal,” playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks told the Post. “If that’s not a situation ripe for drama, I don’t know what is.”
The writer added, “Just when you think you’ve heard all the terrible things about Hitler.”
Margot Wölk, who died in 2014, was a secretary when, at the age of 24, she began working against her will as one of the gourmet guinea pigs.
After her parents’ Berlin apartment was destroyed by Allied bombs, she moved to her mother-in-law in Groß-Partsch (now Parcz, Poland). Her husband Karl was at war. She had lost contact with him and believed he was dead.
With her life falling apart, Wölk was quickly chosen by the city’s mayor as taster for the nearby “Wolfsschanze” – the Nazi headquarters on the Eastern Front. Women were hired after the Nazis became convinced that the British intended to poison Hitler. In 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg’s Operation Valkyrie – a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler and wrest control of Germany from the Nazis – considered poisoning a tactic, but scrapped the plan because they knew about the tasters.
However, Wölk later claimed not to have been a Nazi. She had previously avoided joining the Bund Deutscher Mädchen and secretly hated Hitler. But since she was guarded by the SS, she had no choice but to eat up.
“The food was good – very good,” Wölk told the German newspaper Der Spiegel after six decades of silence. “But we couldn’t enjoy it.”
From 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Wölk and the women tasted the delicious dishes that are rare for a continent devastated by war. And because Hitler was a vegetarian, there was never any meat. “The best vegetables, asparagus, peppers, everything you can think of and always with rice or pasta on the side,” she said in an AP interview. “It was very tasty but the anxiety that came with the food.”
She added: “Some of the girls started crying when they started eating because they were so scared. We had to eat everything. Then we had to wait an hour and each time we were afraid that we would get sick. We used to cry like dogs because we were so glad we survived.”
None of the 15 ever succumbed to poisoning.
Although they only had to work while Hitler was in residence, they never saw the Fuhrer himself – only his shepherd dog named Blondi.
One day in 1944, as the Soviet army approached Groß-Partsch, Wölk fled to Berlin by train – a risky move that would save her life. The other 14 tasters, she later learned, were shot by the Soviets.
Still, her trauma wasn’t over yet. When she reached the city, she was arrested by Soviet soldiers and raped for 14 days – so brutally that she was unable to bear children.
Wölk’s life improved upon learning that her husband had not died after all, and the couple reunited in 1946. She was trying to put the nightmare experience behind her until a journalist approached her on her 95th birthday, just over a year before her death.
Of her struggle, the woman said it was her determination, positivity that kept her alive.
“I haven’t lost my sense of humor,” she told the Mirror. “It was always my survival trick.”