A Taste of History

It is the last job on earth that you would agree to join in. Tasting food to check whether it is poisoned was the duty of Margot Woelk for a period of two and half years; that too for one of the most dreaded and hated autocratic leaders the world has ever seen- Adolf Hitler. The 96 year old German widow has recently revealed in an interview her designation during the closing years of the Second World War. The news, she claims, was not known even to her deceased husband.

She was one of the 15 ladies entrusted with the same responsibility. Hitler got paranoid about being poisoned by the Anglo-American and the Russian intelligence in the final years of his life. A circle of close aides was formed in order to protect the Fuehrer from possible life-threats. Along with his close aides, the Fuehrer used to live in the Second World War’s first Eastern-front Military headquarters Wolf’s Lair. Woelk, as a young woman in her 20s, was a resident of the Wolf’s Lair and is the only surviving member of the group of close aides to Hitler. All of her colleagues got killed by the Russian forces after the German headquarters fell in the month of January, 1945.

The closing years of the Second World War was a troubled time for most of the Germans because food-shortage reached an all-time high during that period. Woelk was fortunate to have her square meals regularly and the diet, according to her, was delicious. Best vegetables, best spices, bell peppers and asparagus were gathered for the Fuehrer who had been a vegetarian. But eating those things regularly was not as happy an experience for the 15 member girls-squad as you are thinking. Rumours of poisoning had widely been gaining currency around this time and the Fuehrer’s tasters feared every passing day that the meal they were having was going to be the last of their life.

A History that Was Hushed

Margot Woelk was born in December 1917 in Wilmersdorf, a sub-urban locality of Berlin. In the winter of 1941, she had to leave her parents’ apartment in order to escape from continuous allied bombing. Her husband had been serving in the German army for years then. She moved, with a few of her relatives, to Rustenburg, a city 700 kilometres east to Berlin.  She and her colleagues were handpicked by the local mayor and their job was to taste the Fuehrer’s food daily from 11 o’clock to 12 o’clock in the morning.

After the 1944 bombing at the Wolf’s Lair, situation got heated up and Woelk was instructed by the Nazi authorities to leave her relative’s home and take shelter in an abandoned school compound. After a few days, she left Rustenburg and reached Berlin by train. And then went into hiding.

All of her 14 colleagues didn’t leave Rustenburg and subsequently got killed by the Red Army.

Margot Woelk returned to Berlin to discover a dilapidated city. For the month of April, round the clock air-attacks by the allied forces continued. Finally, on the 2nd of May, Berlin fell after the news of Hitler’s suicide was confirmed. Woelk, not unlike most of the common Berliners, was caught by the Red Army and in one of her interviews, she narrates her unspeakable experience of getting raped 14 times for a period of a couple of weeks.

She got back to Karl, her husband in 1946. Brutality of the Russian army made it impossible for her to give birth to children. Karl and Margot lived a happy married life until Karl passed away in 1980.

In Restless Dreams I Walk Alone

Recently, a German journalist interviewed Woelk and her involvement with the Nazis was revealed. Since then, she has become a celebrity who regularly receives calls from school principals and museum authorities to share the slice of history that is unknown and one of its kinds.

The world got stormed a few years back when we came to know of Gunter Grass’s association with the Nazi army. The same fear of getting cornered kept Grass to reveal a part of his life. I feel happy that finally, Woelk could share a chapter of her life that is replete with tragic memories and unbearable brutalities. She will not have to bear the heavy burden of a silence anymore for the rest of her life.


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