“At the Wolf’s Table,” by Rosella Postorino, is based on the true story of Margot Wolk, who in 2013, when she was 96, told the world about her life as Adolf Hitler’s food taster. For 2 ½ years during World War II, she and 14 other women were picked up daily at their country homes in Gross-Partsch (now Parcz), Poland, and charged with tasting food that was to be served to Hitler who was living nearby in a forest in what would become known as “Hitler’s Lair.”
It was believed that the Allies would try to do away with Hitler by poisoning his food. If the tasters didn’t die after sampling his food, then the food was boxed up for Hitler’s meals.
The story is very closely based on Wolk’s recollections although she died before the author could interview her. It is a harrowing tale that makes one grieve again for the tragedy of World War II.
Rosa Sauer, the main character, moved from Berlin to Poland to live with her in-laws after her husband joined the German army. Within days of arriving at their country home, the SS told Rosa she was to be one of a group of women who would taste Hitler’s food.
Three times a day the women, most of whom were mothers and young girls, were driven to a building near a beautiful vegetable garden where they would sample the first of Hitler’s three meals. (He as a vegetarian.) After the women completed tasting one or two items, they were observed for an hour. If no one became sick, they were returned to their homes until the next meal was served. The food the women were able to eat saved them from the starvation, a death sentence the townspeople were experiencing.
The stories of the women thrown together in such odd circumstances are woven throughout the story. At least one engaged in a love affair with an SS soldier another was really a Jewish woman in disguise.
Several women, known as the “fanatics” by the others, were proud to be serving the Fuhrer. Other tasters were violently opposed to Hitler as they saw their own children starve and their husbands die in a futile war. Risking their own lives to save Hitler’s was anathema to them.
As the Allies close in, Hitler, his staff, and collaborators begin preparations to leave for Berlin. Rosa has to make a decision whether to stay or leave for Berlin. In the city, she can return to friends and neighbors who may have survived the war. Staying, she risks another bombing similar to the one that killed her mother. Rosa has learned that her husband is missing in the war. Will he return, if ever, to Berlin or Gross-Partsch?
This extremely gripping book reveals yet another horrific episode surrounding Hitler’s infamy. It leaves a big impact, and a sorrowful one. I found it to be a riveting piece of historical fiction that sheds light on a subject about which I had never heard, or imagined.