The imminent collapse of your beloved Aryan empire may not seem like the a situation likely to provoke an appetite. However, it has been revealed that Adolf Hitler indulged in a final Italian meal before taking his own life in the Berlin bunker in April 1945.
Despite the imminent and pressing attentions of the Allies, Hitler’s long suffering cook was required to prepare a last supper of pasta and tomato sauce. Clearly the Italian influence on the Axis was culinary as well as military. Perhaps it was Mussolini himself who converted the Führer to the delights of pasta as part of long, drawn-out alliance negotiations.
The prospect of pasta was not enough to prevent the dinner itself from being a stilted and decidedly awkward affair. As one might expect, Hitler was not fond of any talk of the imminent fall of Germany’s capital, so insisted that the conversation be about anything else.
According to those in attendance, topics ranged from various dog breeding methods to making lipstick from sewer grease. Even this riveting discussion was not enough to prevent Hitler from killing himself mere hours later. It likely may have helped accelerate the process.
Throughout the war, Hitler was a notoriously fussy eater. The aforementioned long suffering cook, Constanze Manziarly, was always under pressure to prepare food to the Führer’s fancy. His regular diet consisted of millet, linseed oil and cake. He had a disposition towards quark as well as grated apple, and would replace meat with mushrooms in a great many dishes. Clearly, Hitler was not a patron who indulged a great deal of creativity when it came to cooking.
Affectionately known as “Miss Marzipani” by the more whimsical members of the SS, Manziarly endured a stressful employment throughout the war. In newly rediscovered letters to her sister dated from 1944, Manziarly reported that she was made to feel as though she had “one foot in the grave” by her employer.
She also told of “unimaginable difficulties” and the “immense burden of responsibility” that she felt. One can only imagine what a negative review from Hitler could entail.
According to researcher Stefan Dietrich, it seems likely that Manziarly would have been press ganged into employment in a manner not dissimilar “to The Godfather – Hitler probably made her an offer she couldn’t refuse”. Clearly, the Italian Mafia as well as pasta made an impression on the dictator. However, he did try, on occasion, to show his affection for the cook, once presenting her with a pair of “mouse grey thick stockings”. Unfortunately, Manziarly revealed to her sister that “the boss does not know much about ladies’ fashion”. This, on consideration, is perhaps unsurprising.
After Hitler had killed himself, Manziarly made a bid for freedom, alongside secretary Fraudl Jung and SS officer Wilhelm Mohnke. Despite evading capture for two days, she was eventually accosted by the Red Army, where she was led away never to be heard of again. Perhaps they had read one of Hitler’s reviews of a particularly dodgy mushroom stroganoff. In any event, Manziarly and her letters give us a fascinating insight into the limited palate of one of history’s most notorious evil-doers.