Hitler knew his eating habits would be talked about, along with everything else the public could glean about his personal life, and by the early 1930s an official version of his daily life had been established, casting him as a man of modest ways and simple tastes. What got left out of that account was his addiction to sweets: He had a perpetual, ferocious craving for cakes, pastries, and biscuits. Once, an associate saw him spooning sugar into a glass of fine Gewürztraminer and drinking it down happily. Friedelind Wagner, the composer’s granddaughter and a fervent anti-Nazi, remembered Hitler eating two pounds of pralines a day when he was visiting Bayreuth. While planning the invasion of Norway, an aide wrote, he kept darting out of the conference room to gobble sweets in his study. Asked whether he was hungry, Hitler said no. “For me, sweets are the best food for the nerves,” he explained. Even in the bunker, as the Russians approached and his own death loomed, he was stuffing himself with cake.

—Adapted from What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, by Laura Shapiro