Adolf Hitler And The Very Deadly Chocolate

By Debra Kelly on Sunday, January 17, 2016
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“Death is the universal salt of states; / Blood is the base of all things — law and war.” —Philip James Bailey, “Festus”

In A Nutshell

Peters chocolate bars showed up in England in the years during World War II. Dark chocolate bars wrapped in elegant gold-and-black paper, they contained much more than chocolate: They contained enough explosives to kill a room full of people. Secret agents were tasked with getting them into Britain and, most importantly, into the War Cabinet in a plot that was uncovered by MI5. Intelligence then turned to an incredibly talented draftsman named Laurence Fish to create a series of sketches that would be handed out to help people identify the deadly chocolate.

The Whole Bushel

There were all sorts of wacky plans dreamed up during World War II on both sides of the fight, all designed to outfox and outmaneuver the enemy in hopes of getting the upper hand. All’s fair in love and war, after all, and in retrospect some of the plans looked downright insane.

One of them was designed to strike at the heart of the Allied nations that were struggling under the burdens of wartime shortages and rationing. The world’s love of chocolate has been widely known since we learned how to make it into the deliciously sweet treat we know today, and it was World War II that gave birth to one America’s favorite candies today: the M&M. (They were in high demand and reserved only for the troops, as the candy coating wouldn’t melt in the heat of the Pacific Theater.)

So chocolate’s always been a favorite on the homefront and abroad, and the Nazis developed some pretty diabolical ways to try to use that against the Allies.

When Laurence Fish died in 2009, it was left to his widow and their daughter to sort through his papers. Whatever they were expecting to find, they weren’t expecting to find his top secret work from the war years, drawing detailed sketches of Nazi-created booby traps designed to be passed deep into Allied territory to strike at the heart of the home front, or to sink entire ships and help starve the nations at war.

One of the drawings featured a chocolate bar that went past the point of poisoning its victims: This one was designed to explode. When someone picked up the chocolate bar and broke a piece off, that would pull at a piece of canvas that was also inserted into the bar. That would trigger the delay mechanism and the explosion.

Fish was tasked with drawing the booby traps that the agents at MI5 were discovering, with the hopes that the detailed sketches would teach soldiers and civilians alike how to recognize a booby trap before it turned deadly. Other drawings show a tin of dried peas that would expand when it got wet, pushing two contacts together to set off an explosion.

While the chocolate bar would have been an incredibly diabolical way to strike at the center of any civilian population, Hitler and his higher-ups had a very specific target in mind for the odd explosive device: Winston Churchill. The bars were labeled “Peters” and were made of dark chocolate covering enough explosives to kill everyone in a room. They were packaged to look like luxury chocolates in gold-and-black paper, and secret agents were tasked with getting the chocolate into the rooms of the War Cabinet.

British spies uncovered the plot, though, and reported it to MI5 and Lord Victor Rothschild. They’d uncovered some of the explosive chocolate and submitted a rough drawing of exactly what it looked like. Rothschild wanted the drawing made and distributed, and Donald Fish of the counter-sabotage unit just happened to have a son who was an aircraftsman and an incredibly talented draftsman.

Show Me The Proof

Gloucestershire Echo: Sketches of Nazi booby trap bombs by artist Laurence Fish amaze his widow who lives in Winchcombe
BBC News: Drawings reveal Germans’ World War Two boobytrap bombs
The Telegraph: ‘Death by chocolate’ plot to kill Sir Winston Churchill
Huffington Post: How World War II Changed Everything—Even Our Taste for Candy