Ball to the Wall
The origins of the Hitler testicle story.
Theory #1: The Führer was born that way.
The possibility that Hitler was born with monorchism — one testicle missing — provoked a flurry of studies on Hitler’s psychology, arguing that Hitler’s evil was an extreme case of the behavioral changes that have been linked to this physical condition. Freudians suggest that boys with monorchism are obsessed with ordering the world, often via architecture — and Hitler was certainly fascinated with building grandiose structures (not to mention designing an entire world order). Other psychiatrists have suggested that the genital defect might also induce “narcissistic-exhibitionistic-aggressive (tendencies), sadomasochistic fantasies, eroticized megalomaniac daydreams… compensatory self-aggrandizement; heightened aggressiveness…” and “revenge fantasies.”
Theory #2: An old war wound.
Others have suggested that the testicle went AWOL in the First World War, when Hitler was wounded by a bullet in the thigh — which possibly damaged the groin. After the Soviet autopsy came out, Hitler’s doddery former army commander on Western front declared that Adolph had been found to be one ball down during a standard VD physical. But in the 1990s, the author Ron Rosenbaum managed to track down Hitler’s ancient physician from post-WWI Germany, who insisted that Hitler’s genitals were normal. (While he was in power, the dictator actually refused to undress for his Nazi doctors.) Such confusion has led some scholars to speculate that he was actually subject to a condition called cryptorchism, where one testicle intermittently recedes.
Theory #3: The Soviets made it up.
The debate has been made even murkier by the suspicious coincidence that a favorite British song from the Second World War impugns Hitler’s manhood. Sung to the catchy tune of the Colonel Bogey March (used in the Bridge Over the River Kwai):
Hitler — has only got one ball,
Göring — has two, but very small;
Himmler is very sim'lar,
And Göbbels has no balls at all
The author Ron Rosenbaum, who has probably delved deeper into the subject than anyone, concluded that the whole one-ball idea was a Soviet practical joke. The Russians were far from averse to doctoring information about Hitler to mess with Western minds. They had already delayed the release of Hitler’s autopsy for 23 years, fostering the rumor that Hitler had escaped to Argentina. In the autopsy itself, they withheld information about Hitler’s skull to suggest that the Führer had died “a coward’s death” by poisoning rather than shooting. Rosenbaum speculates that while they were preparing the autopsy for release in the 1960s, Soviets consulted the defected British spies Kim Philby and Guy Burgess in Moscow, and the pair of upper-crust reprobates suggested including the datum on Hitler’s testicle sack as one last practical joke. • 15 January 2010
SOURCE/FURTHER READING: Rosenbaum, Ron, Explaining Hitler, (New York, 1999); Waite, Robert, The Psychopathic God: Adolph Hitler (New York, 1977).
Tony Perrottet's new book, Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, is a literary version of a Cabinet of Curiosities (HarperCollins, July, 2008; napoleonsprivates.com). He is also the author of Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists and The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.
Photograph from the German Federal Archive (Creative Commons).