A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Did Hitler have only one testicle?

February 20, 1987

Dear Cecil:

For some reason the first of the month always seems to unleash a flood of maudlin memories in my aging landlord, particularly memories of World War II. He's a veteran, and I often hear him singing a certain dirty ditty describing in lurid detail the genital deficiencies of various Axis leaders as he goes about his rounds collecting the rent. The effect is disconcerting, as you can imagine. But now my question: I have heard many versions of this song in the army and often wondered about the validity of the line concerning Hitler. Was he, in fact, fully "endowed," so to speak? Or did he, as the song claims, possess only a single testicle? Was it a congenital defect, or due to some injury? Where did this belief originate? My landlord believes it to this day. Please advise.

Cecil replies:

Among conspiracy buffs, this is what is known as (ahem) the lone-nut theory. (Note to the Teeming Millions: Hey, I got a million of 'em.) But let's get serious. The case of Hitler's missing testicle is one of many bizarre twists in the life of one of history's most bizarre hombres. (Another is the never-proven allegation that Hitler's paternal grandfather was Jewish.) The bit of doggerel favored by your landlord probably goes something like the following, originally sung by British Tommies during World War II to the tune of the "Colonel Bogey March":

Hitler has only got one ball,
Goering has two, but very small;
Himmler is very sim'lar,
And Goebbels has no balls at all.

It's customary, of course, for soldiers to impugn the sexual capacities of enemy leaders. (Another verse from the era goes, {Whistle while you work/Hitler was a jerk/Mussolini bit his weenie/Now it doesn't work.}) But the troops may have had some reason to believe Hitler really was playing with a short set, so to speak. As a soldier in the German army during World War I, the future dictator was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in October, 1916. Sources differ on the precise location of the wound, but some say it was in the thigh or the groin. Conceivably some anonymous poet in the British Army heard this and used it as the basis for the abovementioned ode, although at this late date it's hard to say for sure.

At this point we have to delve into the mystery surrounding Hitler's demise. On May 1, 1945, German radio announced that Hitler had been killed fighting at the head of his troops. But the Russians captured the Fuehrer's bunker, and nobody in the West ever saw the body. Rumors swirled that Hitler had escaped. To resolve the issue, the British assigned H.R. Trevor-Roper, later a well-known British historian, to investigate. After interrogating witnesses, Trevor-Roper concluded that Hitler and his girlfriend Eva Braun had shot themselves on April 30, and that the bodies were cremated shortly afterward.

The Russians, however, maintained that Hitler had managed to escape. At the Potsdam conference in July, Stalin said he believed Hitler was in Spain or Argentina. This was the official line until 1950, when the Soviets unveiled a film called The Fall of Berlin that depicted Hitler and Braun snuffing themselves with poison. But they did not say how they arrived at this conclusion.

In 1955 the Russians released several German prisoners who had been present during Hitler's last days, one of whom told of burying Hitler's remains in a bomb crater. Trevor-Roper interviewed the men, and on the basis of their comments deduced that the Russians had exhumed the bodies and examined them in May, 1945. This was confirmed to his satisfaction in the 1960s, when Russian journalists published accounts of the search for Hitler.

One such book published in 1968 was particularly interesting, and it's here we get back to the question of Hitler's missing organs. The book included the report of the autopsy performed on Hitler's bod by Russian pathologists. This contained the startling news that Hitler's "left testicle could not be found either in the scrotum or on the spermatic cord inside the inguinal canal, or in the small pelvis. …"

This revelation struck many as suspicious. None of Hitler's doctors or attendants had ever mentioned anything about a missing testicle, and his medical records were silent on the subject. A woman who claimed to have been his lover said he was normally equipped. Moreover, the autopsy report said Hitler's body showed no external wounds, even though all the German witnesses mentioned a shot through the head.

Hitler's World War I company commander, however, offered some support for the Russian finding. He said he'd discovered Hitler's missing testicle as a result of a wartime VD exam.

Questions about the authenticity of the Russian autopsy records were more or less resolved in 1972. Dr. Reidar Sognnaes, a dental expert at the University of California at Los Angeles, compared the Russky data with previous X-rays of Hitler's skull and pronounced the former genuine. (Sognnaes used similar methods to confirm that a body dug up in Berlin was that of Hitler's secretary, Martin Bormann.) So I guess we have to conclude that in some departments, at least, Hitler really wasn't all there.

As you can imagine, historians with a weakness for Freudian woolgathering have had a field day with this news. Perhaps the most elaborate treatment was The Psychopathic God by Robert G.L. Waite. Waite believed Hitler's left testicle either failed to descend at puberty or was missing at birth. He regarded the deficiency as one of the formative experiences of Hitler's life, and said it contributed to all manner of psychosexual complications. He stopped short, however, of saying it caused World War II.

Why did the Russians wait so long to reveal the autopsy results? Trevor-Roper thinks Stalin arbitrarily decided that Hitler had escaped and compelled everybody else to go along. Later, he thinks, the Russians decided to keep things murky lest the Fuehrer's death and/or remains somehow inspire future generations of Nazis. They may have suppressed evidence about the bullet wounds in order to make Hitler's demise seem less heroic.

Others, of course, have their own ideas. They see the missing testicle as evidence that the man who died in 1945 was a double. They think the Russians faked the dental evidence for unknown reasons and that Maria Schickelgruber's grandson ended up leading a life of ease in some South American banana republic.

You never know. After all, Trevor-Roper, the staunchest proponent of the Hitler-is-dead theory, was the same guy who pronounced the so-called Hitler diaries authentic. But the more likely explanation is that your landlord's dirty ditty, in one respect at least, was the simple truth.

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