Did Adolf Hitler really only have one ball?
If so, what effect might it have had on him and the history of the world?
LAST NIGHT I had a drink with my friend and neighbour Ray, who later this year turns 94. One of the great things about talking to Ray is that he is blessed with a long memory, and yesterday he was recalling the Abdication Crisis of 1936 – when he was eight – and singing the words:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Wallis Simpson’s stole our King”.
This schoolboy ditty reminded me of another song that people of Ray’s generation would have sung – the one concerning Adolf Hitler only having one testicle, with the other residing in a famous London concert hall. (Yesterday also happened to be Hitler’s birthday, but I can assure you that wasn’t the reason why Ray and I were downing a bottle of rosé.)
As it happened, I had been asked about whether Hitler really did have only one ball in a TV interview the other day, and I must confess that I was stumped, and told them I didn’t know. (Media training tip: If you’re ever asked by an interviewer a question that you cannot answer, just be honest about and say, ‘I do not know the answer to your question’. It looks far more confident than blathering some half-remembered facts dredged up from the back of your panicked mind.)
Until today, I had always thought the notion that Hitler only had one ball was just, er, a load of bollocks. How on earth did the British public know about the state of the Führer’s lunchbox? It just couldn’t be true, just as it couldn’t be true that Goebbels – who had six children – had no balls at all.
What I did know was that a supposed autopsy carried out by the Soviets on what they claimed to be Hitler’s charred remains had revealed the following:
Anatomical characteristics of the body:
c) The left testicle could not be found either in the scrotum or on the spermatic cord inside the inguinal canal, nor in the small pelvis.
At first glance, this seems like it might prove that Hitler was indeed one testicle short, but the Soviet autopsy is deeply problematic for reasons that are too long to explain here. However, the most telling reason is that by all accounts, there wasn’t much left of Hitler’s body after it had been cremated with copious amounts of gasoline. Even the picture of the supposed corpse that the Soviets released doesn’t suggest that the autopsy would reveal terribly much, let alone whether Hitler had been down by fifty percent in the scrotal department.
With the absence of any medical records that could prove it one way or another, it appeared that the Soviet autopsy was merely parroting the popular myth, and for decades, the jury would have to remain out.
All that was to change, however, in December 2015, when the notebooks of Josef Brinsteiner, the doctor at Landsberg prison in 1923, emerged at the Munich State Archives. It was Brinsteiner who had examined Hitler after he had been incarcerated that year, and his records clearly show that he had ‘right-sided cryptorchidism’. Incidentally, Brinsteiner was sympathetic to Hitler’s political goals, so we can’t put this potential slur down to a left-wing doctor seeking to defame Hitler.
In layman’s terms, this means that Hitler had an undescended testicle, a relatively common condition that affects some 1 in 100 boys. Although the treatment today – orchiopexy – is fairly straightforward, when Hitler was growing up in the 1890s and 1910s in central Europe, it was anything but, as this history of the procedure makes clear. (I’ll understand if you put that down in the file ‘Links I’ll Never Click’.)
Having an undescended testicle as an adult is a problem, and there is increased risk of malignancy and infertility. Crucially, it is also thought that it can lead to erectile dysfunction, although this view is not universally held. However, if this was the case with Hitler, then it goes a long way to explaining why he appears to have been sexually reticent. Even if he did not suffer from dysfunction, he may have been sufficiently embarrassed by the condition to have put him off his sexual stride.
One can speculate further, and wonder how different Hitler’s character would have been had he not suffered from the condition. Would a sexually confident Hitler, enjoying a functional and fulfilling romantic relationship with a woman, been less drawn to extremism and violence? Might he even have eschewed politics altogether? Of course, we can never know, but it is tempting to wonder whether the Second World War might never have happened had Hitler’s right ball been in the right place.
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