Defendants in the Beer Hall Putsch trial on April 1, 1924. Evidence from a prison doctor’s medical examination following Adolf Hitler’s arrest indicated Hitler had “right-side cryptorchidism,” or an undescended right testicle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The number of testicles attached to the body of one Adolf Hitler, a matter of the utmost historical importance, has been debated for decades. It also spurred mockery among Allied soldiers at the height of Hitler’s supreme reign of Nazi Germany during World War II.
A schoolyard British song written in 1939 was titled “Hitler Has Only One Ball.” The taunting tune was sung to the melody of the “Colonel Bogey March,” a British marching song made famous in 1914 during World War I.
“Hitler has got only one ball,” the lyrics go for one variation of the song. “Göring has two but very small. Himmler is rather sim’lar. But poor old Goebbels [Go-balls] has no balls at all.”
The song developed into a wartime national anthem and an ingenious propaganda melody sung by British troops intended to impugn the reputation of Nazi leaders. The anthem eventually found its way into the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was about Allied prisoners of war who were forced by their Japanese captors to build the Burma-Thailand railroad. Although the testicular lyrics weren’t included in the film, British audiences identified with the humor.
Some historians suspect that wartime propaganda and urban myth spurred Hitler’s reputation as a uniballer. However, based on medical records dating back to before World War II, one German researcher claims to have discovered incontrovertible proof that Hitler truly had only one testicle.
On Nov. 12, 1923, the future Nazi führer was arrested after his first attempt to seize power in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Upon Hitler’s incarceration at Landsberg Prison, Dr. Josef Steiner Brin conducted a thorough medical examination.
“The records of that examination clearly show that Hitler had an undescended testicle on the right side,” said professor Peter Fleischmann of Erlangen-Nuremberg University. The medical diagnosis from Brin was “right-side cryptorchidism.”
The medical records that surfaced from an auction in 2010 have contradicted long-running speculation that Hitler lost one testicle during the Battle of the Somme in World War I.
Moreover, when Soviet pathologists examined Hitler’s immolated corpse after the Red Army’s conquest of Berlin in 1945, they noted that the deceased Nazi leader possessed only one descended testicle — however, they pointed to the left side. “The left testicle could not be found either in the scrotum or on the spermatic cord inside the inguinal canal, or in the small pelvis,” Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski wrote in 1968, describing the Soviet autopsy of Hitler’s remains.
Despite the compelling evidence, this question will likely continue to fuel debate for years to come.
Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.