Logo - Robert M. Kaplan
MBChB FRANZCP MA
Forensic Psychiatrist
Graduate School of Medicine University of Wollongong

Hitler’s half-empty scrotum

February 09, 2016

Hitler’s half-empty scrotum: The long awaited triumph of the One-Ball theory

Article submission by Robert M. Kaplan in The Medical Republic.
Publishing date: 08/02/2016.

The following article is a reader contribution by Dr Robert M Kaplan, a forensic psychiatrist at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong.

Adolf Hitler, the genocidal dictator who drove the world into a horrific war in which at least 12 million people were killed simply because of who they were, remains a source of continued fascination.

There is a considerable literature on his mental state, starting from the time he got into power in 1933. Explanations cover every category in the diagnostic manual. The consensus is that he was not mad, but after that agreement falls away rapidly.

And that is just the beginning. His quack doctor Theodor Morell pumped him full of vitamins, minerals, animal organ extracts and amphetamines. Added to his diet was yogurt prepared from animal faeces to enrich the bowel flora (it didn’t work – he constantly guzzled cream cakes and was, by all accounts, the most flatulent leader in history).

After this, we get to Hitler’s sex life, speculation on which could fill several groaning library shelves. A recent example The Hidden Hitler claims that Hitler was a predatory skirt-wearing queen. This provided the tabloids with some fine material but was dismissed by any serious authorities on the subject. As an individual, Hitler was profoundly shallow, opaque and largely unfathomable. Only known to display affection towards his dog Blondi, his relationships were remarkably bleak; he had no friends, maintaining superficial relationships with his staff as a substitute.

Unsurprisingly, his relationships with women were pathological. Of the five he was involved with, three attempted suicide, two successfully; the most well known is Eva Braun, who was kept away from almost everybody except for his immediate circle. Before Braun, he was besotted with Geli Raubal, his half-niece, who realising that she could never escape him, committed suicide, the same fate that awaited her successor. Rumours flourished that Raubal was forced participate in sado-masochistic and coprophilic practices but it can be said with some certainty that this said more about the allegators’ motives than Hitler.

Hitler’s genitals however are another story. The persistent rumour that he lacked a testicle reached such a peak that it became a popular rhyme among Allied troops:

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler has something sim’lar,
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.

Leaving aside the obvious shots at Hitler’s underlings, how did this arise? Dr Felix Bloch, his childhood doctor, was to claim that Hitler had normal genitalia, but this was many years later when Bloch was a refugee in New York and something of a celebrity over his notorious patient.

Hitler went to enormous lengths to hide his medical history. Like other doctors, his personal physician Morell was never allowed to examine the pelvic and abdominal area. With the Austrian Anschluss an SS team headed was sent in to destroy incriminating files. These included the Austrian Army medical examination in 1913 that found him unfit for service. This was intriguing as he did not have any health problems at the time and went on to serve in a Bavarian regiment the following year without difficulty. The possibility of congenital abnormalities must be regarded as high, but we shall never know.

Fritz Redlich, who wrote a definitive history of the dictator’s health, came up with the explanation that Hitler had spina bifida occulta, which was frequently associated with urogenital abnormalities, especially hypospadias and cryptorchidism. There was no way of confirming the diagnosis and not everyone could accept this explanation.

The matter did not escape historians. Without exception, they excluded madness and regarded psychological investigations as nugatory, if not tendentious. But what Alan Bullock genially described as the one-ball theory refused to disappear.

Until today, that is. As something of a Christmas present to Hitler researchers, a German researcher has found convincing evidence to confirm the one-ball theory. Following the failure of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, on 12 November 1923, Hitler had to undergo a medical examination on arrival at Landsberg prison for a five-year sentence (but was released after 9 months). The records of that examination, long thought lost, have been exhumed by Professor Peter Fleischmann. They show that Hitler had an undescended right testicle. The prison medical officer, Dr Josef Steiner Brin, noted that “Adolf Hitler, artist, recently writer” was “healthy and strong” but had “right-side cryptorchidism”.

So there you have it: Hitler only had one ball. Does that change anything? Probably not. Hitler was obsessed with heredity. For the world to know that he had genital deformities would have destroyed his credibility. He must have been in a state of denial but sufficiently aware that he had to hide all knowledge of it and therefore keep women at a considerable distance. There is nothing to suggest that a second testicle would have changed his behaviour, sufficient to make him the most evil man who ever lived. It would however have led to a change in the words of the popular song, so that is not all bad.

Robert M Kaplan’s chapter on Adolf Hitler can be read in his book ‘The Exceptional Brain and How it Changed the World’ (Allen & Unwin, 2011).


Robert M Kaplan is a forensic psychiatrist at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong. His book Prophet of Psychiatry: In Search of Reg Ellery was released in January 2015.

View the published article.

About the Author
Robert M. Kaplan is a Clinical Associate Professor, Graduate School Of Medicine, University of Wollongong. A forensic psychiatrist, writer and speaker, his books are Medical Murder: Disturbing Tales Of Doctors Who Kill (Allen & Unwin 2009) and The Exceptional Brain and How It Changed The World (Allen & Unwin 2011). He has written on a range of medical, psychiatric, historic and forensic topics and is looking for something else to take up his time so he can yet again avoid finishing his autobiography Memoirs of a Marginal Medical Student.