September 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 coup in which the CIA helped remove the democratically elected (but leftist!) president of Chile, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. We're celebrating the anniversary by having Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings school us all month on real-life dictators of all kind. Autocratic leaders always have a dim view of actual facts, from ancient Rome up to, well, today, but that's no excuse for us to believe all kinds of silly fake news about them.
The Debunker: How Many Testicles Did Hitler Have?
You know the "Colonel Bogey March"? That jaunty air that the prisoners whistle in Bridge on the River Kwai? During World War II, the march got a new lease on life in Britain, with new lyrics enjoyed by young and old alike:
Hitler has only got one ball
Göring has two but very small
Himmler is rather sim'lar
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all
It's catchy—even though the contortions required to make "Goebbels" rhyme with "no balls" fairly boggle the mind.
The rhyme is mostly responsible for the widely-held public idea that Hitler, indeed, had only one testicle. But the fact that this little poem was clearly a bit of cheerful wartime propaganda has convinced others that the whole thing is an urban myth, and Hitler's balls were just fine. (Medically, that is. Morally, I'm sure they were as reprehensible as the rest of him.) And it's true that the rhyme was just a bit of British cheek, which originally fingered Göring as the one-balled Nazi—a reference to his having been shot in the groin during Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.
But in fact, both beliefs are wrong, mein freund. Hitler probably did not have just one testicle, but that doesn't mean his little Nazi scrotum was normal. Hitler was wounded by French fire at the World War I Battle of the Somme in 1916, but historical opinion differs as to whether the exploding shell just wounded his left thigh, or did actual damage to the Fuhrer's, um, "little bunker." But recently, it was revealed that Hitler's long-lost medical records from a 1923 arrest had turned up at auction in Bavaria in 2010. These records are clear: Hitler had the normal two testicles, untouched by artillery fire, but one had simply never descended. The "missing" testicle was still there—it was just in his abdomen, not down in his scrotum where it belonged. If this is true, the originators of the "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" rhyme were shockingly close to the truth. Hopefully, it was just coincidence, and they didn't really have any inside knowledge.
Quick Quiz: In 2014, what disgraced figure tweeted that he had been dealt a card about his own "missing testicle" while playing Cards Against Humanity with friends?
Ken Jennings is the author of twelve books, most recently Planet Funny and co-hosts the most important podcast in human history, Omnibus. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.