Hitler Has Only Got One Ball
|"Hitler Has Only Got One Ball"|
|Written||c. August 1939|
|Composer(s)||Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts as "Colonel Bogey March"|
|Lyricist(s)||Attributed to Toby O'Brien|
"Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" is a British song that mocks Nazi leaders using blue comedy in reference to their testicles. Multiple variants of the lyrics exist, generally sung as four-line verses to the tune of the "Colonel Bogey March".
Origin of the song
In his autobiography Fringe Benefits, writer Donough O'Brien says his father, Toby O'Brien, wrote the original in August 1939 as British propaganda. Toby O'Brien was a publicist for the British Council at the time. This version started with the words "Göring has only got one ball", a reference to Göring's grievous groin wound suffered during the Beer Hall Putsch, and went on to imply that Hitler had two small ones. In virtually all later versions, the positions are reversed. The statement that Himmler has "something sim'lar" appears in all versions. The final line of this original and some later forms ends with the word play that Goebbels had "no balls". Both these variations argue strongly in favour of O'Brien's version's being a very early version, and a Daily Mail report of the time states that it was "attributed to someone not unconnected with our old friend the British Council".
O'Brien's claims have not been substantiated, and no author has ever been identified for the more popular versions that begin "Hitler has only got one ball". Hubert Gregg also claimed to have written the lyrics, which he said he sent anonymously to the British War Office. There is no known attempt by anyone to claim or enforce a copyright on the lyrics. It is listed in the Roud Folk Song Index, number 10493.
The numerous versions, including the frankly obscene, reflect the enthusiasm with which it was first adopted as a British Army marching-song, then as a popular song of defiance against Adolf Hitler's Nazi-German regime in the other branches of the British armed forces, and amongst British civilians, from 1940 onwards. In the words of Greg Kelley,
As a means of ridiculing the Nazis, "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" became immensely popular among Allied troops, who in transmitting this song were exercising something of a wartime convention by demeaning the sexual faculties of enemy leaders. But the mockery extended beyond just the Nazis' sexual capacities. Since the 1920s, the words balls or ballsy had come to denote notions of courage, nerve, or fortitude. In that sense, defective testicles rendered the Nazis defective soldiers. This song's itemized taxonomy of malformed German genitalia—the monorchid, the micro-orchid, the anorchid—was particularly forceful, and satisfying, to Allied soldiers in that it scattered satiric buckshot across the whole Nazi high command (Hitler; Hermann Göring, commander in chief of the Luftwaffe; Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS; and Goebbels, Reich minister of propaganda).
It has been suggested that the pre-Glasnost Soviet descriptions of what remained of Hitler's corpse reported his monorchism (having only one functional testicle) at the suggestion of Guy Burgess and/or Kim Philby, as part of their making a joke, based on this song, that they could expect the British population and secret services, if not those of the US or USSR, would get. A book published in 2015 asserts, on evidence from an enforced medical examination Hitler underwent in 1923, that he in fact had unilateral cryptorchism, that is he suffered from an undescended right testicle. The book also suggests he had hypospadias or micropenis brought about by low testosterone levels during gestation.
Whatever the reason for Hitler's alleged monorchism becoming a popular myth, there was psychodynamic literature, produced outside the USSR after World War II, which sought to explain his personality and behaviour, as a charismatic, genocidal megalomaniac, which drew on his alleged congenital "semi-castration" and/or the child-rearing practices of his family.
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Introductory verse – infrequently, an introductory verse is used, set to the tune of "Land of Hope and Glory".
Land of soap and water,
Hitler's having a bath.
Churchill's looking through the keyhole,
Having a jolly good laugh
All versions are sung to the tune of The Colonel Bogey March. O'Brien's version of the song runs:
Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's [are] so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all
Popular alterations have been made to the lines in this version, most of them apparently for the purpose of better fitting the "Colonel Bogey" rhythm. A common version swaps the names in the first two lines and improves the scansion of the final line:
Hitler has only got one ball
Göring has got two but they're small
Himmler has something sim'lar
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all
Outside the United Kingdom, the second line is often sung as "the other is on the kitchen wall" or another location. Some areas of the UK alter the second line from the Albert Hall to feature local buildings.
Hitler has only got one ball
The other is in the Albert Hall
His mother, the dirty bugger
Cut it off when he was small
Where Australian troops had served in North Africa, Rommel took the place of Göring in the second line. One variant reflects the respect in which Rommel was held by British soldiers during the war, describing him as having "four or five" balls.
A common additional or third verses also contains lyrics that contain events that happen after the testicle has been cut off.
She threw it into the apple tree
It fell in to the deep blue sea
The fishes got out their dishes
And had scallops and bollocks for tea
In other media
The song has frequently been heard and seen in other media:
- The lyrics were sung in the 1972 film adaptation of the John Knowles novel A Separate Peace (although they are not in the book, and the tune to which they are sung in the film is not the "Colonel Bogey March").
- In the 1972 film Our Miss Fred, the protagonist, a British Army entertainer and drag artist, finds himself behind enemy lines and inadvertently sings the song to a group of senior German Army officers. When challenged as to the meaning of the lyrics, he convinces them that they are a reference to the tennis-playing skills of Hitler and his ministers.
- Bette Midler sang the song in the 1980 filmed version of her show, Divine Madness.
- The song appears in the British television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo. Actor Sam Kelly as German Captain Hans Geering, who is posing as a British prisoner of war, begins singing the tune to prove he is British, but he is made to stop before he completes the first line. Later, as the Nazi general drives away, all the prisoners of war (including French and Germans in disguise as POWs) start whistling the tune and giving the 'up yours' hand sign. The song (in the last (6th) episode of the third season in 1987; see 'Allo 'Allo! (series 3)) alludies to the 1957 film above.
- Thomas Pynchon quoted the words in his novel V., putting them in the mouths of British artillerymen on Malta.
- The song is sung by Donald Moffat in the 1996 film The Evening Star (a sequel to 1983's Oscar-winning Terms of Endearment).
- It also appears in the 2009 movie John Rabe, set in Nanking, China, in 1937. The German, Rabe (played by Ulrich Tukur), and an American doctor, Robert O. Wilson (Steve Buscemi), get drunk one night and share their mutual antipathy to the Nazi regime by singing it together.
- A variant of the song is sung in the 2001 movie Dark Blue World by the British pilots teaching the lyrics to Czech pilots.
- Sketch comedy programme The Armstrong and Miller Show dramatised an (entirely fictional) process of writing the song.
- George Carlin performed this song in a comedy routine titled "I'm Musical" which was included in a box set titled The Little David Years (1971–1977).
- The song appears in the satirical comic-book Adventures in the Rifle Brigade by Garth Ennis and is the main MacGuffin of its sequel, aptly named Operation Bollock.
- The students in detention during the 1980s movie The Breakfast Club whistle the tune while their overseer is out; when he comes back in John Bender (Judd Nelson) whistles the first two bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
- Greg Kelley, "Colonel Bogey’s March through Folk and Popular Culture" in Warrior Ways: Explorations in Modern Military Folklore, Utah State University Press, 2012, p.208
- Ron Rosenbaum. Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
- Jordans, Frank (December 22, 2015). "Records show Hitler enjoyed special treatment in prison". Berlin. Associated Press. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "The Science Behind Hitler's Possible Micropenis". LiveScience.com. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- Anthony Hopkins' "Songs from the Front & Rear" Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton; 1979 pg 186
- "Hitler 'had tiny deformed penis' as well as just one testicle, historians claim". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- on YouTube. Scene from the movie John Rabe (1:18 min)