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 World War II 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 obscene, reflect the enthusiasm with which it was first adopted as a British Army marching-song, then as a popular song of defiance against the regime of Nazi Germany 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).
Ron Rosenbaum has 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 a reference to this song that they could expect the British population and secret services to recognise. 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.
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 two but very small
Himmler is rather 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 such as the Taj Mahal. 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 off the other, when he was only 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 popular culture
This song was featured in Episode 8 of Season 4 of the Amazon Prime show The Man in the High Castle. The science-fiction series depicts an alternate reality in which the Axis powers won World War II in place of the Allied powers. The episode is titled “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball.”
A sketch in season 3, episode 5 of The Armstrong & Miller Show tells the fictional tale of the writing of the song after it is discovered that the stories in the song lyrics are true.
In 1976, this song was jokingly referenced in a skit called "Sale of the Half-Century" in Episode 28 of The Benny Hill Show. In a Name That Tune style question the first few bars are played. The contestant wrongly answers with "After the Ball" to which Benny Hill responds, "well, you're sort of half right".
- 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 (1998). Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. Harper Collins. 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 24 February 2016.