Did British Spies Try to Feminize Hitler?

If you watch search terms closely, web sex memes become evident pretty quickly. Because of the tendency of many sites — including “reputable” news sites — to republish crap from dubious sources with nary a web search to determine its bullshit value, it’s tempting to call this brand of meme repetition what it is: web hysteria. But to do that, I’d have to use a word root that has become inherently misogynistic, and I don’t wanna do that. I mean, why blame an innocently wandering uterus for the inability of web writers to exercise skepticism?

One of today’s sex and gender memes, in case you haven’t heard, is that British spies tried to feminize Hitler. No, this isn’t a forced-fem celebrity fantasy on Alt.Sex.Stories, it’s a piece in the Telegraph. Their “documentation” is only slightly more credible than the last Nazi sex story, the one about Wehrmacht sex dolls, but it hasn’t been debunked yet.

The source of these Hitlerian hijinks is biologist and television presenter Brian J. Ford, who — guess what? Has a book coming out next month, which chronicles a wide variety of dumb ideas the Allies spent money on. The Telegraph says: “Prof Ford unearthed details of the hare-brained schemes by lookng through stacks of recently declassified files,” but offers no documentation or fact-checking beyond the esteemed Professor Ford’s say-so.  Lesen Sie nur diese Scheiße:

Some tried bombs to neutralise the Führer, others tried bullets. All failed.

Now it has come to light that British spies looked at an even more audacious way of derailing the man behind the German war machine – by giving him female sex hormones.

Agents planned to smuggle doses of oestrogen into his food to make him less aggressive and more like his docile younger sister Paula, who worked as a secretary.

Spies working for the British were close enough to Hitler to have access to his food, said Professor Brian Ford, who discovered the plot.

He explained that oestrogen was chosen because it was tasteless and would have a slow and subtle effect, meaning it would pass Hitler’s food testers unnoticed.

Speaking about the scheme, Prof Ford, a science writer and fellow of Cardiff University, said: “There was an Allied plan that they would smuggle oestrogen into Hitler’s food and change his sex so he would become more feminine and less aggressive.

“Their research had showed the importance of sex hormones – they were beginning to be used in sex therapy in London.”

He went on: “There were agents who would be able to get it into his food – it would have been entirely possible.”

Because Hitler had tasters, Prof Ford said there was “no mileage to putting poison in his food because they would immediately fall victim to it.”

But he went on: “Sex hormones were a different matter.”

 

Okeedokee! I can’t speak for whether Paula Hitler was “passive” because she “worked as a secretary” — I’ve known some hard-ass secretaries in my day. But if the rampantly sexist assertions are those of the Allies at the time, the Telegraph has a journalistic duty to clarify that fact. Since they don’t, they’re repeating offensive sexist bullshit that might have been believed at the time, but it shouldn’t be delivered today unqualified in a news source.

More directly, though…is there any truth to this? The Telegraph certainly doesn’t provide us any pointers to credible documentation, and of course neither do any of the news sources reposting it, like Jezebel (which ridicules the plot for its bone-headed sexism, but not the dubious reportage or lack of historical rigor) and Time, which doesn’t even bother to call the plot itself into question. At least Jezebel points out the grotesque sexism of the assumption; Time refers to the plot to “Make the Führer a Fräulein,” which is insulting to trans people as well as women. (Yeah, people…it’s really that simple. As if.) The Village Voice points out a few flaws in the supposed “plot” — but, once again, it swallows the source hook, line, and sinker.

And these aren’t the only places that are reprinting the story without skepticism. My favorite is Russia Today, where the first comment references the (discredited) story that Hitler had one testicle and the idea that this would make him more feminine, and the second comment suggests (Tongue-in-cheek? Who knows?) that MI-5 is, like the CIA, run by “the reptiles among us.”

Now, had Professor Ford referred to MI-5 as the agency that tried to feminize Hitler, that would be a dead giveaway — since MI-5 is the branch of British military intelligence responsible for domestic intelligence, and espionage within Germany would have been the purview of MI-6. But that error appears to have been introduced by Russia Today; it doesn’t appear in the Telegraph article. But that error’s been reproduced at Prison Planet, et cetera — it promises to be yet another of those memes that grows with the telling, with new disinformation introduced by each pair of grubby hands that wipes its own shit on the story. Not that it matters.

What matters is that the Professor Brian Ford presenting the story appears to be Brian J. Ford, indeed a fellow of Cardiff University, which according to Wikipedia is a “leading research university.” Fine. But he’s not a historian; he’s a biologist and television presenter. He left Cardiff University before graduating to form a private biological research company. Fine. He appears to be a “real” scientist, in that he is a Professor — albeit, as far as I can tell, one without a college degree.

Fine. Some pretty serious bad-asses out there never got college degrees (Hitler among them). For all I know, Ford’s sources might be entirely credible — but I’d sure like to see some hard copies. Since these “declassified files” are surely public domain, why doesn’t Professor Ford refer to specific documents in his explanation, rather than just spinning a yarn about putting hormones in Hitler’s food?

If Professor Ford referred to a specific source, then he’d be able to tell us, maybe, if he claims this was just some jack-assed idea one British Colonel floated, or if it was really something the Allies worked on. It’s a little disingenuous not to differentiate between a “plot” when it was some load of crap someone cooked up at a general staff brainstorming meeting. Hey, but since no specific documents are referred to, I haven’t got the foggiest! If this was biological research, we could expect peer review. But it’s the news, so…OMG!!!! NAZIS!!!!

But the vagueness of the information makes my bullshit detector go off, even though I can’t convincingly say that the story is not true. Certainly they had a lot of freaky ideas in World War II. In another part of the Telegraph article, for instance, Professor Ford refers to the Panjandrum, a giant wheel powered by rockets that was proposed to force its way through German defenses on D-Day. That one appears, at a cursory glance, to be a real device; this site even has a supposed photo of it, and says it was — believe it or not — proposed by novelist Nevil Shute, who later wrote the famous novel On the Beach, made into one of the classic cold war post-apocalypse movies with an all-star cast including Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins. (The film was also remade in 2000). So, yes, there are some weird-ass coincidences and hare-brained schemes out there, srsly.

Surely there’s no shortage of weird stories about World War II. In the absence of Professor Ford’s documentation, I can’t debunk the idea that the Allies wanted to “feminize” Hitler by sneaking him estrogen. I can certainly debunk the idea that this was a practical idea in time of war…but then, nobody’s disputing that. What I can point out is something most publications seem to be missing: Repeating this plot in the modern day, whether or not it ever existed, reiterates and reifies offensive, gender-essentialist ideas.

And I remain highly skeptical of whether this “plot” was ever real to begin with. But that’s hardly the most important point in my criticism.

If nothing else, I wish the Telegraph wouldn’t parrot insulting stereotypes about women, secretaries and Hitler’s younger sister. What did she (or any woman, or any secretary) ever do to them?

 

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