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For Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, it was a straightforward matter of protecting his troops from venereal disease. For everyone else, well, not so much.
Having a pathological fear of syphilis (which he likely had himself), the Fuhrer was determined to ensure that the Germans serving under him could indulge themselves without the risk of infection. And infection was a legitimate risk as it was. Following the occupation of France, the French brothels were a prime breeding ground for the kind of diseases that could remove a soldier from active duty. In a letter written by Heinrich Himmler on November 20, 1940, he stated that: "The greatest danger in Paris is the widespread and uncontrolled presence of whores, picking up clients in bars, dance halls, and other places. It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health just for the sake of a quick adventure." Sources have pointed out that French prostitutes infecting German soldiers accounted for more losses than many divisions of the Allied Forces.
To counter this threat to German health, Himmler and Hitler launched what would be known as the Borghild Project in 1941. Designated "more secret than top secret", the project was run by Himmler's commander-in-chief, Dr. Joachim Mrurgowsky of the notorious SS Institute. The purpose of the project was to create what was essentially the world's first sex doll for German troops to use instead of prostitutes. With a team of craftsmen from the Hygiene Museum in Dresden, Germany, the work was overseen by chief technician Franz Tschakert whose "Woman of Glass" had astounded visitors to the Museum's International Hygiene Exhibit years earlier. Himmler concluded that only Tschakert could create the kind of doll that would be needed for the project.
Though Mrurgowsky was later replaced by a Danish doctor named Olen Hannussen, the project continued with full Nazi support. According to sources, the plan was to create "galvanoplastical dolls" that could be easily disinfected and stored in hygienic trailers designed to follow German troops as they moved into new territories. It was Himmler's intention that the dolls could replace the "loose women" and brothels that he viewed as a prime risk for infection. The difficulties involved in carrying out Himmler's order soon became apparent though.
In a letter written by a psychiatrist friend of Hannussen who was also involved in the project, the challenges that needed to be overcome to make the sex dolls feasible were summed up in the following way:
”Sure thing, purpose and goal of the dolls is to relieve our soldiers. They have to fight and not be on the browl or mingle with ”foreign womenfolk”. However: no real men will prefer a doll to a real woman, until our technicians meet the following quality standards-1. The synthetic flesh has to feel the same like real flesh
2. The doll’ s body should be as agile and moveable as the real body
3. The doll’s organ should feel absolutely realistic.”
The moralistic bent underlying the project was apparent from the beginning. As Hannussen wrote in his logbook, "The doll has only one purpose and she should never become a substitute for the honourable mother at home... When the soldier makes love to Borghild, it has nothing to do with love. Therefore the face of our anthropomorphic sexmachine should be exactly how Weininger described the common wanton’s face.” The team put in charge of actually developing the dolls included Tschakert, his protege Arthur Rink (who was the chief sculptor), various technicians, and a hairstylist. Using a plastic framework, they created a synthetic skin that was intended to be easily cleaned by common antiseptics. Despite Himmler's sponsorship, getting the necessary materials during wartime wasn't easy but Tshakert and his team persevered.
Among other design innovations, Olen Hannussen felt that the dolls needed to have a "rose hip form that would grip well" and that the face of the doll should have a "cheeky and naughty look." A Hungarian actress, Kathe von Nagy, was initially approached by Himmler to be the model for the doll but she declined the "honour." Instead, the dolls were made as blue-eyed blondes to "comfort" the troops as well s giving them the proper "Nordic look". As for the actual body, Tschakert invited a number of famous women athletes to come to his studios but despaired of finding the perfect body among them. As he told his superiors, ”Sometimes the legs are too short and look deformed, or the lady has a hollow back and arms like a wrestler. The overall appearance is always dreadful and I fear there is no other way than to combine.”
As for Arthur Rink, he was charged with creating "ten wanton faces" that were then tested by the team psychiatrist, Rudolf Chargeheime, to find the one that men would find most attractive. Chargeheimer and Hannussen felt that it was not enough for the face to be attractive, it also needed to have the "right" facial expression. Unfortunately, as Chargeheimer wrote to Hannussen, "the idea of beauty harboured by the SS might not be shared by the majority of our soldiers.” Exactly how Chargeheimer tested the different faces on German soldiers isn't recorded but his methodology must have been something to see. Even the hair that would be on the dolls was hotly disputed. While the hairdresser favoured a more natural German look, Hannussen insisted that the doll should have a 'boyish hairdo" since the doll was a "field-whore" who was "part of the fighting forces" rather than an honourable mother.
The dolls were intended to come in three models that varied according to breast size: 168 cm, 176 cm, and 182 cm. The first model produced in September 1941 was overwhelmingly approved by Himmler when it was presented to him in Berlin. After carefully examining the doll's various orifices, Himmler ordered fifty more on the spot. Since Tschakert's Dresden studio was too small to meet the demand for fifty dollls, let alone the hundreds of dolls that would eventually be needed, plans began to be made to create a special production facility for mass production.
Which was where things stalled for the Borhild Project. There were other military priorities given the realities of the war and Himmler dropped plans for the expanded facility a week later. Instead, he cut the budget. As Arthur Rink would later report, "The bronze model for Type B (the only one that reached the final stage) was never completed. I have no idea as to the whereabouts of the doll but I presume that she, like all my plaster and studies, was sent to Berlin. If she was kept in Dresden it is most likely she was destroyed in the Allied bombing of that city."
By the beginning of 1942, the entire Borghild project was cancelled. According to rumour, the concept of sex dolls faced heavy resistance from the average German soldiers, none of whom seemed mesmerized by the prospect of "doll brothels". All traces of the Borghild Project vanished as Hitler and Himmler moved on to other matters. Any remaining evidence was destroyed by the 1945 Dresden bombings which also heavily damaged the Hygiene Museum itself, including two versions of Tschakert's Woman of Glass masterpiece.
So, why weren't condoms issued instead to avoid the problem of sexually transmitted diseases? One possible reason may have been the perception that condoms were a Jewish innovation. It was Polish-Jewish entrepreneur Julius Fromm who had first invented the cement dipping method for making seamless condoms from chemically treated rubber (know you know why they're called "rubbers"). After patenting his invention in 1916, Fromm founded an international condom industry, including building the first condom vending machine. While the Nazis forced Fromm to sell them his factories in 1938 (he had become a German citizen by this time), the factories were either destroyed or retooled for the war effort. If condoms were used at all, they were used grudgingly and with no support from the Nazi hierarchy (having children was the Aryan way, after all). Not until after the end of World War II was Fromm's family able to relaunch their condom business.
Whether or not the "Jewishness" of condoms led to the launch of the Borghild Project, the Nazi sex doll never materialized. On the other hand, the 30cm Bild Lilli doll, based on a popular cartoon became all the rage in Germany following the war. An X-rated item, the dolls were mainly sold in bars and clubs as a gag gift. That is, until Mattel founder Ruth Handler, purchased several Bild Lilli dolls while visiting Europe. Though Ruth Handler and her husband did not realize the erotic nature of the doll at first, they eventually released their own, less busty, version under the name Barbie. While the company owning the Bild Lilli trademark eventually sued for copyright infringement, they lost the case. The few remaining Bild Lilli dolls are now extremely valuable collector's items.
If any of the surviving members of the Borghild project took notice, they likely got a good laugh out of that.
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