New Book Claims Hitler Gave Sex Dolls to Nazi Soldiers

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A new book reveals that Adolf Hitler ordered the manufacture of Aryan blow up dolls to discourage his troops from sleeping with disease-ridden prostitutes.

The so-called “Borghild Project” reportedly kicked off in 1940 when SS chief Heinrich Himmler wrote to Hitler alerting him of the health risks posed to his men by liaisons with French women. “The greatest danger in Paris is the widespread and uncontrolled presence of whores, picking up clients in bars, dance halls, and other places,” he wrote. “It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health just for the sake of a quick adventure.”

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Hitler gave Himmler’s plan the all-clear, and designers set to work creating a smaller-than-life doll dubbed a “gynoid.” Designers approached Hungarian actress Kathe von Nagy and asked if they could model the silicone doll on her. She refused. That inspired them to leave the doll’s face blank: they reasoned that soldiers were more likely to use the “comforters” if they could impart their own fantasies on them. Just in case the men needed a bit of inspiration, the Nazis gave their creation blue eyes and blond hair.

After extensive testing Himmler ordered 50 dolls for his own troops. But by 1942 the party leadership had pulled the cord on the project. Embarrassed soldiers refused to carry the “comforters,” and officers worried that their men would be mocked if captured by the enemy.  American and British forces likely destroyed the gynoid factories  during their bomb raids of Dresden.

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Author Graeme Donald uncovered the sex toy operation while researching his book Mussolini’s Barber, a compilation of the most bizarre stories in military history. He made the discovery while retracing the footsteps of Americans Ruth and Elliot Handler, the inventors of the Barbie doll. They created their iconic toy after visiting Germany in 1956 and buying the Bild Lilli doll—an adult novelty item sold in German barber shops and nightclubs.

“While I was researching this I came across references to Nazi sex dolls and found out that Hitler had ordered them to be made,” Donald says. “As ever, more troops were laid low by disease than by bullets. Syphilis was a problem Hitler was aware of and he was rumored to have suffered from it himself.” (via the Sun)

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William Lee Adams is a writer-reporter at TIME’s London bureau. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.