Action #7: SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga


Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered in 1941 the development of the world's first inflatable sex doll meant to serve the sexual needs of the German fighting man. The officer directly responsible for the sex doll project was S.S. commander Heinrich Himmler. The plan was never put into action because the factory that was supposed to manufacture the sex dolls was in the city of Dresden, which was bombed by the Allies. And so Hitler never got to become the "father of the inflatable doll."

Brochure in English and Croatian language available

SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga
The Borghild Project Reconstruction

Editor: Janez Janša
Publisher: KONTEJNER
Translation and proofreading: Ivana Bago, Susanne Lenz, Jana Renee Wilcoxen, Urša Jernejc, Matija Ravitz, Christopher Sultan, Tomislav Medak
Design: Dejan Dragosavac Ruta
Print: Gipa
Zagreb, 2007

Janez Janša
SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga

The Borghild Project Reconstruction

The world’s first sexdoll – or “gynoid” – was built in 1941 by a team of craftsmen from the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden. The project was supervised by the famous preparator and technician Franz Tschackert; known as the “Father of the Woman of Glass”, which happened to be the sensation in the 1930s at the 2nd International Hygiene-Exhibition, he used his skills and experience in order to create a kind of doll the world had never seen before.

The “field-hygienic project” was an initiative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who regarded the doll as a “counterbalance” for the sexual drive of his Stormtroopers. In one of his letters, dated 20 November 1940 he mentions that the Wehrmacht had suffered “unnecessary losses” inflicted by street prostitutes in France. “The greatest dangers in Paris are the wide-spread and uncontrolled whores, picking by clients in bars, dancehalls, and other places. It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health, just for the sake of a quick adventure.”

The project – originally called Burghild – was considered “Geheime Reichssache”, which was “more secret than top secret” at the time. Himmler put his commander-in-chief SS-Dr. Joachim Mrugowsky in charge, the highest ranking officer of Berlin’s notorious SS-Institute. All members of the team – even Tschackert – were bound to secrecy.

In July 1941, when Hitler’s army attacked Russia, an unknown but ambitious Danish SS-Doctor named Olen Hannussen took over from Mrugowsky. Perhaps he was the one who changed Burghild to Borghild, which is nothing more than the Danish equivalent. Hannussen pushed everybody forward to make the project a success.

The “galvonoplastical dolls” – manufactured in a bronze-mould – were meant to follow the Stormtroopers in “disinfection-trailers” into the enemy’s land, in order to stop them from visiting “infection herds” – like front-brothels and “loose women” [1]. At least, this was Himmler’s plan. A psychiatrist, Rudolf Chargeheimer, who was a friend of Hannussen and involved in the project, wrote him a letter to clarify the difficulties.
“Sure thing, the purpose and goal of the dolls is to relieve our soldiers. They have to fight and not be on the prowl 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 as 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.”

Between June 1940–1941 IG Farben had already developed a number of “skin-friendly polymers” for the SS. Their special characteristics: high tensile strength and elasticity. The cast of a suitable model proved to be more difficult.

Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty-ideal of the Nazis, that is, white skin, fair hair, and blue eyes. Although the team considered a doll with brown hair, the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen SS insisted on manufacturing a “Nordic doll”. Tschackert hoped to make the plaster cast from a living model and a number of famous female athletes were invited to come to his studios, among them Wilhelmina von Bremen and Ellen Braumüller. In the process, Tschackert realized it was the wrong way. In a letter to Mrugowsky he came to the conclusion: “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.”

While Mrugowsky still favoured a “whole imprint” of NS-diva Kristina Söderbaum, the Borghild-designer decided to build the doll’s mould in a “modular way”. In Tschackert’s view the doll should be nothing more than a “female bestform”, a “perfect automaton of lust”, that would combine “the best of all possible bodies”. The team agreed on a cheeky and naughty face, a look-a-like of Käthe von Nagy, but the actress politely declined to loan her face to Tschackert’s doll. After Mrugowsky’s exit, Dr. Hannussen rejected the idea to cast a face from a living person. He believed in an “artificial face of lust”, which would be more attractive to soldiers.

In his logbook he wrote:

“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.”

Today Arthur Rink, born 1919, a master of art and student of Hitler’s favourite sculptor Arno Breker, is the only living eyewitness of the most discreetly kept project of the III Reich.

After a short practical training at “Puppenwerk Käthe Kruse”, Rink had worked in Tschackert’s studio at the German Hygiene-Museum in Dresden since 1937. He joined the Borghild-team as early as 1940, which included: a sculptor (Rink), a varnisher, a specialist for synthetic materials (Tschackert), a hairdresser, a lathe operator, and – in the beginning – a mechanic from “Würtemberg’s Metallfabrik” in Friedrichshafen.

Chemist of the Rheinischen Gummi- und Celluloid Fabrik preparing Ipolex.
The first construction-document showed that Tschackert had planned to use “a simple aluminium-skeleton”. But soon he changed his mind and decided to use Elastolin. The synthetic flesh was another problem. Rink: “The material was not easy to find. Mr. Tschackert, an expert on plastics, had tried several materials based on rubber or butyl-rubber: All came from IG Farben or from the Rheinischen Gummi- und Celluloid Fabrik. One material was called Ipolex, it was extremely tear proof, but it developed yellow spots when cleaned with certain detergents.” At this stage Rink gave the doll’s torso the finishing touch, working with plaster and a mixture of “Schwarzmehl and glue”.

Under Hannussen’s strict instructions, “ten wanton-faces” (Rink) were modelled, and used by Dr. Chargeheimer in psychological tests. Chargeheimer and Hannussen were convinced that the Borghild’s success would depend in a major way on her “facial expression”. Contrary to the common belief that men become aroused only by female sexual characteristics, they thought it would all “depend on the right face”. In addition, they were performing Synthetic voice experiments because they believed that the voice would also be important. Rink’s plasters were used to produce some model-heads in a showroom-factory in Königsberg.

The purpose of this costly exercise was to find out what type of woman the soldiers would really fancy. Or as Chargeheimer wrote to Hannussen – “the idea of beauty harboured by the SS might not be shared by the majority of our soldiers.” He even considered “the vulgar could appeal to most ordinary men”. The results of Dr. Chargeheimer’s tests at the barracks of Soldatenheim St. Helier are not known. The fact is, at this time, Rink and Tschackert had already finished a complete model of the doll.

Arthur Rink made a solemn declaration about what happened next.

“Three types of dolls were planned: Type A: 168 cm, Type B: 176 cm, Type C: 182 cm.

Type B would be the first to go into serial production. The members of the project were divided about Borghild’s breasts. The SS favoured them round and full, Dr. Hannussen insisted on ‘a rose hip form that would grip well’ and he won the dispute. The first model of Borghild was finished in September 1941. She was exactly the ‘Nordic type’.

The idea of our hairdresser to give the doll a ‘Schneckenfrisur’ (earphones of hair) was rejected by Hannussen. He wanted her to have ‘a boyish hair-do’ to underline that Borghild was ‘part of the fighting forces’ – a field-whore and not an honourable Mother.

Borghild’s presentation in Berlin was a great success. Himmler was there and so was Dr. Chargeheimer. While the gentlemen examined her artificial orifices, Franz Tschackert was very nervous, but Himmler was so enthusiast that he ordered 50 Borghilds on the spot. It was considered to move production to a special facility, because Tschackert’s studio was too small to cope with the production of 50 dolls. In the face of more and more unpleasant developments in the east, Himmler dropped his plans one week later and instead cut our budget.

In the beginning of 1942, some weeks after Stalingrad, the whole project was put on hold. All construction-documents had to be returned to the SS-Hygiene-Institute. The bronze-mould for Type B was never finished. I have no clue of whereabouts of the doll, but I presume, that she – like all my plasters and studies – was sent to Berlin. If she was kept in Tschackert’s studio in Dresden, it is most likely that she was destroyed in February 1945, when allied bombers destroyed the city.”

The fact is: the bombs devastated the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden. Two models of the Woman of Glass – Taschkert’s masterpiece – were destroyed.

Norbert Lenz
“The Borghild-Project – A Discreet Matter of the III Reich”
Translation: Susanne Lenz
Proofreading: Jana Renee Wilcoxen

photo: Nada Zgank



Janez Janša
SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga
The Borghild Project Reconstruction

29 Nov. - 7 Dec. 2007
Galerija Nova (Showroom)
Teslina 7, Zagreb, Croatia

Exhibition in the frame of the Touch Me project & the platform RE:akt!

Exhibit curator and organiser:
KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis, Zagreb

Producer: Aksioma - Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana


Janez Janša
SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga
The Borghild Project Reconstruction

10 Apr. 2008
P74 Center and Gallery
Prušnikova 74, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Exhibit organiser and producer:
Aksioma - Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana

Co-organized by:
zavod P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E.


Janez Janša
SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga
The Borghild Project Reconstruction

10 May 2008
Frauen und Technologie in Netzwerken

Curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli and Gaia Novati
Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin, Germany


Janez Janša
SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga
The Borghild Project Reconstruction

19 July 2008
8th Performance Art Festival Osijek, Croatia

Platforms intersection:
What to Affirm? What to Perform? HOW to RE:akt

Curated by Sergej Pristaš
Barantana, Osijek, Croatia