1918 - 2008

When Dora Ratjen was born on November 20, 1918 in Erichshof, Germany, her father claimed the midwife told him the baby was a boy, but then corrected herself saying it was a girl. Later, Dora stated that although he was raised a girl, wearing dresses and playing shopkeeper, that at around ten he began to feel he was male. He didn’t develop breasts and needed to shave his legs every other day. As a teen, Dora began competing in sports. In 1936, he took part in the Berlin Olympics, competing in the high jump and finishing fourth. In 1938, Ratjen competed at the European Athletic Championships, winning the gold medal with her high jump and setting a new world record. A few days later Ratjen, wearing a gray two-piece, skin-colored tights, and light-colored ladies shoes, took a train from Vienna to Cologne when the conductor reported that there was a man dressed as a woman on board. At the next stop Ratjen was questioned by police. He showed his documents and ID which said he was a woman. A physician was summoned to examine him. Ratjen was told that if she resisted it would be construed as obstruction. After the examination Ratjen was pronounced to be male. The physician described Ratjen's intersex genitalia as having a “coarse scarred stripe from the tip of the penis to the rear,” and stated that with this organ sexual intercourse would be impossible. The athlete was arrested, mug shots were taken, and he was charged on suspicion of fraud. Dora confessed what he had suspected all along, that he was a male. His name was changed to Heinrich, the gold medal was confiscated, and his name expunged from the records. According to the admission papers the victim in all this was The Reich. Heinrich was issued new ID and work papers and worked as a waiter and eventually ran his parents' bar. He refused all requests for formal interviews. He died on April 22, 2008 at age 89 and is buried in Bremen.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Unknown

Gender Identity Intersex

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Germany

Era/Epoch Interwar Period (1918-1939)

Field(s) of Contribution



Sports & Fitness

World History

Commemorations & Honors

German Athletics Championship High Jump Winner (1937)

Gold Medal Winner in High Jumping at the European Athletics Championships (1938)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell