German Original Text
Discussion and Explanation of Text
"Das Kind" by Ploss was first published in 1876, it was
reissued in 1882-84 and Ploss died in 1885. In 1912, Renz revised
his work. Since then the updated version from Renz has been frequently
meanwhile the original version from Ploss went out of print. Bryk,
Jensen (43), Weiss (95),
and apparently every modern researcher who refers to Ploss have
used only Renz`s revised version with Renz`s interpretation for their research. (Please, never do with my work what Renz did to Ploss!)
After a year
long wait, a rare 1884 edition of the original Ploss, (pages crisp
with age, held in form with elastic bands), eventually arrived from
Introduction to Translation
Ploss's German is that of a rather boring
repetative rambling 19th. century anthropologist, I have split his
very long paragraphs into intelligable parts. Otherwise I have kept
to the exact original meaning - in preference to good English - and
the text has been rigorously checked by native German speakers.
Paragraphs 3 and 4 are the center piece ... in the rest he refers to
the Jews or Muslims.
Dr. med. Heinrich Ploss
In the Customs and Traditions of Ethnic Peoples
XIV Chapter: Traditional Childhood Operations
Part 17: The Circumcision of Boys; Page: 342-372
Translation by Robin Stuart
2.Auflage 1. Band, Th. Grieben's Verlag (L. Fernau) 1884
An hygienic intention is never clearly expressed in the Jewish religious
texts; and if one wishes to see the procedure as a hygienic measure,
then such an understanding lay far from that of Abraham, Moses, Joshua
or any of the other Prophets. When "purification" is spoken
about in this context, one wishes merely to indicate an aspect of worship
and cleaning from sins. Trusen said quite correctly: "To consider
circumcision as a prevention against illness is contrary to the Bible
texts, wherein such a reason is not mentioned." (J.P. Trusen,
die Sitten, Gebräuche und Krankh. der Alten Hebräer Breslau
1853). Circumcision was however conducted as an act of purification
among the Jews, as it was as well by other oriental peoples. e.g. the
Egyptians; (1. B. Moses 12. Cap. 12. 14. 15.) in addition circumcision
among the Arabs is called tuhûr, tahir, i.e. Purification.
Nevertheless, in disagreement with this, as I believe, were those
who introduced circumcision among the Hebrew people (should this have
been Abraham, as in the legend, or whoever else it may have been);
they held the idea that during coitus the circumcised condition made
fertilisation more successful, then it is written in the Bible: "through
circumcision God gave him the prospect of plentiful descendants."
There has been a great deal of argument concerning the origin and purpose
of circumcision among boys. In the great majority of cases circumcision
has been understood as a sanitary measure. In this respect, one cannot
contradict that the lack of the foreskin; (if this is the result of
either a congenital malformation, a chance injury, or if it has been
purposefully removed); has far more advantages than disadvantages (Prof.
Pitha in Virchow's Handb. der speciellen Pathol. und Therapie. VI.
2. Ab Erlangen 1856-1865 S.4) in that on the one hand the high
sensitivity of the glans, on the other the susceptibility to injuries
and infections would be removed.
The cleaning of the surface of the glans becomes easier, the collection
and decomposition of fungal mould (Smegma) is hindered, gonorrhoea
is avoided and sores (namely Syphilis) are less likely to find footing.
For this reason some doctors are of the opinion "that the weighing
up of all these advantages and disadvantages in those times could have
been the sole reason for introducing circumcision, and that therefore
the practice was justified in the orient and in all hot lands where
the men really have an extended foreskin" (Prof. Podrazki in
Billroth's und Pitha's Handb. der Chirurgie. Krankh. d. Penis S.6.).
(For these reasons, a variety of people have requested the general
introduction of circumcision from the National Health: (Dr. Claparède,
La circoncision et son importance dans la famille et dans l'état.
Paris 1861 - Dr. Rosenzwieg, Zur Beschneidungsfrage. Schweidnitz 1878),)
Against this view, (as I have already mentioned), I must again raise
the point, that only in few cases were precautionary health measures
openly expressed, or otherwise came to light as the definite and true
intention behind the introduction and practice of circumcision; in
that only among individual peoples e.g. the Samoaner, sanitary considerations,
encouragement of cleanliness etc., were expressly emphasised (Pritchard,
Mem. read before the Anthrop. Soc. I S. 326)
An extraordinary large number of peoples who practice circumcision,
show in fact little passion for cleanliness and it is therefore hardly
likely that as an exception, they wished specifically the man's penis
to be particularly clean. There must be another psychological motive
which moved them to adopt the operation.
The purpose and intention of this operation lies, in my opinion, in
the endeavour to correct nature. To help her with her supposed "mistakes"
and to bring about a state on the sexual organ which one considers
to be normal in adults. Such a state clearly never occurs of its own
accord when left to nature among small children, and still does not
develop spontaneously very often during puberty. On the other hand,
it is not at all uncommon for such states to continue until adulthood
causing difficulties during sexual activity. They wanted to eliminate
phimosis, because they considered a man with such a defect was less
able to have children.
In order to understand this it must be pointed out which process
of change usually, if not always, occurs in the penis up until the
time when procreation is possible. Among new born children, the foreskin
covering the glans is always so formed that it is only with difficulty
or force that it can be retracted over the glans. After a period of
time in relationship to the development of the entire member, (the
penis), the foreskin becomes a lot more elastic around its opening,
so that later, in fact when the penis is in the erect state, in the
majority of cases the foreskin folds back automatically.
It is thus quite normal for a new born child to possess a phimosis
i.e. an elongation of the foreskin combined with a narrowness of the
opening, such that the retraction of this behind the corona of the
glans (which is profitable for a man in order to ejaculate when performing
coitus); is not possible.
If everywhere and without any question (even among the insufficiently
and inadequately observant natural peoples); the fact had been noticed
that not uncommonly youths, as they develop to adulthood, may begin
to carry the glans naked (because the prepuce retracts automatically
and remains behind the corona); and in addition among men, the glans
is still only abnormally covered by the foreskin during an erection;
therefore the foreskin covering the glans appears to be an abnormal
state of affairs, which one must quite routinely take counter measures
against and correct in good time.
With this, I conclude that the original predisposition towards circumcision
was the operational preparation for the sexual function of the man.
One considers the child's foreskin, which has to some extent remained
covering the glans, since earliest childhood regardless of everything,
the persisting narrow condition of the phimosis; as being more or less
an obstacle to coitus, which one must correct with a surgical operation.
It is for this reason, that most primitive peoples incise or ablate
the foreskin, once the age of puberty, (when the maturity for the enjoyment
of sex) has been reached: with this one decisive act they wanted to
make the boy completely mature and normal in the sexual sense.
It is thus, an act which is conducted, whereby one takes the young
person in as an equal among the group of mature, marryable men; and
at the same time one combines this act with certain ceremonies, symbolic
of this initiation; by which, with respect to the pain (that this forthcoming
operation causes to the very sensitive male sexual organ), one wishes
to develop a form of test on the masculine fortitude.
This singular operation which prepares for sexual adulthood, is
practised by the Jews and Muslims among others, at quite an early age;
here one believes it is necessary to fight against this natural state
of incompleteness as soon as the child is born.
They want even the child to be assured the possibility of numerous
offspring and not leave it to chance, if the phimosis which had been
noticed on him, (which could perhaps hinder procreation); will resolve
naturally by itself or if it will remain in the future. Thus it becomes
regarded as a work which is pleasing to God: then it was held in itself
by the Jews for highly worthwhile to have numerous offspring.
So we can assume then with great possibility, that the religious lawgiver
among the Jews; (whether he introduced the practice from outside or
found it already in existence); held the practice for useful and worthwhile
and sought to anchor it for political-religious reasons, by consecrating
it as a religious ritual commanded by God.
We will however not deny, that the practice in addition was also
perhaps considered as hygienically useful. The first priority for the
lawgiver was certainly the sexual potency of the nation, and (looking
at it from) a religious perspective they honoured this act, (which
guaranteed this potency already among the youth population for the
years of adulthood), as a measure which led to the well being of the
people, by pronouncing it a holy act. Among some peoples e.g. in America,
the measure gained in addition the meaning of a blood sacrifice. Among
others e.g. the Egyptians the Jews, the Monbuttu, many Melanesier etc.
the meaning of a symbol of personal dignity, worth value, and "uncircumcised"
for the Muslim, as also in South Australia, is regarded as a swear
In Gen. 17 God commanded Abraham to introduce circumcision, and promised
in return plentiful offspring ... when it says "God commanded
Abraham" I find in this simply, that Abraham considered the introduction
as a work which would please God ... Obviously he was of the opinion
that circumcision was a means to producing a great number of offspring
i.e. that it encouraged fertility.