When we debate the topic of Nazism what immediately pops in mind is concentration camps, the slaughter of Jews, gipsy, slaves, disabled people and other awful aspects of such an obscure historical period. There are however less known aspects about the regime, apparently less violent, which confirm one more time how deep and dark the void of those years was.
“Lebensborn” means “Source of Life”, term which evokes a positive feeling. What this actually resulted in was instead something not so pleasant. What the Lebensborn association was trying to accomplish was an increase in the rates of birth of the pure Aryan race. To the women, even the unmarried ones, was guaranteed anonymity, a comfortable and protected environment during all their pregnancy as well as healthcare services of the first order.
The organisation was then in control of whether the women could keep their children or they should put them up for adoption
The program was extended to the countries occupied by the Third Reich such as Norway, France and Belgium. In those places, children born from Lebensborn mothers endured countless abuses once the war was over.
It is counted that around 8,000 children were born in these institues spread all over Germany and approximately 12,000 in Norway as well as in many other occupied countries in which the race was carefully selected.
Norwegians, due to their particularly Aryan traits, were thought to be even more suitable than the Germans coming from the South. For that reason Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS and creator of the Lebensborn project, decided to build many institutes in that Scandinavian country, finalised to improve the race according to the Nazi eugenic plan.
For this purpose many young women were hired: the selection criteria involved demonstrating the Aryan ancestry. The “job” involved conceiving babies with the SS officers and the structure would guarantee a financial support and a privileged treatment in the maternity homes.
For many Norwegian women that became their way to survive the war, aware that they could have left or donated their child to one of the Lebensborn houses, where the baby would have received a healthy nutrition and a Nazi indoctrination.
The Nazi baptism
Blessing and approval of the Order of the S.S.
The shredding of the information about the Lebensborn project doesn’t allow a full understanding of whether the young girls were forced into mating with the SS officers. It is however not hard to believe so as sexual violence was largely carried out during the Third Reich. In 1939, around 8,000 SS officers had agreed on participating to the Himmler’s project, offering their semen for the strengthening of the race.
In 1939, Himmler decided to stop with subtlety about the ancestry of the children, so very soon they added a new appendix on their program, that being the practice of kidnapping.
In countries such as Poland, Jugoslavia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and many others, thousands of children with the Aryan look got kidnapped in order to get “Germanised”. After a first period of re-education the ones who succeeded in the transformation were put up for adoption from German families; the ones who were not considered suitable would be sent to concentration camps.
The children with too dark hair would undergo a bleaching treatment
All the documents related to those abductions would be destroyed during the last phase of the war. Many of those little children would be never returned home to their natural parents.
Even though the Lebensborn association might be inserted within those activities which weren’t as equally cruel as many others happening in the meantime, this experiment was part of a deeper ethnic cleansing that Germany was aspiring to.
Amongst the survivors of the “Lebensborn” program it must be remembered Frid Lyngstad, singer from the Abba band
After the war, the children born inside the Lebensborn houses were mistreated and tortured throughout. In Norway especially, where 12,000 children were born, the CIA defined these people as “genetically dangerous” and again “able to reorganise the fascism in Norway”. In 2007, 154 sons of the Norwegian Lebensborn program went to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg demanding a compensation for the racism and violence endured to that day. Their plea was not accepted because “presented too late”.
The horror of racism, from both sides, didn’t end once the rifles were put down.
All pictures are in the public domain