What color are Hitler's eyes and hair

Lebensborn - Children for the National Socialists

"Enough Nordic blood"

Hitler's delusion that there was an Aryan race destined to rule over all human beings found expression above all in the murder of Jews he ordered.

It was Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer of the SS and confidante of Hitler, who brought another thought into play: The Aryans should not only be protected from the bad influence that Jews, sick and disabled people supposedly had. They would also have to produce more offspring themselves in order to secure the future of their breed.

With the help of Lebensborn, Himmler wanted to increase the birth rate of Aryan women. For the Nazis, the association was a kind of fountain of life from which they wanted to attract new offspring - Born used to be another word for source.

"Our people stand and fall with whether they have enough Nordic blood, whether this blood multiplies or goes to the grave, because if it goes to the grave, it means the end of the whole people and their culture," said Himmler in a 1938 speech in front of the foreign organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP).

The families of SS members were usually large, but many single women aborted their babies. Some were lovers of the SS men and feared for their reputation. Himmler, on the other hand, saw abortions primarily as a loss of Aryan offspring and wanted to prevent them with all his might.

Lebensborn for the future of the Aryans

"Every mother of good blood should be sacred to us" - under this motto Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn association on December 12, 1935.

Between 1936 and 1945 he had more than 20 homes built. In these, mothers who were expecting an illegitimate child should be cared for and supported during pregnancy. However, only women who were "racially and genetically valuable", as stated in the association's statutes, were accepted. Organizationally, Lebensborn belonged to the SS, and it was financed through its members.

Each Lebensbornheim had its own registry office and a police registration office - so complete anonymity was guaranteed. Anyone who wanted to could leave the home after the birth without anyone knowing about the pregnancy. The children then came into the care of Lebensborn. If possible, they were given to foster parents, mostly members of the SS or other members of the system.

The first Lebensborn home was opened on August 15, 1936 in Steinhöring near Munich. Other houses followed in Wernigerode im Harz (1937) and Hohehorst near Bremen (1937), among others.

There were also mother-and-child houses in the areas occupied by the Nazis, for example in Norway, France and Belgium. Because it often happened that Wehrmacht soldiers began an affair with the women on site. Himmler wanted her children to be brought up in the homes in line with National Socialism.

Many people therefore believed that the life-born homes were also penitentiaries. There were rumors that SS men were meeting with selected women in the homes in order to have anonymous sexual intercourse. There was talk of wild orgies in which the SS men were supposed to impregnate as many Aryan women as possible. However, that was never confirmed.

About 8,000 to 9,000 children were born in German Lebensborn homes between 1936 and 1945. Exact figures are not available as many documents were lost or destroyed after the war.

"Germanized" children from abroad

A few years after the founding of the Lebensborn, Himmler found that his project was not bringing the desired success. Far fewer children were born in the homes than he had hoped.

A new strategy was needed: if the Aryans in Germany did not have enough children of their own, others should fill the gap. Himmler therefore ordered children from abroad to be brought to German nursing homes and given them a new German identity.

From 1942 on, Himmler's followers put his plan into action. Especially in the east, such as Poland or the Czech Republic, they looked for children who looked Aryan. When they found some, they separated them from their parents and brought them to Germany.

In the Lebensborn homes, the children then had to undergo a "race hygiene examination". Those who were declared Aryan by the Nazis either had to stay in the home or were placed in a foster family.

The names of the children were Germanized, their true identity disappeared behind falsified résumés. Some Lebensborn children did not find out until decades later that they came from a Polish or a Czech family.

The fate of the Lidice children

Above all, the fate of the so-called Lidice children is known. On June 9, 1942, German police forces invaded the village of Lidice in the Czech Republic with the support of the Czech gendarmerie. They wanted to take revenge for an attack on the then head of the Reich Security Main Office, Reinhard Heydrich.

One day after their invasion, the Nazis shot all the men who lived in the village. They abducted almost 100 children from Lidice in order to select them on the basis of "racial hygiene" criteria. The Nazis declared about a dozen of the children to be Aryan and took them to German lifeborn homes. Like the other deported children, they were "Germanized" there.

Those responsible in court

When the war was over in 1945, some members of the Lebensborn Association had to answer for their actions in court. However, the founder Heinrich Himmler evaded his responsibility by committing suicide on May 23, 1945.

However, Max Sollmann, managing director of the Lebensborn, was charged - as was the medical director of the homes, Gregor Ebner. Twelve other SS members sat next to them in the dock. They were all accused of having put the Nazis' racial madness into practice.

On July 1, 1947, negotiations against Himmler's followers began. They took place within the process of the Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS. It was one of the twelve Nuremberg trials and was tried before the US Military Court I in Nuremberg. It was not only about the Lebensborn association, but also about various other SS institutions.

In the course of the negotiations, the defendants tried to make it credible that the Lebensborn was a kind of charity. And they were successful: In their judgment of March 10, 1948, the judges declared Lebensborn to be a charitable organization. The defendants were found guilty not because of their work in the Lebensborn but because of their SS membership. Her sentence was already served as a result of her pre-trial detention.

In the course of the denazification proceedings from 1950 on, however, some Lebensborn activists had to answer again in court, including Sollmann and Ebner. The judges of the Munich main ruling chamber doubted the innocence of the accused.

The evidence was thin, however, since, for example, witnesses who had testified against Sollmann and Ebner in Nuremberg were now silent or claimed otherwise. The perpetrators therefore got away with acquittals or minor penalties such as community service or fines.

Label "Lebensbornkind"

The Lebensborn children were adored by the Nazis, but after the end of National Socialism in Germany no one wanted to know anything about them. Many Lebensborn children struggled with prejudices, insulting their classmates and neighbors or avoiding them. The label "Lebensborn child" was still attached to them years later.

Many former home children still suffer from the consequences today. They grew up without a father or mother or were lied to by people they trusted. The uncertainty of where they were born or who their parents were gnaws at them. Some try to process their experiences by writing books or organizing themselves in associations that collect data about the homes.

WDR | Status: 04.06.2020, 09:39