The horror of Nazi methods based on a pseudoscientific belief of “racial purification”, which left deep marks on human history with the extermination of millions of Jews, has other lesser known episodes, but no less cruel. If, on the one hand, the Holocaust sought to eliminate individuals considered to be of an “inferior race”, the Lebensborn (“source of life”, in German) was a project to produce, through “so-called perfect biological crosses”, people of the “Aryan race”. , considered by Hitler the superior race that should rule the world.
Created in December of 1935 by the commander of the SS (Nazi elite squad), Heinrich Himmler, Lebensborn initially consisted of shelters for the wives of SS officers to receive antenatal care while their husbands served the regime. The project even offered secret “copulation” residences for men and women deemed racially pure. In addition, genetically valuable women, pregnant with illegitimate children whose parents were demonstrably Aryan, were provided with care and accommodation so they could give birth, and the program was willing to find a foster family for the child if the mother could not care for it.
Also concerned about the demographic crisis of the Reich (in 1900 the average birth rate in Germany was 35,8 per thousand inhabitants, a rate that dropped to 14,7 in 1932), Himmler criticized the “allegedly moral, beautifully motivated laws formulated by Christianity” of restricting sex to marriage, claiming that “men and women follow the commandments of nature.”
“In this way, he hoped to get ‘from each Verfügungstruppe battalion from two to three hundred children annually’. ‘Not only do I want, but I will do everything to raise these illegitimate children of good race and, for the most part, intellectually privileged from the SS men and transform them into soldiers and officers and brave women of our people, but also, and especially, I will do anything to put these girls , with all honor, on the same level as married mothers.’ Obviously, it should be ‘custom’ for SS families that had the ‘misfortune’ of not being able to have enough natural children to accept ‘bring up illegitimate children or orphans of good blood’, that is, ‘the average number of children in a family of the SS must be four to six’”, says the German historian Peter Longerich, in his biography of Heinrich Himmler (Objective Publisher).
Lebensborn was supported by mandatory contributions from members of the SS. SS. Larger payments were made by childless couples, and from the fourth child onwards (legitimate or not), the contribution was no longer mandatory. Himmler’s sexual policy also included vetoing the marriage of SS officers to a woman deemed “the only acceptable piece, while the rest of the family is regrettable”. To avoid this type of situation, he encouraged the military to “take a look at the sisters, brothers and parents” of the bride.
“When I come across these petitions, I ask myself: my God, is it possible that this scumbag woman, this crooked and sometimes disgusting figure, has to marry an SS man straight away, why don’t you choose a little eastern Jew or a little Mongolian; for that such a girl is suitable. In the vast majority of these cases, they are still men of excellent appearance”, said Himmler, in a speech reproduced in the biography.
As the Germans were not enough to repopulate all of Germany on their own, Lebensborn extended its arms beyond the borders: in addition to encouraging reproduction between German soldiers and selected women in occupied countries (especially Scandinavians), the program promoted the kidnapping of children with characteristics such as blue eyes and blond hair. In Norway alone, Lebensborn maintained six maternity hospitals, where approximately 6,000 children of military men were born.
The abduction of children of “good race” was not restricted to children of women employed in forced labor. ; the SS also deported them from territories occupied or annexed by Germany. According to Peter Longerich, historian Isabel Heinemann, who has studied the issue in depth, estimates that at least 50 a thousand children were abducted in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. “Initially, the children were taken to a central orphanage, where they were observed, and then handed over to Lebensborn institutions, which referred the older ones to ‘German boarding schools’ and offered the younger ones for adoption into SS families,” explains Longerich.
The kidnapped were subjected to racial examinations, to assess their “ability to Germanize” and, depending on the result, transferred to the territory of the Reich or to extermination camps. “We will take for ourselves what is present in these peoples in terms of good blood of our kind, if necessary, stealing their children and raising them in our midst,” declared Himmler openly. In one of the cases described by the biographer, “88 children whose fathers had been executed and whose mothers were locked up in concentration camps were initially gathered in collection camps at the Emigration Center in Lodz, where seven of them were considered ‘Germanizable’ and the others 81 were transferred to the Chelmno extermination camp and murdered.”
Sequels of the “wicked program”
Almost all documents relating to Lebensborn were destroyed by the Nazis and those responsible for the project received lesser sentences during the Nuremberg Trials. The atrocities, however, left thousands of victims in our times.
Born in 1945, singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Frida of the Swedish group Abba , is one of Lebensborn’s babies. Daughter of a Norwegian, Synni, with a German sergeant, Alfred Haase, she, her mother and grandmother were branded as traitors and had to flee to Sweden when the war ended. Frida’s mother died of kidney failure before she was two years old, and the meeting with her father took place only three decades later.
“It’s difficult… it would have been different if I had were a teenager or a child. I really can’t connect with him and love him the way I would if he were around when I grew up,” declared the singer, who fell into depression after her late meeting with her father.
With the defeat of Germany, the verdict of ‘father was German’ was enough in Norway to send children to psychiatric hospitals, where many were tortured and raped. Hatred against German descent was so great that government psychologists defined the women who were involved with the soldiers as “limited talent and antisocial psychopaths, some of them seriously backward”.
) Another emblematic case is that of physical therapist Ingrid von Oelhafen, who only discovered at the age of 58 that she was kidnapped by the Nazis as a baby. Author of the book ‘Hitler’s forgotten children: the true story of the Lebensborn program’ (Editora Contexto), Ingrid is actually Erika Matko, from where Slovenia is today. She was adopted by a German couple whose mission was to raise Aryan children. Her biological parents, on the other hand, raised another girl in her place.
“The idea of blood permeates this story: the Nazi belief, which today seems absurd and immoral, in the existence of a ‘good blood ‘, a precious substance that should be sought after, preserved, and multiplied. The inevitable counterpoint to this idea was the ‘bad blood’, which had to be identified and cruelly eradicated,” she points out. “But my personal story is also that of a much more secret past, covered by silence and hidden by shame. It is a warning of what happens when blood is worshiped as a vital essence that determines human value and, by extension, when blood is used to justify the most terrible crimes humanity has ever committed against itself. Because I am the daughter of Lebensborn”, denounces the author.
In her book ‘The Obscure Part of Ourselves’, psychoanalyst Elisabeth Roudinesco warns that the Nazi obsession with the terror of racial decline invented the notion of “negative life value”, based on the belief that certain lives are not worth living. “The heroicized figure of the ‘new man’ fabricated by the most civilized science in the European world was then transformed into its opposite, a filthy figure, that of the race of gentlemen wearing the uniform of the SS. A perverse program — originating from a science built on religion and whose ideal of truth had been perverted in a country doomed to humiliation — ‘racial hygiene’ rested primarily on the claim to total control over human sexuality. Believing it to serve civilization, it did nothing but travel through the anthropological circle peculiar to the essence of perversion: human, exclusively human, to the point of ending the project of exterminating man himself and wanting to replace him, through alleged perfect biological crosses (the Lebensborn). , by a purebred human.”