Lebensborn e.V. (literally: "Fount of Life") was an SS-initiated, state-supported, registered association in Nazi Germany with the goal of raising the birth rate of Aryan children of persons classified as racially pure and healthy based on Nazi racial hygiene and health ideology. Lebensborn provided welfare to its mostly unmarried mothers, encouraged anonymous births by unmarried women at their maternity homes, and mediated adoption of these children by likewise racially pure and healthy parents, particularly SS members and their families. The Cross of Honour of the German Mother was given to the women who bore the most Aryan children. Abortion was legalised by the Nazis for disabled children, but strictly punished otherwise.
Initially set up in Germany in 1935, Lebensborn expanded into several occupied European countries with Germanic populations during the Second World War. It included the selection of racially worthy orphans for adoption and care for children born from Aryan women who had been in relationships with SS members. It originally excluded children born from unions between common soldiers and foreign women, because there was no proof of racial purity on both sides. During the war, many children were kidnapped from their parents and judged by Aryan criteria for their suitability to be raised in Lebensborn homes, and fostering by German families.
|Formation||12 December 1935|
The Lebensborn e. V. (e.V. stands for eingetragener Verein or registered association), meaning "fount of life", was founded on 12 December 1935, to counteract falling birth rates in Germany, and to promote Nazi eugenics. Located in Munich, the organization was partly an office within the Schutzstaffel (SS) responsible for certain family welfare programs, and partly a society for Nazi leaders.
On 13 September 1936, Heinrich Himmler wrote the following to members of the SS:
The organisation "Lebensborn e.V." serves the SS leaders in the selection and adoption of qualified children. The organisation "Lebensborn e.V." is under my personal direction, is part of the Race and Settlement Central Bureau of the SS, and has the following obligations:
1. Support racially, biologically and hereditarily valuable families with many children.
2. Placement and care of racially, biologically and hereditarily valuable pregnant women, who, after thorough examination of their and the progenitor's families by the Race and Settlement Central Bureau of the SS, can be expected to produce equally valuable children.
3. Care for the children.
4. Care for the children's mothers.
It is the honorable duty of all leaders of the central bureau to become members of the organisation "Lebensborn e.V.". The application for admission must be filed prior to 23 September 1936.
In 1939, membership stood at 8,000, of which 3,500 were SS leaders. The Lebensborn office was part of SS Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (SS Race and Settlement Main Office) until 1938, when it was transferred to Hauptamt Persönlicher Stab Reichsführer-SS (Personal Staff of the Reichführer-SS), i.e. directly overseen by Himmler. Leaders of Lebensborn e. V. were SS-Standartenführer Max Sollmann and SS-Oberführer Dr. Gregor Ebner.
Initially the programme served as a welfare institution for wives of SS officers; the organization ran facilities – primarily maternity homes – where women could give birth or get help with family matters. The programme also accepted unmarried women who were either pregnant or had already given birth and were in need of aid, provided that both the woman and the father of the child were classified as "racially valuable". About 60% of the mothers were unmarried. The program allowed them to give birth secretly away from home without social stigma. In case the mothers wanted to give up the children, the program also had orphanages and an adoption service. When dealing with non-SS members, parents and children were usually examined by SS doctors before admission.
The first Lebensborn home (known as 'Heim Hochland') opened in 1936, in Steinhöring, a tiny village not far from Munich. The first home outside of Germany opened in Norway in 1941. Many of these facilities were established in confiscated houses and former nursing homes owned by Jews. Leaders of the League of German Girls were instructed to recruit young women with the potential to become good breeding partners for SS officers.
While Lebensborn e. V. established facilities in several occupied countries, its activities were concentrated around Germany, Norway and occupied northeastern Europe, mainly Poland. The main focus in occupied Norway was aiding children born to Norwegian women and fathered by German soldiers. In northeastern Europe the organisation, in addition to services provided to SS members, engaged in the transfer of children, mostly orphans, to families in Germany.
Lebensborn e. V. had or planned to have facilities in the following countries (some were merely field offices):
About 8,000 children were born in Lebensborn homes in Germany, and between 8,000 and 12,000 children in Norway. Elsewhere the total number of births was much lower. For more information about Lebensborn in Norway, see war children.
In Norway the Lebensborn organisation handled approximately 250 adoptions. In most of these cases the mothers had agreed to the adoption, but not all were informed that their children would be sent to Germany for adoption. The Norwegian government recovered all but 80 of these children after the war.
In 1939, the Nazis started to kidnap children from foreign countries – mainly from Yugoslavia and Poland, but also including Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Norway  – for the Lebensborn program. They started to do this because "It is our duty to take [the children] with us to remove them from their environment ... either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people or we destroy this blood," Himmler reportedly said.
The Nazis would seize children in full view of the parents. The kidnapped children were administered several tests and were categorised into three groups:
The children classified as unwanted were taken to concentration camps to work or were killed. The children from the other groups, if between the ages of 2 and 6, were placed with families in the programme to be brought up by them in a kind of foster child status. Children of ages 6 to 12 were placed in German boarding schools. The schools assigned the children new German names and taught them to be proud to be part of Germany. They forced the children to forget their birth parents and erased any records of their ancestry. Those who resisted Germanisation were beaten and, if a child continued to rebel, he or she would be sent to a concentration camp.
In the final stages of the war, the files of all children kidnapped for the programme were destroyed. As a result, researchers have found it nearly impossible to learn how many children were taken. The Polish government has claimed that 10,000 children were kidnapped, and less than 15% were returned to their biological parents. Other estimates include numbers as high as 200,000, although according to Dirk Moses a more likely number is around 20,000.
After the war, the branch of the Lebensborn organisation operating in north-eastern Europe was accused of kidnapping children deemed racially valuable in order to resettle them with German families. However, of approximately 10,000 foreign-born children located after the war in the American-controlled area of Germany, in the trial of the leaders of the Lebensborn organisation (United States of America v. Ulrich Greifelt, et al.), the court found that 340 had been handled by Lebensborn e. V. The accused were acquitted on charges of kidnapping.
The court found ample evidence of an existing programme of the kidnapping or forced movement of children in north-eastern Europe, but concluded that these activities were carried out by individuals who were not members of Lebensborn. Exactly how many children were moved by Lebensborn or other organisations remains unknown due to the destruction of archives by SS members prior to fleeing the advancing Allied forces.
From the trial's transcript:
The prosecution has failed to prove with the requisite certainty the participation of Lebensborn, and the defendants connected therewith in the kidnapping programme conducted by the Nazis. While the evidence has disclosed that thousands upon thousands of children were unquestionably kidnapped by other agencies or organisations and brought into Germany, the evidence has further disclosed that only a small percentage of the total number ever found their way into Lebensborn. And of this number only in isolated instances did Lebensborn take children who had a living parent. The majority of those children in any way connected with Lebensborn were orphans of ethnic Germans. Upon the evidence submitted, the defendant Sollmann is found not guilty on counts one and two of the indictment.
After Germany's surrender, the press reported on the unusually good weight and health of the "super babies". They spent time outdoors in sunlight and received two baths a day. Everything that came into contact with the babies was disinfected first. Nurses ensured that the children ate everything given to them. Until the last days of the war, the mothers and the children at maternity homes got the best treatment available, including food, although others in the area were starving. Once the war ended, local communities often took revenge on the women, beating them, cutting off their hair, and running them out of the community. Many Lebensborn children were born to unwed mothers. After the war, Lebensborn survivors were often subjected to ostracization.
Himmler's effort to secure a racially pure Greater Germany, sloppy journalism on the subject, as well as Nazi ideology retained by some, led to persistent false assumptions about the programme. The main misconception, perpetuated by Nazi sympathizers as a straw man, was that the programme involved coercive breeding. The first stories reporting that Lebensborn was a coercive breeding programme can be found in the German magazine Revue, which ran a series on the subject in the 1950s.
The programme did intend to promote the growth of Aryan populations, through encouraging relationships between German soldiers and Nordic women in occupied countries. Access to Lebensborn was restricted in accordance with the Nordicist eugenic and racial policies of Nazism, which could be referred to as supervised selective breeding. Recently discovered records and ongoing testimony of Lebensborn children – and some of their parents – shows that some SS men did sire children in Himmler's Lebensborn program. This was widely rumored within Germany during the period of the programme.
Help, recognition, and justice for Lebensborn survivors have been varied.
In Norway, children born to Norwegian mothers by German fathers were allegedly often bullied, raped and abused after the war, and placed in mental institutions. The Norwegian government attempted to deport Lebensborn to Germany, Brazil, and Australia but did not succeed. A group of Lebensborn children sued the Norwegian government into admitting complicity. In 2008, their case before the European Court of Human Rights was dismissed, but they were each offered a £8,000 payment from the Norwegian government.
In November 2006, in the German town of Wernigerode, an open meeting took place among several Lebensborn children, with the intention of dispelling myths and encouraging those affected to investigate their origins.
Sweden took in several hundred Lebensborn children from Norway after the war. A famous survivor is Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a member of the music group ABBA. Her father was a sergeant in the Wehrmacht, and her mother was Norwegian; to escape persecution after the war, her grandmother took Anni-Frid to Sweden.
Other countries that had Lebensborn clinics include France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Luxembourg.
General documents on Lebensborn activities are administered by International Tracing Service and by German Federal Archives. The association Verein kriegskind.de is among those that published search efforts (Suchbitten) to identify Lebensborn children.
Events in the year 1935 in Germany.Anton Loibl GmbH
Anton Loibl GmbH was a company owned by the SS which was a funding source for the Ahnenerbe research branch and the Lebensborn eugenics programme. It was created to market a bicycle reflector invented by Anton Loibl, a chauffeur for Hitler. It employed slave labour.
Anton Loibl, a former long-term chauffeur for Hitler and a decorated SS-Hauptsturmführer (Ernst Röhm had obtained the driver's job for him in the early 1920s, and he had spent time in prison after participating in the Beerhall Putsch in 1923), was a part-time inventor; while working as a machinist and driving instructor, he invented a reflector for bicycle pedals which incorporated glass chips. Heinrich Himmler, who was acquainted with Loibl, ensured that he was awarded the patent in preference to an earlier applicant, and the company was established in September 1936 in Berlin by Himmler's Personal Office in order to market it. In his capacity as police chief of the Reich, Himmler had a requirement added to the traffic code on 13 November 1937 which required all newly manufactured bicycles to incorporate these reflectors. The bicycle manufacturers had to pay a licence fee, which amounted to 600,000 ℛℳ in 1939.Loibl was initially a co-director and co-owner of the company, and received 50% of the income, altogether approximately 500,000 ℛℳ; he was removed for incompetence at the end of 1939 or early in 1940. (An internal report dated June 1939 pointed out Himmler's use of his power for the benefit of the company and criticised Loibl's personally profiting from it.) Additionally, Himmler directed the company to pay substantial sums (290,000 ℛℳ a year) to the Ahnenerbe and the Lebensborn; financing these had been the primary purpose of its establishment. The Ahnenerbe had chronic financing problems for some years and in 1937 the Reichsnährstand had reduced its funding and Himmler set up a foundation to channel funds to it, including from the Loibl concern. The Ahnenerbe's share of the Loibl funds was 77,740 ℛℳ in 1938; the Lebensborn received from 100,000 to 150,000 per year from 1939 on. At the Nuremberg Trials the Loibl company was described as "still earning considerable funds for 'Ahnenerbe'".Chartered to develop "technical articles of all kinds", the company later diversified and also sold other products, such as a patented lamp.By the end of the 1930s, when Germany had achieved full employment, the SS enterprises were using slave labour, including from concentration camps. In January 1938, Loibl showed a visitor around a testing laboratory for aircraft motors at Dachau.In December 1963 the reflectors were still required on German bicycles.Eidgenössische Sammlung
Eidgenössische Sammlung (German; literally "Confederate Collection") was a Swiss political party, founded in 1940 by Robert Tobler as a successor to the recently dissolved National Front.The party demanded an adjustment in Swiss policy to favour the Axis powers. This was particularly important as, after June 1940 the country was surrounded by fascist and Nazi states. It was open in its loyalty towards Nazi Germany.The Eidgenössiche Sammlung was closely supervised by the state because of its origins and so could not develop freely. In 1943 the police finally cracked down on the group and it was outlawed along with all of its sub-organisations as part of a wider government initiative against the National Front and its offshoots.European sexuality leading up to and during World War II
The years leading up to World War II (and during the conflict) saw great changes in the sexual habits of European societies.German occupation of Norway
The German occupation of Norway during World War II began on 9 April 1940 after German forces invaded the neutral Scandinavian country of Norway. Conventional armed resistance to the German invasion ended on 10 June 1940 and the Germans controlled Norway until the capitulation of German forces in Europe on 8/9 May 1945. Throughout this period, Norway was continuously occupied by the Wehrmacht. Civil rule was effectively assumed by the Reichskommissariat Norwegen (Reich Commissariat of Norway), which acted in collaboration with a pro-German puppet government, the Quisling regime, while the Norwegian King Haakon VII and the prewar government escaped to London, where they acted as a government in exile. This period of military occupation is in Norway referred to as the "war years" or "occupation period".Inge Viermetz
Inge Viermetz (born 7 March 1908 in Aschaffenburg – 23 April 1997 in Vaterstetten) was responsible for the Lebensborn in Nazi Germany. As an assistant to Max Sollmann, head of the Lebensborn, she was acquitted at the RuSHA Trial.Kidnapping of children by Nazi Germany
Kidnapping of foreign children by Nazi Germany (Polish: Rabunek dzieci), part of the Generalplan Ost (GPO), involved taking children regarded as "Aryan-looking" from the rest of Europe and moving them to Nazi Germany for the purpose of Germanization, or indoctrination into becoming culturally German.
At more than 200,000 victims, occupied Poland had the largest proportion of children taken. An estimated 400,000 children were abducted throughout Europe.The aim of the project was to acquire and "Germanize" children with purportedly Aryan-Nordic traits, who were considered by Nazi officials to be descendants of German settlers that had emigrated to Poland. Those labeled "racially valuable" were forcibly Germanized in centers and then sent to German families and SS Home Schools. In the case of older children used as forced labor in Germany, those determined to be racially "un-German" were sent to extermination camps and concentration camps, where they were either murdered or forced to serve as living test subjects in German medical experiments - and thus often tortured or killed in the process.Monika Hilmerová
Monika Hilmerová (Slovak pronunciation: [ˈmɔnika ˈɦilmɛɾɔʋaː]; born October 7, 1974 in ČSSR) is a Slovak actress. She is a winner of the Silver Dolphin award received in 2001 at the annual Festroia International Film Festival in Setúbal, Portugal as the Best Actress for her performance in Der Lebensborn - Pramen života (English: Spring of Life, 2000).
The actress appears in multi-language productions, including the Czech, Slovak, English and/or German. Among others, she co-starred in the Golden Globe-nominated Uprising (2001) by Jon Avnet, Silvio Soldini's movie Brucio nel vento (2002) (e.g. Nastro d'Argento award, BM IFF award and/or Flaiano FF award) and the U.S. Emmy Award-winning TV-miniseries Frankenstein (2004) by Kevin Connor. In March 2010, the actress was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.Of Pure Blood
Of Pure Blood is a 1986 made-for-TV thriller for CBS that premiered on October 19, 1986, directed by Joseph Sargent and starring Lee Remick.
Alicia Browning (Remick) is a casting director in New York City whose grown son is shot to death in Munich, Germany by police when he apparently tried to attack a doctor who was attending the annual Oktoberfest. When Alicia travels to Germany—her native homeland—to investigate, she finds the old Nazi Lebensborn breeding programs still alive and wanting her son's child—her grandchild—that he fathered with a German girlfriend before his death for their attempts to recreate Hitler's so-called 'master race' and a modern-day Fourth Reich.RuSHA trial
The RuSHA trial against the SS racial policies of genocide (officially, United States of America vs. Ulrich Greifelt, et al) was the eighth of the twelve trials held in Nuremberg by the U.S. authorities for Nazi war crimes after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts in their occupation zone in Germany, not before the International Military Tribunal, although they took place in the same rooms, at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).In the RuSHA Trial, the 14 defendants were all officials of various SS organizations responsible for the implementation of the Nazi "pure race" programme: including RuSHA (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt, the "Race and Settlement Main Office"); the office of the Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood (Reichskommissar für die Festigung des deutschen Volkstums, RKFDV; a post held by Heinrich Himmler); the Repatriation Office for Ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, VoMi); and the Lebensborn society. The charges centered on their racial cleansing and resettlement activities.
The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal I, were Lee B. Wyatt (presiding judge), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia; Daniel T. O'Connell of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, and Johnson T. Crawford from Oklahoma. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor. The indictment was served on July 7, 1947; the trial lasted from October 20, 1947 until March 10, 1948.Runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel
The runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel (known in German as the SS-Runen) were used from the 1920s to 1945 on Schutzstaffel flags, uniforms and other items as symbols of various aspects of Nazi ideology and Germanic mysticism. They also represented virtues seen as desirable in SS members, and were based on völkisch mystic Guido von List's Armanen runes, which he loosely based on the historical runic alphabets. SS runes are commonly used by neo-Nazis.SS Race and Settlement Main Office
The SS Race and Settlement Main Office, (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt der SS, RuSHA), was the organization responsible for "safeguarding the racial 'purity' of the SS" within Nazi Germany.One of its duties was to oversee the marriages of SS personnel in accordance with the racial policy of Nazi Germany. After Heinrich Himmler introduced the "marriage order" on December 31, 1931, the RuSHA would only issue a permit to marry once detailed background investigations into the racial fitness of both prospective parents had been completed and proved both of them to be of Aryan descent back to 1800.Someone Named Eva
Someone Named Eva is a young adult novel by Joan M. Wolf. It concentrates on the life of Milada, an eleven-year-old Czech girl who lives during World War II, after Hitler annexes Czechoslovakia during the years 1942–1945.Spring of Life (film)
Spring of Life (Czech: Pramen života) is a 2000 Czech film directed by Milan Cieslar.The Divided Heart
The Divided Heart is a black-and-white British film directed by Charles Crichton and released in 1954. The film is a drama, based on a true story of a child, whose father was a member of Slovenian Partisans executed by Nazis and whose mother was deported to Auschwitz, while little Ivan was, like other 300 babies and young children from Slovenia, whose parents were declared Banditen by Nazis, sent to Germany in a Nazi program known as Lebensborn.
The script was written by Jack Whittingham and Richard Hughes. It was produced by Michael Truman and edited by Peter Bezencenet, with cinematography by Otto Heller and music by Georges Auric. The Divided Heart was widely admired, and won three British Academy Film Awards.The Immortals (neo-Nazis)
The Immortals (German Die Unsterblichen) was a neo-Nazi organization based in Germany that uses flash mobs to coordinate, gather and demonstrate. The members wear black clothing with white facial masks and carry torches when they march.Two Lives (film)
Two Lives (German: Zwei Leben) is a 2012 German war drama film written and directed by Georg Maas, and starring Juliane Kohler, with Liv Ullmann. Set in Norway and Germany, it is loosely based on an unpublished novel by Hannelore Hippe since released as Ice Ages. The film explores the history of the Lebensborn or war children, born in Norway and raised in Germany. It explores the life of a grown woman who had claimed to have escaped from East Germany, where she was raised, and her Norwegian mother, with whom she is reunited.
The Film won The Grand Prize and the BIFF Award for the Best Film at the Biberach Independent Film Festival, the Audience Award at the International Filmfest Emden, and was nominated for the International Debut Award at the Göteborg International Film Festival. The film was selected in 2013 as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and made the January shortlist.War children
War children are those born to a native parent and a parent belonging to a foreign military force (usually an occupying force, but also military personnel stationed at military bases on foreign soil). Having a child by a member of a belligerent force, throughout history and across cultures, is often considered a grave betrayal of social values. Commonly, the native parent (usually a woman) is disowned by family, friends, and society at large. The term "war child" is most commonly used for children born during World War II and its aftermath, particularly in relation to children born to fathers in German occupying forces in northern Europe. In Norway, there were also Lebensborn children.
It is also applied to other situations, such as children born following the widespread rapes during the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities associated with the war of liberation. The discrimination suffered by the native parent and child in the postwar period did not take into account widespread rapes by occupying forces, or the relationships women had to form in order to survive the war years.Wégimont Castle
Wégimont Castle is a castle in Ayeneux, Soumagne, Province of Liège, Belgium. During World War II under the name Heim Ardennen it was one of the Lebensborn maternity homes.