December 19, 1997
Fountain of Life
"The Nordic man is the active man of deeds. . . . experimental, adventurous, aggressive, good nature and a sense of justice. . . . his love of truth, honour, freedom and purity. . . . tough, decisive will and an objective, clear and goal-oriented organisational mind" (Clay, Leapman 11). This bold statement by anthropologist Egon von Eicksedt geared many Germans to think that only pure-blooded Aryans could populate the Thousand Year German Reich. In 1926, Mein Kampf showed that racial philosophy was derived from the works of popular science which consisted of anthropology and genetics; so Hitler thought the world must be populated with the Master Race. The Social Darwinists extended and corrupted the theory of evolution and natural selection from Darwin to justify the racial engineering that attracted Hitler (Clay, Leapman 10-11). This ideology brought forth upon the world the most undeceivable ideas of all time, the concentration camps to rid the fatherland of unpure blood and Lebensborn homes to produce pure-blooded Aryans of the German Reich. Of course, this ideology was implemented by a plan, and the man that had this job was Heinrich Himmler, appointed Reichsfuhrer of the SS in January 1929 (Clay, Leapman 10-11). As Reichsfuhrer, Himmler started his obsessive program of Lebensborn to populate the Thousand Year German Reich.
In 1935 Lebensborn, which means 'fountain of life', was born to fulfill the wishes of Hitler to produce a million German children a year and eliminate 700,00 to 800,00 children that are weak or 'sub-human' (Clay, Leapman 43). While Lebensborn was populating the German Reich, the concentration camps were killing Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other 'sub-humans' (Clay, Leapman). Himmler's creation was the Lebensborn organization, and in the same year he established the Ancestral Heritage Society with the purpose of scientifically proving the superiority of the Nordic races. Also, Himmler had outlined the aims of Lebensborn that the purpose of homes were to promote large families, to care for newborn children and their mothers, and to find homes for the children. To complete the guidelines of Lebensborn, the child must be raised by racially pure parents and must be racially and genetically pure (Clay, Leapman 58-59). Since Himmler briefly bred chickens, his Lebensborn program established a 'Race Office' at SS headquarters, headed by Walther Darre, an Argentine-born former chicken breeder, to breed Germans. Darre wrote a book called Blood and Soil in 1929 which emphasized the German race as exceptional quality with blood as rich and fertile as the soil of the fatherland they worked on. The philosophy of Darre was to breed the Germans like pure stallions and mares. Of course, Himmler fully agreed with him. Himmler thought that humans could successfully be bred like animals and livestock. Himmler was concerned with the dangers of in-breeding so he made a rule that one quarter of the SS intake should not be sons of existing members (Clay, Leapman 36-37). Throughout Himmler's life he thought it was the women's duty to bear children so that the nation would flourish with eternal life. If the women did not give birth, the nation would die. He conceived of this idea from a book he read in 1926 called Germany's Vanishing People by Dr. A. Thomsen (Clay, Leapman 53). Himmler had created the Lebensborn program through book reading, Hitler's goals, education, anthropology, genetics, and breeding.
In order to produce the perfect Aryan child through Lebensborn, the bearers of the child had to pass certain criteria of being racially and genetically pure. For example, Hans Gunther, the official party theorist, stated that the SS men had to be authentic Teuton; these characteristics include a long head, narrow face, well-defined chin, narrow nose with very high root, soft fair hair, receding light eyes, a pink white skin color, and tall. These qualifications were needed for the men to be considered for membership into the SS (Henry, Hillel 24-25). Since the men in the SS security had passed the requirements of being pure blood, they were excellent specimens for the Lebensborn program. Of course, the women had to fall into the same criteria to be considered as pure racial stock. The women had to show proof of their German descent for four generations in order to be in the Lebensborn program. Also, the women had to display Aryan features such as blond hair and blue eyes (Clay, Leapman). The Germans that showed these features and passed the criteria of being pure blood were encouraged to bear children for the Fuhrur. The birth of these babies would take place in secret Lebensborn homes. Sadly, the children born into the Lebensborn home were victims of the race policy. In 1943, a girl named Annie E. of age eighteen heard about Lebensborn and wrote to Dr. Ebner, chief medical superintendent of Lebensborn for a job. He replied back to her and asked for a picture and some personal information. After sending her picture, she found out from a friend about the Lebensborn program and thought that it was disgusting and immoral. Her excuse to get out of the program was that she did not believe in having children without marriage. Of course, Himmler had to find women to participate in his Lebensborn program. To get involved with Lebensborn, most women heard about it by word of mouth. Most Lebensborn mothers came from the BDM, the ultra-patriotic League of German Girls, or the Reich Labour Service. Since the women in these groups were fifteen to sixteen and inexperienced, they became guinea-pigs to a physical and psychological propaganda for reproduction in the interest of the nation (Henry, Hillel 80-81). Between 1935 and 1945, an estimated 11,000 Aryan babies were born in Nazi occupied countries by these women (Clay, Leapman).
Himmler told the men of the SS that they were the blood carriers who could make history. Himmler even states, "Should we succeed in establishing this Nordic race again in and around Germany and inducing them to become farmers, and from this seed bed produce a race of 200 million, then the world will belong to us...We are called, therefore, to create a basis on which the next generation can make history" (Clay, Leapman 10). With this statement an SS officer, Peter Neumann, remarks how the Lebensborn program was a stud farm theory. In his memoirs he tells about being summoned to see the Chief Medical Officer and told that he was of good Aryan stock. The doctor goes on telling him about the genetic theory of how his characteristics stay in his family for generations. When the doctor finishes his argument, he follows with a statement in favor of stud farms for humans and how it is normal to encourage production of a perfect specimen among animals. After the talk with the doctor, Neumann was sent to Schmallenog two days later with other SS men. He tells about the building looking like a hospital, and when he arrived, he received another medical examination. After the examination, he is let loose on the women and meets a blonde named Liselotte. She tells him that she is a member of the BDM and of the moral pressure exerted on her to volunteer for selfless duty. Then, they talk of the morality issue that she was not selling her body, but giving it to Germany, which was different. After this confrontation they get their cards stamped and spend six days and nights together. Neumann went back to his unit and learned two years later Liselotte had a son for the Fuhrer (Neumann). This is only one example of many incidences that were a part of the Lebensborn program.
After World War II ended, American soldiers came upon one of the first Lebensborn homes. United States Army's 86th Infantry Division came upon a town named Hochland. When they first arrived. they did not know the Germans had surrendered, so they entered the town with caution. The 86th Infantry, called the Black Hawks, saw Steinhoring, the Lebensborn home, where a statue near the entrance showed a women breast-feeding her baby. The reason the Americans went into the home, they saw at front of the entrance laid a body of a SS soldier, the Americans checked to see if he was died. They entered the home, found babies bawling, quickly searched for any armed men, and left. After two days more American troops came to the town with the task of administering defeat to the village. They placed a man named Johann Grander as the mayor by the suggestion of Freiherr Otto von Feury, who was quarter Jewish and a landowner. The town did not have Steinhoring on their minds since the town was doubling in a matter of days which was causing a shortage of food and accommodations. Von Feury was placed in charge of the Lebensborn home where 350 babies were abandoned by SS administrators and most of the medical personnel had left forty-eight hours earlier (Clay, Leapman 5-8). In the winter of 1944-45, Steinhoring was the last refuge of the children and women of Lebensborn (Henry, Hillel 208). Steinhoring normally housed only 150 people, which seriously overcrowded the home. Of sixteen nurses, Steinhoring had only eight who stayed behind because they were part of the 'Brown Sisters', a fanatic group of Nazi women of the SS (Clay, Leapman 5-8). When the SS left they took everything without leaving food for the women and children (Henry, Hillel 210).
The first task von Feury had to accomplish was to get food and milk for the children, so he persuaded the Americans to let him go from farm to farm to collect milk and food for the children. Also, there were women still expecting children on the way so he had to find a doctor. He knew that the Americans had Dr. Kleinle, suspected of helping the Nazis, under their custody, so he asked the Americans to release him to help von Feury at Steinhoring. The last task of von Feury was to find homes for the children of Steinhoring. Many of the townspeople were very hesitant on adopting the children of the Lebensborn background. Of course, the SS destroyed the documents with a bonfire that had the fathers' names and other vital information 48 hours before the Americans arrived. The birth registers did not give any details of the mothers' background or where they lived, and the registration was done in a unusual way so that people could not find the parents of the child, so finding the parents of the children was very difficult. For three months, von Feury tried to find homes for these children. Some American soldiers aided in the search, he remarked that two soldiers had adopted children. Some of the mothers came back to take their children, but there was only a few of them (Clay, Leapman 5-8). The mothers that stayed took their children, and some had to be persuaded to take their children. These women included German, Danish, Dutch, and French women that would be reticuled for having a child by their homeland (Henry, Hillel 212-213). If a women was not going to keep her child, she left a week after the birth; this was part of the reason mothers did not come back. After three months of caring for of this home, von Feury 's task concluded and the Red Cross took over. It took over a year to place all the children in a suitable home (Clay, Leapman 5-8). Placing children throughout the country, the Red Cross put them in homes in the United States, South Africa, France, Britain, and Germany (Henry, Hillel 213). Sorrowfully, most of the children ended up being institutionalized (Chatel). People from the home still go back to visit Steinhoring to retrieve some link from their past of the Lebensborn program.
Another part of the Lebensborn Policy, started in 1939, was the kidnapping of children in the eastern occupied countries (Chatel). In October 1939 Himmler was appointed "Commissar for Consolidating German Nationhood" and placed in charge of ensuring that Germany's racial policies extended to Poland. His duties included identifying ethnic Germans and racial stock which was pure enough to be accepted as Germans. When going through Poland, Himmler found that many of the children looked Aryan. In 1943, Himmler stated, "Obviously in such a mixture of peoples there will always be some racially good types. Therefore I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if necessary by robbing or stealing them" (Clay, Leapman 91). Himmler explained that his reasoning for stealing the children that showed an Aryan background was that he wanted to have all the Nordic blood in the world for the Nazis. On June 14, 1941, Himmler issued a circular that outlined the reasons for taking 'racially good' children for Germany and told of the treatment which would be implemented to those children. Also, documents that Himmler made were found which told of how he would take the children showing Aryan features away from their natural born parents. For instance, Himmler took away the privilege of Eastern schools. If parents wanted their children to receive an education, they would have to fill out an application to the senior leaders of the SS and the police. The decision would be based upon the child being racially 'perfect', so if the child was acknowledged as being 'of pure blood' , he or she would be sent to Germany for an education and would remain there never to return home. In the winter of 1941, a secret order, no. 67/1, signed by SS Gruppenfuhrer Ulrich Greifet, head of the Central Office of the SS and SD in Poland, and which had the outline the germanization of children from Polish families and orphanages. This program only took children ages two to six (Henry, Hillel 144-145). All of these documents and statements concerning the children that showed racial purity gave a whole new branch of deception to the Lebensborn program.
The kidnappings were organized by the SS, who was under the command of Himmler. Thousands of children would be taken to "Lebensborn" centers to be "Germanized" (Chatel). In order for a child to be chosen, they had to go through racial screening and sifting. If the child passed the physical examination, he or she was made to forget that he or she was ever a Pole. The Nazi's did this by intensely brainwashing the children. For instance, the prerequisite for the children to forget their Polish background was to sever all the links to their Polish parents and relatives, and the children's name was changed to German names of Teutonic origin. Their birth certificates were kept in a special department. Himmler thought of how this would strengthen Germany and have the additional benefit of weakening the Polish blood-line. For final Germanization, the child could not be older than eight or ten years old, because a genuine ethnic transformation was only possible up to that age. The first source of supply of these Germans would come from Polish orphanages, and the next supply came from parents who were removed or liquidated by the Germans. In February 1942 SS Colonel Ulrich Greifelt wrote a letter to Himmler saying that many of the Polish orphans in the orphanage or foster homes showed to be a descendant from ethnic German parents, and the Poles changed the names of these orphans to Polish names. Greifelt even said that many of the documents showing the true descent of the children were not available (Clay, Leapman 92-95). This allowed any child of German descent to be taken away.
Women of the Nazi party played a sinister part in the Lebensborn program. Some of the nurses in the Lebensborn centers tried to do everything in their power to convince a Polish child to reject and forget their birth parents. For example, the SS nurses would persuade the child that their parents had deliberately abandoned them. Any children who refused to believe them were exterminated or sent to concentration camps. The children who did believe them were adopted by SS families (Chatel). The Brown Sisters also played a part in kidnapping the Polish children. They would give a child that was on a street food or candy. While the child was eating, the Brown Sister would ask the child about how many brothers and sisters were in the family and the color of their hair, skin, and eyes. If the family fit the Aryan criteria, a special team would kidnap the children at night without the parents even knowing. Then, the child was taken to a medical examiner. If the child passed the test, he or she was taken to a Lebensborn reception center. Of course, if they did not pass, they were taken to concentration camps, exterminated, or even taken back to their parents if lucky. These decision were usually made by the doctor or the SS man (Henry, Hillel 156-157). This was the basic plan on how the SS stole the Polish children.
On June 11, 1942, one of the most provocative incidences of Lebensborn happened in a small village called Lidice which started because of the assassination of the SS governor Heydrich in Prague. A SS unit decided to place judgment in their own hands and punish Lidice for the assassination. When they entered the town, they exterminated the entire male population. While this horror was happening, some of the SS made a selection of the children. They considered only 91 to be good enough to be "Germanized" and sent them to Germany to the Lebensborn program. Of course, the children that were not chosen were immediately killed (Chatel). Maria Hanofova, who was renamed Marga Richter, was one of the children taken at the Lidice massacre in Czechoslovakia. When she was taken away, she was no. 60 on the list of children that were under sixteen. The list included the names of the 91 children, and out of the 91 children only nine of them have ever been traced. When the massacre started, Maria and the other children were taken to the school at Kladno with their mothers. There the SS separated the children from their mothers and took the children to the station where they went to Kinder-Ausleselager, a camp for selected children (Henry, Hillel 198). Maria tells of her examination done by Dr. Hetzer: "We were made to undress completely, boys and girls alike. The lady measured our heads, chests and hips. Then we were weighed one after the other on some big scales in the corner. After that we had our face photographed from all angles. We were half dead with fear" (Clay, Leapman 95). Sadly, the children wondered what had happened to their parents and homes. On June 12, 1942, Horst Bohme, security chief at Prague, reported to his SS colleagues at Lodz what had happened at Lidice. He stated that the small town of Lidice was expected to be connected to the assassination of SS governor Heydrich, so they shot the whole male population. The women went to concentration camps for life, and the children were examined for their capacity for Germanization (Henry, Hillel 199). Today, Lidice has a museum that shows a film that a German army film unit made on the massacre, and it showed how inhuman the SS were to the small town. At the end of the tour the guide tells how she is one of the children, who survived Lidice. She relives the nightmare of her childhood everyday (Henry, Hillel 241). Every child that remembers being abducted by the Nazis relives the nightmare everyday of their lives.
No one will never know how many children were kidnapped in the eastern occupied countries. In 1946, it was estimated that there were more than 250,000 children kidnapped and sent by force to Germany. Out of that number of children only 25,000 were retrieved after the war and went back to their original families (Chatel). In September 1942, Alycia Sosinka was taken from her mother and renamed by Dr. Tesch into Alice Sosinger. When she was transported to a boarding school at Illenau with other Polish girls, Alycia said that life at the barracks was a nightmare. She and the other girls were branded on the left hand and the back of the neck and the scars still show. After the branding, they were told that they would give birth to two or three Germans of good stock and would then disappear. They were given injections daily and put through a racial examination every so often. If the girls did not pass, they were never seen again. Alycia was placed with a peasant family in Illenau, and the Lebensborn organization said that they would come back and get her at the age of fifteen or sixteen for reproductive purposes. After the war, Alycia was returned to her mother. She was very frightened about going back to Poland at first. When Alycia's mother would come to tuck her in at night, for months Alycia would jump out of bed and stand at attention. Alycia to this day does not like to talk about the Lebensborn program (Henry, Hillel 163-164). Additional difficulties arose when some German families refused to give back the children that they received from the Lebensborn organization. Sadly, some of the children themselves refused to go back to their original families (Chatel). Since many of the parents refused to give back their child from Lebensborn, they were brought to court by the original parents who wanted their child back. The original parents had evidence that the children were theirs, but the cases were usually decided in favor of the Nazi families. When these children should have been taken back to their original parents, these cases showed how the fate of innocent victims can be decided in favor of their tormentors. For example, Kurt Heinze, head of the Oberweiss Lebensborn home in Austria, adopted a little Polish girl, and he did not have to return his daughter back to her original parents (Henry, Hillel 220-221). This shows how these children were victims of the Nazi propaganda and how they believed that they were pure Germans. Also, the thousand of children not "good enough" to be Germanized were exterminated.
After the trial at Munich, the book was closed on the most spectacularly misconceived racial experiment in history. There will never be another Nazi Germany. Yet there will almost certainly be other attempts to use science to create the illusion of Utopia by the seductive notion of eliminating 'them' and producing more people like us. Many of the Journals of the Annals of Eugenics changed their names to Annals of Human Genetics and Eugenics Quarterly, so to this day, there is still the evidence of breeding the perfect human.
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Clay, Catrine, and Michael Leapman. Master Race. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995.
Clay, Catrine, and Michael Leapman. Master Race. 1995. Online. SIU at Carbondale Lib. Internet. 25 Sept. 1997. Available: american.prices.com/books/1250/1259mid.html
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