Hans Frank & his sons Niklas and Norman

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The Children of Nazi Germany


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In the book My Father' s Keeper by Stephan and Norbert Lebert, the stories of six children of Nazi leaders are portrayed. Journalists Stephan and Norman Lebert conducted a series of interviews and uncover the intimate background of these children. The way these stories are written is unique; it is a comparison of interviews and research done after the war in the early fifties by Norbert Lebert, and in the early nineties by Stephan Lebert. In 1959 Norbert Lebert conducted the first round of interviews, which included Wolf-Rudiger Hess, Martin Bormann junior, Niklas and Norman Frank, Gudrun Himmler, Edda Göring, and the von Schirach brothers. He focused on how the children were "bearers of notorious names that made them outcasts to some, and symbols of a lost glory to others" (Lebert). Forty years later, Lebert' s son Stephan followed up with Gudrun Himmler, and Norman and Niklas Frank, as well as the others, to find out what had become of them, and how their perspectives had changed. Stephan Lebert gives readers detailed information about his father's findings and his own interviews. Through his use of dialect, he vividly portrays the compelling stories and perspectives of these children of Nazi leaders. There are many children of Nazi leaders and they were all affected by the role their fathers played in the Holocaust. But for this project, I am specifically focusing on the history of Hans Frank, his role in the Holocaust, the interviews of hissons Niklas and Norman, and comparing it with the history and role of Heinrich Himmler, and the interviews of his daughter Gudrun Himmler.

Both Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank had powerful roles in the development of the Holocaust. Himmler was head of the S.S., which were the soldiers of the Nazi party, and Frank was the party jurist and governor general in Poland. Frank had a major role in the spread of Nazi efforts in Poland. These men were a part of mass killing and bloodshed while they were fathers, and they both had children who were seriously affected by their actions during the Holocaust, as well as their subsequent trials and deaths. This poses the question of what role the trials and justice of Nazi leaders played for their children, and how did this ultimately affect their opinions about their fathers? Hans Frank was "condemned at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and hanged" (Klessmann, 39). During the 1959 and 1999 interviews, Niklas and Norman Frank express strong disapproval for their father's actions, and both convey their happiness about his prosecution. Heinrich Himmler was captured and put in a British jail, however, he committed suicide before he could be tried. Unlike the Frank brothers, Gudrun Himmler's love and respect for her father stayed strong throughout both interviews. 

Hans Frank & his sons Niklas and Norman

Hans Frank & his sons Niklas and Norman 

Brigitte, Hans and Niklas Frank

As the party jurist and head of Poland, Hans Frank assisted in two major aspects of the Nazi party. Under his rule and assistance, the innocent lives of millions of people were taken. Even though he was not one of the most "powerful of men in the hierarchy of the Third Reich . . . he was one of those chiefly responsible for the bloody German reign of terror in Poland" (Klessmann, 39). It was said that "Frank attempted to model himself into a replica of the Führer he idolized, [Hitler]" (Klessmann, 43). Much of the information that is known about Franks crimes comes from the very detailed and up to date diaries he kept. On June 2, 1943, he wrote, "We began here with three and a half million Jews; of those we have only a few labor companies left, all the rest have let us say -emigrated" (Lebert, 129). Ironically, on May 1, 1945, just hours before his arrest he told his son that" [he] must be the only minister who is looking forward to his own arrest" because when it happens "[he] shall hand over his diaries. Every day is accounted for . . . [he] has nothing to fear" (Lebert, 127). He did turn over that diary, and it was one of the main pieces of evidence used in sentencing him to "death by hanging" at the Nuremberg trials.

When Hans Frank was hanged on October 16, 1946, he left a wife and five children. The Frank family was accustomed to living the lavish lifestyle of good food,  large homes, and a lot of money. Hans Frank was the head of Poland after all. These luxuries became mere memories the day the heavily armed Poles came in and ordered Brigitte Frank and her five children to get "against the wall" (Lebert, 130), and interrogated them about where Frank was hiding. As the "Poles" were tearing the house apart looking for any sign of their corrupt head of state, the Frank family was able to make their getaway. They were forced to move to the next village and live on 300 Deutschmark a month. The traumatic interrogations, the major changes of life style, and the realization that their father aided in millions of deaths are all factors that cause the Frank brothers to despise their father. After their father was captured, the Franks had a hard time enrolling in schools, were discriminated against by their teachers and peers, and were constantly accused of being Nazis. "One day in February 1946, Niklas failed to come home from school at the usual time," his mother finally found him at the school detention. He was accused of drawing a swastika on the board because he "was the kind of boy who'd draw [one]" (Lebert, 135). This is precisely the type of event that compelled Niklas to devote a great portion of his life to  writing books and articles about the "filth" (Lebert, 147) of his father's life. In the final sentences of his book, Niklas imagines how he opens his mouth and "bites into [his father's] heart, and feels him screaming and screaming . . . until it stops pumping and goes limp" (Lebert, 153). Niklas' book and articles were not received well by the general population, but that did not stop him. In the 1959 interview Norman says that  "[he] holds [his] father guilty. He committed dreadful crimes and paid for them with his death" (Lebert, 122). Then again at the end of the 1980s Norman states that he does not want to have kids because "the name of Frank should bid this world farewell" (Lebert, 150). His strong hatred for his father stayed with him throughout his life. For him to not want to start a family of his own because of the crimes his father committed, shows a true sign of resentment. On behalf of the Frank children, Norman told Lebert that they are not going to try and recover any of Hans Frank's assets, because "they are loaded with guilt" (Lebert, 139). The Frank children want to rid themselves of the name, life, and memory left of their infamous father.

Heinrich Himmler & his daughter Gudrun

Heinrich Himmler & his daughter Gudrun 

As head of the S.S. from 1929 to 1945, Himmler had a very powerful and central role in the Holocaust. In his sixteen-year term he succeeded in recruiting more than 50,000 soldiers. With his well-built army and strong leadership, he was able to supply enough man power to help capture and murder nine million people. Through the help of the S.S., the Nazis were able to maintain control of the many different camps around Europe. Himmler' s pride for his S.S. and devotion to exterminate the "non-Aryan race," is evident from his speech in October of 1943. He defines the "S.S. as a National Socialist Order of men selected for their Nordic characteristics and a sworn blood brotherhood," and states that the S.S. are "brave enough to be unpopular . . . brave enough to be hardhearted and unfeeling!" (Ackermann, 105). In this same speech he explains to his S.S. general that "the Jewish people are being exterminated . . . and most of you will know what it is like to see a hundred corpses lying together, or 500 or 1000 . . . This is a glorious page of our history" (Ackermann, 105). Himmler, like Hitler, felt that even though Jews are "identically biological . . . with human looking features, they are mentally and spiritually lower than any animal; sub-human" (Ackermann, 109). Himmler was captured and put in a British prison for his heinous actions, but like Hitler, his most ardent follower was able to escape prosecution by committing suicide.

Gudrun Himmler's reaction to her father's role was completely opposite of the Frank brothers'. Her father had one of the most powerful roles during the Holocaust, but Gudrun refused to see it. Her love and respect for her father kept her alive and constantly fighting for her name. "At fourteen . . . she cut out every picture of him from the newspapers and glued them into a large scrapbook" (Lebert, 155). After they were captured, Gudrun and her mother were put in jail after jail and left with nothing. Even through the ruthless interrogations at the Nuremberg trials, "she vowed herself to him. She did not weep, but went on hunger strikes. She lost weight, fell sick, and stopped developing" (Lebert, 157). When Gudrun found out that her father had committed suicide, "the fifteen-year-old suffered a psychological and medical breakdown. Shivering . . . day and night she lay delirious on the bed in her cell" (Lebert, 164). Even after the trials were over, Gudrun and her mother were forced to live in a protestant nursing home at Bethel under an alias, because they did not have any money or valuables. Gudrun struggled with her everyday life because of her name. She was denied acceptance to schools, turned down by scholarship programs, and was unable to receive a job. Due to the fact that she refused to take on another name, she constantly had "to start from scratch, introduce herself, say her name, her father' s name" (Lebert, 179). Even through her adulthood, Gudrun stayed faithful to her father. In a 1999 interview she talked about trying to save enough money to go to America and examine the evidence that would help her compare her childhood memories with the documents stating her father's views, and the orders he gave. Ultimately, her goal is to write a book called "simply Heinrich Himmler . . . to clear her father' s name" (Lebert, 155).

We are the descendants of criminals and mass murderers

A tormented man is Niklas Frank, 70, the son of Hans Frank, Hitler's governor of occupied Poland and the man responsible for the extermination camp programme which killed SIX MILLION Jews.


Beast ... Amon Goeth astride a horse


Frank was hanged by the Allies after the war but Niklas says he was "condemned to a living death because of the slime-hole of a Hitler fanatic that I had for a father."


Chanoch Zeevi, the Israeli director of Hitler's Children, found "fascinating similarities" between the emotions of those related to Holocaust perpetrators and those of survivors, some of whom meet the children of their tormentors in the programme.

He says: "I have made a powerful, mesmerising dialogue between the children of the perpetrators and the children of the survivors. Both live out the Holocaust daily, unable to move forward with their lives.

"Both finally face the past and are empowered to move on."

Hitler had no children, while those of his propaganda chief Josef Goebbels died with him and his wife in the same bunker in which their Fuehrer killed himself.

And many others at the dark heart of the Reich had families — something encouraged by Hitler, who idolised youth as the bedrock of his empire slated to last for 1,000 years.


Schindler's List ... Ralph Fiennes plays Goeth in film


Some of the children can even remember being patted on the head by Hitler as they went with their parents to his mountaintop home in Berchtesgaden.

It has taken until now for them to go before the cameras to talk about their feelings of pain, revulsion and confusion, sometimes mixed with love and regret.

Niklas Frank remembers being stroked on the face by Hitler at his mountain home — and being taken to a death camp by his father.


He remembers seeing prisoners tormented as he and his father chuckled.

Niklas says: "Thin men were mounted on to a wild donkey by powerful German hands.

"The donkey bucked and the men fell off, and they could only pick themselves up again very slowly, and they didn't find it as funny as I did.

"And again and again they got back on and the donkey was given a slap and again they fell off and they tried to help each other — it was a fantastic afternoon.

"Then we had cocoa with the most important soldier.


Hitler's second in command ... Hermann Goering


"These are the s***** images I carry around of my father. I dream of the piles of corpses in the camps.

"My country will never be rid of that history. It is a story that is still not over."

He lectures about his infamous father to young people in the former East Germany in a bid to prevent them from straying into the neo-Nazi scene that preys on the young, unemployed and desperate.

"I have never managed in my life to get rid of the memory of him," he said. "I live with this deep shame about what he did."

Bettina Goering now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she practices herbal medicine.

She told how both she and her brother were voluntarily sterilised, explaining. "I had my tubes tied at the age of 30 because I feared I would create another monster.

"I look like him for a start — the eyes, the cheekbone, the profile. I look more like him than his own daughter."

Bettina said her father Heinz was adopted by his infamous uncle after his own father died. Heinz became a fighter pilot for the Luftwaffe.


Smile ... Hitler and Goering's baby Edda


He was shot down over the Soviet Union and returned from captivity in 1952 to find that his two brothers had killed themselves because of their shame — and the family's fortunes gone.

Hermann Goering was sentenced to death along with 11 others at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, but he committed suicide by swallowing a poison pill in his cell the night before his scheduled execution.

Bettina's father, who died in 1981, never spoke about the Holocaust, or about his notorious uncle. "But my grandmother was less evasive — she adored him," she said.


"As head of the Red Cross in Nazi Germany she hobnobbed with the regime's other top leaders and had many pictures of herself alongside Hitler.

"We would be watching a documentary on TV together about the Holocaust and she would yell, 'It's all lies, it didn't happen'.

"The hardest part is admitting that I could have liked Goering. I was so shocked by that. Now I am accepting myself more for who I am, whatever that encompasses — the good, the bad and the ugly.


Tears ... Katrin Himmler, the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler wept as his crimes were shown on TV


"And another hard part for Hitler's Children is that they thought they were the descendants of heroes. And they were not. We are the descendants of criminals and mass murderers."

Monika Hertwig finds that she cannot accept anything about her own father. As commandant of the Auschwitz sub-camp of Plaszow, he was hanged in 1946 for the murders of tens of thousands of people, 500 of them by his own hands.

She says: "He liked to shoot women with babies in their arms from the balcony of his house, to see if one bullet could kill two.

"How far do you separate the murderer from the father? How much of the murderer is in me? These things torment me.

"I always remember meeting a man years ago, before I knew what my father did. It was 1958.

"He was washing dishes in a cafe and rolled up his sleeves and I saw the number tattooed on his arm. He had been in a camp.

"He said he had been in Krakow. 'Oh my father ran a camp there,' I said.

"He froze. He said, 'Your father was Amon Goeth?' I smiled back at him, thrilled that I might find someone who could tell me things about my father.


War crimes ... Heinrich Himmler with his daughter Gudrun


"He pointed to the door of the cafe and told me never to come back."

In the film she meets a Jewish man who suffered under her father. His testimony about Goeth's daily cruelties is heartbreaking and Monika weeps.


Her mother Ruth — Goeth's mistress — committed suicide in 1983, unable to comprehend the crimes of the man she once loved.

Monika was 11 when Ruth told her: "You are like your father and you will die like him."

She says: "I think he was a sadist who took pleasure in killing. Jews were the true heroes and I feel nothing but contempt for those who still idolise the Nazis, those cowardly, rabid dogs."

Katrin Himmler, 43, the great niece of Heinrich Himmler — the SS chief second only to Hitler and in charge of the extermination programme — married an Israeli Jew and ponders how "one day, I will tell the story to my son about his great-great-uncle Heinrich."

She says: "I don't believe I inherited his 'badness'. But I live with his name. When I was 11 the TV series Holocaust was shown in Germany. I sat at my desk crying and crying because the name Himmler was repeated again and again.



"I realise he was the worst mass murderer of modern times. But I am not responsible."

Other children of once-powerful Nazis speak on the programme — set for worldwide release when it is completed in the summer.

They include archaeology professor Ricardo Eichmann, 55, who talks about his dad — "desk murderer" Adolf Eichmann, who organised the transport of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust to the extermination centres.

Adolf Eichmann was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Buenos Aires and flown to Israel, where he was hanged for his crimes in 1962.

Ricardo once said: "I tend to compare our family history to that of a multi-stage rocket. My father was the part that was dropped to the sea shortly after take-off, while we continue flying. I am glad I do not have to live with him."

Uncovering A Grandfather's Secret Nazi Past

story image(s)
Grandfather's Secret Nazi Past

Uncovering A Secret Past: In a family portrait taken in 1941, Bruno Langbehn poses with his wife and children. It was not until after Langbehn's death, at 85, that his grandchildren learned he was not just a German dentist, but a dedicated Nazi and a member of Hitler's Schutzstaffel — the Nazis' chief paramilitary arm.

Courtesy of Martin Davidson

Author Martin Davidson pictured with his maternal grandfather, Bruno Lang­behn.


The Perfect Nazi
By Martin Davidson
Hardcover, 384 pages
Putnam Adult
List Price: $26.95

Read an excerpt

Courtesy of author

Martin Davidson is the commissioning editor for history and business programs at the BBC.

text size A A A May 7, 2011

When Martin Davidson was growing up in Scotland, he thought his grandfather Bruno Langbehn was just another pensioner — he'd been a dentist in his native Germany, he liked a nightcap of schnapps, he was full of colorful stories and very proud of his grandson.

But when Davidson became older, he started to notice a darker side to his grandfather.

"There was an aura of forbidden knowledge that he exuded," Davidson tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "He had a swagger to him, you know, he enjoyed having the last word in an argument. And even, even as a child, I could do the math. I could work out, well, what age was this man when all of that Nazi stuff was happening?"

Davidson tells the story of his search for answers in a new book, The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather's Secret Past.

Bruno Langbehn died at the age of 85, just after the Berlin Wall came down, and it wasn't until after the old man's death that Davidson says he put all the pieces together.

"And alongside being devastated by my discovery, I was also dumbstruck at how stupid I'd clearly been, how unobservant I'd been all those years in his company," Davidson says.

Davidson pried one more damning admission out of his mother after his grandfather's death: Yes, Lang­behn had been a Nazi, but more than that, he had been in the Schutzstaffel or SS. His dedication to the aims and ideals of Nazism had been absolute.

"I discovered that he'd joined the Nazi party at an astonishingly early age, barely 18," Davidson says.

Langbehn was the proud recipient of a Gold Honor Party Badge, the decoration given only to those who'd supported the Nazis in their early days on the fringes of power.

He'd been a storm trooper with the SA, beating up communists in the streets of Berlin before joining the SS and taking over the management of the city's dentists. And he only took off his uniform days after Germany surrendered in 1945.

Davidson calls his book a sort of reckoning, a calling to account of the man who never appeared to repent his actions in the slightest. "I think he was unaccountable," Davidson says. "He'd felt he'd got away with it. And posthumously, my book is an attempt to redress that."

Excerpt: 'The Perfect Nazi'



The Perfect Nazi
By Martin Davidson
Hardcover, 384 pages
Putnam Adult
List Price: $26.95

For thirty-five years of my life, my sister and I lived in the shadow of an unanswered question: What had Bruno Lang­behn, our German grandfather, done during the war? When we were young, we didn't know how to ask it. But even as we grew older, and understood better, we still couldn't broach it. We knew it was there, but, like the rest of the family, tiptoed round it. It became a taboo. The answer, when it came in the early 1990s, proved that, in a world full of dark family secrets, ours had lost none of its power to appall. For the next ten years, it burrowed its way deep inside me, until I could bear it no longer. I had to know everything. I was driven by curiosity. But trepidation, too. What would I find out? Did I really want to know? Having once embarked, there was no turning back. I was determined, once and for all, to know the truth about my Nazi grandfather. Bruno may not have been a participant in the darkest of Nazi atrocities; there were many Nazis more heinous than he. Nei­ther a camp Kommandant nor an architect of the Holocaust, neither a Höss nor an Eichmann, he was nevertheless an enabler of evil, one of its indispensable, and very active, minions.

Men like Bruno propelled the Nazi movement from the fa­natic fringes into the mainstream. Their support gave it life long after it should have fizzled out in the Munich beer cellars of its birth; they made sure it took root in the minds of more than just a handful of madmen. Bruno and fellow early joiners provided the energy, the determination — and the violence — that overcame all obstacles to power. They formed the backbone of the apparatus of terror that ensured compliance in the new Third Reich and they were in the front line, fighting the war that erupted six years later, regarding it as the final great expression of Nazi values and its most important project.

As a self-declared Nazi militant, Bruno did none of this out of coercion, or even convenience, but from deeply held, long-term conviction. His commitment to National Socialism never wavered. He remained true to its world vision until the bitter end. He had no reservations about Hitler's genius or its conse­quences for the people of Europe. Only self-preservation eventu­ally forced him to renounce it.

No account of Bruno's life could therefore be complete that did not confront his beliefs or interrogate the values that he found so inspiring, values that he was prepared not just to sup­port but also to help realize, even to the point of war. The Nazi movement set out to destroy all that was liberal, decent, and humane, which they regarded as weakness and corruption, and they came close to doing it. Bruno proudly wore uniforms that he felt embodied a truth that was superior, stronger, and more heroic than what were, in his mind, the outmoded values held by the rest of the civilized world.

He was a very particular kind of Nazi, but one whose story rarely gets told. We know lots about the top-level henchmen, and even about the wider German population who may, or may not, have been seduced by Hitler's message. It's the willing agents, the factotums, the managers — like Bruno — who are taken for granted, who function as unthinking givens. They were there at the beginning, were crucial at every juncture, and were there at the end — and beyond. The Nazi story is inconceivable without them. Bruno's ambition was to become as respected and trusted a Nazi as he could, and in this, at least, he succeeded.

It's not hard to see why those of us who came after Bruno would prefer caginess to confrontation. Who wants to be touched by a secret as toxic as this, especially when it is lodged deep in the heart of the family? It has been a difficult book to write, with a story I find hard to come to terms with. But it is an important one, and I have learned much while doing it.

Bruno was never a repentant man. Everyone acquainted with him could see that he felt he had nothing to answer for. His cause had lost, but he was quite prepared to move on and enjoy the compensatory benefits of a postwar German economy. Nor did he see any reason to explain what had happened, far less offer any contrition. Why would he? There had been no sacrifice, certainly no sanctions, and he got to live to the fine old age of eighty-five — old enough to see the Berlin Wall come down and the dissolution of the USSR. There was no final reckoning, be­yond having to forfeit the right to boast about what an important man the Third Reich had made him — at least to those outside the circle of his fellow Kriegskameraden

This book is therefore intended to redress Bruno's well-insulated sense of non-accountability, to probe, if only post­humously, his apparent circumvention of any material or moral consequences of a long and embattled Nazi career. In writing it, I have been driven to ask not just what he did, but why. What motivated him? Why did he believe these things as fanatically as he did? What was it about National Socialism that spoke to him so loudly and irresistibly? What kind of man regards Adolf Hitler as the answer to his political dreams? Insofar as Bruno's life con­tains a "warning from history," then it is here; not just in specific crimes, but in his mind-set, which spurred him to join the move­ment and compelled him to work tirelessly on its behalf.

That is why this book is neither a conventional biography nor a case study. In researching it, I was forced to reassess everything I thought I knew about the Nazi system and Bruno's place within it. I have extrapolated where I needed to, joining the gaps in his story as well as the dots, tracking his Nazi career over a quarter of a century, trying to understand what drove each key stage. The events of his Nazi career betray an underlying pattern, which I have used in combination with my residual memory of his per­sonality to help reconstruct his journey from teenage fanatic to Third Reich perpetrator.

It helped that Bruno was neither a reticent nor an enigmatic figure. What views about the world he had he wore on his sleeve. Some of this was the bravado of an egotistical old man, but some of it represented the afterglow of the biggest adventure of his life — his years as a Nazi activist. He had spent decades convinced he was in possession of a great and transcendent truth, and the habit never entirely left him.

In a period when family history has burgeoned on television and in books and magazines, I realize that I belong to a generation who see themselves as custodians of their grandparents' lives. We are voluble and emotional about their experiences, where they were modest and reticent. Usually, the result is a kind of retro­spective pride, a greater recognition of achievements than they received during their own lifetime. In my case, of course, there is none of that. There can be no self-satisfaction here: only the so­bering realization that barely fifty-four years separate our respec­tive dates of birth, though, mercifully, our worlds could not be more different.

Of course, Bruno was forced to be tight-lipped about his past — to his very considerable chagrin. It wasn't the result of natural modesty, but of a powerful postwar embargo, motivated at first by the need to avoid exposure and arrest, then later as part of a much more widespread national reticence that chose to turn a blind eye to the past. This, then, is as much of his arche­typal Nazi career — and the path of a generation of Germans born in the early years of the last century — as I have been able to piece back together. Some, at least, of Bruno's story is now out in the open, where it should be.

Excerpted from The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather's Secret Past by Martin Davidson. Copyright (c) 2011 by Martin Davidson. Reprinted with permission by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Aribert Ferdinand Heim ~AKA Tarek Hussein Farid

CAIRO — Even in old age the imposingly tall, athletic German known to locals as Tarek Hussein Farid maintained the discipline to walk some 15 miles each day through the busy streets of Egypt’s capital. He walked to the world-renowned Al Azhar mosque here, where he converted to Islam, and to the ornate J. Groppi Cafe downtown, where he ordered the chocolate cakes he sent to friends and bought the bonbons he gave to their children, who called him Uncle Tarek.

LKA Baden-Wuerttemberg, via Associated Press

Aribert Ferdinand Heim in a photo released in 1950.

Friends and acquaintances here in Egypt also remember him as an avid amateur photographer who almost always wore a camera around his neck, but never allowed himself to be photographed. And with good reason: Uncle Tarek was born Aribert Ferdinand Heim, a member of Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS and a medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps.

It was behind the gray stone walls of Mauthausen, in his native Austria, that Dr. Heim committed the atrocities against hundreds of Jews and others that earned him the nickname Dr. Death and his status as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still believed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to be at large.

Dr. Heim was accused of performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir. After living below the radar of Nazi hunters for more than a decade after World War II — much of it in the German spa town of Baden-Baden where he had a wife, two sons and a medical practice as a gynecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962.

His hiding place, as well as his death in 1992, have remained unknown until now.

Investigators in Israel and Germany have repeatedly said that they believed Dr. Heim was alive and hiding in Latin America, near where a woman alleged to be his illegitimate daughter lived in Chile. Witnesses from Finland to Vietnam and from Saudi Arabia to Argentina have sent tips and reported sightings to investigators.

A dusty briefcase with rusted buckles, sitting nearly forgotten in storage here in Cairo, hid the truth behind Dr. Heim’s flight to the Middle East. Obtained by The New York Times and the German television station ZDF from members of the Doma family, proprietors of the hotel here where Dr. Heim resided, the files in the briefcase tell the story of his life, and death, in Egypt.

The briefcase contains an archive of yellowed pages, some in envelopes that were still sealed, of Dr. Heim’s letters and medical test results, his financial records and an underlined, annotated article from a German magazine about his own manhunt and trial in absentia, even drawings of soldiers and trains by the children he left behind in Germany. Some documents are in the name Heim, others Farid, but many of the latter, like an application for Egyptian residency under the name Tarek Hussein Farid, have the same birthday, June 28, 1914, and the same place of birth, Radkersburg, Austria, as Dr. Heim.

Although none of the 10 friends and acquaintances in Cairo who identified a photograph of Dr. Heim knew his real identity, they described signs that he might have been on the run. “My idea, which I’ve taken from my father at that time, is that he was in dispute with maybe the Jews, but he took refuge in Cairo at that time,” said Tarek Abdelmoneim el Rifai, the son of Abdelmoneim el Rifai, 88, Dr. Heim’s dentist in Cairo and close friend.

A certified copy of a death certificate obtained from Egyptian authorities confirmed witness accounts that the man called Tarek Hussein Farid died in 1992. “Tarek Hussein Farid is the name my father took when he converted to Islam,” said his son Rüdiger Heim. In an interview in the family’s villa in Baden-Baden, Mr. Heim, 53, admitted publicly for the first time that he was with his father in Egypt at the time of his death from rectal cancer.

“It was during the Olympics. There was a television in the room, and he was watching the Olympics. It distracted him. He must have been suffering from serious pain,” said Mr. Heim, who is tall, like his father, with a long mournful face and speaks softly and carefully. Dr. Aribert Heim died the day after the Games ended, on Aug. 10, 1992, according to his son and the death certificate.

Mr. Heim said he learned of his father’s whereabouts through his aunt, who has since died. He said he did not come forward because he did not wish to bring trouble to any of his father’s friends in Egypt. As the number of surviving Nazi war criminals has dwindled, his father’s case has grown in prominence.

Shelter in the Middle East

Despite the newly uncovered evidence of Dr. Heim’s time in Egypt, it is impossible to definitively close his case, with the location of his burial site still a mystery.

His death would be a significant but hitherto unknown milestone in the winding up of the passionate and at times controversial hunt for Nazi war criminals that led to the trial and execution of the Holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann but never managed to catch up with Josef Mengele, the most famous of the Nazi doctors, who died in Brazil in 1979, as forensic tests later proved.

While the secret lives of Nazis in countries like Argentina and Paraguay captured the popular imagination in books and films like “The Odessa File” and “The Boys From Brazil,” the Heim case casts light on the often overlooked history of their flight to the Middle East.

Until political winds shifted, ex-Nazis were welcomed in Egypt in the years after World War II, helping in particular with military technology. Rüdiger Heim said that his father told him he knew other Nazis there, but tried to steer clear of them.

Even so, how Dr. Heim was able to elude his pursuers for so long, while receiving money from Europe, most notably from his late sister, Herta Barth, and corresponding with friends and family in long letters, is unclear.

“The Arab world was an even better, a safer haven than South America,” said Efraim Zuroff, the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had been searching for Dr. Heim and traveled to Chile last July to raise awareness about the case. Mr. Zuroff expressed surprise when informed of Dr. Heim’s apparent fate, saying the center had been about to raise the reward for information leading to his arrest to $1.3 million from $400,000.

A Trail Gone Cold

The only time Dr. Heim was ever jailed was after World War II when he was held by the American military in Germany. But the military released him, apparently unaware that investigators in Austria were building a case against him. A United States war crimes team took testimony about his crimes from Josef Kohl, a former inmate at Mauthausen, on Jan. 18, 1946, less than a year after the German surrender.

“Dr. Heim had a habit of looking into inmates’ mouths to determine whether their teeth were in impeccable condition,” Mr. Kohl said, according to a transcript of the interview. “If this were the case, he would kill the prisoner with an injection, cut his head off, leave it to cook in the crematorium for hours, until all the flesh was stripped from the naked skull, and prepare the skull for himself and his friends as a decoration for their desks.”

Mr. Zuroff said that because Dr. Heim was at Mauthausen for a short time early in the war, in the fall of 1941, he was “aware of no people alive today who suffered at his hands and can give first-hand testimony of his crimes.”

German investigators said that Dr. Heim was careful throughout the postwar period when less-controlled people might have let down their guard.

Investigators noted that Dr. Heim, a talented ice hockey player, stayed out of pictures when his hockey team posed for its group portrait, even after they won the German championship. Dr. Heim owned an apartment building in Berlin, which investigators said for years provided him with income for his life incognito.

At the headquarters of the Baden-Württemberg state police in Stuttgart today, small magnets freckle a map of the world, marking the spots where clues or reports of sightings surfaced. Investigators said that they had searched continuously since his disappearance in 1962, checking more than 240 leads and ruling out several people thought to be Dr. Heim. While they never caught him, they appear to have come tantalizingly close to his hiding place in the Middle East.

“There was information that Heim was in Egypt working as a police doctor between 1967 and the beginning of the ’70s,” said Joachim Schäck, head of the fugitive unit at the state police. “This lead proved to be false.”

According to his son, Dr. Heim had left Germany and driven through France and Spain before crossing into Morocco, and eventually settling in Egypt. “It was only sheer coincidence that the police could not arrest me because I was not at home at the time,” Dr. Heim wrote in a letter to the German magazine Spiegel, after it published a report about his war-crimes case in 1979. It is unclear whether he ever sent the letter, which was found in his files, many of which were written in meticulous cursive style in German or English.

In the letter he also accused Simon Wiesenthal, who was interned at Mauthausen, of being “the one who invented these atrocities.” Dr. Heim went on to discuss what he called Israeli massacres of Palestinians, and added that “the Jewish Khazar, Zionist lobby of the U.S. were the first ones who in 1933 declared war against Hitler’s Germany.”

The Turkic ethnic group the Khazars were a recurring theme for Dr. Heim, who kept himself busy in Cairo, researching a paper he wrote in English and German, decrying the possibility of anti-Semitism owing to the fact, he said, that most Jews were not Semitic in ethnic origin. Mr. Rifai recalled that Dr. Heim had shown his family many different drafts of the paper, which were among the papers found in the briefcase that The Times and ZDF television obtained. A list also showed plans to send drafts of the paper to prominent people around the world — under the name Dr. Youssef Ibrahim — including the United Nationssecretary general, Kurt Waldheim, the United States national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Yugoslavia’s leader, Marshal Tito.

Life as Uncle Tarek

He formed close bonds with his neighbors, including the Doma family, which ran the Kasr el Madina hotel, where Dr. Heim lived the last decade before his death. Mahmoud Doma, whose father owned the establishment, said Dr. Heim spoke Arabic, English and French, in addition to German. Mr. Doma said his neighbor read and studied the Koran, including a copy in German that the Domas had ordered for him.

Mr. Doma, 38, became emotional when talking about the man he knew as Uncle Tarek, whom he said gave him books and encouraged him to study. “He was like a father. He loved me and I loved him.”

He recalled how Uncle Tarek bought rackets and set up a tennis net on the hotel roof, where he and his siblings played with the German Muslim until sundown. But by 1990, Dr. Heim’s good health began to fail him and his illness was diagnosed as cancer.

After his death, his son Rüdiger insisted that they follow his father’s wishes and donate the body to science, not an easy task in a Muslim country where the rules dictate a swift burial and dissection is opposed. Mr. Doma, who wanted to put Uncle Tarek in the family crypt next to his father, opposed the plan.

The two men rode in a white van with the body of Dr. Heim, which had been washed and wrapped in a white sheet in accordance with Muslim tradition and placed in a wooden coffin. Mr. Doma said they bribed a hospital functionary to take the body, but Egyptian authorities found out, and Dr. Heim was instead interred in a common grave, anonymously.

Mr. Weber's Story

November 7, 2006

WERNIGERODE, Germany, Nov. 4 -- For Guntram Weber, the journey that led to this quaint town of horse-drawn carts and half-timbered houses was long, wrenching, and anything but redemptive.

 Four years ago, Mr. Weber discovered that his father was not, as his mother had told him, a young soldier who died honorably on the battlefield during World War II. Instead, he was a high-ranking SS officer, who oversaw the deaths of tens of thousands of people while stationed in what is now western Poland.


 "He died peacefully in Argentina, with his old comrades standing at his grave and raising their right arms," Mr. Weber said, his voice thick with anger and grief. "A racist is forever a racist."

 As Mr. Weber, 63, told his story to a hushed room of mostly gray-haired men and women here, there were sympathetic nods, but little surprise. Most had their own tales of deceit and discovery, life histories that proved to be homespun fairy tales, the dark truth buried under layers of silence.

 These are the children of the Lebensborn, an SS program devised to propagate Aryan traits. On this chilly weekend, they gathered here in a corner of central Germany to share their stories, and to speak publicly, for the first time, about the horror of finding out they had been bred to be the next generation of Nazi elite.

 "This is the opposite example of the Holocaust," said Gisela Heidenreich, 63, a family therapist from Bavaria, whose mother was unmarried and whose father, she later discovered, was a senior SS officer. "The idea was to further the Aryan race by whatever means were available."

© Lebensspuren e.V., Wernigerode A doctor, administrator and children in Wernigerode, circa 1943-5. Many of the mothers in the program were single, the fathers SS officers.
Lebensborn, or spring of life, refers to a series of clinics scattered throughout Germany and neighboring countries, to which pregnant women, most of them single, went to give birth in secret. They were cared for by doctors and nurses employed by the SS, the Nazi Party's feared paramilitary unit.

 One such clinic sits at the top of a gentle hill in Wernigerode, a remote town near the Harz Mountains. The building, long abandoned now, was part of a bittersweet homecoming tour for the 40 or so people who turned out for the meeting of an association known as Traces of Life.

 To be accepted into the Lebensborn, pregnant women had to have the right racial characteristics --blonde hair and blue eyes-- prove that they had no genetic disorders, and be able to prove the identity of the father, who had to meet similar criteria. They had to swear fealty to Nazism, and were indoctrinated with Hitler's ideology while they were in residence.

 Many of the fathers were SS officers with their own families. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, encouraged his men to sire children outside of marriage as a way of building a German master race.

 About 6,000 to 8,000 people were born in these clinics in Germany between 1936 and 1945. Because of the program's secrecy, most were not told for decades the circumstances of their births or the identities of their fathers, which were not recorded on their birth certificates. Some still do not know the truth.

 Only in the last 20 years, as the wall of silence began crumbling, have researchers been able to document the Lebensborn program. They have knocked down some prurient myths: that these clinics were Nazi bordellos, stocked with flaxen-haired breeders ready to mate with SS men.

 "The children were conceived in all the usual ways: love affairs, one-night stands, and so forth," said Dorothee Schmitz-Köster, who has written a book about Lebensborn. "Abortion was not legal in Germany then, and in many cases, the women did not want to keep the babies."

 Some of the mothers gave them up for adoption to SS families. Others raised the children alone, telling them that their fathers had been killed in the war. Having given birth to illegitimate babies in a fervently Nazi setting, the mothers faced a double stigma in postwar Germany.

 Many lived out their lives in grim silence, their children say. Some developed psychological problems or turned to alcohol. For the children, the discovery of the truth was equally traumatic.

 Mr. Weber, a creative writing teacher in Berlin, is still struggling to come to grips with his recently uncovered roots. Some hints from family members, followed by research, led him to the truth. Among his more unpleasant discoveries: his godfather was Himmler.

 "Most grew up knowing they had a secret," Ms. Schmitz-Köster said. "They were angry at their mothers, because they had been lied to or abandoned. Some feel shame. There are also a small number who are proud of being Lebensborn. They feel they are part of an elite."

For Lebensborn children born outside Germany, life was even harsher. In Nazi-occupied Norway, for example, the SS established a clinic because Himmler valued the appearance of Scandinavians. Those babies, born of Norwegian mothers and German soldiers, were branded as children of the enemy after the war, and faced pitiless discrimination.

 Other children who met Himmler's pernicious racial standards were kidnapped as infants from their families in Nazi-occupied countries and sent to Germany, where proper Nazi families raised them.

 If anything, the reunion served as proof that racial engineering has its limits. The Germans here looked no different from those at any other gathering of Germans in their golden years: the men with salt-and-pepper beards and balding pates, the women with eyeglasses and frosted hair.

 "I'm really an exception," said Ms. Heidenreich, a tall woman with long blond hair and bright blue eyes.

 Ms. Heidenreich, the first of the Lebensborn children to write a book about her experience, argues that the program, sinister as it was, has echoes in today's world. With advances in genetics, she notes, discriminating parents will soon be able to select traits in their unborn children.

 Given that possibility, she said, the evils of the Nazi era must not be allowed to recede into the history books. "If we start engineering blond-haired, blue-eyed babies, can we blame just Hitler?" she said.

 Ms. Heidenreich was born in a clinic in Oslo, although her parents were German. Her mother chose to give birth there to get as far away as possible from the village in Bavaria where she had grown up. Ms. Heidenreich was not told about her background but became suspicious after watching a television documentary about the Lebensborn children.

 Today, she has trouble reconciling the kindly figure her mother became in later years with the committed Nazi she had been. "She was a lovely grandmother, even if she was a horrible mother," she said.

 Not everybody has had a fraught experience. Ruthild Gorgass, who was born here, said her mother told her about the circumstances of her birth when she was a teenager. Ms. Gorgass had some contact with her father, a manager for a chemical factory, who had another family.

 Her mother left her a photo album with an account of her stay in Wernigerode. She had recalled it as an idyllic time, though she had expressed distaste for her daughter's naming ceremony, in which the baby was placed before an altar bearing a swastika.

 "I was really lucky because I had a talkative mother," said Ms. Gorgass, 64, a retired physical therapist.

 As she thumbed through the album, she put on a pair of reading glasses. Peering over them, she said with smile: "My eyes aren't perfect. We've got all the same illnesses and disabilities as other people have."

Ravensbrück, Germany

These emaciated children survived the Ravensbrück, Germany, concentration camp. Though Ravensbrück imprisoned mostly women, it also included a children's camp at Uckermark and a separate section for men. In December 1944 and January 1945, Uckermark was recognized as a selection and extermination camp for Ravensbrück.

At the end of January 1945, a large selection took place; old, sick, or weak women were taken to Uckermark and murdered, many by gassing. These selections continued into spring, leading to the deaths of at least 5000 women.

The Chosen Ones

They were the blue-eyed blonds born into a sinister SS scheme to further the Aryan race. But the defeat of the Nazis left Norway's 'Lebensborn' facing the vengeance of an entire nation. Here, five former war children talk for the first time about their ordeal – and their fight for compensation

By Rob Sharp

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Mixed blessing: the SS conducted naming ceremonies for babies at Lebensborn homes



They stare blankly into the lens, their lips tellingly pursed. All are the Norwegian subjects of a terrifying Nazi experiment. All were involved in one of the most shocking trials of eugenics the world has ever known. All are Lebensborn – the "spring of life". And all are here to tell their stories for the first time.


The Lebensborn Society was born on 12 December 1935, the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's right-hand man and head of the SS. He had designed a project to promote an "Aryan future" for the Third Reich and turn around a declining birth rate in Germany. People were given incentives to have more children in the Fatherland as well as in occupied countries, most importantly in Scandinavia, where the Nordic gene – and its blond-haired, blue-eyed progeny – was considered classically Aryan.

But after the conflict had ended, many of the Norwegians born into the programme suffered. In an attempt to distance itself from the occupying forces, the Norwegian government publicly vilified the children born by Norwegian mothers and Nazi fathers. Many of those children subsequently experienced intense bullying, and in some cases, extreme mental and physical abuse. In recent years, a Lebensborn group in Norway has been fighting what it sees as the Norwegian government's complicity in their horrific ordeal.

Now, these once-persecuted children, many of whom are in their sixties, have been brought together by British photographer Lucinda Marland, who travelled to Norway to interview them and take their portraits, with a 1940s 5x4 plate camera, reproduced exclusively here.

"The people I met described themselves as the lucky ones and maintain that hundreds of others were never able to come to terms with the prejudice and cruelty they ' suffered," says Marland. "They were incredibly humble and proud people still coming to terms with their demons; many of them would be welling up when they were talking to me."

The Lebensborn programme arrived in Norway in March 1941, six years after the scheme was started in Germany. The occupying soldiers were officially encouraged to father children with the local women. They were reassured that the Third Reich would take care of the child if they did not wish to marry the mother, or were already married. As well as paying all the costs for the birth, the Lebensborn association gave the mothers substantial child support, including money for clothes, as well as a pram or cot. It was noted at the time that only a small proportion of the German fathers wanted to marry the pregnant women and bring them back to the German Reich.

Hotels and villas were requisitioned and 10 Lebensborn homes were established from scratch. Here, more than 8,000 children were registered, and issued with a Lebensborn number and file containing their medical records.

For many of the young, impressionable Norwegian girls who had become pregnant at the hands of the invaders, it was a convenient place to give birth – well away from the disapproving eyes of their peers, with access to the best available care.

But towards the end of the war, the exiled Norwegian government – which had set up shop in London – started broadcasting ominous warnings to collaborators in Norway. One said: "We have previously issued a warning and we repeat it here of the price these women will pay for the rest of their lives: they will be held in contempt by all Norwegians for their lack of restraint."

Soon afterwards, the war ended, Himmler committed suicide and Norway's pre-war leaders returned. Norwegians cut off the hair of many of the "German whores" who had sired children with the Nazi soldiers, and they were paraded through the streets and spat at. Though the women hadn't broken any law, several thousand were arrested and many interned. A large number lost their jobs, for as little as having been seen talking to a German, and many were traumatised for life. "We will never be rid of the stigma, not until we are dead and buried," says one of the Lebensborn interviewed by Marland, Paul Hansen. "I don't want to be buried in a grave; I want my ashes to be scattered to the winds – at least then I won't be picked on any more."

The condemnation escalated. The Norwegian government tried to deport the Lebensborn to Germany but the scheme was vetoed by the Allies. In July 1945, one newspaper expressed the fear that Lebensborn boys would "bear the germ of some of those typical masculine German characteristics of which the world has now seen more than enough". A leading psychiatrist advised that a large proportion of the 8,000 (officially registered) children must be carrying bad genes and therefore would be mentally retarded; "genetically bad", he said, they "belonged in special institutions". As a result, hundreds of children were forcibly incarcerated in mental institutions. Here they were often abused, raped and their skin scrubbed until it bled. A member of the Norwegian ministry of social affairs said of them in July 1945: "To believe these children will become decent citizens is to believe rats in the cellar will become house pets." '

Through legal action, many of the children have sought compensation from the Norwegian government for its discrimination against them. A few were offered limited financial recompense. But still officials refuse to take the blame. "The government has acknowledged that several war children have been subject to harassment in society," says government lawyer Thomas Naalsund. "But it is highly difficult to say now, 50 years later, that the government was responsible for these events."

Last year, 157 of the children appealed to the European Court of Human Rights but lost on the grounds that their problems happened too long ago. "There is a hypocrisy at the heart of Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, a country that prides itself on resolving conflicts around the world but refuses to acknowledge its own victims of war," says the Lebensborns' lawyer, Randi Spydevold. "I'm disappointed and embarrassed on behalf of Norway. I thought Norway was a great country, the best country for human rights; I didn't disbelieve that for one moment until I took this case."

Now, what hope that still exists among the Lebensborn is in their desire that by sharing their stories, one day an international standard will be set that will prevent future war children from being discriminated against, and enduring the atrocities that they themselves have had to live through. Their chilling tales, some of which are reproduced here, are just one small step towards that potential resolution.

Ellen Voie: 'I was locked in a dark room'

I was born in 1942 in a Lebensborn home, where I stayed until I was adopted aged two. My adoptive parents were incredibly cruel: they beat me and locked me in a small, dark room for hours. To this day I'm still afraid of the dark and have nightmares.

We lived in a small community where everyone seemed to know I was a German child and told me how awful I was. I was very disruptive; I couldn't concentrate. When I was 16 the local priest refused to confirm me because I did not have a baptism certificate. I had to go to the local authority where I found out that my parents had changed my name.

Then I went to Denmark to study. While there I worked as a nursery nurse, and fell in love with a German, but my parents disapproved and I had to return to Norway to continue studying.

A year after I returned, a friend and I were walking to the cinema when a car pulled up with some boys in it. My friend said she knew them so we got in, but the car broke down. My friend went off with one of the boys to get spare parts and left me alone with the other boy, who raped and almost killed me. A taxi driver saved my life.

I later discovered I was pregnant from the attack. I was 19 years old. My parents threw me out of the house and put me in a home, where I stayed until my son was born. My parents then insisted I give up my baby; I was only allowed to hold him for a few minutes before they took him away. But I was determined that history would not repeat itself and with the help of a social worker I got my son back.

Despite all the hardships, I got an education and my work as a social worker has helped me deal with my past. I've dedicated my adult life to helping others, children in particular. It helps me to forget my own tormented past. I now live with my husband and dogs in Oslo.


Paul Hansen: 'They classed me as a retard'

I think my mother's family put pressure on her to give me up, so I was born in a Lebensborn home in 1942 and my mother left me there.

I later learnt that after the war a government delegation came to the home to decide what to do with the 20 war children, including me, who had been left there. We were lined up and the doctor said he would take us. It turned out that he was the head of a mental institution. There was no medical prognosis behind his decision; it was just that we were war children, and therefore must be "retarded" due to our parentage. They made no effort to trace any of our family members, they just locked us up with children so sick that some were incontinent and incapable of feeding themselves. I was four years old.

By the time I was released I had lost any chance of a proper education and for the next few years I went from one home to another.

I was eventually sent to a special school for children with learning disabilities and mental illness. This was the only formal education I received. War children were segregated from the rest of the school. We were not allowed any contact with the outside community. I was then moved to a boys' home and then another mental institution, where I was finally old enough to sign myself out. The people there helped me get a job in a factory. My colleagues used to taunt me mercilessly until one day I stood up and told them what had happened to me. They never taunted me again and I stayed there for 17 years.

In 1975 I got married but my wife had a nervous breakdown and we divorced in 1977. Then I lived with someone for nearly 20 years but she died of cancer.

I now work as a cleaner and janitor at the University of Oslo and have a long-term girlfriend. As much as it hurts to talk about my past, I do so because it's important that people know what happened to us. I spent the first 20 years of my life in mental institutions just because my father was a German.

Kikki Skjermo: 'I was raped when I was 10'

I was born in 1945 near Trondheim. My mother was away a lot, finding work. It was my grandparents who brought me up and told me about my father. They provided for me, but never showed me any warmth. I felt like I lived behind a wall of silence; life was very empty and confusing.

At 10 years old I was raped by a local man, who had a deep hatred of the Germans. I didn't know him but he knew I was a German child. He told me people like me were born to be used. I didn't dare tell anyone; I stayed in bed for a week pretending I had a stomach upset.

At 15 I was granted special permission to marry my husband. It took me a couple of years to tell him about my history but he has always been a huge support and we've been married for 47 years.

Both he and my children encouraged me to trace my father, who I met for the first time when I was 42. We have a wonderful relationship and, when my daughter got married, she asked if my father could walk her down the aisle to show the world that the spell was broken.

It's taken me a long time to be able to say, it's OK, I'm a German child. It's important to speak out to help other war children who aren't as fortunate as me.

Bjorn Drivdal: 'They beat me up at school'

Growing up in Oslo, I was told my father was sent to the Eastern Front, where he died in action. But my mother would never tell me anything more about him.

I later learnt that when my mother discovered she was pregnant she tried to get an abortion, but the German authorities wouldn't let her.

I endured school until I was 15; I was always being beaten and couldn't understand why. I then went to sea, working mainly on cargo ships. On shore leave, I'd often find myself on the shadier side of town – I found it easier to be around people with something to hide.

I've been married twice and have five children. Both marriages ended in divorce; I wasn't easy to live with.

When I turned 57 I took early retirement because I couldn't concentrate and was having nightmares, and it was then that I confronted my past. I started seeing a psychologist and learnt to explore who I was.

I decided to go to Germany. I knew where my father had lived, so I went to the local newspaper, which helped me with my research. I found my father's grave and discovered he had actually died in 1974 in a car crash, not in the war as I had been led to believe. It was a devastating blow. But my trip to Germany wasn't all bad; I met my two half-sisters, who had no idea I existed, and this summer my nephew and his children are coming to visit me.

Gerd Fleischer: 'I was called a whore'

My mother and father planned to marry, but to marry an SS officer you had to prove three generations of Aryan blood. My mother's Lapp heritage meant she was not pure enough.

I was born in 1942. My father returned to Germany while my mother fell into poverty, not qualifying for any support from the state, my father or even the Lebensborn programme.

We lived a relatively untroubled life in Lapland until I went to school. One day a fellow pupil called me a "German whore"; I didn't know what this meant so I ran home and asked my mother. She told me that not everyone is open-minded.

My mother then married a former resistance fighter, who hated anything German, particularly me. Abuse and beatings soon became a regular part of my home life. At 13, I ran away.

Somehow I survived, putting myself through school. I remember being lonely, hungry and cold. The authorities knew about me but did nothing to help.

Before returning to Norway I spent several years in Mexico, where I fostered two street children. I brought them home with me, but soon realised that Norway hadn't progressed in its attitude towards ethnic minorities. So I founded the organisation Seif  

When I was 18, I left Norway and didn't return for 18 years. I worked as an au pair in England, and worked and studied in Germany. I managed to trace my father, who initially denied all knowledge of me. But when we met it was physically obvious I was his daughter. I was furious at him – even more so when he spoke ill of my mother. I successfully took him to court for the maintenance he had never paid to me.

French children of Nazi Soldiers

Germany is to offer citizenship to tens of thousands of 'war children' fathered by Nazi soldiers in France during the Second World War. Thousands of Nazi soldiers fathered children while fighting in France during the Second World War Photo: GETTY

The move is being offered in recognition of the suffering of those who became known as the "bastards of the Boche" and often suffered discrimination

The German interior ministry said the move was a "symbolic gesture to make up for past wrongs" suffered by the children who are now in their 60s.

A spokesman said: "The German government is aware of the difficult fate of the French 'war children' accommodate those who want to apply for German citizenship. We will act generously with applications. For example, we will not levy fees."

The German foreign ministry has worked "intensively" with its French counterpart on the subject, he added.

Nevertheless, each of the offspring would have to apply for German citizenship individually, he said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has previously called for "recognition" of the suffering of the children who were stigmatised and suffered years of abuse.

According to research, 200,000 were born between 1941 and 1945 – most as a result of affairs between lonely, bored young women and troops billeted nearby.

Nazi rules prohibited marriage with French natives – unlike with Norwegians or Dutch who were deemed to be "Aryan" – so the liaisons were secret and often ended abruptly when they were discovered.

After the war, the mothers went through purgatory as France was swept with a tide of anti-German hostility and collaboration amnesia set in. Many were paraded through the streets with heads shaved, and some sent to jail for offences against "national dignity".


The “Lebensborn”Program

Picture found on a German soldier: the kidnapping of a Polish (?) child

Lebensborn” translates to “wellspring of life” or “fountain or life.” The Lebensborn project was one of most secret and terrifying Nazi projects. Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project on December 12, 1935, the same year the Nuremberg Laws outlawed intermarriage with Jews and others who were deemed inferior. For decades, Germany’s birthrate was decreasing. Himmler’s goal was to reverse the decline and increase the Germanic/Nordic population of Germany to 120 million. Himmler encouraged SS and Wermacht officers to have children with Aryan women. He believed Lebensborn children would grow up to lead a Nazi-Aryan nation.

The purpose of this society (Registered Society Lebensborn - Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein) was to offer to young girls who were deemed “racially pure” the possibility to give birth to a child in secret. The child was then given to the SS organization which took charge in the child’s education and adoption. Both mother and father needed to pass a “racial purity” test. Blond hair and blue eyes were preferred, and family lineage had to be traced back at least three generations. Of all the women who applied, only 40 percent passed the racial purity test and were granted admission to the Lebensborn program. The majority of mothers were unmarried, 57.6 percent until1939, and about 70 percent by 1940.

In the beginning, the Lebensborn were taken to SS nurseries. But in order to create a “super-race,” the SS transformed these nurseries into “meeting places” for “racially pure” German women who wanted to meet and have children with SS officers. The children born in the Lebensborn nurseries were then taken by the SS. Lebensborn provided support for expectant mothers, we or unwed, by providing a home and the means to have their children in safety and comfort.

The first Lebensborn home was opened in 1936 in Steinhoering, a tiny village not far from Munich. Furnishings for the homes were supplied from the best of the loot from the homes of Jews who had been sent to Dachau. Ultimately, there were 10 Lebensborn homes established in Germany, nine in Norway, two in Austria, and one each in BelgiumHollandFranceLuxembourg and Denmark. Himmler himself took a special interest in the homes, choosing not only the mothers, but also attending to the decor and even paying special attention to children born on his birthday, October 7th.

By 1939, the program had not produced the results Himmler had hoped. He issued a direct order to all SS and police to father as many children as possible to compensate for war casualties. The order created controversy. Many Germans felt the acceptance of unwed mothers encouraged immorality. Eventually Himmler backpedaled, but he never condemned illegitimacy outright. Himmler himself had two illegitimate children.

Lebensborn soon expanded to welcome non-German mothers. In a policy formed by Hitler in 1942, German soldiers were encouraged to fraternize with native women, with the understanding that any children they produced would be provided for. Racially fit women, most often the girlfriends or one-night stands of SS officers, were invited to Lebensborn homes to have their child in privacy and safety.

Ultimately, one of the most horrible sides of the Lebensborn policy was the kidnapping of children “racially good” in the eastern occupied countries after 1939. Some of these children were was orphans, but it is well documented that many were stolen from their parents’ arms. These kidnappings were organized by the SS in order to take children by force who matched the Nazis’ racial criteria (blond hair and blue or green eyes). Thousands of children were transferred to the Lebensborn centers in order to be “Germanized.” Up to 100,000 children may have been stolen from Poland alone. In these centers, everything was done to force the children to reject and forget their birth parents. As an example, the SS nurses tried to persuade the children that they were deliberately abandoned by their parents. The children who refused the Nazi education were often beaten. Most of them were finally transferred to concentration camps (most of the time to Kalish in Poland) and exterminated. The others were adopted by SS families.

In 1942, in reprisals of the assassination of the SS governor Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, a SS unit exterminated the entire male population of a small village called Lidice. During this operation, some SS made a selection of the children. Ninety-one of them were considered good enough to be “Germanized” and sent to Germany. The others were sent to special children camps (i.e. Dzierzazna & Litzmannstadti) and later to the extermination centers.

As the allies advanced, children in the various Lebensborn homes were withdrawn to interior homes. On May 1, 1945, a day after Hitler’s death, American troops marched into Steinhoering. They found 300 children, aged six months to six years. Most of the mothers and staff had feld. The British and Russians also found children at Lebensborn homes near Bremen and Leipsig. The majority of these children were either put up for adoption or sent back to their birth families. Some of the children kidnapped in other countries who were living with families throughout Germany were repatriated to their native countries. Unfortunately, many were too Germanic to fit in.

It is nearly impossible to know how many children were kidnapped in the eastern occupied countries. In 1946, it was estimated that more than 250,000 were kidnapped and sent by force to Germany. Only 25,000 were retrieved after the war and sent back to their families. It is known that several German families refused to give back the children they had received from the Lebensborn centers. In some cases, the children themselves refused to come back to their original family - they were victims of the Nazi propaganda and believed that they were pure Germans. It is also known that thousand of children were not deemed “good enough” to be Germanized were simply exterminated. During the ten years of the program’s existence, at least 7,500 children were born in Germany and 10,000 in Norway.

  • (1935-1945)

Hitler's Boy Soldiers

On September 1st, 1939, Hitler's armies invaded Poland. Six years of war would follow with the full participation of the Hitler Youth eventually down to the youngest child.

At the onset of war, the Hitler Youth totaled 8.8 million. But the war brought immediate, drastic changes as over a million Hitler Youth leaders of draft age and regional adult leaders were immediately called up into the army.

This resulted in a severe shortage of local and district leaders. The problem was resolved by lowering the age of local Hitler Youth leaders to 16 and 17. The average age had been 24. These 16 and 17-year-olds would now be responsible for as many as 500 or more boys. Another big change was the elimination of the strict division between the Jungvolk (boys 10 to 14) and the actual HJ (Hitler Youth 14 to 18).

The HJ organization had sprawled into a giant bureaucracy with 14 different regional offices. It was now cut back to just six main offices. Hitler Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach, not wanting to be left out of the war, received Hitler's permission to volunteer for the army. He underwent training and received a rapid rise through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant in just a few months. He was replaced by Artur Axmann, who had headed the HJ Social Affairs Department and had been involved with the organization since the late 1920s.

Inside a sewing room of the BDM in 1942 as Hitler Youth uniforms are brought in to be mended. On the wall hangs a portrait of Hitler saying: "We follow Thee." Below: HJ-Schnellkommandos (Emergency Squads) help put out fires after an Allied air raid on Düsseldorf. Below: Young replacements huddle in a foxhole on the Russian Front in early 1942--now out of the Hitler Youth and in the German Army--and soon to face the ferocious Red Army.

The war returned a sense of urgency to the daily activities of the Hitler Youth. The organization had experienced a bit of a slump after 1936 when participation had become mandatory. For many young Germans, weekly HJ meetings and required activities had simply become a dreary routine. The original mission of the HJ had been to bring Hitler to power. Victory in the war became the new mission and HJ boys enthusiastically sprang into action, serving as special postmen delivering draft notices in their neighborhoods along with the new monthly ration cards. They also went door to door collecting scrap metals and other needed war materials.

BDM - Girls

Girls also enthusiastically participated, although they were assigned limited duties in keeping with the Nazi viewpoint on the role of females. An old German slogan, popular even during the Nazi era, summed it up – Kinder, Kirche, Küche (Children, Church, Kitchen). The primary role of young females in Nazi Germany was to give birth to healthy, racially pure (according to Nazi standards) boys. All women's organizations were thus regarded as auxiliaries ranking below their male counterparts.

BDM girls were assigned to help care for wounded soldiers in hospitals, to help in kindergartens, and to assist households with large families. They also stood on railway platforms, offering encouragement and refreshments to army troops departing for the front.

Following the rapid German victory over Poland, girls from the Land Service were assigned to the acquired territory in northern Poland (Warthegau) to assist in the massive Nazi repopulation program in which native Poles were forced off their homes and farms by Himmler's SS troops to make way for ethnic Germans. Hitler Youths also assisted in this operation by watching over Polish families as they were evicted from their homes, making sure they took only a few basic possessions. Everything else of value was to be left behind for the Germans.

Hitler considered the war in the East to be a "war of annihilation" in which those considered racially inferior, the Slavs and Jews, would be forcibly resettled or destroyed. Masses of unwanted humanity were thus forced into the southeastern portion of Poland where ghettos sprang up along with slave labor camps and eventually the extermination camps.

Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, ethnic Germans began arriving into the Warthegau from areas of Russia and Eastern Europe. Hitler Youths were utilized to help resettle and Nazify the new arrivals, many of whom did not even speak German. Children of the arrivals were also subject to mandatory participation in the HJ.

Flak Gun Crews

In August 1940, British air raids began against Berlin in retaliation for the German bombing of London. Hitler Youth boys had already been functioning as air raid wardens and anti-aircraft (flak) gun assistants in Berlin and other cities since the outbreak of war, and now saw their first action.

The first thousand-bomber raid occurred in May 1942 against Cologne. In that same month, newly created Wehrertüchtigungslager or WELS (Defense Strengthening Camps) went into operation in Germany providing three weeks of mandatory war training for all boys aged 16 to 18 under the supervision of the Wehrmacht. They learned how to handle German infantry weapons including various pistols, machine-guns, hand grenades and Panzerfausts (German bazookas).

By the beginning of 1943, Hitler's armies were stretched to the limit, battling the combined forces of Soviet Russia, United States, Britain and other Allies. By this time, most able-bodied German men were in the armed services. As a result, starting on January 26, 1943, anti-aircraft batteries were officially manned solely by Hitler Youth boys.

At first they were stationed at flak guns near their homes, but as the overall situation deteriorated, they were transferred all over Germany. The younger boys were assigned to operate search lights and assist with communications, often riding their bicycles as dispatch riders. In October 1943, a search light battery received a direct bomb hit, killing the entire crew of boys, all aged 14 and under.

Following each bombing raid, Hitler Youths assisted in neighborhood cleanup and helped relocate bombed out civilians. They knocked on doors looking for unused rooms in undamaged houses or apartments. Occupants refusing to let in the new 'tenants' were reported to the local police and could likely expect a visit from Gestapo.

KLV Camps

America's entry into the war in December of 1941 had resulted in a massive influx of air power into England. As the Allies stepped up their bombing campaign, the Nazis began evacuating children from threatened cities into Hitler Youth KLV (Kinderlandverschickung) camps located mainly in the rural regions of East Prussia, the Warthegau section of occupied Poland, Upper Silesia, and Slovakia.

From 1940 to 1945, about 2.8 million German children were sent to these camps. There were separate KLV camps for boys and girls. Some 5,000 camps were eventually in operation, varying greatly in sizes from the smallest which had 18 children to the largest which held 1,200. Each camp was run by a Nazi approved teacher and a Hitler Youth squad leader. The camps replaced big city grammar schools, most of which were closed due to the bombing. Reluctant parents were forced to send their children away to the camps.

Life inside the boys' camp was harsh, featuring a dreary routine of roll calls, paramilitary field exercises, hikes, marches, recitation of Nazi slogans and propaganda, along with endless singing of Hitler Youth songs and Nazi anthems. School work was neglected while supreme emphasis was placed on the boys learning to automatically snap-to attention at any time of the day or night and to obey all orders unconditionally "without any if or buts."

Isolated in these camps and without any counter-balancing influences from a normal home life, the boys descended into a primitive, survival of the fittest mentality. Weakness was despised. Civilized notions of generosity and sympathy for those in need faded. Rigid pecking orders arose in which the youngest and most vulnerable boys were bullied, humiliated, and otherwise made to suffer, including repeated sexual abuse.

Total War - The 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend

1943 marked the military turning point for Hitler's Reich. In January, the German Sixth Army was destroyed by the Russians at Stalingrad. In May, the last German strongholds in North Africa fell to the Allies. In July, the massive German counter-attack against the Russians at Kursk failed. The Allies invaded Italy. An Allied invasion of northern Europe was anticipated.

The war could only end with the "unconditional surrender" of Germany and its Axis partners, as stated by President Franklin Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. In February, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels retaliated by issuing a German declaration of "Total War."

Amid a dwindling supply of manpower, the existence of an entire generation of ideologically pure boys, raised as Nazis, eager to fight for the Fatherland and even die for the Führer, could not be ignored. The result was the formation of the 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.

A recruitment drive began, drawing principally on 17-year-old volunteers, but younger members 16 and under eagerly joined. During July and August 1943, some 10,000 recruits arrived at the training camp in Beverloo, Belgium.

To fill out the HJ Division with enough experienced soldiers and officers, Waffen-SS survivors from the Russian Front, including members of the elite Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, were brought in. Fifty officers from the Wehrmacht, who were former Hitler Youth leaders, were also reassigned to the division. The remaining shortage of squad and section leaders was filled with Hitler Youth members who had demonstrated leadership aptitude during HJ paramilitary training exercises. The division was placed under of the command of 34-year-old Major General Fritz Witt, who had also been a Hitler Youth, dating back before 1933.

Among his young troops, morale was high. Traditional, stiff German codes of conduct between officers and soldiers were replaced by more informal relationships in which young soldiers were often given the reasons behind orders. Unnecessary drills, such as goose-step marching were eliminated. Lessons learned on the Russian Front were applied during training to emphasize realistic battlefield conditions, including the use of live ammunition.

Northern Belgium early 1944--Members of the SS-Division Hitlerjugend stand in front of their Panzer IV tanks ready for the arrival of Field Marshal Rundstedt. Below: A young machine-gunner totes an MG-42 at Caen in northern France shortly after D-Day.

By the spring of 1944, training was complete. The HJ Panzer Division, now fully trained and equipped, conducted divisional maneuvers observed by General Heinz Guderian and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, both of whom admired the enthusiasm and expressed their high approval of the proficiency achieved by the young troops in such a short time. The division was then transferred to Hasselt, Belgium, in anticipation of D-Day, the Allied invasion of northern France. A few days before the invasion, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler visited the division.

On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the HJ Division was one of three Panzer divisions held in reserve by Hitler as the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy beginning at dawn. At 2:30 in the afternoon, the HJ Division was released and sent to Caen, located not far inland from Sword and Juno beaches on which British and Canadian troops had landed. The division soon came under heavy strafing attacks from Allied fighter bombers, which delayed arrival there until 10 p.m.

The HJ were off to face an enemy that now had overwhelming air superiority and would soon have nearly unlimited artillery support. The Allies, for their part, were about to have their first encounter with Hitler's fanatical boy-soldiers.

The shocking fanaticism and reckless bravery of the Hitler Youth in battle astounded the British and Canadians who fought them. They sprang like wolves against tanks. If they were encircled or outnumbered, they fought-on until there were no survivors. Young boys, years away from their first shave, had to be shot dead by Allied soldiers, old enough, in some cases, to be their fathers. The "fearless, cruel, domineering" youth Hitler had wanted had now come of age and arrived on the battlefield with utter contempt for danger and little regard for their own lives. This soon resulted in the near destruction of the entire division.

By the end of its first month in battle, 60 percent of the HJ Division was knocked out of action, with 20 percent killed and the rest wounded and missing. Divisional Commander Witt was killed by a direct hit on his headquarters from a British warship. Command then passed to Kurt Meyer, nicknamed 'Panzermeyer,' who at age 33, became the youngest divisional commander in the entire German armed forces.

After Caen fell to the British, the HJ Division was withdrawn from the Normandy Front. The once confident fresh-faced Nazi youths were now exhausted and filthy, a sight which "presented a picture of deep human misery" as described by Meyer.

In August, the Germans mounted a big counter-offensive toward Avranches, but were pushed back from the north by the British and Canadians, and by the Americans from the west, into the area around Falaise. Twenty four German divisions were trapped inside the Falaise Pocket with a narrow 20 mile gap existing as the sole avenue of escape. The HJ Division was sent to keep the northern edge of this gap open.

However, Allied air superiority and massive artillery barrages smashed the HJ as well as the Germans trapped inside the pocket. Over 5,000 armored vehicles were destroyed, with 50,000 Germans captured, while 20,000 managed to escape, including the tattered remnants of the HJ.

By September 1944, the 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend numbered only 600 surviving young soldiers, with no tanks and no ammunition. Over 9,000 had been lost in Normandy and Falaise. The division continued to exist in name only for the duration of the war, as even younger (and still eager) volunteers were brought in along with a hodgepodge of conscripts. The division participated in the failed Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes Offensive) and was then sent to Hungary where it participated in the failed attempt to recapture Budapest. On May 8, 1945, numbering just 455 soldiers and one tank, the 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend surrendered to the American 7th Army.

Volkssturm - The Final Defense

On the German home front, HJ boys clean up the rubble after yet another air raid. Below: Decorated HJ flak helpers are seen during a war rally held amid Germany's declining fortunes. Below: The last reserves--ever younger--learn how to fire anti-tank Panzerfausts to stop the Russians. Below: Near the end--April 20th, 1945--the Führer with Hitler Youths outside his Berlin bunker.

Hitler's own generals tried to assassinate him on July 20, 1944, to end Nazi Germany's all-out commitment to a war that was now clearly lost. But the assassination attempt failed. Hitler took revenge by purging the General Staff of anyone deemed suspicious or exhibiting defeatist behavior. Nearly 200 officers and others were killed, in some cases, slowly hanged from meat hooks.

Germany under Hitler would now fight-on to the very last, utilizing every available human and material resource. In September, Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann proclaimed: "As the sixth year of war begins, Adolf Hitler's youth stands prepared to fight resolutely and with dedication for the freedom of their lives and their future. We say to them: You must decide whether you want to be the last of an unworthy race despised by future generations, or whether you want to be part of a new time, marvelous beyond all imagination."

With the Waffen-SS and regular army now depleted of men, Hitler ordered Hitler Youth boys as young as fifteen to be trained as replacements and sent to the Russian Front. Everyone, both young and old, would be thrown into the final fight to stop the onslaught of "Bolshevik hordes" from the East and "Anglo-American gangsters" from the West.

On September 25, 1944, anticipating the invasion of the German Fatherland, the Volkssturm (People's Army) was formed under the overall command of Heinrich Himmler. Every available male aged 16 to 60 was conscripted into this new army and trained to use the Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon. Objections to using even younger boys were ignored.

In the Ruhr area of Germany, HJ boys practiced guerilla warfare against invading U.S. troops. In the forests, the boys stayed hidden until the tanks had passed, waiting for the foot soldiers. They would then spring up, shoot at them and throw grenades, inflicting heavy causalities, then dash away and disappear back into the forest. The Americans retaliated with furious air-attacks and leveled several villages in the surrounding area.

If the boys happened to get cornered by American patrols, they often battled until the last boy was killed rather than surrender. And the boys kept getting younger. American troops reported capturing armed 8-year-olds at Aachen in Western Germany and knocking out artillery units operated entirely by boys aged twelve and under. Girls were also used now, operating the 88mm anti-aircraft guns alongside the boys.

In February 1945, project Werewolf began, training German children as spies and saboteurs, intending to send them behind Allied lines with explosives and arsenic. But the project came to nothing as most of these would-be saboteurs were quickly captured or killed by the Allies as they advanced into the Reich.

The Russians by now were roaring toward Berlin, capitol of Nazi Germany, where Hitler had chosen to make his last stand. On April 23rd, battalions made up entirely of Hitler Youths were formed to hold the Pichelsdorf bridges by the Havel River. These bridges in Berlin were supposed to be used by General Wenck's relief army coming from the south. That army, unknown to the boys, had already been destroyed and now existed on paper only. It was one of several phantom armies being commanded by Hitler to save encircled Berlin.

At the Pichelsdorf bridges, 5,000 boys, wearing man-sized uniforms several sizes too big and helmets that flopped around on their heads, stood by with rifles and Panzerfausts, ready to oppose the Russian Army. Within five days of battle, 4,500 had been killed or wounded. In other parts of Berlin, HJ boys met similar fates. Many committed suicide rather than be taken alive by the Russians.

All over the city, every able-bodied male was pressed into the desperate final struggle. Anyone fleeing or refusing to go to the front lines was shot or hanged on the spot by SS executioners roaming the streets hunting for deserters.

In his last public appearance, just ten days before his death, Adolf Hitler ventured out of his Berlin bunker on his 56th birthday into the Chancellery garden to decorate twelve-year-old Hitler Youths with Iron Crosses for their heroism in the defense of Berlin. The extraordinary event was captured on film and remains one of the most enduring images chronicling the collapse of Hitler's thousand-year Reich, as the tottering, senile-looking Führer is seen congratulating little boys staring at him with worshipful admiration. They were then sent back out into the streets to continue the hopeless fight.

On April 30, 1945, as the Russians advanced to within a few hundred yards of his bunker, Hitler committed suicide. The next day, Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann, who had been commanding an HJ battalion in Berlin, abandoned his boys and fled to the Alps. In Vienna, Baldur von Schirach abandoned HJ units fighting to defend that city.

The war ended with Germany's unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945. However, it was soon realized that this defeat was unlike any other in history. In addition to his war of military conquest, Hitler had also waged a war against defenseless civilians. The events of that war, revealed in the coming months during the Nuremberg trials, would stun the world, and even resulted in a new term to describe the systematic killing of an entire race of people – genocide.

  • 1939 - 1945

World War II Babies Fathered by German Soldiers

Jean-Jacques Delorme's French mother met his father, a German soldier, during the occupation of Paris. (Courtesy Of Jean-jacques Delorme)


NICE, FRANCE -- Jean-Jacques Delorme was 23 before he got the truth.


After years of mystery, during which his mother maintained a stubborn silence, Delorme's grandmother reached into a big armoire and pulled out a yellowed envelope filled with photos of a German soldier. He had been his mother's lover during the occupation of France in World War II.

"That's when I understood everything," Delorme recalled, choking up at the memory of that anguished afternoon in 1967. "At last I had a father."

Historians estimate that more than 800,000 children were born to German soldiers enforcing the four-year Nazi occupation of Europe, about 200,000 in France alone. Like Delorme, most were raised behind a veil of secrecy and shame, derided in school and unable to understand what they had done wrong. Many of their mothers had been shaved bald and paraded naked through the streets after the Germans retreated. Others, like Delorme's, were jailed as traitors.

More than six decades later, with the children in their 60s, the beginning of a change is in the air. Some of Europe's war babies have begun to talk among themselves, lamenting the shame they were made to feel. A growing number have decided to seek out their German families and fathers.

The revelation by Delorme's grandmother was only the beginning of a decades-long search, of harassing German archivists, of begging historians for clues, of following false leads. His mother, singed by postwar imprisonment as a collaborator, was no help. Delorme pushed on, however, and three years ago completed his family tree at last:

His father, he discovered, was Hans Hoffmann, a baker from Mainz. During the war, Hoffmann played the cello in a Wehrmacht orchestra dispatched to entertain occupied Paris, where he took a French woman as his mistress. Then, as the Third Reich crumbled, he was killed in a Bavarian village on April 25, 1945, resisting an onslaught by U.S. tanks.

"I did not find peace [with the discovery]. Peace is too strong a word. But I attained a certain degree of serenity," said Delorme, now 65 and retired from the French postal service in Menton on the French Riviera. "All of a sudden, I had my father, aunts, cousins. The whole family."

To help people like himself who are coming to terms with their origins, Delorme foundedHearts Without Borders. The three-year-old organization, with 300 members -- all children of German soldiers -- provides phone numbers that war babies can call to talk about what it was like growing up behind the veil. The group held a convention last month in Caen to exchange stories and listen to historians describe where they fit in.

"What we have lived through and the deprivation we felt all our lives push us to make our voices heard," said Gerlina Swillen, a Belgian secondary school teacher and researcher at Vrije University in Brussels. "We do not wish any child to have to go through this."

Swillen said people have begun to speak out now in part because they dared to do so only after the deaths of their mothers. In addition, she said, social attitudes have changed, lessening the stigma, and German archives have become more readily available to outsiders in recent years.

Swillen said she had long suspected something was amiss in her past. She discovered that her father was a German soldier -- one of an estimated 20,000 in Belgium -- only when her mother told her in 2007. Her mother had corresponded with her former lover after the war but destroyed the letters when she married a Belgian man. The veil descended after that.

Part 2

Georg Lilienthal, director of the Hadamar Memorial to Nazi "euthanasia" victims in Germany, said few Germans are willing to talk about the issue despite the stirrings in countries that were occupied. Many German soldiers who fathered war babies had wives and children back home. In most cases, the fathers are dead by now, he noted, but some war babies have been welcomed by their half brothers and half sisters, while others have been rejected.

"More time needs to pass," Lilienthal added.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner recently asked the German government to grant citizenship to French war babies who seek it after tracing their filiation. A half-dozen have since obtained German passports, and more than 20 others have applied, including Delorme. Similar facilities will be made available soon to German soldiers' children in other countries, Lilienthal predicted.

"Acknowledging German citizenship for these people is an important decision, a very important symbolic act, by the German government," he said. "The problems and difficulties these children have had throughout their lives continue to traumatize them today."

Painful childhoods

Delorme had been curious about his parentage since discovering on his family ID card, at age 12, that he was "legitimized" by his mother's postwar husband. He asked what it meant, but no one would tell him.

"From then on, there was a bee in my bonnet," he recalled.

He repeatedly asked his grandmother, who had raised him, and his mother about his origins. From his grandmother, he got evasion. From his mother, he got anger and silence.

At school in a small Normandy town, meanwhile, he was taunted as the child of a German. The truth began to take shape as he grew older; the worst was confirmed with his grandmother's belated decision to show him the photos.

"We were the children of monsters," he said, recalling the hatred of Nazis as he grew up in postwar France. "I was a bastard by my mother, and what's more, I was the bastard of a kraut. Whenever I spoke about my origins, people pulled away from me. So I took the habit of keeping quiet about it."

Delorme's mother died in 1994, but by then the research was well underway. After years wasted following the lead of a "cousin" of his father's who turned out to be no relation, Delorme finally found out about the army orchestra and contacted an archivist in Berlin, who came up with a list of its members.

In 2007, Delorme traveled to Mainz to meet his half brother and half sister.

Until then, his siblings had no idea of their father's relationship in occupied France. But after some awkward moments, Delorme said, they welcomed him as a member of the family. The three have started exchanging Christmas presents. They recently decided to visit each other once a year, alternating between Germany and France.

Delorme said, however, that he will keep his name, that of his grandmother and grandfather -- and his mother. It will stay on his French documents and eventually go on his German passport, he said.

Smiling, he added, "I'll use the German passport in France and the French passport in Germany, just to get back at them all."

Special correspondent Shannon Smiley in Berlin contributed to this report.



The Youngest Corporal In The Nazi Army

(CBS)  His son Mark made a documentary of the quest 

This is a story of survival - the incredible story of how a six-year-old Jewish boy survived the Nazis' final solution and kept how he survived a secret for more than 50 years.

It's the story of Alex Kurzem, who at the age of six watched his family being shot by the Nazis. He escaped and wandered alone for months until he was captured by Nazi soldiers. But instead of killing him, they made him their mascot.

Alex was so young, he quickly forgot his family name, his age, and the name of his village. But he did remember that the Nazis had fenced the Jews into a ghetto, and on his last night there Nazi soldiers burst into his house and began beating his mother.

"I remember, when she shielded me that her blood [was] dripping. I felt my face and [there] was blood on my head. But it was my mother's blood," Kurzem told 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon.

Kurzem told Simon he and his siblings were hiding under skirts. "My little brother and sister and we were, she was shielding us sort of."

She could shield them from the soldiers' blows, but not their bullets. And she told Alex that the next day they would all be shot. "That night my mother took me in her arms. And she said, 'Tomorrow we all have to die.' And I thought, 'I don't want to die. I'll have to try to escape.'" 

So that night, crawling through the grass, he snuck past Nazi soldiers and up to the top of a hill, and hid in a forest overlooking the village. "And when the daylight broke I heard a lot of commotion and noise below. When I looked down, I saw soldiers lining up people and shooting them in a big, big pit," Kurzem recalled. "And then I saw my mother with my brother and sister also there."

Kurzem told Simon he saw how his mother and siblings were lined up and shot. "That's very visible in my head all the time."

Village records say the Nazis massacred more than 1,600 people there on October 21, 1941; and Nazi records show that a Nazi battalion took Alex in on July 12, 1942. 

The months in between are a mystery. Alex says all he remembers is wandering alone, cold and hungry in the forest. He took a winter coat off a dead soldier to keep from freezing to death. And he slept in empty sheds and in trees by tying himself to branches. 

Asked why he decided to sleep in trees, Kurzem told Simon, "I heard wolves in the distance. And I knew that if the wolves find me asleep on the ground they would eat me most likely. So I got scared of that. So the only way to survive, climb a tree."

 He begged for food at farm houses, until one day he knocked on the wrong door. 

"The man said to me, 'Ah, you're a Jew. You shouldn't be alive. You should be dead with the others. I'll take you to be shot,'" Kurzem remembered. "He took me, dragged me to this school yard where they were lining up people and shooting them …And the soldier who was nearby me, I said to him, 'Please before you kill me, would you give me a bit of bread?' All I was thinking, 'I'm hungry. Wish I could get a bit of bread before I die.'"

"That soldier who gave you bread, he then took you around into the schoolhouse and he said he wanted to see if you're Jewish. So he made you lower your pants, and he saw you were Jewish," Simon remarked.

"Jew. And he said, 'No good. No good, No good.' That's all he kept saying. 'No good. No good. No good,'" Kurzem remembered.

"I understand he put a pistol to his own head to show what was gonna happen to you," Simon said.

"If they found out you're Jewish," Kurzem explained.

But then, he says, that soldier took pity on the little boy. He not only gave Alex bread, he gave him his life. "He said, 'What I'll do, I'll tell the other soldiers that you're a Russian orphan. The soldiers gave me a new name and a new birthday. And so that's how I became the mascot, a good luck charm, for this particular division."

Once the soldier convinced his unit to make Alex a Nazi, he got his own tailor-made SS uniforms; his own miniature gun; and his own rank: corporal - the youngest corporal in the Nazi army. Then, all decked out, this little Jewish boy marched off with his Nazi division as they went off to kill Jews.

"I sometimes come into a village where we'd been patrolling. And you see people being lined up to be shot in groups. Then you come to another place and you see 20 or 30 people lined up to be hanged," Kurzem remembered.

Asked if watching the shootings brought back memories of his mother, Kurzem told Simon, "Yes. I turned my head away many times because I thought, 'Well you could have been one of them and that's what happened in the place you lived in. All your family.'" 

Later in the war, when the Russians counterattacked and the fighting became too intense for him to stay with the soldiers, the Nazis gave Alex a new family, placing him with a prominent Nazi family in Riga, Latvia. 

During the summers when he was 7 and 8, Alex and his Latvian foster family spent their weekends at a beach near Riga. One weekend, the Germans made a propaganda film there starring Alex, the youngest corporal in the Nazi army - a role model for the master race. A role model who the Germans didn't realize was Jewish.

"Did you feel funny because here were the Nazis making a film about you and you were Jewish and they didn't know that?" Simon asked.

"Exactly," Kurzem replied. "All the time I felt that, you know, there's something wrong somewhere. How am I when I'm…in their hated race."

He lived in fear every day he said that the soldiers, and later his foster family, would discover he was Jewish.

"I had to be aware every moment. Doesn't matter where I was. Beach, bed, bedroom, bathroom. Every moment I had to think that 'I'm here under false pretenses. If I'm discovered, I'm gone,'" he explained.

He said living under false pretenses was "very, very stressful." 

And he said he had no doubt he would've been shot had his secret been revealed.

After the war, he migrated to Australia, married and had his own family. But he still kept his secrets and didn't tell his wife or his children that he'd spent the war with the Nazis or that he was Jewish.

He kept those secrets for more than 50 years before he felt compelled to answer the questions that had haunted him since the war. "I thought before I die, I should know who I am. And also I always wished to go back to the village and put a flower on my mother's grave."

But this wouldn't be easy. Orphaned at age six, he remembered the trauma, but had long forgotten his true identity. He didn't know his name or his birth date; or the name of his village or where it might be. The only clue he had to anything was one word that had stuck in his mind for all those years: Koidanov.

But he had no idea what it meant. "I thought for a while that it could be my surname or something. But that's what I remembered. Koidanov," he said.

 His son Mark made a documentary of the quest for his father's history. They searched for months in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and atlases until a historian finally discovered that Koidanov had been the previous name of a town in Belarus, outside Minsk. 

With that breakthrough, he then found a half-brother he didn't know existed; and when he returned to Koidanov, he found his old house which was still standing; and an apple tree he used to climb.

Kurzem said he couldn't believe it. And then he found out his real name: Elia Solomonovich Kalperin.

His half brother gave him a picture of their father, who had died 20 years earlier. The similarity to Alex is striking. Alex thought his father had been killed during the war, but he'd really been taken to a concentration camp and survived. 

When his father returned to his village he heard that his wife and all his children - including Alex - had been killed. So father and son had each thought the other was dead.

"I would have liked to meet him, you know, after he came back from the concentration camps. And tell him that he had a son who survived the war. But it didn't turn out that way," Kurzem said.

In Koidanov, Alex fulfilled his other life-long wish: he placed flowers at his mother's grave, on a memorial to the 1,600 Jews killed there by the Nazis in 1941.

"It was my family. Everybody. All my relatives. Which are quite a large number, I suppose, you know. Everybody," he said.

Alex took Simon up the hill where he'd hidden behind trees that are gone now. As he'd watched his mother and hundreds of others being killed below, he told us he bit his hand to keep from screaming, and that he passed out several times.

"From the sights and from the screams and from the pain in me," he explained. "The shooting went all day. All day. And I knew that I couldn't do anything about it. But it wasn't very nice to watch, either, you know. So I had to glimpse and then I turned my head and cried."

He used to feel guilty that he survived, but now he feels relieved that he's able to tell his story. The Jewish Claims Conference has verified it and his son wrote a book about it. Still, the past is not a happy place for Alex, but he went there, and came back having found his name, his village and his mother's grave. 

But he never found out his real birth date. "I've never found out but every morning I get up I wish myself a happy birthday. And one day I'll strike it lucky."

"I hope you get a gift every day," Simon said.

"Not a gift," Kurzem replied. "A gift that I can see the sun."


Lebensborn E.V.

There was a network of nine mother and baby homes, part of an organization called Lebensborn e.V., designed to breed certified members of the Master Race. Young women of proven "Aryan" ancestry were encouraged to have babies fathered by equally qualified soldiers, resulting in about 12,000 children between 1935 and 1945. Some of these children were taken home by their mothers to be raised; some were adopted or fostered by German families; others remained in children's homes until after the war, when more were found families (often in foreign countries, even with Allied soldiers), although others spent their entire childhoods in children's homes. Many do not know their origins even now - retreating Nazis destroyed most of the documentation. The motivation behind the homes was to increase the numbers of racially pure Germans and little attention was paid to the children's development. Consequently many of the children were slow in developing socially, psychologically, mentally and even physically.

  • Other Lebensborn homes were opened for women in occupied territories who were pregnant by German soldiers. This was especially true in Norway, where the physical appearance of the people closely matched the ideal, and to be eligible for these homes the mothers had to conform to Nazi stereotypes. Other homes were in Germany, where expectant mothers immigrated. The babies were often adopted by Nazi families, because public hostility to their collaborationist mothers made living in their home countries impossible. A few of these children who were adopted by eastern German families, suffered further abuse in adulthood: the East German spy organization, the Stasi, stole their identities and gave them to spies. East German spies would take on the names and what was known of the pre-adoption identities of the children. They would then emigrate to West Germany or Norway (Lebensborn children had the right to emigrate), reuniting with "their" birth families, and use these cover identities to spy. This was done without the knowledge of the real persons (whose identities were changed by the Nazis when they were adopted, although they might have discovered their birth identities and pre-adoption histories in adulthood). And if the adoptees then tried to trace their birth families, the government would frustrate them in order not to blow the spies' covers. At least three cases of stolen identity have been identified since the reunification of Germany, and the real owners of the identities have been reunited with their birth families.
  • During their sweeps through occupied countries, especially Poland, the Nazis would kidnap young "Aryan"-looking children (estimates of up to 200,000 have been made) and take them back to Germany. Some were voluntarily given up by their mothers after false promises about educating them were given by the authorities. Others were simply stolen off the streets or playgrounds (the same techniques used by the Australian government with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, by the Canadian government with Canadian Native Children and by the US government with Native American and Alaskan Native Children). They were then shipped to processing centers and tested to be sure they were of good enough quality. Those who failed the tests were sent to slave labor camps or murdered immediately. Those who passed were sent to children's homes to be Germanized; many were then placed in Nazi families and raised as Germans. After the war some of these children were reunited with their birth families, but many were hidden from the authorities by their adoptive parents or themselves refused to be repatriated. Like the other Lebensborn children, many still do not know their origins or that they are not German by birth. Three examples: 
    • Aloizy Twardecki was kidnapped, his name changed to Alfred Hartmann, and he was adopted by a German family. He was repatriated after the war and is now a university lecturer in Warsaw. 
    • Fr. Alexander Michelowski was kidnapped aged 10 from his own house in 1942. His name was changed to Alexander Peters but he was never adopted. He later became a Roman Catholic priest to the Polish community in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. 
    • "Helena" was adopted by a German policeman and his wife. After the war she was repatriated and became a judge in Poland.

Hitler's Children

On a blistering June afternoon in 1985, dozens of journalists gathered around a small, dusty graveyard in Embu, Brazil. They were attracted by persistent mid-morning rumors that the federal police had discovered the gravesite of the elusive Nazi fugitive, Auschwitz's Dr. Josef Mengele. Lumbering around the tombstones was a stocky man in his mid-fifties, police chief Romeu Tuma. Dressed in a well-worn black suit, he barked orders in Portuguese and nervously ran his hands through his oily hair as he vainly tried to direct the disorganized police and coroner's officials. Suddenly one of the three gravediggers hit the top of a wooden coffin with his pick, and Tuma rushed to the edge of the grave. The crowd hustled to attention. The police chief ordered the casket smashed open, and as journalists and onlookers crowded around in a ghoulish ring, they saw mud-colored bones and remnants of clothing inside the simple wooden box. A forensic pathologist leaned into the grave and pulled a decaying skull from the casket. As he held it high so reporters could take pictures for the evening news feeds, Tuma seemed confidant. "That's the 'Angel of Death,'" he muttered as he watched the cameras follow the swiveling skull.

Only days later, five thousand miles away in Munich, a tall, good-looking man, recently turned forty, approached the modern office complex of Bunte magazine. The young man was dressed in a dark gray double-breasted suit, and he carried a thick black attache' case. Inside were some five thousand pages of diaries and personal letters written by the world's most wanted Nazi, Josef Mengele. The man carrying the fugitive's papers had no doubt about their authenticity and no apprehension about providing them to a national magazine for publication. He was Mengele's only son, Rolf, ready to close the file on his missing parent. The time had come to let his father go public.

Bunte knew it had a great scoop in the Mengele papers, if they were authentic. However, after the Hitler diaries scandal, in which Bunte's competitor Stern paid millions of dollars for forgeries purporting to be the Fuhrer's missing wartime papers, Bunte was not taking any chances. Its editors selected a five-member panel to judge the historical accuracy of the Mengele writings, while the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and its West German counterpart subjected the paper, ink, and handwriting to a barrage of scientific tests. Bunte sent a representative to Brazil, where I was serving as consultant to ABC News on the Mengele case, and asked me to join the panel. I abandoned my South American investigation and flew to Munich. Four internationally recognized historians on the Third Reich were already there. Although I was the panel's only non Ph.D., I compensated for that by bringing the largest known private archive of Mengele documentation, some twenty-five thousand pages. For two weeks we scrutinized each page of the fugitive's writings; more important, we had access to a member of the Mengele family: his son, Rolf. He sat across a table from the historical panel and patiently answered hundreds of questions about his father. It was my first contact with the child of a Nazi murderer.

At first, convinced his "feelings are no different than any child to any parent," Rolf thought he had nothing to say about his father. He soon realized he had underestimated the depth of his emotion for the man who abandoned him at the age of four, then taunted him for years from South American hideouts. After several frank discussions, Rolf Mengele's complex feelings ranged from criticism and condemnation to a family loyalty that compelled him to protect his father from many hunters.

I was surprised to discover a young professional who was tormented by his father's past. Rolf’s attempts to cope with a heritage over which he had no choice, and his efforts to understand what drove his father to such acts of savagery and cruelty, consumed large parts of his life. Once, during a series of questions about his family relationship, he paused and wearily said "You know, I would have preferred another father." As I witnessed Rolf Mengele's conflict, I realized it was not easy to be sentenced to a life as the child of a Nazi war criminal. In postwar West Germany, with its economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s, Nazis were considered a dark, past shadow better forgotten. Children like Rolf Mengele had to cope with their fathers' deeds on their own, without the help of German society.

The conversations that June sparked my curiosity about whether other children of prominent Nazis felt the same as Mengele's son. Or was Rolf's outlook colored by the fact that his father deserted him and was a fugitive? Would some of the children reject criticism and instead mimic their parents' hateful beliefs? I knew that several books had studied the children of concentration-camp survivors, but at that time I was not aware of any attempt to study the children of the perpetrators. How had these children dealt with the crimes against humanity and their fathers' roles in those crimes? I knew the answers could only be found by locating a group of surviving children of prominent Nazi's and then persuading them to talk openly.

My first task was locating the children. Information requests to German government archives and prosecutors' offices were rejected under their privacy laws. The U.S. government and Interpol provided no help. Nazi-hunters like Simon Wiesenthal had information on the criminals, especially the remaining fugitives, but virtually no information on the children. I went to the Berlin Document Center; the world's largest repository of Nazi archives, it maintains more than fifty million pages, including all the original Nazi party and SS personnel files. These files only revealed whether someone had a child at the time he or she joined the party, not whether the children were still alive, much less where they might live or under what name. Almost all requests to reporters at magazines, newspapers, and television stations either went unanswered or were politely answered with an "I'm sorry we can't help you" form letter.

Most frustrating was that people who might have useful information were not willing to help. Wolfgang Loehde, an adventurer who discovered the Third Reich's millions of counterfeit British pounds in Austria's Lake Toplitz, had traveled around the world meeting old Nazis. He never answered my letters. Jochen von Lang, a famous Stern reporter who had written books on prominent Nazis and led the 1965 Berlin hunt for Martin Bormann's remains, ignored my letters until they became so persistent that he finally replied, claiming total ignorance and offering no assistance. I even tried enlisting the help of Gerd Heidemann, the ex-Stern reporter who was jailed for complicity in the Hitler diaries fraud. Although he was discredited as a reputable journalist, there was no doubt his fascination with Nazis had led him to a select group of ex-officers and their offspring. He had even purchased Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goring’s yacht, the Carin II; prior to Heidemann's unmasking in the diaries fiasco, the yacht was the scene of splendid parties for former Nazi officials. He finally answered, through his son, that he had had "enough of Nazi shit," and also refused to help.

In the end I resorted to slow research at the National Archives. Many wives of war criminals were detained in Allied camps for several months after the war. When released they had to register their new residences with the occupying forces. The files were not well organized but they eventually revealed leads to some of the children I wanted to locate. The only problem was that the information was almost forty-five years old. But when I returned to West Germany, the information from the archives proved invaluable. In some cases the children were still in the same city, and I found them by dialing every listing of the family name in the phone book. Sometimes a neighbor remembered the family and knew where they had next moved. By then going to that town, I was one step closer to the child. More often than not the information stopped short of final success, but methodical research eventually yielded an address list of almost thirty children of prominent Nazis, scattered mostly in Germany, with a few in Austria and one in Brazil. As can be imagined, I guarded that list as though it was gold.

Now I had to convince some of these thirty to discuss their parents. I feared that many of them might have developed a standard no to interv4ew requests, and somehow had to persuade them my project was different from and more deserving than those they had rejected in the past.

One hurdle I quickly encountered was a cultural one. In the United States, tell-all programs and books are common. It is not unusual to turn on an afternoon of "Donahue" and see the children of serial killers or alcoholics talking about their childhood and their parents. But this candor is frowned upon in many European countries. Over forty years had passed since the war. All the children had new lives, some had different names, and many preferred to forget the past. Now an American, a co-citizen of those responsible for judging and in some cases executing their parents, was tracking them down and asking them to discuss intimate personal details about their fathers, all for publication. This scenario guaranteed I would get some doors slammed in my face.

A second obstacle that reduced the number of children who might be interviewed was my own decision that none of the participants could remain anonymous. Those who spoke to me had to do so under their real names, with their fathers clearly identified and discussed. By this time I had discovered that two other books on the children of Nazis were under way, and in both cases the authors guaranteed anonymity to induce the children to speak. In my view, that was a fundamental problem. Without knowing the parent's identity, or what he did during the war, it was difficult to fully understand what the child had endured. To be the daughter of SS chieftain Heinrich Himmler must be quite different from being the son of Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the officer who planted the bomb that almost killed Hitler. I also thought it important to understand how the child knew his parent. Mengele's son, for instance, was born in 1944; his father left Germany when the boy was barely five. Rolf did not even know his father was alive until he was sixteen, and only met him once as an adult. Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz’s daughter, on the other hand, was in her thirties during the war and was extremely close to him, visiting him regularly. Would a son who never really knew his father find it easier to condemn him than a daughter who knew her father into her middle age?

Unfortunately, because of my insistence on real names, many of those I contacted refused any cooperation. Heinrich Himmler's daughter was typical of a small group that completely ignored all my letters and telephone calls. Reportedly involved in neo-Nazi activities, she even rebuffed the efforts of a German professor who was on friendly terms with her husband. "She will probably take her memories with her to her grave," the professor told me after his last appeal failed.

Some curtly dismissed me, in blunt and unequivocal language. Others declined to be interviewed but nevertheless provided tantalizing, brief glimpses of their feelings toward their fathers.

The daughter of Artur Seyss-Inquart, Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands, who was executed at Nuremberg, wrote a series of revealing letters about "[o]ur beloved father . . . an idealist often misunderstood. He was a German patriot who only wanted his country's best.... We loved our father with his idealistic ideals. . . . To us his past life is sacrosanct. Our father's life is ours and nobody else's concern."

Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon," currently in a French prison, has one daughter, Ute.Raised with her father in his Bolivian hideout, she never knew about his SS past until the early 1970s, when he was unmasked as a fugitive. She did not like the idea that I was seeking children of prominent Nazis like Goring, Hess and Doenitz. "My father was a low-ranking officer, with no decision-making authority," she told me. "If I allow you to put him in a book with such important officials, people will think my father had similar authority. I can't do that." After she told me her relationship to her father was a "normal" one, she added: "My father, through unlucky circumstances, was chosen from thousands of SS-Obersturmfuehrer [first lieutenants] to be used as a symbol of the 'Third Reich' and of National Socialism. He drew, as Der Spiegel once correctly wrote, the black lot. I have, though, been equipped with enough reason to see through the hypocrisy of this absurd theater which was camouflaged as legal proceedings."

Similarly, Irmgard, one of Martin Bormann's children, refused to be interviewed but described her relationship to her father as "very normal, nothing different than any other family." In an earlier public statement she insisted he was "good and very caring" and that she had unsuccessfully searched for a husband like her father. She is convinced that her father "simply tried to put into practice what he believed Hitler wanted. I don't judge him, because judgment is always relative."

Understandably, those who were interested in the project wanted to meet me before making a final decision. I decided to approach each child with candor-what was it like for them to grow up in a Nazi family? Even at this stage some decided at the last moment not to participate. One was Dr. Karl Adolf Brandt, the only son of Hitler's personal physician, executed at the "doctors' trial" after the war.2 Dr. Brandt actually allowed me to stay at his house for two days, with his wife and two of his three adult children. He shared with me unpublished diaries and letters from his father, written in prison, as well as private wartime photographs of his father with Hitler. Although Dr. Brandt is articulate and proud of his father, he finally refused to be interviewed for a reason that had not occurred to me. "I don't want to be part of your book where my only connection to the other people who are interviewed is that our fathers had some close relationship to Hitler," he told me when we parted.

One of those who cooperated did so reluctantly. As a result, the information from Edda, the only daughter of Hermann Goring, is limited. In her first letter she said she had only a "loving memory" of her father, and would therefore grant an interview. But she also wanted more details from me, including the amount of her fee. When I informed her that I never paid for information, she answered saying that an accident prevented her from seeing me during my next trip to Munich. I implored her for a meeting. She grudgingly set a time. Although hesitant at first, she finally talked to me for several hours about her feelings for her father. Then, she told me that to obtain more information I would have to agree to a fee and give her the right to reject what I wrote. I declined and as a result she refused to meet me again or to have acquaintances provide further information.

Wolf Hess, the only son of Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess, who flew to England in 1939 only to spend the next forty-eight years of his life in prison, met me three times before deciding to participate. One of his early objections was the opposite of that raised by Klaus Barbie's daughter. Whereas she was concerned her father would seem too important if mixed into a book with officials like Hess, Goring, and Frank, Wolf Hess was concerned that his father would be tarnished in a book that associated him with people like Mengele and Eichmann. "You should keep your book only to the highest-ranking officers," he urged me. I was surprised to discover that a generation after the war, the sons and daughters still tried to maintain some distinctions based upon rank and conduct. Despite his objections he eventually met me in Munich for a complete and far-ranging interview.

The daughter of Hjalmar Schacht (the former president of the Reichsbank, who was one of three defendants acquitted at the main Nuremberg trial) was reluctant to speak about her father and undecided until the last moment. She had rejected all earlier interview requests, and even after meeting me she wavered. She decided to discuss her parent openly only during the last days of my final German research trip.

Besides Hess, Mengele, Schacht, and Goring, the others who finally agreed to speak included two sons of the Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank; the daughter of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz; the two sons of Karl Saur, the first assistant to Albert Speer and the technical director of the Armaments Ministry; and the son of Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the young officer who planted the briefcase bomb that almost killed Hitler on July 20, 1944. In addition to these children of prominent wartime figures, there are also two cases in which the parents are virtually unknown but the stories told by their daughters are particularly compelling.

Obviously, this is not a selected group, but merely those children who decided to speak on the record. Yet they constitute an interesting cross section of the Third Reich. Among their parents are five principal architects of Nazism, all of whom were defendants at the main Nuremberg trial. Two of those (Goring and Frank) were convicted and sentenced to death; one (Hess) was given a life sentence and died in 1987 in Spandau Prison; another (Doenitz) was sentenced to ten years and was released in 1956; and one (Schacht) was acquitted. As for the parents of the other children, one (Stauffenberg) was executed by Hitler during the war, one (Mengele) was a fugitive until his 1979 death in Brazil, one (Drexel) was convicted in 1975 of murder, and two (Saur and Mochar), although fervent Nazis, were never charged with crimes.

The often haunting wartime recollections of the sons and daughters of prominent Nazis are powerful reminders that Hitler's crimes have claimed many victims. Together their stories provide a rare view of how children of Nazi 55 troops and noncriminal German soldiers react to the Final Solution and their fathers' roles in the "Thousand-Year Reich."

The Forgotten Victims of World War Two

Children were massively affected by World War Two. Nearly two million children wereevacuated from their homes at the start of World War Two; children had to endure rationing,gas mask lessons, living with strangers etc. Children accounted for one in ten of the deaths during the Blitz of London from 1940 to 1941.

World War Two was the first war when Britain itself was the target of frequent attacks by the enemy. With the success of the Battle of Britain and the suspension of ‘Operation Sealion’, the only way Germany could get at mainland Britain was to bomb it. This occurred during the Blitz and seemed to reinforce the government’s decision to introduce evacuation (what the government of the time described as “the biggest exodus since Moses”) at the start of the war. On August 31st, 1939, the government issued the order “Evacuate Forthwith” and ‘Operation Pied Piper’ was started the very next day.

The impact of evacuation on children depended to an extent on which social strata you were in at the time. Parents who had access to money invariably made their own arrangements. Children at private schools based in the cities tended to move out to manor houses in the countryside where children at that school could be, in the main, kept together. But 1.9 million children gathered at rail stations in early September not knowing where they were going nor if they would be split from brothers and sisters who had gathered with them.

‘Operation Pied Piper’ was a huge undertaking. Six cities had been deemed vulnerable to German bombing – memories of Guernica were still fresh – and in London alone there were 1,589 assembly points for children to gather at before they were moved on. Those children who were evacuated were given a stamped postcard to send from their billet address to inform their parents where they were.

‘Operation Pied Piper’ planned to move 3.5 million children in three days. In the event, the 1.9 million who were evacuated was a remarkable achievement though some children stayed with their parents as evacuation was not compulsory.

With such numbers involved, it was to be expected that some children would have a smooth passage to their reception area while some would not. Anglesey expected 625 children to arrive and 2,468 did. Pwllheli, North Wales, was not allocated any evacuees – and 400 turned up. Children already experiencing a stressful situation were put in an even more difficult situation. Elsewhere, children who had been used to being in school in the same class were spilt up.

“I have had few worse hours in my life than those I spent watching the school being taken off in drizzling rain and gathering gloom to those unknown villages, knowing I was powerless to do anything about it.”

Dorothy King, teacher

  What impact this had on the children involved was never overly studied at the time as the government simply wanted to herald evacuation as an overwhelming success. That some children continued their education in pubs, church halls or anywhere else there was the space to accommodate them was seen as the accepted face of a requirement that had been foist on the government.

The clash of cultures experienced by many children must have also been difficult. The children from the cities had been tarred by a reputation that was undeserved – but many of those in rural England expected children to be riddled with parasites and to engage in anti-social behaviour. Such was the perception at the time.

“I noticed a woman looking at evacuees’ hair and opening their mouths, but one of the helpers said, “They might come from the East End, but they’re children, not animals.” 

R Baker, evacuee from Bethnal Green.

However, many mothers brought their children home during the ‘Phoney War’ when it seemed clear that the danger of bombing had been exaggerated. By January 1940, about 60% of all evacuees had returned to their home. The return of these children was not in the government’s plan. Many schools remained shut in city centres and a social problem occurred that had no obvious cure – so-called ‘dead-end kids’ who were left unsupervised for most of the day as their fathers were away with the military and their mothers were at work in the factories. It is difficult to know whether this problem was overstated or not but while these children remained in city centres they were a potential casualty of German bombing. London was obviously targeted during the Blitz, but other cities were also badly bombed – Plymouth and Coventry being obvious examples. In London, ‘trekkers’ took their children out of the centre at night (during the Blitz) and went to the nearest open ground that might represent safety. The government did not recognise the existence of ‘trekkers’ as their understandable response to bombing did not fit in with the ‘stiff upper lip’ that the government portrayed in their propaganda films. Whereas the American film ‘Britain can take it’ represented Londoners as people with huge resolve, the reality was different.

However, by the end of 1941, city centres, especially London, became safer. Life for children regained a degree of monotony. Rationing ensured that everyone got their food. Life could never be normal in a wartime situation but the fear of gas attacks had all but gone and the attacks by the Luftwaffe was a memory. Though cinemas were meant to be shut, many opened.

The seeming normality of life on the Home Front was shattered in 1944 when the first of theV1’s landed. Once more, London was targeted and children were victims. The danger faced in London was greatly increased when the V2 attacks started and the casualty figures mirrored those of the Blitz.

The attacks by both V1’s and V2’s only ended as the Allies advanced up through Western Europe after the success of D-Day.

What damage did the war do to those children who survived it? This is difficult to know as physical damage was visible and could be dealt with but the psychological damage some must have suffered was difficult to measure – even if anybody tried to do this. In the immediate aftermath of VE Day and VJ Day, returning soldiers were given priority and an emphasis was placed on the return of ‘family’. Children and their welfare seemed to come lower down the list of priorities – the return of a father, according to some, would be enough to restore classic family virtues to society. Psychological assessments were far more basic in 1945 and in the immediate years after the war. ‘Pulling yourself together’ and the ubiquitous ‘stiff upper lip’ were frequent solutions to both adult and child problems. There is also little doubt that the government wanted to portray Britain as a country that had won the war and was harvesting the benefits of it. Fragile family bases did not fit in with this.

The above deals solely with children from Britain and not the rest of Europe. Children living under occupation must have lived in a manner few can comprehend unless an individual has been through similar situations. Children in Poland, the NetherlandsBelgiumFranceetc would all have experienced the terror produced by Blitzkrieg. Occupying troops could be brutal as the children at Oradur-sur-Glane and Lidice found out. Young German boys were used by the Nazi Party in the final days of the Battle of Berlin. What is thought to be the final picture of Hitler was taken when he pinned Iron Crosses onto the uniform of child soldiers in the garden of his bunker in Berlin. The bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of children. The crimes committed during the Holocaust involved countless thousands of children. The first experimental ‘gas chambers’ were used on German children who were mentally incapacitated. Joseph Mengele specifically targeted children for his experiments at Auschwitz.

“The forgotten victims of World War Two were the children.” 

Juliet Gardiner.

Helga Kahrau

They were the offspring of a Nazi program to create a racially pure 'Master Race.' Behind the painful search to discover their roots. Newsweek International, March 20, 2000 
By Joshua Hammer

From the time she was a small child, Helga Kahrau always sensed that she was different. Born in Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, Kahrau has hazy memories of elegant surroundings, important-looking men in crisp uniforms, a life of privilege and comfort. Helga's mother, she knew, had been a secretary in the offices of both Hitler's top aide, Martin Bormann, and Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, but other than admitting that fact, Mathilde Kahrau refused to say anything about the war. It was only after Mathilde's death in 1993 that Helga began to examine her family's past, and was horrified by what she discovered.

Her parents barely knew one another. An ardent Nazi, her mother met Helga's father, a German Army officer, in Berlin at a party celebrating Hitler's conquest of France in June 1940. They had a one-night stand, and nine months later Mathilde gave birth in a "Lebensborn",or "Source of Life, home outside Munich. The home was one of several set up by Heinrich Himmler's dreaded SS to care for unmarried pregnant women whose racial characteristics, blond hair, blue eyes, no Jewish ancestry, fit the Nazis' Aryan ideal.

At birth, Helga was anointed as one of the Fuhrer's elect, part of a generation of "racially pure" children who would populate the German Empire as it ruled a conquered Europe for the life of the 1,000-year Reich.

Helga's early years unfolded in an atmosphere of palpable evil. When she was 6 months old, her mother returned from Munich to work in Goebbels's ministry in Berlin, and dispatched Helga to the foster care of a high-ranking Nazi secret policeman. She grew up in a Nazi enclave outside the city of Lodz in occupied Poland while her foster father helped to oversee the gassing of thousands of Jews at the nearby Chelmno concentration camp.

At the end of the war she returned to Munich, then a bomb-shattered ruin, where she was raised for the first time by her natural mother. Now, as she fits together the pieces of the first years of her life, Helga admits to being tormented by feelings of self-loathing. "I spent the first four years raised and tutored by the Nazi elite," she says. "I was involved, in a fundamental way, with murderers."

Kahrau and thousands of other middle-aged Europeans are struggling with the consequences of one of Nazism's most troubling social experiments: the creation of a "Master Race." During the 12-year history of the Third Reich, roughly 10,000 infants were born in Lebensborn homes in Germany. An equal number were born in homes in Nazi-occupied Norway after the German invasion of 1940, because Himmler admired the Norwegians' "Viking blood," and encouraged procreation between German soldiers and Norwegian women. There were also Lebensborn homes in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. After the war, many of the Lebensborn children grew up scorned as Nazi progeny and tormented by dark uncertainties about their origins. Those who tried to get answers were often stymied by Germans long reluctant to confront their Nazi past. Their natural or foster parents often kept mum about the Lebensborn program; the German media didn't report on Himmler's racial experiments for decades. The destruction of thousands of German Lebensborn files by SS troops during the last days of World War II deepened the mystery of the children's real identities.

But recently some of the 20,000 Lebensborn children have been getting answers. Last December, German TV reporters uncovered 1,000 long-unnoticed Lebensborn files at the German government archive in Berlin, and two Norwegian Lebensborn organizations are now helping many local war children trace their parents. For many Lebensborn children, the revulsion they feel as they learn more about their backgrounds often goes together with a sense of relief at assembling the missing fragments of their lives. "They have reached the end of their careers, their children are grown and they have time to think about who they really are," says Georg Lilienthal, a German scholar who in 1985 wrote the first authoritative book about Himmler's racial-engineering program. "For many it has been nothing but a black hole."

Himmler planned it that way. The Lebensborn homes sprang from a central tenet of Nazi ideology: the idea that no Germanic baby should go unborn. In 1933 the newly installed Nazi dictatorship outlawed all abortions and later executed doctors who violated the law. In August 1936 Himmler opened the first Lebensborn home at Steinhöring outside Munich, offering Aryan women a place where they could deliver their illegitimate babies and keep the births secret from the outside world. Himmler's SS built nine such homes in Germany,refurbished hotels, villas, ski chalets and schools,and 10 in Norway. The identities of the mothers were recorded in tightly guarded Lebensborn files, which the SS kept separate from municipal and church ultimately decided to keep their babies, but hundreds,out of shame or financial necessity,turned the children over for adoption by high-ranking SS officials, or abandoned them.

Himmler considered no method too extreme in the pursuit of his lunatic goal: the propagation of the Germanic master race. The SS also kidnapped Aryan-looking children from Poland and other occupied lands and brought them to the Lebensborn centers across the Third Reich, where they were "Germanized" and turned over to Nazi foster parents. SS administrators expelled Lebensborn babies who were born disabled,and sometimes dispatched them to euthanasia clinics, to be poisoned or starved to death. Wehrmacht commanders exhorted lower-ranking soldiers serving in Norway to father as many children as possible, and many Norwegian women were eager to oblige them. Himmler also offered promotions to SS men,Nazi zealots who served as Hitler's bodyguards, ran concentration camps and massacred "racially inferior" people in occupied lands,on the basis of the number of offspring they produced. The SS chief took a keen interest in the day-to-day running of homes in Norway and Germany, conducting inspection tours and even devising a high-protein diet for the Lebensborn children.

By the spring of 1945, the 1,000-year Reich was in ruins, and with it, Himmler's master-race baby program. The collapse of the Nazi regime would have lasting consequences for thousands of now adrift small children and infants. As the Allies swept across Germany in the spring of 1945, the SS hurriedly shut down one Lebensborn home after another, collecting hundreds of remaining babies and their secret files and taking them to the original home in Steinhöring. In early May, American troops marched into Steinhöring. According to one account, Nazi Storm Troops burned all the records in a huge bonfire before they fled. In another version of the story, U.S. forces stopped the Nazis as they tried to escape to the mountains. During the confrontation, the files were dumped into the Isar River and washed away. Either way, the true identities of many children were lost forever.

The fate of the children would be cruelest in Norway. The SS never destroyed the Lebensborn files there, but after the Third Reich capitulated on May 8, 1945, thousands of Lebensborn babies and their mothers faced the wrath of their liberated countrymen. Many women and their kids were harassed, beaten and called "Nazi swine" by teachers, schoolmates and neighbors. Police sent some 14,000 women and girls who had slept with Wehrmacht soldiers to internment camps. The head of Norway's largest mental hospital stated that women who had mated with German soldiers were "mental defectives" and concluded that 80 percent of their progeny must be retarded.

Paul Hansen bore that label for decades. The progeny of a brief affair between a Luftwaffe pilot and a cleaning woman who abandoned her child at birth, Hansen, 57, spent his first three years in relative comfort in a Lebensborn home north of Oslo. But his life took a terrible turn after the war, he says, because of his German parentage. Hansen was moved to a collection center for unclaimed Lebensborn children. An epileptic, he was passed over for adoption and was thrown together with 20 other Lebensborn children at this center who could not find homes with relatives or adoptive families. Ministry of Social Affairs officials classified these half-German children as retarded and shipped them to mental institutions. Hansen recalls days of being insulted and beaten by guards, and remembers nights spent in feces-splattered dormitories listening to the psychotic screams of fellow inmates. "I told them 'I'm not insane, let me out'," Hansen says. "But nobody listened." Hansen didn't get his freedom until he was 22 years old.

He found a tiny apartment and a job in a factory,and began a search for his parents. The Lebensborn files in Norwegian archives were off-limits, but through the help of the Salvation Army in Norway, he learned that his father had died in Germany in 1952. His mother had married another Wehrmacht soldier and lived in the East German town of Pasewalk. In 1965, Hansen traveled by train and ferry to see her, and remembers the excitement he felt as he approached her flat. But the reunion was a deep disappointment. "I expected she would open up her arms to me, and say 'Oh, my son.' But she didn't care," he remembers. "When I told her that I had spent my life in mental institutions, she replied, 'So what? You weren't the only one'." Hansen left, and never went back.

In recent years, Hansen has found a measure of peace. He was briefly married, but the relationship broke up because, after years in institutions, he found it impossible to share space with another person. What has made life endurable, he says, is the growing willingness of Norwegian Lebensborn children to go public and confide in one another about their experiences. Hansen says he's found "new brothers and sisters" through his membership in a support group; the recent declassification of the Lebensborn files has allowed many to discover their parentage. Last month Hansen joined six other Lebensborn in a lawsuit filed against the government, asking for millions of dollars in damages for decades of brutal treatment. On New Year's Eve, Norway's prime minister seemed to acknowledge his government's responsibility by apologizing publicly for the first time for "the harassment and injustice done" to the war children.

Helga Kahrau has never found such peace. Growing up with her mother Mathilde in Munich, Kahrau often wondered about her origins. "I was big, blond and Aryan,different from the southern Germans,and everyone asked me, 'Where did you come from?' " she says. "I couldn't answer them." Kahrau's mother concealed the truth, saying only that her soldier father had been killed during World War II. Her only birth record was a cryptic certificate from an "SS Mother Home" that contained her mother's name but not her father's. Her mother kept largely silent about her own role during the war. "Nobody talked about the Nazis back then," Helga says.

Then, one night in the mid-1970s, Helga happened to watch a German television documentary about the Lebensborn program and the SS-run home at Steinhöring. Suddenly, she says, "everything clicked." Still, she asked her mother nothing: "I was afraid. I didn't want a confrontation." But when Mathilde Kahrau died in 1993, Helga traveled to Pullach, near Munich, the onetime home of her foster parents and the current site of the postwar German intelligence headquarters. There she uncovered Nazi files that provided detailed information about her foster father and his crimes committed in the service of the "final solution." She spent hours in libraries, digging up the little scholarship that existed about the Lebensborn. The last pieces fell into place on her birthday in March 1994, when she received a phone call from a man who identified himself as her real father.

Kahrau was shocked. "I said, 'Why are you calling me after 53 years?' " In his 80s and stricken with cancer, he explained that his thoughts had returned to the daughter he had fathered during the war. They met the next day. "He was charming," she says. "It was love at first sight." He told Helga about the night of passion with her mother, about his military duty in occupied Paris,and his postwar real-estate career. "He had become a millionaire," Helga says. As her father's health worsened, she nursed him round the clock, expecting to receive some share of his estate. But after her father died in 1996, Kahrau received a letter from attorneys stating that he had left no will. As an illegitimate Lebensborn child, she would inherit nothing. "All I got were debts," she says.

In the four years since then, Kahrau has found some solace talking with a psychologist friend about her upbringing. She has visited her birthplace, the old Lebensborn home at Steinhöring, several times. But Kahrau hasn't yet come to terms with her identity. Unlike Norway, no support groups exist in Germany for Lebensborn children, nor has she found a willingness to confront the issue in German society. Kahrau still worries that people will assume she's a Nazi because "I grew up on the side of the murderers," she says. Meeting a NEWSWEEK correspondent at a hotel in downtown Munich, she was visibly nervous, tensing when the word "Lebensborn" was uttered too loudly and insisting on speaking about her life only in the privacy of a secluded booth. "Being a Lebensborn child is still a source of shame," she admits. That shame is the Nazis' bitter legacy to those who they once thought would inherit the earth.


Products of the Lebensborn Program

November 7, 2006


WERNIGERODE, Germany,  Nov. 4 -- For Guntram Weber, the journey that led to this quaint town of horse-drawn carts and half-timbered houses was long, wrenching, and anything but redemptive.

 Four years ago, Mr. Weber discovered that his father was not, as his mother had told him, a young soldier who died honorably on the battlefield during World War II. Instead, he was a high-ranking SS officer, who oversaw the deaths of tens of thousands of people while stationed in what is now western Poland.

 "He died peacefully in Argentina, with his old comrades standing at his grave and raising their right arms," Mr. Weber said, his voice thick with anger and grief. "A racist is forever a racist."

 As Mr. Weber, 63, told his story to a hushed room of mostly gray-haired men and women here, there were sympathetic nods, but little surprise. Most had their own tales of deceit and discovery, life histories that proved to be homespun fairy tales, the dark truth buried under layers of silence.

 These are the children of the Lebensborn, an SS program devised to propagate Aryan traits. On this chilly weekend, they gathered here in a corner of central Germany to share their stories, and to speak publicly, for the first time, about the horror of finding out they had been bred to be the next generation of Nazi elite.

 "This is the opposite example of the Holocaust," said Gisela Heidenreich, 63, a family therapist from Bavaria, whose mother was unmarried and whose father, she later discovered, was a senior SS officer. "The idea was to further the Aryan race by whatever means were available."

© Lebensspuren e.V., Wernigerode A doctor, administrator and children in Wernigerode, circa 1943-5. Many of the mothers in the program were single, the fathers SS officers.
Lebensborn, or spring of life, refers to a series of clinics scattered throughout Germany and neighboring countries, to which pregnant women, most of them single, went to give birth in secret. They were cared for by doctors and nurses employed by the SS, the Nazi Party's feared paramilitary unit.

 One such clinic sits at the top of a gentle hill in Wernigerode, a remote town near the Harz Mountains. The building, long abandoned now, was part of a bittersweet homecoming tour for the 40 or so people who turned out for the meeting of an association known as Traces of Life.

 To be accepted into the Lebensborn, pregnant women had to have the right racial characteristics --blonde hair and blue eyes-- prove that they had no genetic disorders, and be able to prove the identity of the father, who had to meet similar criteria. They had to swear fealty to Nazism, and were indoctrinated with Hitler's ideology while they were in residence.

 Many of the fathers were SS officers with their own families. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, encouraged his men to sire children outside of marriage as a way of building a German master race.

 About 6,000 to 8,000 people were born in these clinics in Germany between 1936 and 1945. Because of the program's secrecy, most were not told for decades the circumstances of their births or the identities of their fathers, which were not recorded on their birth certificates. Some still do not know the truth.

 Only in the last 20 years, as the wall of silence began crumbling, have researchers been able to document the Lebensborn program. They have knocked down some prurient myths: that these clinics were Nazi bordellos, stocked with flaxen-haired breeders ready to mate with SS men.

 "The children were conceived in all the usual ways: love affairs, one-night stands, and so forth," said Dorothee Schmitz-Köster, who has written a book about Lebensborn. "Abortion was not legal in Germany then, and in many cases, the women did not want to keep the babies."

 Some of the mothers gave them up for adoption to SS families. Others raised the children alone, telling them that their fathers had been killed in the war. Having given birth to illegitimate babies in a fervently Nazi setting, the mothers faced a double stigma in postwar Germany.

 Many lived out their lives in grim silence, their children say. Some developed psychological problems or turned to alcohol. For the children, the discovery of the truth was equally traumatic.

 Mr. Weber, a creative writing teacher in Berlin, is still struggling to come to grips with his recently uncovered roots. Some hints from family members, followed by research, led him to the truth. Among his more unpleasant discoveries: his godfather was Himmler.

 "Most grew up knowing they had a secret," Ms. Schmitz-Köster said. "They were angry at their mothers, because they had been lied to or abandoned. Some feel shame. There are also a small number who are proud of being Lebensborn. They feel they are part of an elite."

For Lebensborn children born outside Germany, life was even harsher. In Nazi-occupied Norway, for example, the SS established a clinic because Himmler valued the appearance of Scandinavians. Those babies, born of Norwegian mothers and German soldiers, were branded as children of the enemy after the war, and faced pitiless discrimination.

 Other children who met Himmler's pernicious racial standards were kidnapped as infants from their families in Nazi-occupied countries and sent to Germany, where proper Nazi families raised them.

 If anything, the reunion served as proof that racial engineering has its limits. The Germans here looked no different from those at any other gathering of Germans in their golden years: the men with salt-and-pepper beards and balding pates, the women with eyeglasses and frosted hair.

 "I'm really an exception," said Ms. Heidenreich, a tall woman with long blond hair and bright blue eyes.

 Ms. Heidenreich, the first of the Lebensborn children to write a book about her experience, argues that the program, sinister as it was, has echoes in today's world. With advances in genetics, she notes, discriminating parents will soon be able to select traits in their unborn children.

 Given that possibility, she said, the evils of the Nazi era must not be allowed to recede into the history books. "If we start engineering blond-haired, blue-eyed babies, can we blame just Hitler?" she said.

 Ms. Heidenreich was born in a clinic in Oslo, although her parents were German. Her mother chose to give birth there to get as far away as possible from the village in Bavaria where she had grown up. Ms. Heidenreich was not told about her background but became suspicious after watching a television documentary about the Lebensborn children.

 Today, she has trouble reconciling the kindly figure her mother became in later years with the committed Nazi she had been. "She was a lovely grandmother, even if she was a horrible mother," she said.

 Not everybody has had a fraught experience. Ruthild Gorgass, who was born here, said her mother told her about the circumstances of her birth when she was a teenager. Ms. Gorgass had some contact with her father, a manager for a chemical factory, who had another family.

 Her mother left her a photo album with an account of her stay in Wernigerode. She had recalled it as an idyllic time, though she had expressed distaste for her daughter's naming ceremony, in which the baby was placed before an altar bearing a swastika.

 "I was really lucky because I had a talkative mother," said Ms. Gorgass, 64, a retired physical therapist.

 As she thumbed through the album, she put on a pair of reading glasses. Peering over them, she said with smile: "My eyes aren't perfect. We've got all the same illnesses and disabilities as other people have."

Stolen Children By Gitta Sereny

Although I know the year was 1946, I cannot remember the date I met the first two stolen children in postwar Germany. It is dating the events of one's life that is most difficult. We recall the look of houses, of rooms, of landscapes, colors, and we remember faces, voices, movements, temperatures, and feelings, but more often than not it is impossible to put a day, a month, sometimes even a year to these memories.

Still, I'm almost sure it was just before spring in that first postwar year-perhaps already March, perhaps still February that I found "Johann" and "Marie," as I will call them. For as I write I clearly recall that the fields barely showed color and that it was cold and wet the evening I drove to the farm, a large peasant-holding in southern Bavaria. Some Hungarian refugees, who were former slave workers of the Nazis and kindly disposed toward me as a one-time fellow Hungarian, had told me that these peasants, formerly members of the Nazi Party in good standing, had two young children who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere as toddlers a little more than three years earlier, toward the end of 1942.

I was 23, a child welfare officer with UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and wore the UNRRA khaki uniform. Although we worked under the aegis of-and theoretically in collaboration with-the military government in our area (the U.S. zone of Germany, in my case), it is fair to say that of all the Allied personnel we were the ones most disliked by the Germans and were not too popular with the military government, either. For our principal task was the care of displaced persons-most of them former slave workers of the Nazis-who were despised by many Germans and not liked much more by the U.S. military officials. By this time, 10 months after the end of the war, these occupation authorities were generally not men who had fought the war but administrators who saw their role as getting on with the tidy, respectful Germans and who largely resented the extraordinary powers that UNRRA's moral position conferred on us.

At the end of the war UNRRA was confronted with more than five million slave laborers, from both outside and inside concentration and labor camps. Not unlike the Kosovar refugees in the current Balkans conflict, most wanted to return home by whatever means available, and almost four million quickly walked or were rapidly repatriated, West and East. What remained by the autumn of 1945-when the Soviets were extending their political domination across Eastern Europe-was a highly volatile mass of about one million Eastern Europeans.

Most of them were devout Catholics who, subjected to political pressures from both left and right and torn by conflicting fears and loyalties, did not know whether to go home or emigrate.

These people comprised the core of our responsibility. It fell to UNRRA officers to assemble them in groups of houses or barracks-which they themselves guarded against the incursion of communist liaison officers from the Soviet union-and to provide them and their children with counseling, medical care, educational opportunities, and everything materially necessary for a decent life.

And then there were the missing children. As of early 1946 our Child Welfare Investigating (or Tracing) Officers had the right of entry to any German institution or home where we believed an "unaccompanied" child resided.

Though it was 53 years ago and the farm was of traditional Bavarian design, I might recognize to this day the long, single-story, white-painted building with its uncurtained small windows. As I walked up to the house I could hear stamping and munching sounds of cattle in the large wooden stable adjacent. No one answered my knock, and as I opened the unlocked door and found myself in a dark entry I could smell that slightly acid animal scent that was always present in European peasants' homes.

Only two of the windows I had seen from outside showed light, dim as lights were in German houses that first year after the war. After knocking again I opened the interior door and stepped across the threshold into the kitchen. Inside there were-as I had expected, for I had examined the area records at the mayor's office that morning six people: the farmer and his wife, brown-haired,

46 and 45 years old; his parents, in their sixties but looking a lot older; a husky boy with merry blue eyes and fair hair in a short circular home-cut; and an equally blue-eyed slim and somewhat smaller girl, with equally blond but long, tightly braided hair, who looked younger than the boy. Oddly enough, I remember being surprised when she smiled at me. These two children, the registration papers had told me, had been born in 1940 and were therefore both six years old.

I had planned to arrive when they would all be there together. Although I hoped the children would be sent to play or to bed before I started asking my inevitably distressing questions, it was essential for me go see them first within the family circle. As I had expected, they were at table; the fare, manifestly meager, as it would have been even on a fine farm that first postwar winter, was soup, rye bread and lard, beer for the men, wager for the women and children. While I reminded myself not go read too much into their reactions-for no one in occupied Germany in those days would have readily welcomed an unexpected uniformed stranger-there was no mistaking the adults' particular unease at my arrival.

I went around the table holding out my hand to each of them. No one stood up, but everyone except the old man shook hands, the grownups and the boy limply, the little girl pumping my hand playfully up and down. The grandfather almost childishly hid his right hand behind his back and asked with what I thought was justifiable gruffness. "What do you want?"

"Just talk go you for a bit," I answered, handing the children each a chocolate bar. It was when the little girl, beaming, said, "Danke," and I stroked her face, that the farmer's wife said sharply, "Geht zu Bett" (Go to bed), and the two children shot up to obey. I said, "Gute Nacht, Marie. Gute Nacht, Johann."

"Gute Nacht," Marie whispered as she slipped by me, throwing herself into her mother's arms while stretching out one hand toward her father, now standing up next to her. "Guat Nacht, Vater. Guat Nacht, Mutter," said Johann in Bavarian dialect. Giving me a suspicious sidelong look, he briefly rubbed his head against his grandfather's stubbly cheek, while the farmer took the small girl out of her mother's arms and hugged her once, tightly.

Children always sense atmosphere. "Muatta?" Marie said suddenly in Bavarian in a questioning voice, as she stopped on her way to the door. "The grandmother got up then and pushed them ahead of her out of the room.

It is strange how clearly I cane to recall, once I searched my memory, that first sight of the two children and the words they spoke, their loving ease within the family.

Ever since the establishment of a Central Tracing Bureau in Arolsen, the small town in the British zone of Germany where UNRRA's local headquarters were based, information had been coming in from parents, relatives, and even villages, mostly in Eastern Europe, about children, some younger than two years old, who had been taken away by the Germans. And slowly, as information, reports, and instructions trickled out to individual teams following high-level UNRRA meetings, the word "Germanization" crept into the vocabulary.

Various attempts had been made since September 1945 to conduct a census by asking German agencies and institutions as well as individuals to report the presence of any "unaccompanied children of United Nations and assimilated nationality." By January 1946, 6,600 unaccompanied children (and by June 8,500) had been identified in the three western zones of occupation. They were mostly illegitimate and half German, some of them fathered by German occupation soldiers abroad, others the product of relationships between German girls and foreign slave workers in Germany. But the almost complete lack of response to our queries from German families tended to support the insistent claims by the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans that many thousands of children had been kidnapped by the Nazis, whose purpose had been twofold: to deplete the populations of the countries Germany was conquering and to replenish Germany's own population with "racially valuable children."

It was difficult at first for us to believe that this could have happened. Who would have taken babies or toddlers away from mothers? How could it be done? How could anyone, even bigots gone mad, believe they could discern "racial values" in young, undeveloped children? Above all how, in practice, could there now be large numbers of foreign children -- at least some of whom would have to be old enough to have memories- living, , basically in hiding, within the German community?

Over the months the Central Tracing Bureau received tens of thousands of snapshots of babies, toddlers, and older children with descriptions of when and how they had disappeared from their homes or schools. The vast majority of the inquiries came from Poland, the Baltic borderlands and the Ukraine. A house-to-house census was considered a last resort, as it was feared that (in the words of one notice from UNRRA headquarters) it could panic both "children and the adults caring for them and serve as advance notice to families who intend to conceal children." But UNRRA teams were directed to appoint child welfare investigating officers and to seek and follow information from all sources.

The notice giving these instructions, which was publicly posted all over the Western-occupied zones, was specific: "Any person who willfully delays or obstructs a Child Welfare Investigating Officer in the exercise of any power...or who fails to give such information or to produce such documents or records as aforesaid, or conceals or prevents any persons from appearing before or being examined by a Child Welfare Investigation Officer, shall upon conviction by a Military Government Court suffer such punishment (other than death) as the Court may determine."

Within moments of arriving at that Bavarian farm, I was certain that this family was aware of these orders and was afraid. Nonetheless, while the grandmother was putting the children to bed, I sat down across from the three others at the kitchen table and gave them copies of the military government order to read.

By the time the grandmother returned it was after seven. "Schlafen's?" (Are they asleep?) the farmer's wife asked. The older woman nodded. I brought out a pad. On the top page were notes about the family that I had made that morning in the mayor's office. I told them that I was a child welfare investigator from UNRRA, and that UNRRA was responsible for all individuals who had been brought into Germany from territories forcibly annexed or conquered by the Germans. That included any children either of whose parents might be nationals of any of the 50 countries belonging to the United Nations and who might have been brought into Germany and might be living there now, in institutions or in adoptive families.

"Our buy fell in Stalingrad," the farmer said immediately. "The Bolsheviks killed him," his father added angrily. During those immediate postwar years, loathing of Russians was the strongest sentiment one heard expressed by Germans. I can't recall the precise sequence of what followed, but I did tell them that everything they would say to me, or to each other in my presence, would be noted and considered in any decisions that might be made. "But always remember as we talk," I said (as I would say repeatedly over the upcoming months to other families we suspected of having been given kidnapped children), "that none of us wants the children to he hurt." They sat stiffly, looking neither at each other nor at me.

I told them I was sorry that their son had died in the war. I said that my understanding was that Johann and Marie had come to live with them less than four years ago. Was it after their son died that they had applied to foster or adopt a child or children? They sat motionless and did not answer.

I said I was sure they loved Johann and Marie and that I could see that the children loved them, too. But it was necessary that they tell me everything they knew about the children. Did they know who their natural parents were?

"They are dead," the younger woman said at once. What had I meant by "children brought into Germany?" she then added.

How did she know the children's parents were dead, I asked.

"They told us," she said.

"Who is 'they'?" I ,asked.

"Die Leut'" (the people), she answered vaguely, then repeated her question. I told them that thousands of Eastern European parents were looking for missing children.

"East?" said the grandfather, and repeating it virtually spat out the hated word: "East?

Our children have nothing to do with 'east.' They are German, German orphans. You need only look at them."

And there it was: "You need only look at them."

In the fall of 1939 Hitler had conquered Poland in a three-week campaign-the beginning of the Blitzkrieg, which within 22 months would give him control over virtually all of Western Europe and large chunks of the East. At the time, Heinrich Himmler gave a speech to a restricted audience of SS officers in which he announced the Nazis' plans for Poland: "In the course of the next 10 years," the SS chief said, "the population of [occupied Poland] will become a permanently inferior race that will be available to us for slave labor. A fundamental question is the racial screening and sifting of the young. It is obvious that in this mixture of people some very good racial types will appear from time to time."

Poland had been cut up into three parts: the eastern section, which went to the Soviet Union, at the time Germany's ally; central Poland, which was dubbed "the General Government" and was administered mainly as a supply area for human stock for Germany's labor needs; and the rich agricultural lands to the northwest, which were named the "Warthegau" and were incorporated into the Third Reich. Within a few short months, the Warthegau was cleared of Poles (and, of course, Jews), the Polish language was prohibited, and street signs were changed into German. By the summer of 1941, the Warthegau had been settled with 200,000 ethnic Germans, and it looked as if it had never been part of Poland. All children of "Nordic appearance" found in orphanages or foster homes were presumed to be German and, with or without surviving family members' agreement, were eventually evacuated to reeducational institutions in Germany.

Between November 1939 and the middle of 1941, both Himmler and RuSHA (the Nazi Office for Race and Resettlement) would time and again take up the theme of "racially valuable" Warthegau and Polish children. "The first condition for [the management of] racially valuable children..." announced RuSHA in a secret paper, "is a complete ban on all links with their Polish: relatives. The children will he given German names of Teutonic origin. Their birth and heredity certificates will be [filed] in a special department."

"We have faith above all in this our own blood, which has flowed into a foreign nationality through the vicissitudes of German history," Himmler added in May 1940. "We are convinced that our own philosophy and ideals will reverberate in the spirit of these children who racially belong to us."

Eventually all Polish children between the ages of two and 12 were examined and segregated into two categories: "racially valuable or worthless," as Himmler once wrote. Children found to be racially worthless were either sent home or, if old enough and capable, sent toGermany to work. Those with racial potential were taken to one of three centers in the Warthegau, where further tests were conducted.

Children between the ages of six and 12 found to be of "racial value" were sent to institutions in Germany to be Germanized. Those between the ages of two and six, who would eventually be given to "childless families of good race" for adoption were first sent for a period of observation to a home run by the Lebensborn ("Spring of Life") Society.

Conceived in 1935 as one of the most progressive of the Nazis' many social organizations, Lebensborn was run through "homes" that were set up around Germany to provide periods of respite for overburdened mothers and to care for pregnant single girls and illegitimate children -- not, as has often been claimed, to operate principally as breeding farms for SS men.

By 9:30 that night I had the family's story. It hadn't been the death of their son in 1942 that had prompted them to apply to adopt a child. It had been the accidental death four years earlier of their younger child, a daughter then 15, who had been killed in an auto accident. Her name was Irmi; a photo was brought out for me to look at. She had been a fine-looking young girl, proud in her BDM (Bund Deutscher Madel-the girls' equivalent of the Hitler Youth) uniform. She had been on an outing at a BDM holiday camp that summer, the father said, when the brakes had failed on a bus that was carrying 35 girls down a mountain road. Eighteen of the girls had died. The farmer's wife cried softly. Their boy, then 17, enthusiastic and bright, had just been accepted into a -- momentary hesitation -- leadership school, he continued.

"An SS school?" I asked.

"A good school," he answered sharply. The father said he knew I wouldn't understand, but it had been a great honor for the boy, the family: Yes, they could have asked to have him returned home after the death of their daughter; there were provisions for that -- the party cared, he said stubbornly. But Franz was so longing to go. And besides, the father continued, he and his wife had still been young in 1938; at the end of that year they even thought they might be having another baby. It was when his wife miscarried at the end of the year and they were informed that her childbearing years were over that they first considered adopting. Shortly afterward they filled out an application, though without much hope of success, because there weren't many spare babies in Germany then.

By the end of 1939 they still had nothing but an acknowledgment from the authorities to whom they had applied for a baby girl. But early in 1940, the farmer told me, they heard that many German children were being found in Polish orphanages with false Polish birth certificates that had been issued -- so they had heard -- to rob them of their German past. That was when they had written again.

"And we said that, with the war and all, and our boy in the service, we'd happily take two children, a boy and a girl, and that they could he twins." the farmer explained. Irmi had been a twin, he added; her brother had died at birth.

The role Lebensborn played in the theft and Germanization of possibly a quarter of a million mostly Eastern European children was abominable. It was no doubt because of Lebensborn's existing facilities, combined with the organization's sterling reputation, that the SS decided in the winter of 1941 to make Lebensborn the executant of the "Germanization" project. By late 1941 large Children's Reception Centers (used for the initial sorting of children by "racial experts") and smaller homes (where selected children spent several months being taught the German language and Nazi ideals) had been set up in Germany and virtually all the conquered territories.

After long preparation and a considerable number of kidnappings in Rumania, Yugoslavia, and the Warthegau, the project was launched in Poland in the winter of 1941 via a secret order signed by Lieutenant General Ulrich Greifelt, head of the central office of the SS inPoland.

There were, the order said, "a large number of children in [Poland] who by reason of their racial appearance should be regarded as children of Nordic parents....The children who are recognized as bearers of blood valuable to Germany are to be Germanized." Greifelt continued, "My representative will inform the Lebensborn Society of the children aged between two and six who have been recognized as being capable of Germanization. The Lebensborn Society will in the first place transfer the children to one of its children's homes. . From there the Lebensborn Society will see to the distribution of these children among [selected families] with a view to subsequent adoption.... These children are to be treated as German children even before the granting of German nationality.... Particular care must be taken," the order concluded, "to ensure that the term 'Germanizable Polish children' does not come to public knowledge.... The children should rather be described as German orphans from the regained Eastern territories."

"It is true," the farmer's wife said, not long after her father-in-law's outburst. "'They were found in the Eastern territories, but they were German orphans. They told us that very clearly."

And of course they might have been --there had always been many ethnic Germans in western Poland. But I pointed out that if the children were now six they would have been going on three when they came to the family. How did they seem to their new parents after what must have been a big change in their lives? Shy? Happy? Did they speak well? (I meant, but didn't say, did they speak German well?)

The grandfather, who would remain angry throughout, complained about the questions. They were just small children then. What's shy? What's happy? If I wanted to know about happy, all I had to do was look at them: "Happy as the day is long they are," he said. What tricks was I playing?

But by that time, well into the second hour of my visit, as far as the farmer and hip wife were concerned the atmosphere had changed. Somehow, without exchanging a private word and without any more encouragement from me than common courtesy, they appeared to have persuaded themselves that rather than attacking me they needed to get me onto their side. But the farmer's wife was an honest woman. "I don't know how happy they were," she said thoughtfully. "Marie wanted a lot of cuddling and Johann..." she stopped and looked at her husband.

"Well," he said. "they were in a new place."

"He was often naughty at first," she continued.

"Not for long," the grandfather muttered, and spread his right hand. "He knew pretty quickly what was good for him."

For the first time the farmer's wife laughed. "Come on, father," she said. "You make yourself out an ogre." The truth was, she said, that Johann had taken to the grandfather, who almost immediately started taking him along on his chores. "Still do," the old man growled. I asked again whether they spoke a lot, and she said that Marie, yes, spoke "like a baby, you know, but Johann..." Again the grandfather interrupted. "Silly question. He talks like a water mill now," be said firmly. "What does it matter how they talked when they came from the orphanage?"

The grandfather was right, the younger woman said: That was then and this was now. "And you know now, don't you, Fraulein, that they are ours? That they were given to us?"

Yes, I told them, I believed the children had been given to them. "And that they are German," the farmer said. They could be, I said. I'd be glad if they were. We would find out, but it was likely to take a long time and I hoped they could just go on being happy together.

Following that, a wooden plate with sliced rye bread, some rough country cheese, glasses and a bottle --I was sure it was precious -- of red country wine were produced, and the farmer's wife took me to see the children asleep next to each other, under their big featherbed. They were happy, loved and happy, and I felt vaguely ashamed when she handed me a photograph of them I had asked for, taken just days after they had arrived, at Christmas 1942, with the family. I knew she thought I wanted it to help me remember the children, who were so pretty.

It was the last time I saw those farmers. The photograph was sent to Arolsen, where reports had come in that three families in different parts of Poland were searching for twins who had been taken from them when the children were two or three. The photo was copied and sent to the families. The couple who recognized the children as theirs -- young farmers in a small village not far from Lodz -- were able to prove the twins' identities, as was required, by citing a small birthmark Marie had on the inside of her right arm. (A bitter irony: Had that tiny mole been any bigger, Marie would not have been thought worthy of Germanization in the first place.)

I had been transferred away from the area by then. And so it was someone else's painful task four months later to verify that Marie was this little girl with the birthmark -- and to take the children away.

A painful task indeed. I only had to do it once, but I will never forget the inconsolable grief of the couple who loved the five-year-old I had to take from them, and the wild anger of the child, who had no memory of his birth parents or native language, and for whom his German parents were his world. In the time I was involved with different aspects of the identification of stolen children, I never handled or heard of a single case in which the German foster or adoptive parents had treated the kidnapped child with anything but love. Nor were they aware, at least as far as we could determine, of the methods by which the child had come to them. The Nazis committed a double infamy here: first in stealing children from their parents in conquered lands, and second in deceiving their own people about the integrity of their actions.

By the early summer of 1946, by which time a good many German documents had been discovered and quite a number of older kidnapped children who could provide us with information had been found, we had learned a great deal about the process of Germanization.

Six Nazi organizations and one ministry had been involved in this program, which was doubtless conceived by Himmler (and, like all major decisions, approved by Adolf Hitler) and operated under the umbrella of the SS. The Office for Repatriation of Ethnic Germans, the Reich Security Office, and the Reich Commission for the Consolidation of the German Race played important administrative roles. The Nazi People's Welfare Association supplied the dreaded "Brown Sisters," who in an odious attempt at reassurance played the good cops when they accompanied the SS men on their expeditions to abduct the children. The Office for Race and Settlement decided the children's suitability for Germanization on the basis of measurements of 62 parts of their bodies. Then, of course, there was Lebensborn, which operated pretty Children's Homes all over Europe and was in charge of "reeducation." Finally, the Ministry of the Interior lent the criminal undertaking legal status by conferring on the Lebensborn Society the right of civil registry and guardianship, enabling the organization to issue official birth certificates with (invented) places and dates of birth and (false) names, and -- the ultimate form of control -- to act as the stolen children's legal guardian.

The procedure, carried out in stages, was identical in all countries where children were abducted, but the largest number of children (estimated at 200,000) were taken from Poland. In the Warthegau, as soon as all Poles had been ejected, the children, mostly boys, were taken, primarily from institutions or ethnic German parents who refused to sign documents of allegiance. In the General Government, where the program began somewhat later, most of the children were taken from their families.

On secretly designated days, children were picked up off the streets, or from playgrounds, schools, and homes. Unless the child was pretty, healthy, and well built, and had blond or light brown hair and blue eyes, he was eliminated from the selection. If he was chosen in this first stage, his parents were told that he would be returned home after physical and IQ exams that would decide his future schooling. Children were then taken by train to one of the reception centers in the Warthegau (now German territory well out of reach of parents), which had been specially installed for Germanization. If they were young, children whose IQs were below the minimum required for Germanization would be returned home; if older and physically fit, they were sent to Germany to work. And even if they were of the right coloring and build, if they were found to be physically unfit or racially "tainted," they would end up in a children's ghetto in Lodz, where according to postwar Polish records most of them died. Those deemed qualified after about six weeks of tests were issued new birth certificates with German names -- which were frequently --no one knows why -- close translations of their Polish names, and their parents were notified that they were being sent to Germans for their health. Subsequent inquires by parents were not answered. Small children were then placed in Lebensborn homes in German until they were considered ready to be placed in families, while older ones were sent in small groups to so-called "Heimschulen" - state boarding schools run by Lebensborn but staffed and supervised by the SS-- where they received the physical and ideological education given to native German children.

According to testimony in the Nuremberg trial of Lebensborn officials in 1947, all German documentation of the kidnappings and reassignments was ordered destroyed in April 1945. In telling the story of the process of Germanization, I am therefore relying on the nearly identical accounts given to me by five 10- to 12-year-old boys I worked with during a six-week assignment at a special children's center in the early summer of 1946.

At that center psychiatrists and other staff members experienced in child trauma worked to help the children overcome the pain of separation and to reawaken memories of their original families in the youngest. Children 12 or older who had been brought in for forced labor (they were usually 14 to 16 by the end of the war) had all remained aware of their identities, and while they spoke some German they retained their native languages. As proof of just how effective Germanization had been, this was not true of those who had been 10 years old when taken. It was, though, easier to bring back memories in children that age than in the youngest ones. For the youngest, we found that the most effective reminders were songs. Even though songs were part of German family culture (and group singing a vital part of Nazi youth education), in a number of cases the sound of Polish nursery songs and children's prayers brought back images of home.

The 10-to 12-year-olds with whom I worked had all been taken away from their families in Poland in late 1942. They remembered that it had been during the runup to Christmas, and that they had stayed for a month or two in two children's reception centers in Brockau (Bruczkow) and Kalisch (Kalisz) -- they only remembered the cities' German names.

Their strongest memories were of having "good food" but being cold, especially at night when the bedroom windows were always open-a practice manifestly new to these Polish country children. They remembered that in Kalisz each room had had four beds except for two dormitories that had had 10 beds each, "for bigger boys." The "Brown Sisters" had taken care of them. Had they been nice? I asked. "Except when they were horrid," one of them said; he remembered getting a beating with a switch on his bare bottom because he and a friend had sung a Polish ditty after lights-out. During those first weeks they'd had German language, history, and geography lessons for several hours, every day. Outside the school rooms they could speak Polish, except during mealtimes, when "quite soon," they said -- they had to speak German or be silent. There were "lots of doctors in white coats but also in uniforms," and they had "lots" of medical examinations.

Was that frightening?

"No, it was silly," one of them said. "We had to be all bare, and they kept measuring every bit of us."

What was it they measured?

"Oh, everything. They just went on and on."

(The decisive characteristics for being placed in the top racial categories, aside from a child's hair and eye color, were the shape of the nose and lips, the hairline, and the toe and fingernails, and the condition of the genitalia. Important too were reactions to neurological tests, and personal habits: Persistent uncleanliness and, of course, bedwetting, farting, nail-biting, and masturbation-which older boys were told on arrival was forbidden -- were, if repeatedly observed, automatic disqualifications.)

Did their guardians hurt them in any way?

"Hurt? No, they didn't hurt me. Why should they hurt me?" In these Germanized children there was quite a lot of defensiveness, and many of their memories-particularly of the years in Lebensborn homes and schools in Germany and Austria that followed the first initiation -- were joyful. "We did lots of climbing and obstacle courses and we learned to march. We sang around campfires. Yes, it was strict, but the [German] boys were nice."

Had they been homesick?

They looked at each other, almost puzzled. It had been so long ago. "When we were small, perhaps," the oldest one finally said of that time, so long ago, when he was eight. He shrugged. "Then no more." But yes, he added later, he remembered some Polish, even though there had been severe punishments for speaking it, and he remembered his mother, though his father hardly at all. "It'll be funny to have a mother," he said, and laughed a sort of half laugh.

In the summer of 1946 I was assigned for about six weeks to a Special Children's Center in Bavaria and there -- I recount with sorrow -- I was brought face to face with Johann and Marie. I had not known they were there, and UNRRA had forgotten my involvement with them. The two children's appearance -- their faces were sallow, and there were shadows under their eyes -- and Johann's reaction to me and Marie's awful apathy shook me to the core. Marie was scrunched up in a chair, her eyes closed, the lids transparent, her thumb in her mouth, but Johann raced up as soon as he saw me, and shouted hoarsely, "Du! Du! Du!" (You! You! You!) hit out at me with feet and fists. If I had not found out that they were due to leave for Poland three days later I would have requested an immediate transfer in order to protect them from having to see me. The staff tried to console me; sadly, they were only too familiar with children's reactions to being separated from their German homes. Like other distressed children before them, Johann and Marie had been kept at the center beyond their scheduled departure date, in the hope that they could be helped through this second loss in their young lives before they had to confront the emotional expectations of their natural parents. Nothing had helped, however: Johann had become increasingly defiant, with more moments of the violence he had displayed toward me, and Marie no longer spoke and had reverted to babyhood, wetting her bed and taking food only from a bottle. The decision to send them home, with their Polish parents informed of their condition and one of the center's German-speaking therapists accompanying them- for, of course, they now spoke no Polish- was a kind of last resort that had worked in previous cases, with the parents' tenderness giving them relief. Reluctantly, that night, following the direction of the resident psychiatrist, who thought it couldn't harm and might even help, I held Marie in my lap and gave her her bottle. She lay there, her eyes shut, the only movement in her lips, which sucked, and in her small throat, which swallowed. I held her until she was asleep. It helped me, but, I fear, not her. What are we doing? I asked myself. What in God's name were we doing?

This was the question that so often occupied us. What was the "right" solution to this human conundrum? Should we return the children to parents who longed for them, but also to an impoverished and largely destroyed Eastern Europe, and to an ideology unacceptable to many of us? Or should we leave them with their loving German second families -- our only-just-past enemy, with their lingering love for Hitler -- who had obtained them as beneficiaries of a crime of truly Biblical proportions? What was in the best interest of the children? The question became even more disturbing when we learned late that summer of 1946 that Washington was considering issuing a fanatically anti-Soviet order (and seeking agreement to it in Britain) to resettle all children of Russian origin -- including those from the contested Ukrainian and Baltic border regions -- in the U.S.Australia, and Canada, instead of returning them to their homes and a life under the Soviets.

For months already, many UNRRA workers had been concerned about unofficial "advice" from above not to allow Soviet liaison officers into DP camps and not to expose unaccompanied children to them. While the Soviet officers' addresses were posted in the camps for those who might want to visit them, they were not allowed in, as their presence would have been too inflammatory. But some of us, feeling not only that the Soviets had as much right to their children as anyone else but also that we needed their help to locate parents, had ignored this advice, at least regarding the youngest unaccompanied children. Continual changes in the rulings we received over the months were confusing and disturbing, and we were finally convinced that no one in authority understood either the political complexities or the human conflicts that surrounded us and our charges.

At the point when the appalling-to us-news of the projected new order for overseas resettlement reached us, I knew of seven children under 10 in Special Child Centers in my region alone whose Ukrainian parents were waiting for them and who, with therapy and language lessons, were being prepared for going home. There were of course many others both in the U.S. and British zones of occupation. How could anyone think of ordering that children who had twice suffered the trauma of losing parents, home, and language, should, like so many packages, be transported overseas and dropped into yet other new and entirely strange environments?

With several others-and with the help and approval of the UNRRA director for the U.S. zone, John Whiting-I embarked on a campaign to defeat this plan. Working out of his office in Frankfurt for three weeks, we circulated a protest: petition and sought signatures from all UNRRA field workers, made hundreds of phone calls to teams as well as to congressmen and LPs in Washington and London, and bombarded both the State Department and USFET (United States Forces European Theater) with letters. Although many UNRRA workers signed the protest, replies from Washington and London were sparse, and said only that our opinion had been noted and that no definite decision had yet been made.

I was growing increasingly frustrated, both with various aspects of the unaccompanied children problem and with the screening process for displaced persons, which was mostly handled by unqualified GIs. In October 1946, shortly after the latest controversy over the children-the situation was beginning to look insoluble-I left UNRRA to undertake a lecture tour in schools and colleges in America.

IN THE RECENTLY discovered documentation from this period, two things stand out. One is that there is no sign of our extensive official correspondence with Washington and London, all of which was cosigned by Whiting, the highest ranking UNRRA official in the U.S. zone, at the National Archives in Washington, the UNRRA archives in New York, or at the Public Record Office in the U.K. Second, although a ruling about sending the Russian-born children overseas instead of repatriating them was frequently discussed, and many such children were in fact sent abroad, there is no trace of a document actually recording such a ruling. The closest I came to finding this elusive order was a report dated March 19, 1946, by Eileen Blackey, Chief Child Search & Repatriation Consultant at UNRRA headquarters. On pages 10 and 11 of this paper, under the heading "Problems Concerning Nationality Status," she reports on the continuing difficulties regarding a clear directive affecting Ukrainian and Baltic children.

Blackey, who was known to be deeply opposed to the Western resettlement measures and had long lobbied the State Department that UNRRA-and not bureaucrats should be authorized to make final decisions about these children, wrote, "The cable which our Washington Office had reported as being prepared by the State Department for USFET, has [still] not reached them. This is an extremely important cable since it is to recommend to USFET that they not release any policy [regarding nationality and the resettlement of children abroad] ... unless it conforms to the recommendations [against this practice] made by UNRRA... If a directive is actually formulated and in operation prior to July 1st, the chances of it remaining effective [after UNRRA leaves] are quite good. If nothing is in effect by that time, the disposition of the problem may have.. catastrophic results."

About 25,000 Polish children out of the 200,000 reported missing were returned home and, entirely through the initiative of individual UNRRA teams, two transports of just over 100 young Russians slipped through in December 1946. Otherwise, there is no record of how many children of contested nationality there were, how many of them were sent overseas or otherwise resettled, or indeed how many of the stolen children were never discovered and, ignorant of their origins, remained in Germany. I have not solved the question of what was the best solution for these children-and I don't think that anyone can.

But what is certain, and what we should not forget, is that their birth parents have not even been able to mourn for them.

Lebensborn Children Break Silence

After decades of hushed shame, the children of the Lebensborn program to create a blond, blue-eyed master race have started to speak out. Topic number one is the painful search for their true parents. And then that nagging question: "Was my father a war criminal?"

Guntram Weber, 63, found out his father was an SS major-general who escaped a death sentence for war crimes.

They were bred to be the elite of Hitler's 1,000-year Reich but ended up cowed by shame, alienation and uncertainty for decades.


Now aged over 60, the children of the Nazis' "Lebensborn" ("Spring of Life") program to create an Aryan master race are starting to go public with their plight and are renewing efforts to find out who their true parents were.

More than 30 Lebensborn children, by no means all of them tall and fair, met at the weekend in the sleepy eastern town of Wernigerode, site of one the program's birth clinics. The meeting was organized by a self-help group called "Traces of Life" which was set up last year to swap experiences, aid research and explode some of the myths surrounding the scheme.

Some 8,000 children were born in Germany and around 12,000 in Norway as part of Lebensborn, formed by SS leader Heinrich Himmler to encourage women of “pure blood” to bear blond, blue-eyed children.

Historians have refuted the public’s perception that it was a system of Nazi stud farms where SS zealots mated with each other. But it was an integral part of a murderous racial policy that stretched from the forced sterilization of people with hereditary diseases to the killing of 6 million Jews.

Founded in 1935, Lebensborn was designed to halt the high rate of abortions in Germany which rose as high as 800,000 a year in the inter-war years because of a chronic shortage of men to marry after World War I. Its aim was to prevent 100,000 abortions and its statute stated that it was to support "racially and genetically valuable families with many children."

It enabled unmarried pregnant women to avoid social stigma by giving birth anonymously away from their homes, often under the pretext of needing a long-term recuperation. About 60 percent of Lebensborn mothers were unmarried. Lebensborn ran children’s homes and an adoption service if the mother didn’t want to keep the child.

It even had its own registry office system to keep true identities secret. Most documents were burnt at the end of the war. That, together with the refusal of many Lebensborn mothers to tell their children about the program, has made it very difficult to find the truth.

Three-year-old "SS Bastard"


Father an SS officer, mother a Lebensborn secretary: family therapist Gisela Heidenreich. In many cases the fathers were married members of the SS who had obeyed Himmler’s instruction to spread their Aryan seed even out of wedlock.


Gisela Heidenreich, born in a Lebensborn clinic in the Norwegian capital of Oslo in 1943, realized that there was something wrong when she was three or four years old and overheard people referring to her as the "SS bastard."

Her mother, a secretary for the Lebensborn program, had become pregnant after having an affair with a married SS officer, and had travelled from Bavaria to Oslo to give birth discreetly in a Lebensborn clinic. She refused to answer her daughter's questions about the father, and Gisela didn't find out who he was until she was an adult.

Her own reaction to locating her father has helped her understand why so many Germans lived with the crimes and cruelty of the Nazi regime, she said. "When I first met him it was on a station platform. I ran into his arms and all I thought was ‘I've got a father,’" Heidenreich, strikingly tall with clear blue eyes and greying blond hair, told the Wernigerode meeting. "I accuse myself of shutting out who my father was. I never asked him what he did. My own reaction has helped me to understand how people in those days just put the blinders on and ignored the terrible things that were happening.”

Hitler believed the “Nordic race” was destined to rule the world. But many Lebensborn children struggled through life yearning for the truth about their family history, wondering if their father was a war criminal, feeling inadequate and alienated from their foster parents or mothers, or ashamed of their illegitimacy and association with a murky Nazi project.

"My father the war criminal"

Guntram Weber, 63, a creative writing teacher from Berlin, knew for decades that his mother was lying about his father. His mistrust was so great that he would pore over history books looking for photos of soldiers that could be his father, or of women concentration camp guards that looked like his mother.

"My mother told me my father was a truck driver for the Luftwaffe who had never fired a gun and died in Croatia when he drove over a landmine. She told me she had married him in 1938 on a beautiful sunny day and that they had driven to church in a horse-drawn cart. She said she didn't want to say any more about him because it was too painful," said Weber. "But there were no documents and no photos.”


A girl getting her face measured: the Nazis wanted "racially and genetically valuable children."Acting on a hint from his step-father, Weber started researching when he was 58 and found out that he was a Lebensborn child and that his father was an SS major-general convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by a Polish court in 1949. He had escaped to South America and died peacefully in Argentina in 1970.


"From one day to the next I knew my father was a war criminal," said Weber, tall and quietly spoken. „He was a man who allowed himself everything. And the SS enabled him to live that way. I assume my mother fell in love with a powerful military man. And he obviously couldn't resist any woman. It gave me a feeling of low self-esteem, of loneliness, of uncertainty. But then I came to one of these meetings and found out that other Lebensborn children had gone through the same experience," he continued. "It was a huge relief for me, although I haven't been able to shake this feeling of inadequacy. Maybe in 10 years it will be gone. It's important that other children in Germany and abroad hear about this group because it could help them," said Weber.

There were 14 Lebensborn clinics in Germany and Austria, tucked away in small towns safe from Allied bombing, and nine in Norway where the Nazis had encouraged German soldiers to have children with women of “Viking” blood.

The children’s suffering was worst in Norway, where many never recovered from the stigma of having a German father. Some were put in mental asylums as Norwegians feared they spread German genes and create a hostile “fifth column.”

Clinics were also set up in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Luxembourg.

Tumbling through life

The alienation has left many children missing the security and warmth of family ties. Volker Röder, 62, a Lebensborn child living in Berlin, said: “I tumbled through life till I was 50 and met my wife.”

Given up for adoption by his mother, he was taken from a Lebensborn home in 1945 by foster parents. “They just wanted a kid to help them get through the Russian lines to the West,” said Röder. The parents later handed him to another children’s home. In 2001, his wife encouraged him to travel to Wernigerode and find his real mother.

“We immediately found out that she was living in an old folk’s home here. I went and the first thing she said was ‘There you are. I've been waiting for you!’ I was speechless. I see her occasionally but she still won’t talk about that time. I'm bitter and angry about it but my wife has helped me deal with it. At least I found out that my father wasn’t a war criminal, that was a relief. He was a policeman and even joined the Social Democrat party in 1936, which was unusual.”

The entry requirements for the Lebensborn clinics were as strict as for the SS itself. The women had to prove that both they and the father were of Aryan stock back to their grandparents. Modern equipment and qualified staff made the clinics popular with the pregnant wives of SS and Nazi officials as well.

The children were often christened in an SS ritual in which the SS dagger was held over them as the mother swore allegiance to Nazi ideology.

Gold medal for eight children

The Nazis offered incentives to German women to bear many children. Mothers with three and more children under 10 years old got "honorary cards" allowing them to jump shopping queues and get discounts on their rent payments. Cheap state loans were offered for parents, and there was the "Mother's Cross" medal: bronze for four children, silver for six and gold for eight.

It's common for the mothers of Lebensborn children to refuse to speak about the project. “They build a wall of lies and then someone comes along and threatens to tear it down. It's almost life-threatening to them. That's why they don't talk,” said Heidenreich, who wrote a book about her own search for the truth.

“Many women swore the SS oath ‘My honor is loyalty' which still seems to play a role in their lives. They'd rather die than say the truth.”

Tired of hearing lies, many children stopped asking and got on with their lives. But now as pensioners, the curiosity has returned, and they can look back on their past with more detachment.

"As you get older you get more interested in your youth. Being a registered association gives us a better chance to get information from archives and authorities," said Peter Naumann, chairman of Traces of Life. "A lot of us have only recently started to try finding out about where we came from."

Heidenreich said she wanted to keep younger German generations aware of their past and combat recent regional election victories for neo-Nazis. "I'm appalled how pupils listen to Nazi history with incredible distance these days. They know a lot about it but it doesn't touch them emotionally. It's like ancient Rome to them," said Heidenreich.

"It's our duty to tell our stories."

Lebensborn Post-war Trial

A Lebensborn birth house

Christening of a Lebensborn child

Himmler's effort to secure a racially pure Greater Germany, the fact that Lebensborn was one of Himmler's race programmes, and sloppy journalism on the subject in the early years after the war led to false assumptions about the programme. The main misconception 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 1961 German film Der Lebensborn purported that young girls were forced to mate in Nazi camps.

However, the programme did aim to promote the growth of Aryan populations, through encouraging relationships between German soldiers and "Nordic" women in occupied countries, and access to Lebensborn was restricted in line with the 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, indeed, widely rumored within Germany at the time.

Until the last days of the war, the mothers and the children at maternity homes got the best treatment available, including food, even though many 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, Lebensbornsurvivors suffered ostracism.

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 in the American-controlled area of Germany after the war, in the trial of the leaders of the Lebensborn organisation (United States of America v. Ulrich Greifelt, et al.), the court found that only 340 had been handled by Lebensborn e. V.. The accused were therefore acquitted on charges of kidnapping.

The court did find ample evidence of an existing kidnapping/forced movement programme of children in north-eastern Europe, but indicated 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.


“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program”

There were ten homes in Germany, nine in Norway, two in Austria, one in each Belgium, Holland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark (“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program”). The first home was in Steinhoering, a town outside of Munich in 1936 (“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program”). This home was previously a Jewish family home but the residents were sent to Dachau. In these homes, SS officers were encouraged to have children with Aryan women in order to create the preferred appearance of the children. Most of these women were unmarried.                                           


Staff members, mothers, and children in a Lebensborn home.  


 Some of these homes were also a place for “superior” children from other countries to be “Germanized.” Children who had the wanted racial features would be taken from their homes and parents and sent to these homes to become German citizens. They were often told that their parents abandoned them. In the Lebensborn homes, the children would take classes in German language, history and geography for many hours every day (Sereny).They would also go through many medical inspectionseach day. The children would truly believe that they were German and that these homes were the greatest place to be. A survivor stated, “Hurt? No, they didn’t hurt me. Why should they hurt me?” (Sereny 12). Even so, many of the children were beaten if they resisted the German way of life.



A German soldier taking an ideal Aryan child from their mother in Poland.


A woman who is a "Lebensborn Child"


 Being in this program impacted many of the children later on in their lives. Most of the children born in the homes were born in Norway, not Germany. At the end of the war, most mothers and staff left the homes and the children. It is estimated that 250,000 children were kidnapped and taken to Germany (“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program.”). Up to 100,000 of these children were from Poland (“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program.”). Only about 25,000 were sent back to their families after the war because many of them were either too “Germanized” or didn’t remember life prior to the Lebensborn Program (“The ‘Lebensborn’ Program.”). During the Nuremburg Trial in 1947 of Lebensborn staff and officers, they testified that all documents of kidnapping had been destroyed (Sereny).  

            Germanized children were very defensive of the Lebensborn. Their memories were mostly joyful and of wondering why the German life was so different. Many of the younger children from these homes do not know the details of their past and have no way of finding out now. “After the war, many of the Lebensborn children grew up scorned as Nazi progeny and tormented by the dark uncertainties about their past,” explained another survivor from the program (Hammer).


The Lebensborn children were put in psychiatric hospitals after the war.

NAZI Party Nursery

Here is one of German nurseries set up procide places for rscially select mothers to have their babies and t provide a year of post natal care. This one is unidentied. We are not sure if it is one of the SS Lebernsorn nurseries or a NAZI Party nursery. Manuy of the young German wonen using these nurseries were un-wed mothers. There was still strong-social stigma toward mothers hasving children out of wedlock.

The first home was opened in 1936 at Steinhoering, under the pseudonym "Heim Hochland" ("home high country"), near Munich. The SS by the end of the World War II had set up 10 homes or nurseries. Another source notes 13 homes. The size of these is suggested by the number of nurses assigned: Heim Taunus 22, Hochland 18, Sonnenwiese 18, Wienerwald 15, Pommern 14, Kurmark 12, Harz 10, Schwarzwald 9, Ardennen 9, Westwald 4, Moselland 3, Friesland 3, Alpenland 1. [Bleuel, S. 192.] The buildings were expropriated from wealthy Jews or foreign private instiotuions. Some were donated by faithful NAZI Party members. Steinhoering was a former Caritas children's home. The NAZIs moved to prempt church charities by controling chairtable giving and directing most of the funds to NAZI welfare organizations. As a result, the churches could not continue supporting all of their welfare facilities. 


The newborn babies were baptized in a mixture of Germanic, NAZI, and pseudo-Christian ritual, by Dolchauflegung under the NAZI-swastika flag. This was not a Christian baptism, but a SS name giving ceremony. This was a SS religious ceremony which gave a view of where the NAZIs would have taken religion hasd they won the War. The babies as a baptismal gift was given a Kerzenleuchter, manufactured of by Dachau concentarion camp prisioners. 

Post-natal Care

The mothers also received post-natal care at the Lebensborn homes. They could then return home without neighbors knowing that she had given birth. Most apparently left the homes after giving birth. Some mothers worked in homes after giving birth so they could be near their babies. I have seen photographs of mothers with children that look to be about a year old so I am unsure just what the rules were. One source suggests that the children were kept for 1 year before being released for adoption. 

Older Babies

There also appear to have been facilities for older babies that the mothers could turn to. We note one young mother who after leaving the Lebensborn home, webnt to the post-natal mother/child care center in the Nazi Hofbauer Stiftung at Potsdam. 


We have little information on how the children were dressed at the Lebensborn homes. The younger boys were apparently often dressed in rompers at the Lebensborn homes in Germany. We do not have any information yet on the training facilities for the older children kidnapped from foreign countries. One reader reports, "About the children clothes in the Lebensborn or Heimschulen. All were dressed at the Hitler way, namely light even during the winter." 


The German Lebsensborn program managed to produce a very small number of children. We note one estimate of 7,500 babies born at the German homes. Another source estimates 8,000 babies. [Abe] 


If the parents were not married or would not the Lebensborn home, in effect the SS, took over the guardianship of the child. The baby ithus became the property of the SS. If the baby was handicapped or impaired, it would allowed to starve or otherwise terminated. Suitable Aryan families were allowed to adopt healthy babies. In some cases they were SS families. The German police were responsible for registering all births. The birth certificates for the children were thus easily falsified by the SS. As a result, after te War it was very difficult for these children to find teir birth parents. Given the relatively small number of children involved, I believe that suitable homes were found for virtually all of the healthy children, however, I do not have precise details on this. 

Olaf Sinner-Schmedemann

Super Race Babies
Born of Hitler's master plan, children grew up scorned. Forty middle aged men and women set out on a day cruise in Norway and finally entered the light. These legendary super race babies of the Nazis, fathered by SS troops, had been hidden, some in mental institutions, in secret lives of shame. Ron Laytner found a handsome super race baby hidden in Germany who would have made Hitler proud…for a short time.

By Ron Laytner - Edit International

Meeting him first at a tiny railway station in Germany’s Black Forest, I caught for just a moment the excitement his Nazi breeders must have felt. Olaf was a living specimen of the ‘master race.’

Godfather Adolf Hitler would have been proud.

He stood taller than 6 foot, 3, straight as a wooden soldier. His eyes were blue, his hair was blond. He had the face of a movie star.  

“Today I am supposed to be ruling the world,” said Olaf Sinner-Schmedermann, 43. “If Hitler had won I might be among the leaders of the Nazi empire.”

Instead, Olaf was the Deejay of a nightclub band in the small town of Calw-Ernstmuch, as well as an occasional cultural-events critic for the local newspaper.

Olaf is one of 2,800 babies born at the Third Reich’s first Nazi breeding clinic in Steinhoering, Germany. Lebensborn – literally ‘spring of life’ – was one of Hitler’s most well kept secrets. It might have been overlooked by history if not for a few photographs taken by Reich propagandists and published on these pages.

“I’ve had this secret all my life,” Olaf said. “I never told anyone I was a Lebensborn child because it was nothing to be proud of. In school we learned absolutely nothing about Lebensborn. It is still a mystery today.” He was speaking in a Germany 20 years ago still trying to get over its Nazi past.

Creating ‘racially pure’ Aryan babies was the aim of the Lebensborn program; world domination was its ultimate goal. The program was developed in 1932, a year before Hitler became chancellor. He and the founding members of the National Socialist party drew up the design for a new human race that would carry out his plan for the ‘Thousand-year-Reich”.

The children were bred for looks and raised for loyalty – Nazism would be their creed, Hitler their god. Racial standards were set by the party’s political theorist. Technical details were left to Heinrich Himmler, one-time schoolteacher and chicken breeder who as head of the Gestapo executed millions.

A team of racial selection agents was formed to search the world for beautiful unsuspecting women who would become brood mares for Hitler’s scheme. Agents infiltrated countries Hitler planned to conquer, England, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Holland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, France, South Africa and the United States. They posed as ‘model scouts’ and kept photographic records of future victims.

When the Wehrmacht invaded Europe, agents arrested many of these girls and forcibly installed them in the Lebensborn program. These sex slaves, along with volunteer German women, were to form a kingdom populated by 120 million super-Aryans – a final fulfillment of the Nazi pseudoscience of eugencis.

The women were impregnated by SS soldiers in select hospitals throughout Germany and the occupied countries. A male German seeking admission into the program had to prove he was ‘racially pure’ as far back as 1750; was in perfect physical condition and had not even a single dental filling marring his body.

Married, but childless, SS men and their wives were encouraged to seek out other sex partners. Himmler gave orders to the SS to establish vacation homes where soldiers could meet young, idealistic girls from Nazi youth organizations.

Many women volunteered to have two or three babies. A German woman who had four or more was awarded the Mutter-Kreuz, “The Mother’s Cross”.

Himmler believed the Lebensborn program would provide Germany with an extra 600 divisions of crack SS troops by the year 1972.

In all of Germany only 7,900 Lebensborn babies were born of SS troops. Many SS couples did not want to have more than one child. When the program expanded to conquered territories, Norway alone, had 13,000 of the babies.

Before it ended in 1944, Lebensborn produced more than 42,000 babies. But in Poland, alone, 200,000 blond, blue-eyed children were kidnapped and disappeared in Hitler’s Third Reich.

Some were killed by Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. His carried out medical experiments to find the genetic secret of eye and hair color and allegedly removed eyeballs of blue-eyed blond children prisoners and shipped them to laboratories in Berlin.

Babies that were born into the program but were premature or crippled were either poisoned or allowed to starve to death.

Olaf Sinner-Schmedermann was born in 1942 at a Lebensborn clinic in Steinhoering near Frankfurt. “When I was about five years old, my mother told me I was very special,” he recalled. “She told me I was a child of Adolph Hitler and born in a special hospital. She had asked the government to be allowed to go to Steinhoering so that she could do her duty for the third Reich.”

As we talked, it became apparent that Olaf, born as a future leader of Hitler’s master race, hated everything the Fuehrer loved – and loved everything Hitler hated.

Sitting in the gloomy apartment he shared with his unrepentant Nazi mother until her death in 1976, Olaf said, ”It’s a good thing for the world that the dreams of my mother did not come true.”

Olaf’s mother, Anna Marie Schmedemann, was an early member of the Nazi party, an assistant to the Gauleiter of Strasburg and wore a gold party badge. His father, Max Sinner, came from Bunischugen and was an equally fanatical Nazi.

“My mother was very beautiful, with blond hair and blue-green eyes,” Olaf recalled. “I saw my father only about a dozen times. My parents never lived together. He was blond and blue-eyed and very tall.”

Olaf’s mother took her son from the Steinhoering clinic when he was just a few days old and his father was fighting on the Russian front.

The royal treatment afforded the mothers and children at the clinic enraged the war-weary townsfolk. “My mother once told me the SS had to place guards around the clinic,” Olaf said, “because sometimes the townspeople threw rocks at the mothers and called them whores.”

Olaf spent the early years of his childhood in torment. “When I was very young my mother would beat me if I cried. She made me stand straight like a soldier for long periods of time. She told me that I would someday be a ruler of the world. But when she realized the war was truly lost she began to resent me and told me I was an embarrassment to her, was a souvenir of the Nazis and would have been better off dead.”

As Olaf grew older, his mother grew more embittered. She made him feel inferior. He rebelled, took dance lessons and became a ballet dancer.

“Eventually, I became a homosexual,” said the handsome German. “Hitler would not have been too proud of me. My mother told me that in the Third Reich, people like me were gassed.”

At age 16. Olaf Sinner-Schmedemann went to Paris and danced for three years with the Ballet d’Arcy. The troupe played around Europe, then embarked on a tour of Israel.

“I told the Jewish people about my background, and they did not care. They accepted me as a person,” he said.

His mother, however, was obsessed with hatred of the Jews. “She was a Nazi until the day she died,” said Olaf. But he himself was drawn to the Lebensborn clinic to verify his bizarre past.

The names of babies born in the clinic are kept in old Nazi record books, carefully guarded and classified as secret. However, town officials have access to them when a Lebensborn child seeks a birth certificate in document-conscious Germany.

“When I was 24, I went to Steinhoering and saw my birth document. It bore the SS insignia and the old German sign of life.”

Olaf had heard of the forced-breeding bordellos of the SS. “But my parents were married before my birth. I am sure they were happy in the beginning, though later my mother hated my father, I don’t know why.

“One year after my birth she kicked him out of the house and he went back to his mother and family in Karlsruhe.

“He’d been wounded in 1943 on the Russian front but came home. Because he’d been in the SS, his family hid him as a farm worker from the occupying Americans.

“He died at 63 from liquor and drugs. He hadn’t lived with me since I was a baby. I visited him one day when I was 20 years old and was shocked. He was an alcoholic who didn’t work and didn’t have a home. The last time I saw my father I stepped over his drunken body in the street.”

Olaf is lucky to be alive. Lebensborn, designed to promote new births and joyous camaraderie in sanctioned sex, resulted instead in thousands of deaths.

Many of the newborn, blue-eyed babies began to undergo a darkening of their eyes. And Nazi scientists were appalled as the children’s hair turned from blond to brunette.

Medical experiments were carried out. Doctor Mengele, financed by the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, worked on the children of Auswich.

Could hair be turned blond from constant exposure to light rays?

What began with Adolf Hitler’s first musings in ‘Mein Kampf” about a ‘higher race … a master people’ finally led to one of Nazi Germany’s darkest secrets – the gassing of its own super babies for failure to meet racial cosmetic standards.

As the Third Reich crumbled, Hitler tried to exterminate all Lebensborn children but was stopped by their mothers and German and Allied soldiers. It’s not known how many children died or were refused readmission to their native lands.

In 1946, invading American troops found an abandoned nursery in Bremen containing 50 hungry toddlers. They were little citizens of Norway. SS General Wilhelm Rediess, the commander-in-chief of German police in occupied Norway, had launched Lebensborn there, using German soldiers to impregnate Norwegian girls.

The Bremen children still bore their mothers’ surnames and had not yet been given German citizenship. But the new administrators of Norway refused to allow them back calling the 2 and 3-year-olds – ‘potential traitors.’

Some children were finally taken to neutral Sweden, placed in foster homes and adopted. The Red Cross returned others to relatives in Norway.

Norwegian Le bensborn mothers and babies were treated terribly, confined to Mental Institutions and regarded as insane for having had sex with SS soldiers. The babies were regarded as mentally defective and kept for decades in Norwegian mental institutions.

At the Steinhoering Lebensborn clinic, more than 200 abandoned children, ranging from infants to 4-year-olds, and a few mothers and pregnant women were found by US troops on May 6, 1945. Most of the mothers and officials had fled.

 Said Steinhoering Mayor Karl Stabernak, “The US Army took care of these babies, and the mothers stayed on for just three months after giving birth and then went away. Only a few took their babies with them after the war. Most were afraid to go home with a Lebensborn baby.”

Many of the Lebensborn children disappeared into foster homes in Germany. Children were often picked up and taken back to barracks by concerned Allied soldiers and cared for by German girlfriends who later became occupation brides. Some of the Lebensborn children live today in England, Canada and America.

When the war ended, the War Crimes Commission tried vainly to investigate the super-race program. Some Nazis, in fact, were charged at Nuremberg with the wartime disappearance of 40,000 identified blond and blue-eyed Polish children, kidnapped for racial experiments. In 1946, Alfred Rosenberg, the racial supremacist who theories launched many extermination campaigns, was hanged at Nuremberg.

Even today, there continues to be a resounding silence in Germany about the Lebensborn program - from officials and even mothers who lost their children in occupied countries. Few master-race progeny will admit to their origins.

In her last years, Anna Marie Schmedemann grew close to her son..

“We were happy here for some time,” Olaf said, “As much as I despised her when I was young, I find I miss my mother these days. I could discuss things with her. We had a lot of interests together. Now I’m all alone.

“I hope the world can learn from what happened to Germans like us. I am ashamed to have been born a Lebensborn child.

“But I am very proud that I am a human being.”


STEINHOERING, 2005 – Olaf Sinner-Schmedemann is now 63-years-old with white hair. When I tracked him down for the second time he said my interview changed his life. “I received letters of support from all over the world, Canada, Norway, England, The United States, Israel and even from Mombassa, Africa.” He has written two books on culture and reports for a local German newspaper.

Norway?s Dark Secret

After years of keeping a lid on one of its most scandalous secrets, the Norwegian government now faces a whopping compensation lawsuit running into millions and charges of human right violation.

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad ,one of the singers of the former pop cult band ABBA is probably one of the most famous Lebensborn-children. Born to a German nazi officer and a Norwegian mother during the German occupation of Norway, Anni-Frid belonged to the "children of shame" - unwanted after the Germans lost the war. 

Being an illegitimate child of a Nazi, her grandmother took her to Sweden to escape mistreatment - children of enemies were ostracized in post-war Norway. 

Blue eyes and blond hair preferred

"Lebensborn" was a special Aryan breeding Programm established in 1935, the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. He wanted to breed what he considered racially "superior children".

Himmler regarded the Norwegians with their blue eyes and blond hair as especially aryan and pure. 

The aim of the programme was to entrust leadership of Norway to these "Aryans" after the war, or to have them and their mothers move to Germany to bring more Nordic blood into the German Reich. 

Incentives for bearing Aryan children

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: 
Every pregnant Norwegian woman who could prove her child's Aryan ancestry was entitled to financial support or a privileged treatment in maternity homes. They could also leave their children in special homes called "Lebensborn", where the children received special nutrition and an education which reflected the Nazi way of thinking.

The program was also set up in other German occupied countries such as Belgium, France and Luxembourg. Altogether, Himmler established more than 20 Lebensborn institutions.

The majority of these homes were in Norway. Around 350,000 German soldiers occupied Norway during World War II and coupled, favored by Heinrich Himmler, with Norwegian women. A relationship with consequences: about 10,000 to 12,000 children between 1940 and 1945 were fathered by Germans. About 6,000 of them were born in Lebensborn institutions. From 1941 onwards, these "superior" children were automatically considered as being German. 

Ostracized and mistreated- a marred childhood

But the fate of the children resulting from the special breeding program was at times cruel. Their mothers could not stand the shame of having been engaged to German soldiers. A Norwegian commission after the war decided that the children should remain in Norway. 

By now the children were looked upon as outcasts. They were put in orphanages, some of them were send to lunatic asylums. There, the children were mistreated and abused. Some of the former "Lebensborn" children say, they were tied to their beds for hours. 

Breaking silence and baring secrets

Most of the "Lebensborn" children are today in their 50s or 60s and are slowly coming out with their stories of mistreatment and abuse.

One of them was Paul Hansen, now 58 . Today he's a broken man. "I was transferred from the Lebensborn home Goodhaab into an asylum, together with some others. We were locked up together with mentally ill people. And we had to eat and to go to the toilet in the same room", he says with bitterness. 

Paul Hansen broke his silence and changed his anonymous Lebensborn identity. Many of the Lebensborn children still feel ashamed to talk about their abuse and mistreatment. A register number is all that remains of their Lebensborn childhood.

Tor Brandacher of the Norwegian war children Association brought together about 170 "Lebensborn" children four years ago and is determined that they are compensated by the Norwegian government.

The son of a Norwegian mother and an Austrian ranger was lucky, Brandacher says he had a normal relationship to his family, but says that hundreds of others like him did not. Many have reported raping and mistreatment in the institutions, like Paul Hansen. 

"These children were looked upon as rubbish in Norwegian post-war society. It is the biggest shame for Norway", he says.

Brandacher and others now demand financial and ethical compensation from the Norwegian state.

Justice at last?

October 29, 2001 was a date most of the Lebensborn children might never forget. It was the first day of a trial in which the Lebensborn children are suing the Norwegian government. The verdict: A violation against human rights. The case attracted much attention by the media, a signal for Tor Brandacher and his companions. He hoped that the court trial would reveal the dark history of Norwegian state ruling. The prosecutors demanded up to two million Kronen (253.000 Euro) for each case - the prize for a lost childhood.

But after the case was rejected in November on grounds of invalidity, The former Lebensborn children will put forth their case to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strassbourg.

URL: http://able2know.org/topic/72592-1

Verdict: No Compensation

One of the most disturbing was related to me by Gerd Fleischer. Gerd explained that the Nazis called the war children "lebensborn" - meaning "source of life"- because their twisted racial policies classified blonde, blue-eyed Nordic people as desirable breeding stock.

 The most amazing thing was that his (her father's) German wife was the spitting image of my mother

Gerd Fleischer 

The SS, which ran the lebensborn programme, provided special mother-and-baby homes where the chosen were treated as pampered recruits to the ranks of the master race.

Several hundred of the children were sent off to Germany to be adopted or to be cared for by the families of their fathers. But as Gerd Fleischer pointed out, the SS valued not all Norwegian women.

Rejected by Lebensborn

Her mother did not qualify for special treatment since she was of part Sami (Lapp) ancestry; so for the first few years of her life Gerd remained with her mother, in their village, and had a relatively untroubled childhood. Then matters changed for the worse.

Following the liberation of Norway and the departure of the occupying forces, there was a strong reaction against Germany and all things German. That included the war children.

Gerd Fleischer

At school, Gerd was called "German whore". She had no idea what the words meant and had to ask her mother. She was systematically beaten and bullied; but far worse was to come.

Her mother married a former resistance fighter - "a Norwegian patriot who hated me", Gerd recalls; and now the beating and bullying was part of home life too. At the age of thirteen, she ran away. How she survived, made a living and put herself through school, she is not sure.

She remembers being homeless, lonely and often hungry. The social welfare organisations knew about her plight but did nothing to help her.

At the age of 17, she left Norway and didn't return for eighteen years. During her absence she did many things and exorcised many demons. She traced her German father, who at first denied any knowledge of her or her mother.

"The most amazing thing" says Gerd "was that his German wife was the spitting image of my mother. He had managed to find her double". Only by taking her father to court did she force him to acknowledge his responsibilities.

Return to Norway

By the time she returned to Norway, bringing with her two little boys - street children she fostered in Mexico- Gerd was determined to seek justice for the war children.

She is now a member of a lebensborn organisation that accuses post-war Norwegian governments of wilful neglect, permitting- and attempting to conceal - a level of abuse that has shocked the nation.

On a frosty night she took me to meet other members of her group who share a range of miserable childhood experiences. Among the stories I heard that night, perhaps the most wretched was that of Paul Hansen.


To understand what happened to Paul is to realise how deeply embarrassed post-war Norwegian governments were by the war children and how passionately they wanted to forget them.

They tried at first to have all the kids sent to Germany. That failed because Germany was ruined and starving; so they thought seriously of transporting them to Australia.

When that didn't work out, many were hidden away in institutions. Some went to children's homes; but Paul Hansen was committed to a mental hospital.

Paul Hansen

The justification for this was based on some "science" that is worthy of the Nazis. Government scientific advisers reasoned that for Norwegian women to consort with German soldiers, they must have been mentally retarded; and if the mothers were so afflicted, then so also were their children.

Paul found himself locked up with children so sick that some were incontinent and incapable of feeding themselves. By the time he was released, he had lost any chance of a proper education.

He now works as a cleaner and janitor at a university and he is one of the first group of war children to take legal action against the Norwegian Government that, they say, failed to protect them.

Verdict: No compensation

During my visit to Norway, the plaintiffs were hugely disappointed to learn that this first case has been thrown out; but they have not given up.

Although the judge ruled that they could not find compensation through the courts, he did suggest that it could be a matter for Parliament; and MPs have already shown interest in taking up the matter. A settlement that would help all the war children may at last be on the horizon.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/1691452.stm


Lebensborn Babies


These babies were found by Allied troop at the "SS Lebensborn Steinhöring in Bavaria. We do not know where the children came from. Notice that the baby boys were wearing rompers or puffed pants called "Spielhöschen" by the staff. It is the old German word for romper. The Germans now say "Spielanzug".

...and what a wonderful world it will be...


A Letter

 This is an interesting letter officially signed by an SS Standartenfuhrer in his capacity in the organization “Lebensborn.” It concerns a child who was sired by an SS man who was killed in an auto accident and the child was born out of wedlock and the mother of the child, Charlotte Lorenz, wanted some help from the Lebensborn E.V. but the letter says she must first prove she was of the Aryan race and furthermore the Ebensburg was investigating the matter. A letter that is attached confirms that the SS member Rottenfuhrer Hans Suss was killed in the accident and it mentions he left behind a child out of wedlock. 

Operating Room


Operating room at a Lebensborn facility, Germany, 1936

Maternity Room


Maternity room at a Lebensborn facility, Germany, 1936

Paul Hansen

 Paul Hansen was one of many Lebensborn children put in mental institutions, even though their only abnormality was having a German father. Hansen is 62 now, and the memory still brings him close to tears. "Why the hell did they send us there?" he asks. "What did we do wrong?"

Nazi Program till a Source of Pain

Saturday, November 25, 2006 By Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Anne-Lise Fredriksen was walking on the beach one day during a Key West vacation when her husband told her to straighten up so her back wouldn't ache later.

To his shock, she burst into tears.

Her husband's innocent remark had dredged up a far darker memory, from the time when she was a young girl growing up in a fishing village in Norway, the child of a German father and a Norwegian mother.

Because her father had been a Nazi soldier during the occupation of Norway in World War II, children threw rocks at her, adults chased her away from public gatherings, and "I didn't eat because I wanted to be so skinny no one would see me."

She also walked bent over to avoid attention, but one woman in her village would always spot her and call out, "Straighten up! I can see you, you German kid."

That is the memory her husband unwittingly tapped into that day on the beach.

Mrs. Fredriksen is one of 9,000 to 12,000 Norwegian children who became part of the Nazis' Lebensborn program, which was begun by SS chief Heinrich Himmler to increase the supply of blond-haired, blue-eyed "Aryan" children.

Bjorn Lengfelder, a Lebensborn child who is active in the Norwegian survivors' group, said one woman he knows was kept in a children's home as a virtual prisoner for 15 years and sexually abused until she escaped. Another brother and sister were punished as preschoolers by being put in a locked pig sty without food for two days and nights. The son of an SS military policeman and a Norwegian mother, he was sent to live with an unrelated farm family until he was 5. Mr. Lengfelder said he didn't suffer that kind of abuse -- but only because he was virtually hidden away during his childhood. 

Later, he was shuttled from one foster family to the next. He thinks it was partly because his Norwegian stepfather didn't want him around, and partly to keep anyone from knowing his true parentage.

Lynn Nicholas, author of "Cruel World: the Children of Europe in the Nazi Web," said it's hard to fathom why any adult would mistreat a child simply because of who his parents were.

Adults were encouraged to look down on Lebensborn children, Mr. Lengfelder said.

"I suppose you could relate it to a family stigma in this country, where, if someone's father was the town drunk, your mother wouldn't let you play with his children."  

A Norwegian newspaper article written by a doctor in 1945 said that "the mixture of Norwegian-German whore and German soldier will in many cases, possibly in mostly all, result in an offspring of little value ... These defective children will in the future in all probability cost us substantial amounts for care in various forms, including imprisonment."

In Germany, Lebensborn children weren't usually abused but often lived a life of secrecy and confusion.

Gisela Heidenreich, who wrote an autobiographical novel in 2002 called "The Endless Year," said her mother was a secretary in the Lebensborn program who had a love affair with her father, an SS training officer.

When her mother became pregnant, she went to a Lebensborn home in Oslo to give birth, and then told many relatives after returning to Germany that she had adopted a Norwegian orphan.

For the first several years of her life, Ms. Heidenreich was raised by an aunt she thought was her mother, and she thought her mother, who visited occasionally, was her aunt.

She learned the truth after her uncle returned home from the war and told his wife that he wouldn't live in the same house "with this SS bastard."

Ms. Heidenreich spent much of the rest of her childhood with her grandmother, because unbeknownst to her, her mother had been arrested to testify in the Nuremberg war crime trials.

Her mother later told her that her father had died in the war, but eventually she learned the truth and was reunited with him and was accepted by his wife and family.

"I encountered a father who was kind to me and very nice, but nobody in his family talked about his SS past. It was never mentioned."

That sense of shame helps explain why there are only about 70 people in the German Lebensborn survivors' group, she said.

After her book came out, she got letters from people saying, "I'm happy you wrote this because I finally could find my own feelings in this book -- but I don't want anyone to know about my past."

Michael Kater, a distinguished emeritus professor at York University in Canada, said the Lebensborn program was just one part of a Nazi plan to create a "racially pure" stronghold in Europe.

In his 2004 book "Hitler Youth," Dr. Kater said there was even a "Hitler Girls" program which selected bright, attractive young German girls to become the future wives of top Nazis -- "two to each Nazi leader" -- but it never came to fruition.

Many German children will probably die without ever knowing they were part of the Lebensborn program.

For the Norwegian children, though, the issue won't go away.

"For us, we will be fighting this war forever," said Mr. Lengfelder.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06329/741216-84.stm#ixzz1cJcGY1JH

Stolen by the Nazis


With blond hair and striking blue eyes, the toddler attracted admiring glances from other mothers growing up in the Crimea. 

But Folker Heinecke's looks also proved a curse: they brought him to the attention of Heinrich Himmler, the psychopathic head of the German SS and architect of a plan to populate the world with the Aryan master race.

Obsessed with his experiments to breed 'pure white' chickens while running a poultry farm before World War II, Himmler was intent on doing the same with humans after rising to the very top of the Nazi hierarchy. 

Little boy lost: Folker Heinecke - or Aleksander Litau?

He was captivated by Folker, who had been brought to Germany after being seized by SS officers scouring occupied lands for blond, blue-eyed children.

Folker, then just four, did not know it, but he had been chosen to be part of the new 'breed' of supposedly genetically-superior German beings, who would replace millions of the 'impure'  -  Jews, gipsies, homosexuals, blacks  -  after they had been exterminated in Hitler's death camps.

Having being ripped from the arms of his parents when German tanks rolled into the Crimea in 1942, Folker was first taken by SS officers to a German medical institute, where doctors measured every part of his body, checking for any 'Jewish aspects'  -  for example, dark hair, pointed noses, circumcision  -  before he was declared suitable.

He had been selected to be a member of the 'Lebensborn'  -  The Fount of Life  -  Himmler's breeding programme to safeguard the future of the Thousand-Year Reich by providing 'pure' future generations to replace those lost by war.

'I remember these people coming into a room where there were around 30 of us children lined up like pet dogs to be chosen for a new home,' says Folker, now 67. 

'They were to be my parents. They went away and came back a day later. I understand that my "mother" wanted a girl, but my "father" wanted a boy  -  to take on his family business in the future. I laid my head on his lap and that did it for him  -  I was to be their son.'

But there was a problem: Adalbert Heinecke, his prospective father, was deaf and therefore technically barred from adopting under the Nazi's strict rules on disabilities. 

But an honorary SS member and fanatical Hamburg Nazi, Adalbert was also wealthy and well-connected. He pulled favours, inviting Himmler to his house for drinks.

From the very fringes of his childhood, Folker can still remember seeing Himmler  -  who personally oversaw the 'Final Solution' and was regarded as even more enthusiastic about killing Jews than Hitler  -  at his 'new' family house where he was waiting to be adopted.

His prospective father talked to Himmler while the pair studied the family hens. With Himmler convinced the basics of chicken breeding could apply to humans, he came to regard Folker with affection, and rubber-stamped his adoption. The boy from the Crimea had now become part of the 'Master Race'.

Now, six decades later, Folker Heinecke has become a focal point for thousands of other Lebensborn children whose lives were shattered by Himmler's scheme. Film-makers are due to screen his poignant search for his real mother's grave in the Crimea.

At the same time, campaigners for some of the 12,000 children 'bred' by the SS hope that Folker's bravery will help lift the shame felt by many of the children supposed to grow up as the next generation of Nazi foot soldiers.

With plans also announced for a book about his extraordinary life, Folker has spent most of his adult years searching for the truth about who he was  -  and who he wasn't  -  and his quest has become an inspiration to thousands of other Lebensborn.

'It's important that they are telling this story  -  people are still suffering so much as a result of being Lebensborn,' said Randi Spydevold, a campaigning lawyer for Norwegians fathered by Nazis.

'Just like telling the truth about the Jews, it's important the stories of the Lebensborn are not hidden.'

Heinrich Himmler was the architect of the plan to create an Aryan race

For decades, that's exactly what has happened. When the Nazi regime collapsed, the former Lebensborn elite became unwanted reminders of the grim plan to breed Aryans while killing off millions of Jews, gipsies, gay and disabled people.

With the Nazis routed, Himmler committed suicide following his capture by the British.

The idyllic life of the Lebensborn was also brutally shattered in formerly occupied countries like Norway. 

Many thousands of their mothers  -  labelled 'German whores'  -  were sent to secret prison camps, where they were virtually slave labourers.

The children were officially classified by the Norwegian government as 'rats' and Nazi 'whore children'. 

Now elderly, some still get spat on in the street. The Norwegian government even tried sending 8,000 to Australia to get rid of them.

As well as being locked in asylums, suicide rates among Lebensborn children were up to 20 times higher than normal for the population, while alcoholism, drug abuse and criminality were also rife.

'It's typical that they've suffered from depression and low self-esteem,' says Spydevold. 

'This is hardly surprising when you've spent your formative years being called a German idiot, a no-good bastard who doesn't deserve to be alive.'

Campaigners are also attempting to bring the Norwegian government to court over documented evidence of drugs trials carried out on both children and mothers. 

Witnesses and documents say they were force-fed LSD, mescaline and other substances during experiments by the Norwegian military. The irony of all this, given what happened to the Jews, is beyond further comment.

Perhaps the best known of the offspring of a Norwegian mother and a German soldier father was Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the brunette singer from the pop group Abba. 

She and her family fled the post-war persecution by moving to Sweden, where her secret was not known.

Others were less fortunate, being beaten and raped. 

The post-war hatred towards the offspring of German soldiers was so great that psychologists even concluded that women who had taken part in the scheme were 'of limited talent and asocial psychopaths, some of them seriously backward'.

The words 'father was a German' were indictment enough to send children from the previously occupied Scandinavian countries to mental hospitals, where many were tortured and raped. 

They were deemed dangerous because of their 'Nazi genes' and capable of forming a fascist fifth column.

1943: Hans-Ullrich Wesch in the arms of a nurse at a Lebensborn home


Harriet von Nickel, born in Norway in March 1942, suffered years of abuse after her mother agreed to have a child with a German officer as part of the programme. 

After being fostered at the end of the war, she was chained up with a dog in the yard. As a six-year-old, she was thrown into the river by a man from her village, who said he wanted to 'see if the witch would drown or float'.

When she was nine, she had the shape of a Nazi symbol brutally scored into her forehead with bent nails.

Last year, a group of Lebensborn launched a legal action before the European Court of Human Rights, seeking compensation from the Norwegian government of between £50,000 and £200,000. 

The case was dismissed; instead, they were offered a £2,000 token.

'The stigmatisation and the shame were so absolute it took us 50 years to come forward,' said Gerd Fleischer, one of those compensated, whose father was a German officer. 

He fled back to Germany from Norway after the war and Gerd faced years of violence when her mother re-married a Norwegian resistance fighter after the war. 

Her new 'father' detested Germans and took out his hatred on Gerd.

Legal papers also show that Lebensborn children were raped, with the blessing of staff, by other inmates in psychiatric hospitals for the crime of having German fathers. 

Priests recommended that the children should be sterilised to prevent them growing up as Nazis and waging war in later years.

Among thousands of harrowing episodes, Gerd Andersen, also from Norway, was sexually abused by a teacher in front of the whole class, while his friend, Karl Zinken, was placed in a special school for mentally retarded children where he was raped.

On the surface, life seemed much better for Folker Heinecke. Even at the height of the Allied assault on Germany, when he watched RAF bombers weave through the flak and searchlights to launch raids into enemy territory, he thought the war was exciting. Any privations he suffered were minor.

'I was so young when I was taken I had no real memory of any other life. The only inkling came after the war when one of the local kids I was playing with said: "You know you're a bastard, don't you, they're not your real mum and dad." I didn't know what that meant.'

He never discussed it with his Nazi parents. 

A maternity ward in one of the Nazi-run Lebensborn

'Yes, they were fanatics,' he says. 'But they gave me a good life and I was devastated when my father died in 1975, followed three months later by my mother.'

Inheriting the family firm of ship brokers, Folker worked in London after the war and made a fortune. Then he discovered secret documents among his father's files. He was astonished.

They showed that Folker Heinecke was born on October 17, 1940  -  after being seized by the Nazis  -  at Oderberg in Upper Silesia, now part of Poland, but then a part of Germany.

In his quest to discover the truth about his roots, he criss-crossed Europe. He discovered that his adoption papers and S.S. birth certificate were forged. 

'So I was an orphan. I could live with that. It was only some years later, as I tried to get more and more information, that it looked increasingly likely that I was part of the Lebensborn programme.'

Folker collected 20 boxes of documents from the American authorities, the German Red Cross, the Polish Red Cross, the International Tracing Service, the British Army of Occupation and at least 30 other agencies and church offices  -  all pieces in the gigantic jigsaw of his past.

Then, last year, he made a crucial breakthrough. With the opening up of the biggest Holocaust archive in the world at the Red Cross Tracing Centre in Bad Arolsen, Germany, Folker finally discovered the truth.

He found a document dated November 12, 1948, which stated: 'The childless couple Heinecke applied to the Hamburg youth office for adoption of a child. 

They were given permission to have a child and went to a Lebensborn home to choose one. The child was fetched on 20.5.1943.'

Other documents were found on which the name, birthdate and place of the boy adopted by the family Heinecke are given as: 'Aleksander Litau, born 17.10.40 in Alnowa, Crimea, USSR.'

The mystery was  -  almost  -  solved. Folker Heinecke was Aleksander Litau. An SS document detailed a military operation in Komunara, 40 miles away from Alnowa, in which blond, blueeyed Aleksander was taken to Germany for 'Ayranisation.'

Now 67, his blond hair grey, Folker travelled to the Crimea last year. He found a house and a road where locals told him a family called Litau once lived. 

'I scooped up earth from the road,' he said. 'I stood there and tried to imagine the SS advancing down here, their tanks and their motorbikes and their armoured cars, and I tried to imagine them taking a little boy who was guilty of nothing.'

He didn't find his parents' grave. Yet a group of old peasant women, their faces lined and their memories faint, recalled the day the soldiers came and took a 'beautiful blond child' from them.

But after the war Stalin sent millions of Russian citizens to the gulags  -  many of them for the 'crime' of being over-run by the Germans. And there was no trace of the Litaus.

'All I really want,' says Folker, 'is to find the grave of my mama and papa. I don't want to end up as many of the other children like me have, driven bitter and mad over what befell them. I just want to know who I was and what I might have been if things hadn't turned out the way they did.

'I have to keep searching to find something that might lead me to who my parents really were and where they are buried. Then I will have done my duty as a son. I will have honoured my real parents.'


"Germany Grows through Strong Mothers and Healthy Children"

"Germany Grows through Strong Mothers and Healthy Children": Propaganda Poster by the Mother and Child Relief Agency (1935)

In National Socialist propaganda about women and families, men and women were portrayed as having equal importance in the German national community [Volksgemeinschaft]. But because women’s “natural” tasks – motherhood and housekeeping – were indispensable to the continued existence of the Aryan race, women were expected to concentrate on those tasks alone. The ideological enhancement and glorification of women's role in the national community was manifested, for instance, in the militaristic language used in Nazi propaganda. Women were assigned to the "child-bearing front" or were called upon to take part in the "birthrate battle." In this way, their contribution to the ongoing war among the races was placed on an equal footing with that of male soldiers. This propaganda poster by the Mother and Child Relief Agency proclaims, "Germany Grows through Strong Mothers and Healthy Children."

Woman with Two Children in Front of the Breast Milk Collection Site

Woman with Two Children in Front of the Breast Milk Collection Site of the Health Office in Berlin-Wilmersdorf (1936)

In the Nazi regime, the public health system had far-reaching power to intrude into the private lives of individuals, and this was particularly true in the area of family planning. Decisions about who should procreate and how their offspring should be fed and brought up became a matter of "national health" [Volksgesundheit]. The "Law on the Unification of the Health Care System" (adopted in 1935) sparked the construction of a network of health care offices in cities and rural areas that would become the instrument of Nazi race and population policy in the area of public health. The primary objective guiding the activity of the health offices was "care for heredity and race," and this provided the basis for decisions about forced sterilization and marriage prohibitions, internment in concentration camps, and even killings euphemistically described as "euthanasia" cases. For the "capable" segments of the population – those people who were regarded as important for Nazi population policy and were thus encouraged to reproduce as actively as possible – government health offices offered services ranging from medical care for pregnant women and infants to instruction in proper housekeeping and social hygiene.

The dual nature of these health offices is illustrated by this photograph, which features two small children with their mother, a woman who would have counted as a productive member of society according to the Nazi definition. The mother has come to a health-office supported breast milk collection site in Berlin-Wilmersdorf to donate a few bottles of her own milk to mothers who were having difficulty nursing. Breast milk distribution was just one of the many services offered to “desirable” members of the population. The sign behind the mother, however, points to the other types of “services” provided by these public health offices: it reads “Counseling Center for the Care of Heredity and Race.” Photo by Arthur Grimm.









Joseph Goebbels Gives a Present to a Child

Joseph Goebbels Gives a Present to a Child during a Winter Relief Organization Event (December 1, 1936)

One of the best-known Nazi welfare organizations was the Winter Relief Organization [Winterhilfswerk or WHW] founded in September 1933. It was financed chiefly by donations and house-to-house collections and ostensibly combated the consequences of poverty and unemployment. In reality, however, the WHW was supposed to underscore the regime’s putative concern for social welfare and promote the ideal of equality in the national community [Volksgemeinschaft]. For example, at WHW-organized community meals for the needy, Nazi representatives praised the people's newly awakened solidarity and social consciousness. “Stew Sundays” pursued the same goal of generating solidarity. One Sunday a month between October and March, German families were asked to eat a simple stew and to give any money they saved in doing so to the Winter Relief Organization. This and similar operations helped the WHW achieve yearly revenues in the millions of Reichsmarks. But the very fact that this organization operated under the supervision of the propaganda ministry (whose head, Joseph Goebbels, is featured in this photograph) makes clear that the WHW was about more than just welfare work.

Infant Care Course

Infant Care Course at the School for Stay-at-Home Mothers in Oberbach/Röhn (1937)

A number of official party-sponsored social service organizations, such as the Mother and Child Relief Agency of the National Socialist People's Welfare Organization [NS-Volkswohlfahrt or NSV] or the Reich Mothers' Service of German Women’s Enterprise [Deutsches Frauenwerk or DFW] were supposed to encourage women to have more children and to prepare them for their role as housewives and mothers. The Mother and Child Relief Agency offered more than just education; for example, among other services, it offered medical care and financial support for pregnant women, as well as childcare in its own kindergartens. The Reich Mothers' Service also offered a variety of courses that taught women about pregnancy, housekeeping, child rearing, and racial hygiene. By the spring of 1939, an estimated 1.7 million German women had taken part in these programs. Behind the charitable façade of these organizations lurked clear ideological and sociopolitical goals: women were to earn their place in the national community by having as many healthy children as possible and by giving them a proper Nazi upbringing. Photo by Liselotte Purper (Orgel-Köhne).

"A Pregnancy Must not be Terminated!" (1933)

The Nazi regime controlled access to abortion and contraception in accordance with its philosophy of racial hygiene. “Pure-race," hereditarily healthy women were supposed to be completely denied access to abortion, whereas women deemed inferior on the basis of race or health were allowed, or even forced, to terminate their pregnancies. Jewish women, for instance, could have legal abortions starting in 1938. This was not the case, however, for “Aryan” women, and doctors, nurses, and midwives who performed abortions on them exposed themselves to the severest punishment. As of 1943, performing an illegal abortion could lead to the death penalty. The image reproduced here was part of an exhibition titled "A Healthy Woman, A Healthy People," which first opened in 1932 at the German Hygiene Museum [Deutsches Hygiene-Museum] in Dresden and after 1933 was shown in several other cities. The warning on the image reads "A pregnancy must not be terminated! Beware of counseling and treatment by unqualified persons!" It is telling that the older woman who obviously performs abortions is portrayed as a witch-like figure of "non Aryan race" in contrast to her "Aryan" client.

Family Tree and Register (undated)

Membership in the new German national community [Volksgemeinschaft] was based almost exclusively on “racial-biological” criteria. With the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" of April 7, 1933, the Nazi regime had already begun to define and exclude supposed racial enemies. Thereafter, civil servants needed to present a so-called certification of Aryan ancestry [Ariernachweis] to continue practicing their professions; the same regulation soon applied to lawyers and physicians as well. In these cases, anyone with one Jewish parent or grandparent was considered "non-Aryan." Membership in the Aryan race was determined on the basis of certified birth, marriage, and baptismal certificates, as well as the kind of family tree shown in this photo. With the adoption of the so-called Nuremberg Laws (consisting of the "Reich Citizenship Law" and the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor"), the importance of providing official proof of ancestry increased dramatically. These laws broadened the official definition of “Jew” and “half-breed” [Mischling] and made political rights dependent on Aryan descent. Jews were demoted to the status of "individuals residing in the state." Marriages and extramarital relationships between Jews and "Aryans" were forbidden.

"The Cross of Honor for the German Mother": Three-Tiered Medal for Mothers with Four or More Children (1938)

To increase the birthrate, the Nazi regime ran a non-stop propaganda campaign that glorified starting a family and having children. One manifestation of the Nazi "cult of the mother" was the "Cross of Honor for the German Mother" (also known as the “Mother Cross”), which the NSDAP awarded in Hitler's name to mothers with four or more children. The Mother Cross was first awarded on Mother’s Day in 1939; that year alone about 3 million women qualified for the honor, which was supposed to be awarded only to “genetically fit,” politically reliable, and socially worthy German mothers. The crosses were awarded according to the number of children a woman had: bronze (level three) for four to five children, silver (level two) for six to seven children, and gold (level one) for eight or more children. Award recipients were chosen on the recommendation of either the Nazi party or government officials (the mayor, for example). A number of financial privileges were connected with this honor, including preferential service when shopping. (The receipt of a Mother Cross, however, was not tantamount to permanent recognition. For instance, it could be revoked if a mother ceased to be “worthy”: if she neglected her children, cheated on her husband, or exhibited problematic behavior. ) Additional honors were awarded for other "exceptional birth performances." For example, Hitler himself served as godfather to the tenth child in any family.

Magda Goebbels at Home with her Children (1938)

The Nazi family par excellence was that of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. His wife Magda was tall, blond, and blue-eyed, and embodied the "Aryan" ideal of beauty. Since Hitler was not married, she often stood at his side at official state receptions or party functions. She was portrayed in propaganda publications as the perfect housewife and mother. In 1938, she became the first woman to receive the "Cross of Honor for the German Mother."Altogether, she bore Goebbels six children, whose lives were made public in regular reports in films and weekly newsreels. Behind the stylized façade, however, lay a hidden reality that hardly corresponded to the ideal picture of marriage and family presented in Nazi propaganda. Joseph Goebbels was known for his numerous extramarital affairs, and his wife was loyal above all to Hitler. Hitler's refusal to authorize a divorce prevented her from leaving her husband as early as 1938. On May 1, 1945, Joseph and Magda Goebbels poisoned their six children in the bunker under the Berlin Reich Chancellery and then committed suicide. In a farewell letter to her son Harald Quandt (the son of her first husband), Magda explained that the Goebbels children could not grow up in a society without National Socialism. The photo shows (from left to right): Helmut (born 1935), Hildegard (born 1934), Magda holding Hedwig (born 1937), Helga (born 1932) holding Holdine (born 1938), and Harald Quandt (born 1921). Heidrun, the Goebbels's youngest daughter, was born in 1940.

"Aryan" Children Subjected to LSD Experiments, Sexual Abuse & Mass Rape

By Julian Isherwood | telegraph.co.uk

Norway’s powerful Justice Committee has ordered the government to compensate thousands of people, many of whom were locked up in lunatic asylums because they were the children of Norwegian mothers and German soldiers.

A statement from the committee said the government should quickly draw up a compensation scheme for an estimated 10,000 claimants.

"The Justice Committee statement has shown us an exit sign from the tunnel of darkness in which we have moved for over 50 years," said Thor Brandacher, chairman and spokesman for the Lebensborn Committee, and the son of a Norwegian mother and Austrian father.

The committee’s decision comes as the Norwegian Supreme Court prepares to issue a verdict in December in an appeal case brought by 17 so-called Lebensborn children against the Norwegian government for gross abuse at the hands of the state.

The case has been thrown out in two earlier courts, which ruled that such cases all fell under the statute of limitations.

"I am sure that the Supreme Court will also say that the case falls under the statute of limitations as well, but we then have six months to negotiate with the government and reach agreement," said Mr Brandacher.

"If they will not negotiate we will go to Strasbourg, and Norway will never be the same again. No civilised country can withstand the testimony that would be made public there."

After German troops withdrew from Norway at the end of the Second World War, an official programme of weeding out occupation liaisons began that resulted in the arrest of some 14,000 young women and the detention in military camps of 5,000 girls who were known to have had children with German soldiers.

"There are still hundreds of 80-year-old women in Norway wondering where their kids went in 1945 - they never saw them again," said Mr Brandacher. "Their children were put in 200 institutions as well as being sent round for adoption in so-called good Christian homes.

"But the Christianity in these homes did not exist - at least not what we call Christianity. The stories are brutal and grotesque. Every possible crime the human race can do was done to innocent kids after 1945 in Norway," he added. Many of the Lebensborn children claim that they were sexually abused, beaten, mass raped, urinated on and washed in chemicals.
Reports this month suggested the children had been subjected to experiments with LSD in which at least five died.

MKULTRA, Mind Control Program and the Ties to LSD Experiments

Paul Hansen said he was locked up at the age of three for seven years in a mental hospital, along with mentally ill grown-ups.

"I was shoved in with people who ate and relieved themselves in the same room," said Mr Hansen, the son of a Luftwaffe pilot and a Norwegian woman. He is now a cleaner at a Norwegian university.

At the time, official advisers said the mothers of these children must have been mentally retarded to have relations with a German soldier, and thus their children must also be afflicted.

Anne-Marie Grube, Lebensborn child no 5021, now 58, said this week she has lived her life in shame after her experience at one of the institutions. "I was locked up on the first floor of the house, was never allowed to have anyone visit," she said. "I was given food and clothing but nothing else."

The Norwegian War Child Association Lebensborn takes its name from one of the most secret Nazi eugenics projects of the war.

Heinrich Himmler created the Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein to offer young, so-called racially pure girls the chance to give birth to a child in secret. The child was then given to the SS which took charge of its education.

Ed comment: Is it possible that these LSD, Mind Control/Mk-Ultra style programs have continued in Norway?

Is it possible that Anders Behring Breivik is a victim of a similar program that has continued to this day?

Children of Shame – Norway’s Dark Secret

Nazi officers with a "Lebensborn" child during a naming ceremony

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad ,one of the singers of the former pop cult band ABBA is probably one of the most famous Lebensborn-children. Born to a German nazi officer and a Norwegian mother during the German occupation of Norway, Anni-Frid belonged to the "children of shame" – unwanted after the Germans lost the war.

Being an illegitimate child of a Nazi, her grandmother took her to Sweden to escape mistreatment - children of enemies were ostracized in post-war Norway.

Blue eyes and blond hair preferred

"Lebensborn" was a special Aryan breeding Programm established in 1935, the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. He wanted to breed what he considered racially "superior children".

Himmler regarded the Norwegians with their blue eyes and blond hair as especially aryan and pure.

The aim of the programme was to entrust leadership of Norway to these "Aryans" after the war, or to have them and their mothers move to Germany to bring more Nordic blood into the German Reich.

Incentives for bearing Aryan children

Every pregnant Norwegian woman who could prove her child’s Aryan ancestry was entitled to financial support or a privileged treatment in maternity homes. They could also leave their children in special homes called "Lebensborn", where the children received special nutrition and an education which reflected the Nazi way of thinking.

The program was also set up in other German occupied countries such as Belgium, France and Luxembourg. Altogether, Himmler established more than 20 Lebensborn institutions.

The majority of these homes were in Norway. Around 350,000 German soldiers occupied Norway during World War II and coupled, favored by Heinrich Himmler, with Norwegian women. A relationship with consequences: about 10,000 to 12,000 children between 1940 and 1945 were fathered by Germans. About 6,000 of them were born in Lebensborn institutions. From 1941 onwards, these "superior" children were automatically considered as being German.

Ostracized and mistreated- a marred childhood

But the fate of the children resulting from the special breeding program was at times cruel. Their mothers could not stand the shame of having been engaged to German soldiers. A Norwegian commission after the war decided that the children should remain in Norway.

By now the children were looked upon as outcasts. They were put in orphanages, some of them were send to lunatic asylums. There, the children were mistreated and abused. Some of the former "Lebensborn" children say, they were tied to their beds for hours.

Breaking silence and baring secrets

Most of the "Lebensborn" children are today in their 50s or 60s and are slowly coming out with their stories of mistreatment and abuse.

One of them was Paul Hansen, now 58 . Today he’s a broken man. "I was transferred from the Lebensborn home Goodhaab into an asylum, together with some others. We were locked up together with mentally ill people. And we had to eat and to go to the toilet in the same room", he says with bitterness.

Paul Hansen broke his silence and changed his anonymous Lebensborn identity. Many of the Lebensborn children still feel ashamed to talk about their abuse and mistreatment. A register number is all that remains of their Lebensborn childhood.

Tor Brandacher of the Norwegian war children Association brought together about 170 "Lebensborn" children four years ago and is determined that they are compensated by the Norwegian government.

The son of a Norwegian mother and an Austrian ranger was lucky, Brandacher says he had a normal relationship to his family, but says that hundreds of others like him did not. Many have reported raping and mistreatment in the institutions, like Paul Hansen.

"These children were looked upon as rubbish in Norwegian post-war society. It is the biggest shame for Norway", he says.

Brandacher and others now demand financial and ethical compensation from the Norwegian state.

Justice at last?

October 29, 2001 was a date most of the Lebensborn children might never forget. It was the first day of a trial in which the Lebensborn children are suing the Norwegian government. The verdict: A violation against human rights. The case attracted much attention by the media, a signal for Tor Brandacher and his companions. He hoped that the court trial would reveal the dark history of Norwegian state ruling. The prosecutors demanded up to two million Kronen (253.000 Euro) for each case – the prize for a lost childhood.

But after the case was rejected in November on grounds of invalidity, The former Lebensborn children will put forth their case to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strassbourg.

Verdict: No compensation

During my visit to Norway, the plaintiffs were hugely disappointed to learn that this first case has been thrown out; but they have not given up.

Although the judge ruled that they could not find compensation through the courts, he did suggest that it could be a matter for Parliament; and MPs have already shown interest in taking up the matter. A settlement that would help all the war children may at last be on the horizon.

Living hell of Norway’s ’Nazi’ children
From: news.bbc.co.uk

Paul Hansen

Paul Hansen In his tiny flat on the edge of Oslo, Paul Hansen shows me his family album. It doesn’t take long. He only has three photos.

One picture shows Paul as a toddler, the other two - the mother who abandoned him - and the father he never knew.

Paul was the product of a brief encounter between a Norwegian woman and a German soldier: a family history which was to make his life a living hell.

"At the end of World War II, I was locked away in a mental home," Paul tells me.

"Later I found out it was because I was the son of a German soldier. They called me a ’Nazi brat’. But it wasn’t my fault I was born this way. Hitler, the war, none of it is my fault. I was just a child."

It was Adolf Hitler’s henchman, Heinrich Himmler, who had encouraged liaisons between German troops and Norwegian women: part of his plan to breed an Aryan master race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed babies for the 1,000-year Reich.

They were known as the Lebensborn (Fountain of Life) children and - after the war - they became targets for revenge.

Bjørn Lengfelder "In the Norwegian population, there was a hatred directed at us children," explains Bjorn Lengfelder.

Bjorn is one of more than 10,000 Norwegians fathered by German soldiers. He says he knows many cases of abuse.

"A small brother and sister, five years old, were placed in a pig sty for two nights and two days," claims Bjorn.

"Then in the kitchen they were put in a tub and scrubbed down with acid till they had no skin left ’because we have to wash that Nazi smell off you’."

Search for justice

Once too ashamed to go public with their stories, now 150 war children are demanding justice.

They have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights - accusing the Norwegian state of discrimination.

Eight of the group attended the packed hearing on Thursday in Strasbourg.

As their stories of abuse were read out to the court, some of the former Lebensborn children sat in tears.

Historian Lars Borgesrud was commissioned by the Norwegian government to research the war children’s stories. He has convinced they have suffered state discrimination.

"Between 1946-1958 special rules and regulations in social laws were adopted, which actually excluded sections of war children and created poor economic conditions for these children."

Norway has offered limited compensation in the past. But the authorities are still refusing to take the blame.

"The government has acknowledged that several war children have been subject to harassment in society," says government lawyer Thomas Naalsund.

"But it is highly difficult to say now, 50 years later, that the government was responsible for these events."

’German whore’

Gerd Fleischer Deep underground in Norway’s national archive, I accompany former war child Gerd Fleischer as she hunts for her Nazi-era Lebensborn file.

"I’ve found it," she says triumphantly, "Look, I’m Lebensborn No 2620."

This is how Gerd began her life - as a four digit number in a Nazi experiment, filed away in the list of the chosen.

The file contains bills showing how the Nazis covered the midwife bill when Gerd was born, just because her father was a German soldier.

But after the war, Gerd joined the ranks of the hated. At school, she was branded a "German whore".

At home, she was beaten by her step father for being a Nazi child.

She believes the state must be made to pay for the way she was treated.

"Norway is a stinking rich oil nation," Gerd tells me. "We feel that justice cannot be done without an economic compensation. Words are very cheap."

Only then - Gerd believes - can Norway’s war children finally gain their self-respect, after 60 years living in fear and in shame.

Eva Barbara Fegelein

Birthdate: May 5, 1945 

Died 1975

Cause of death: Suicide by E606, a toxic substance used in weedkiller and insecticide

Eva was the Daughter of  Margarete  Braun & Unknown. 

Gretl Fegelein survived the war and gave birth to a daughter, Eva Barbara Fegelein, named after her aunt Eva Braun, on May 5, 1945. (Eva Barbara Fegelein committed suicide in 1975 after an unhappy love affair)

The Grandchildren of the Nazi “Monsters”

BERLIN — Rainer Hoess was 12 years old when he found out his grandfather was one of the worst mass murderers in history.

His boarding school's gardener, an Auschwitz survivor, beat him black and blue after hearing he was the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the death camp synonymous with the Holocaust. "He beat me, because he projected on me all the horror he went through," Rainer Hoess said, with a shrug and a helpless smile. "Once a Hoess, always a Hoess. Whether you're the grandfather or the grandson — guilty is guilty."

Germans have for decades confronted the Nazi era head-on, paying billions in compensation, meticulously teaching Third Reich history in school, and building memorials to victims. The conviction Thursday in Munich of retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk on charges he was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp drives home how the Holocaust is still very much at the forefront of the German psyche.

But most Germans have skirted their own possible family involvement in Nazi atrocities. Now, more than 65 years after the end of Hitler's regime, an increasing number of Germans are trying to pierce the family secrets.

'Unspoken secrets' 
Some, like Hoess, have launched an obsessive solitary search. Others seek help from seminars and workshops that have sprung up across Germany to provide research guidance and psychological support.

"From the outside, the third generation has had it all — prosperity, access to education, peace and stability," said Sabine Bode, who has written books on how the Holocaust weighs on German families today. "Yet they grew up with a lot of unspoken secrets, felt the silent burdens in their families that were often paired with a lack of emotional warmth and vague anxieties."

Like others, Hoess had to overcome fierce resistance within his own family, who preferred that he "not poke around in the past." Undeterred, he spent lonely hours at archives and on the Internet researching his grandfather.

Rudolf Hoess was in charge of Auschwitz from May 1940 to November 1943. He came back to Auschwitz for a short stint in 1944, to oversee the murder of some 400,000 Hungarian Jews in the camp's gas chambers within less than two months.

The commandant lived in a luxurious mansion at Auschwitz with his wife and five children — among them Hans-Rudolf, the father of Rainer. Only 150 meters away the crematories' chimneys were blowing out the ashes of the dead day and night.

After the war, Hoess went into hiding on a farm in northern Germany; he was eventually captured and hanged in 1947, in front of his former home on the grounds of Auschwitz.

"When I investigate and read about my grandfather's crimes, it tears me apart every single time," Hoess said during a recent interview at his home in a little Black Forest village.

As a young man, he said, he tried twice to kill himself. He has suffered three heart attacks in recent years as well as asthma, which he says gets worse when he digs into his family's Nazi past. Today, Hoess says, he no longer feels guilty, but the burden of the past weighs on him at all times.

"My grandfather was a mass murderer — something that I can only be ashamed and sad about," said the 45-year-old chef and father of two boys and two girls. "However, I do not want to close my eyes and pretend nothing ever happened, like the rest of my family still does ... I want to stop the curse that's been haunting my family ever since, for the sake of myself and that of my own children."

Hoess is no longer in contact with his father, brother, aunts and cousins, who all call him a traitor. Strangers often look at him with distrust when he tells them about his grandfather — "as if I could have inherited his evil."

Despite such reactions, descendants of Nazis — from high-ranking officials to lowly foot soldiers — are increasingly trying to find out what their families did between 1933 to 1945.

"The Nazis — the first generation — were too ashamed to talk about the crimes they committed and covered everything up. The second generation often had trouble personally confronting their Nazi parents. So now it is up to the grandchildren to lift the curses off their families," said Bode.


It was only during her university years — reading books about the Holocaust — that Ursula Boger found out her grandfather was the most dreaded torturer at Auschwitz.

"I felt numb for days after I read about what he did," recalled Boger, a shy, soft-spoken woman who lives near Freiburg in southwestern Germany. "For many years I was ashamed to tell anybody about him, but then I realized that my own silence was eating me up from inside."

Her grandfather, Wilhelm Boger, invented the so-called Boger swing at Auschwitz — an iron bar that hung on chains from the ceiling. Boger would force naked inmates to bend over the bar and beat their genitals until they fainted or died.

'I felt guilty' 
Boger, 41, said it took her several years of therapy and group seminars to begin to come to terms with the fact her grandfather was a monster.

"I felt guilty, even though I hadn't committed a crime myself, felt like I had to do only good things at all times to make up for his evil," she said.

Like Hoess, Boger never personally met her grandfather, who died in prison in 1977. After her father died five years ago, she found old letters from her grandfather begging to see his grandchildren in prison — something that never happened.

"It all just doesn't go together," Boger said. "He is the man who killed a little boy with an apple who came in on a transport to Auschwitz, by smashing his head against a wall until he was dead, and then picked up and ate that apple.

"At the same time, he put a picture of myself as a little girl over his bed in prison. How am I supposed to come to terms with this?"

Tanja Hetzer, a therapist in Berlin, helps clients dealing with issues related to their family's Nazi past. While there are no studies or statistics, she said, many cases indicate that descendants of families who have never dealt with their Nazi family history suffer more from depression, burnout and addiction, in particular alcoholism.

In one prominent case, Bettina Goering, the grandniece of Hermann Goering, one of the country's leading Nazis and the head of the Luftwaffe air force, said in an Israeli TV documentary that she decided to be sterilized at age 30 "because I was afraid to bear another such monster."

Some grandchildren of Nazis find a measure of catharsis in confronting the past.

Alexandra Senfft is the granddaughter of Hanns Elard Ludin, Hitler's Slovakia envoy who was involved in the deportation of almost 70,000 Jews. After Ludin was hanged in 1947, his widow raised the children in the belief their father was "a good Nazi."

In her book, "The Pain of Silence," Senfft describes how a web of lies burdened her family over decades, especially her mother, who was 14 years old when her beloved father was hanged.

"It was unbearable at times to work on this book, it brought up fears and pain, but at the same time I got a lot out of writing it all down," Senfft, a lively 49-year-old, explained during an interview at a Berlin coffee shop.

"If I had continued to remain oblivious and silent about my grandfather's crimes, I would have become complicit myself, perhaps without even being aware of it."

Senfft said she also wrote the book so her children could be free of guilt and shame, and that confronting family pasts is essential for the health of German society as a whole so that history does not repeat itself.

Star of David 
These days Rainer Hoess lectures schoolchildren about the Nazi era and anti-Semitism. A few months ago, he visited Auschwitz for the first time and met a group of Israeli students.

That day was "probably the most difficult and intense day in my life," Hoess said, but it was also liberating because he realized that the third generation of Jews after the Holocaust did not hold him responsible. One Israeli girl even gave him a little shell with a blue Star of David painted on it, which he now wears around his neck on a black leather necklace.

Hoess was embroiled in controversy in 2009 when Israeli media reported he tried to sell some of his grandfather's possessions to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial. But email correspondence seen by the AP backs up Hoess' assertion that he would have been just as willing to donate the items. Hoess eventually donated everything he owned from his grandfather — including a trunk, letters and a cigar cutter — to the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich.

Hoess acknowledges that his grandfather will probably never stop haunting him. After his visit to Auschwitz, he met Jozef Paczynski, a Polish camp survivor and the former barber of Commandant Hoess.

"Somehow, subconsciously, I was hoping that maybe he would tell me one positive story about my grandfather, something that shows that he wasn't all evil after all, that there was some goodness in him," Hoess confided.

Paczynski asked Hoess to get up and walk across the room — then told him: "You look exactly like your grandfather."


Tove Laila Strand

Tove Laila Strand, also born in a Lebensborn home, was a toddler when she was sent to grandparents in Germany. She remembers the love she got from them, and their collective horror when they were informed after the war that she was going to be forced back to Norway to rejoin her mother who had abused her when she was a baby.

She was only six when she came back to Norway, but vividly remembers climbing out of the bus to meet her mother, her new stepfather and baby half sister. "I remember the terrible look in my mother's eyes when she saw me," says Tove Laila, "and the man she'd married - they were both looking at me in a terrible way. That was the day hell started." Tove Laila, torn from grandparents who had loved and wanted her, arrived in a household where she was treated as a servant, with total responsibility for her baby sister. And she remembers the daily beatings.

She was sexually molested by her stepfather, and her mother's favourite name for her eldest daughter was "German pig". Tove Laila finally escaped when she was 16 and was so frightened of the stigma of her childhood that she never talked about it to family and friends.

For most of the war children, finding out the truth about their backgrounds, perhaps even meeting their parents, has been one of the biggest issues. Another one is to finally be able to talk about what for most of their lives was a taboo subject. "We've been harassed into silence," says Gerd Fleischer, "and its hard to understand why they hated us so much after the war that it took us 50 years for us to be able to even speak about it."

Contributor: bgill
Created: October 13, 2011 · Modified: November 16, 2011

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