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Lebensborn was founded in 1935 by Heinrich Himmler. The name of the program translates to “fount of life”. This is what the Nazis attempted to create with the Lebensborn program. The goal of Lebensborn was to breed what Hitler saw as the “perfect” or “superior” race: Aryans or specifically blonde hair blue eyed people.
Lebensborn contributed to the creation of secret birthing houses, hidden identities, and the kidnapping of countless children. From 1935 to 1945 the program encouraged women who were deemed racially “fit” to have children and give them to the Reich. Germany had seen a decline in births after World War I, for which this program attempted to make up so that Hitler could carry out his plan for the Aryan rule to reign supreme. For this to be accomplished, the Aryans had to be bred or kidnapped since Germany had a shortage of people matching the genetic criteria.
Himmler, the head of the SS, spearheaded Lebensborn. In 1935 he offered women access to birthing facilities if they could prove their child met the purity standards. The facilities were comfortable, hidden, and everything would be provided for the babies and their mothers. Once the babies were born, they were given to the SS. From there, the babies were usually given to elite families and taught Nazi ideology. Himmler strongly encouraged the SS and German military to have children with Aryan women and eventually made it an order.
The Lebensborn program evolved as the war progressed and began kidnapping children. If a child was considered “racially pure” they were taken from their family, placed in Lebensborn homes, and adopted by Germans. Just in Poland it is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 children were kidnapped. Any children who failed the racial purity tests were killed or sent to orphanages.
The Lebensborn program continued to expand and soon had multiple birth centers in Germany and its occupied countries. The birth centers were places for mothers to escape social stigmas and provide a bright future for their babies. It is estimated that 20,000 babies were born in Lebensborn homes.
All these children went through a great deal of trauma. After WWII ended they became outcasts along with their mothers. In German occupied countries the mothers were seen as traitors. The Lebensborn children who know their origins face many staggering facts: their fathers – and maybe even mothers – were dedicated Nazis and they do not have a true identity.
Hitler and Himmler never were able to breed their perfect race to rule their empire but their program left a huge impact on the children that came out of it. More recently, Lebensborn children have come forward to speak about their experiences coming from a birthing house or the horrors associated with the kidnappings.
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