Through breeding, kidnapping, and even murder, the Nazis' Lebensborn program aimed at creating a super-race of Germanized children.
As far as secretive government projects go, the Lebensborn project was a doozy. The purpose of the Nazi-led program was to create the German’s glorified ‘super race’ – by means of a breeding bank for ‘racially-pure’ babies. Of course, indoctrination to Nazism for both mother and child followed.
The nature of pregnancy made this creation of a new master race a rather lengthy process. To rev things up a bit, the Nazis also set out to Germanize fair-haired kids who already existed.
This meant kidnapping and brainwashing genetically superior European kids into the Nazi regime. If the child resisted, they found themselves in a concentration camp where their ultimate fate was extermination.
Head Nazi SS officer Heinrich Himmler was the driving force behind the decade-long Lebensborn program, which started in 1935. He assured any unwed mother who fit the racial profile that giving birth inside a Lebensborn home was the best thing to do for their children. The Nazis would provide the best in care and education, and even handle the adoption process if desired.
Before the war, Germany’s birth rate had plummeted due to industrialization. Now the country’s goal was to grow the birth rate, especially with the ‘right’ kind of babies. With the Nazi party enacting the Nuremberg racial hygiene laws, which restricted Jews and Germans from marrying or having extramarital intercourse, they needed a plan to up the numbers.
The idea of using eugenics came largely from the United States, who was working to advance the ideology in the early 1930s. The Rockefeller Foundation, a funder of U.S. eugenics at the time, even financed some research conducted by Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele.
Because the government wanted to grow the population quickly, the view of illegitimate children as shameful began to change. Any German baby born was now a blessing in the eyes of the SS – unwed mother or not. If the baby carried the coveted Aryan genes, that – of course – was the optimal scenario.
Part policy, part propaganda, the Lebensborn program literally translated to “Fount of Life.” It was first ‘marketed’ to unwed and pregnant women who wanted to have their babies in secret. The stigma of out-of-wedlock birth still lingered among the public; therefore girls living in poverty likely jumped at the chance to receive free top-notch care.
The first Lebensborn home opened its doors in 1936 in a tiny village near Munich named Steinhöring. Financial assistance and maternity ward privileges were incentives to enter. For Norwegian women, the program was a way out of the poverty-stricken country; a strategy for survival.
Of course, you had to qualify for such privileges; not by ways of money or class or connections – but by genealogy. Proof of paternity and a racially-pure family tree for three prior generations gained you access. The program accepted only 40 percent percent of the women who applied under this staunch rule.
However, the Lebensborn program was not producing offspring quickly enough for the likes of the Nazi officials. So, Himmler began using the facilities to arrange secret meetings for ‘suitable’ women to meet SS soldiers to make more babies.
A report to the Ministry of Justice stated, “Leaders of the [League of German Girls have] intimated to their girls that they should bear illegitimate children; these leaders have pointed out that in view of the prevailing shortage of men, not every girl could expect to get a husband in future, and that the girls should at least fulfil their task as German women and donate a child to the Fuhrer.”
Reformation of the German Divorce laws in 1938 made it easier for men to dump wives in their late forties and fifties for younger women more capable of making babies. Approximately 30,000 divorces occurred in Germany within two years, and 80 percent of them fell into this categorization.