German Lebensborn Nursery Homes

lebensborn nursery
Figure 1.--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.

Lebensborn is difficult to translate presisely, but it means something like "fountain" or "source" of life". The "Lebensborn" project was a secret program conceived by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. He founded the Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein (Registered Society Lebensborn or Lebensborn Foundation) (December 12, 1935). The Lebensborn Program was originally part of Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (Race and Settlement Office) until 1938 at which time it was transfered to the Persönlicher Stab Reichsfuehrer SS (RFSS). This meant that the Amt L (Lebensborn) was under Himmler's personal control. The purpose of the Lebensborn Foundation was to provide "racially pure" young women a place to have birth in private away from their homes. 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 buildings were expropriated from wealthy Jews or foreign private instiotuions. Some were donated by faithful NAZI Party members. Steinhoering was a former Caritas (Catholic Charities) children's home. (The NAZIs moved to prempt church charities by controling chairtable giving.) The general physician at Steinhoering Dr. Ebner was the in the Lebensborn physician became the medical director for the entire Lebendborn program and SS Oberfuehrer. He was also involved with the killing of handicapped children. Given the care given in the approval process, NAZI authorities believed that the Lebensborn children would be pure Aryans and constitute perfect future SS leaders. These children were conceived as future leaders in the NAZI state that would dominate Europe of not the world. They would be the new nobility of blood. The Lenesborn nursery program itself except for the racial aspect seems a rather inocuous effort. This was not the case for the insidious Lebensborn program Himmler launched during the War to kidnap Aryan-looking children in occupied countries.

Creation

Lebensborn is difficult to translate presisely, but it means something like "fountain" or "source" of life". The "Lebensborn" project was a secret program conceived by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was particularly concerned about the falling German birthrate. Several German authors wrote books with dire warnings. [Thomsen] He founded the Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein (Registered Society Lebensborn or Lebensborn Foundation) (December 12, 1935). The Lebensborn Program was originally part of Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (Race and Settlement Office). The Office was headed by Walther Darre who was born in Argentina. Like Himmler, he was aformer chicken breeder. Darre wrote Blood and Soil (1929) which claimed that the German race was of exceptional quality with "blood as rich and fertile as the soil of the fatherland they worked on." The Lenensborn program was before the War transfered to the Persönlicher Stab Reichsfuehrer SS (RFSS) (1938). This meant that the Amt L (Lebensborn) was under Himmler's personal control. The Persönlicher Stab RFSS was a kind of advisory board to Himmler and covered a variety of different activities not overseep by the SS's principal offices (Hauptämter).

Purpose

The purpose of the Lebensborn Foundation played into two NAZI obsessions. One was the falling German birth rate. The other was the desire increase the numbers of Artyan children. The Lebensborn nurseries set up by the SS program provided "racially pure" young women a place to have birth in private away from their homes. A major concern of the NAZIs was the low Herman birth rate. Providing these nursery homes for racially select mothers was part of a larger program to increase the birth rate. The Lebensdborn program was the SS effort. The NAZI Party also set up nurseries for the same purpose. The Lenesborn nursery program itself except for the racial aspect seems a rather inocuous effort. This was not the case for the insidious Lebensborn program Himmler launched during the War to kidnap Aryan-looking children in occupied countries.

The Homes

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.

Personnel

The general physician at Steinhoering, the first Lebensborn home was Dr. Ebner was the in the Lebensborn physician became the medical director for the entire Lebendborn program and SS Oberfuehrer. He was also involved with the killing of handicapped children.

Clients

The facilities were open to SS wives, but most preferred to have their babies at home surrounded by their familes. As they were married there was no difficulty here. The facilities were also open to unwed mothers who were embarassed about having a baby while still single. One source suggests that many of the individuals were older BDM girls or girls in the Reich Labor service. The Lebensorn homes were not publicized. Apparently many of the referals were made by doctors. We are not sure just how doctors were informned of the homes or how extensively the medical community was informed. We have seen different estimates on the numbers of unwed mothers involved. One source suggests that about 90 percent of the women using the homes were unmairred. Another source suggests that about half were unmarried. [Bundesarchiv NS 20/30, Band 2.] There were still strong social scantions against having children out of wedlock and the girls were considered as immoral by most Germans.

Racial Qualifications

As part of the idea behind the Levensborn nurseries was to increase the numbers of racially pure Aryan babies, eace was a major issue. The mothers to qualify for a place at a Lebensborn nursery had to prove that they were of pure Aryan racial stock. They had to show proof of their Aryan for four generations to qualify for the Lebensborn program. The women also had to have Aryan features such as blond hair and blue eyes. [Clay and Leapman] Ironically, individuals looking like Hitler might not qualify. They also had to identify the father so his Aryan ancestry could also be checked. There were very strict standards, about half of the applicants were rejected.

Facilities

A Lebensborn home provided a comfortable place for these girls to have their children and receive high quality pre- and post-natal care. Rather than being and outcast, at the Lenensborn homes there were no societal scantions. The pregnant women could enter the homes as soon as the pregnancy began to be notable. Besides the privacy, living conditions were very good in the Lebensborn homes, often better than in the women's own homes. The women were housed in private quarters. There were often beautiful grounds. They were not required to work. The food was good, even during the War. And they received excellent medical care.

Finances

We are unsure about the finances of the homes. Reuchführer Himmler supported the origram, but we are unsure how much funding the SS provided. They apparently helped acquire the buildings and property. Soe fundfs were obrained from the NSV Mutter und Kind orgganizaton.

Himmler's Personal Interest

Himmler took a special interests in the homes. He would visit to check on the conditions. Children born on his birthday would get presents from him.

Future Leaders

Given the care given in the approval process, NAZI authorities believed that the Lebensborn children would be pure Aryans and constitute perfect future SS leaders. These children were conceived as future leaders in the NAZI state that would dominate Europe of not the world. They would be the new nobility of blood.

Newborns

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.

Clothing

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."

Results

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]

Adoptions

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.

Meeting Places

The German Lebensborn appears to have been primarily a program of SS nurseries offering care for unwed-mothers who were already pregnant when they arrived. Some have referred to these facilities as SS stud farms. One author claims, "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 make children with SS officers." Another source claims, "Heinrich Himmler, leader of Hitler's SS encouraged affairs between SS soldiers and 'Aryan" women'. We can not, however, confirm that this was the case or if it was the case, to what extent this occurred. We do not say this did not occur, but we would like to see some documentation. We have some doubts here. Some sources maintain that this was a myth. Strange as it may seem now that we know what they did during the War, SS members had very strong moral ideals in many areas. They strong believed in traditional values and institutions. One such institution was the family. Thus it is likely that many SS members would have objected to homes established to impregnate young German girls. This is an area that needs further investigation.

Sources

Abe, R. "Lebensborn e.V." Shoa.de website, retrieved May 3, 2002.

Bundesarchiv NS 20/30, Band 2. in Franz W. Seidler, Lebensborn E.V. der SS: Vom Gerücht zur Legende.

Bleuel, H. P., Das saubere Reich: Theorie und Praxis des sittlichen Lebens im Dritten Reich (Bern u.a. 1972), S. 192.

Clay, Catrine, and Michael Leapman. Master Race (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995).

Thomsen, Dr. A. Germany's Vanishing People.







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Created: 5:37 AM 6/1/2010
Last updated: 10:03 AM 8/5/2010