THE LEBENSBORN CHILDREN
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his claim that the German Aryan race was superior to any other race in Europe. His resulting goals included the elimination of the populations and cultures of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, and the other Eastern European nations, and replacing them with members of the Aryan race and the culture of Germany. A certain level of the population, the dumbest and most compliant, might be retained to be the servants of the ruling Aryan class.
In October of 1939, Hitler created the office of the Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of German Folkdom, with Heinrich Himmler as its head. Its aim was to help resettle the newly occupied territories with a German population. After the invasion of Poland, however, there seemed to be an abundance of children who resembled the ideal German—blond hair, blue eyes, a similar length of the nose, the thickness of the lips, and an erect posture.
To reconcile this problem, the Nazis propagated the idea that these children were actually descended from German blood. Therefore, it was decided that these children should be taken away from their Polish parents and repatriated to German families, that the children were being “returned to the Fatherland.” This was not only true of Polish children, but Aryan-looking children from Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Belorussia, and the Ukraine.
Between 1939 and 1944, approximately 200,000 Polish children were stolen by the Nazis and sent away to be “Germanized”. Using a list of 62 physical characteristics, children were identified, photographed, and analyzed, and if the children were found to be suitably Aryan, then those between two and six were sent to maternity, or Lebensborn, homes in Germany. After their adoption by a proper SS family, the children were provided false birth certificates with new German names and birthplaces.
The goal of the new parents was to erase any trace of their native heritage and reshape them as loyal Nazis. They were taught to speak German (if they spoke their mother tongue they were deprived of food or whipped with a strap), forced to wear uniforms with swastikas, sing military songs, and were taught Nazi beliefs. They were also forced to endure countless hours of drills and marches to destroy any sense of individuality.
Polish girls with Aryan characteristics were sent to SS maternity homes where they became “breeding material” for SS officers.
Those children who were examined but failed the characteristic tests were deemed not to be Aryan enough and were sent to Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps, where many were murdered. The children were never returned to their original families.
There was no consideration given to parents when their children were being abducted. Children were taken out of the home under the pretext that their health was at risk. Or, parents would receive a notice to bring their children to the local train station at a certain time to go on a holiday to “improve their health”. The Nazis also targeted blond-haired and blue-eyed children at Polish orphanages and foster homes, and confiscated the children of Poles who had been sent to concentration camps. In some cases, the Nazis took children from schools with no warning, even rounding up of pupils in large groups and loading them onto trucks or trains.
Can you imagine taking your child to school and never having them come home? That they just vanished? And then to have no recourse or appeal? To have no local authority that could even question what was happening?
After the war, the Polish government created the Operation for the Revindication of Children for the purpose of reuniting stolen children with their rightful parents. However, it is estimated that only 40,000, or 20 percent, have ever been identified or reunited. Thousands of others and their descendants still live in Germany today unaware of their true identity and heritage.
The information in this post was taken from an article by Brent Douglas Dyck, published in Warfare History at warfarehistorynetwork.com/2016.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the National Socialist People’s Welfare organization (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt), referred to as the NSV. It was the official welfare organization of the Third Reich, authorized when Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. The NSV was responsible for providing the social and charitable services to the German Aryan population.
In writing about the NSV, I used a quote from a book written by renown German historian Gotz Aly, titled HITLER’S BENEFICIARIES Plunder, Racial War, and The Nazi Welfare State, translated by Jefferson Chase. I also found that Aly had been awarded a prize by the German Holocaust Remembrance Foundation in 2003.
The Remembrance Foundation is dedicated to researching the crimes of the Nazi era and commemorating its victims. The Marion Samuel Prize is an annual award given for significant contributions to the Holocaust cause, and is named after a randomly chosen eleven-year-old girl killed at Auschwitz, about whom nothing was known except her name, her age, and the date of her deportation.
Aly was pleased to receive the Foundation’s award, but had no idea who Marion Samuel was.
In preparing for the ceremony at which he would receive the Prize, Gotz Aly decided to use his acceptance speech to provide a biographical sketch of Marion. Afterwards, he wrote a small book titled INTO THE TUNNEL The Brief Life of Marion Samuel, 1931-1943.
I’ve read the story and it is fascinating. She, like thousands of others was an ordinary and unremarkable child, but Aly’s meticulous research revealed details that made her and the others into tangible people; it increased the appreciation for all the Jewish children who died at the hands of Hitler. I also found it remarkable how much information the Nazi government kept and how much of it still exists.
In the book, Aly recounts his patient and painstaking search through the relevant archives, describes how he took out newspaper advertisements seeking relatives in Germany and America, and how he investigated the Samuel family’s financial circumstances as well as their systematic impoverishment by the Nazi state.
Here are some highlights:
Here’s what Marion Samuel’s last day, March 4, 1943, was like:
“The statistics kept by the Auschwitz camp commander show that Transport 33 from Berlin arrived [at 10:48 am] with 1,886 people on board…..Those deportees who were not needed for work—usually the majority—were immediately and without any unnecessary effort sent straight to the gas chambers to be murdered. Those who were selected for work had their heads shaved, were tattooed with a number, and were clad in prisoner uniforms.”
“Marion Samuel, however, was only a child and a female child at that. The SS would not have considered her in any way fit for labor. On the morning of March 4, 1943, Marion Samuel was taken from her father and led to one of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s two older gas chambers [and murdered]….The first test of Auschwitz’s new large crematoria, during which the corpses of forty-five men were incinerated in the presence of engineers from the Erfurt firm of Topf & Sohne, was carried out the day after Marion Samuel was murdered. Therefore, the bodies of the more than two thousand Jews murdered on March 4, 1943, were burned instead in broad, somewhat secluded pits by the members of a special commando. Later, the graves were covered with soil. To this day, that area of Auschwitz-Birkenau remains, as a rule, free of bone fragments.”
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.