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.
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.