Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Once Upon a Time in the Time of the Nazis..."

by Jo Ann Bender

There was a romantic fairy tale being spun in Europe before and during World War II.
Only honey blondes, reddish blondes, or young women with light chestnut hair were hearing this enchanting tale told by members of the SS and the Gestapo.
Shush! It was a secret, factual, able to be proven, but still few people heard the tale then or now.
It was told in the time of war and economic stress which made it so alluring. The story was about luxurious places in remote and sequestered places: hotels, ski resorts, palatial villas.
Those had been restructured and furnished with the most elaborate and often choice period antiques.
The food was plentiful, all you could want. You’d feel safe, away from the war, tucked behind ornate, curving and beautiful driveways that lead to beautiful building behind lovely guarded wrought-iron fences.
All you had to agree to do was to have a baby for Hitler’s Master Race. You could go away and enjoy the months before the birth at the home with its planned activities and could stay on for three more months. You could take the parcel or not. It was your decision.

Of course, you were one of the very special women who had passed the rigid rules for being allowed to stay once you arrived. Only forty percent passed for their Aryan purity. The father’s paperwork specified his paternity, his physical fitness so good, he had not even a dental filling, and heritage verified back several generations as pure Aryan, no other nationality to gum up the process.
You willingly signed the agreement to give the baby to a solid and upstanding childless German couple or to one of the father’s grandparents. That was the rule.
There excellent jobs waiting for your reentry to the world, too. It would give you warm, fuzzy feelings to hear that your child would be a leader in their new and pure Master Race.

No one knew it at the time you were giving the baby away, that the Third Reich wouldn’t continue its magnificent march to conquer the world.
Before the war started, Himmler thought ahead and planned how women in the conquered nations would take part. He sent men called talent scouts to Aryan-like nations, yes, even to the United States and to Canada, to take photos of prospects to put in the big black books with the SS logos embellished on the cover, the ones that matched the books with each page registering the birth of a Lebensborn child. When anyone referred to the conquest plan, Britain’s women for example were called: Blueberry.
Births were registered with the SS only, not the local government. The big books were guarded, kept secret. The address on the document for the father was usually that of an SS club.

Then things took a turn. The Allies were coming. The order came down from Hitler to close the homes and destroy all the books and records. The Lebensborn homes in other countries such as Norway, however, did not destroy the birth registries. Those still exist and those children have formed a support group and try to help one another locate their “true” parents, the mother sworn to secrecy under a Nazi dagger.

The children of the Lebensborn homes became an embarrassment to their mothers, or to the foster parents who tried keeping their birth a secret. The children had to ask why the names they were being called felt so terrible and why no one liked them.
To survive, a Lebensborn child often had little if any education, parental or community help. All they knew was that their life was one of torment, shunning and that they were often physically abused. It is terrible, but it is true, and being told in courtrooms around the world now as children born in the Lebensborn homes seek compensation for their tragic, conflicted lives, ones which started so magically.

Jo Ann Bender is the author of the book LEBENSBORN. You can find out more information about the book and her at

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