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The Fair-Haired Children of Darkness
March 20, 2005 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Hitler's "fountain of life." In 1935, Heinrich Himmer and the SS launched a network of Lebensborn maternity centers to increase birthrates among Aryans, where German soldiers were encouraged to mate with genetically desirable local women in occupied countries like Norway. These women were given the option of raising their kids themselves or turning them over to SS-run homes where they would be "Germanized." The lives of these kids was hell after the war, when they were shunned and worse by the Nazis' previous victims. To those who are nostalgic for the Reich, like this veritable eBay of Nazi memorabilia, the Lebensborn program represented " wonderful social experimentation."
posted by digaman (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
*"Himmler," of course.
posted by digaman at 11:10 AM on March 20, 2005


Bizzare but true.

If you get the History Channel, the episode of History's Mysteries called "Hitler's Perfect Children" is about this and is quite interesting. Interviews with the grown-up kids are heartbreaking.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:10 AM on March 20, 2005


I, for one, am sure glad that they don't want to revisit the origin of the dogtags that "turned up" in Russia. Gor forbid the righful owner might come forward to claim it.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:17 AM on March 20, 2005


Thanks for the post - I'm somewhat of a Holocaust-academia nerd (which is the nice way of saying "I have a lot of books about Hitler!") and this is a subject that I wasn't previously aware of, a rare find!

The only aspect of Hitler's campaign to "father" an Aryan nation that I've come across before was the hordes of posters advertising to German women to become good mothers as a service to the Reich. That in and of itself is creepy, but in the context of a larger scheme to impregnate the young and the blonde, it's downright frightening.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:36 AM on March 20, 2005


That last link made my skin crawl.

jsavimbi: What the devil are you babbling about? Provide a link! Sounds interesting! Can't decode your Ohian!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:45 AM on March 20, 2005


Thanks for the post - I'm somewhat of a Holocaust-academia nerd (which is the nice way of saying "I have a lot of books about Hitler!") and this is a subject that I wasn't previously aware of, a rare find!

if you were a "nerd" on the subject, you should have been aware of this program...it seems to me at least. It is taught in basic holocaust courses.

Only SS were allowed to "enter" this program, not German solders I.E wermacht but i could be wrong. This program, along with the muttercross program and Hitler Jugend really solidified the Aryan program....oh and having Hitlers picture on all church alters...really shows the programming Hitler sought for the people from cradle to grave.
posted by clavdivs at 11:50 AM on March 20, 2005


Interesting and horrible stuff.

At the risk of seeming inflammatory, I see parallels between these and our modern sperm banks. Before you jump on me, I think these banks are great because they give many people a chance to conceive which they would otherwise not have. But how long before the donation interviews become more stringent, or before you have to pay thousands for the better "material?" I really wouldn't be surprised if there are places like that around already - add this to the popular habit of partially outsourcing your child in a busy life, and you've got some major similarities.. Anyway, all I'm saying is that while eugenics may not be underway exactly, this kind of deliberate selection of genetic material is. That said, that's what sexual selection is all about...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2005


In a related story (link in norwegian, couldn't find the story in english), norwegian Agnes who had a son with a german guy in 1944 and later married a norwegian officer, won't get her husband's war pension when he dies due to the war pension laws of 1946. She is what people used to call "tyskertøs" which could easily be translated into "german whore"
posted by klue at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2005


Baby Blarog: Here.

"This Waffen-SS dog tag recently turned up in Russia. We don't even want to think about how it originally became available. It is all intact, but tarnished as probably is expected. It is from the 7th Panzer Grenadier Regiment No. 2. This is historically important."
posted by jennyb at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2005


Be sure to turn off the sound on your machine before visiting that naziBay site. The embedded music sounds like a cross between It's A Small World and that singing Hitler Youth kid in Cabaret and afterwards you'll want to clean your ears with Phisohex and a turkey baster.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:26 PM on March 20, 2005


If memory serves correctly Agnetha Fältskog from Abba was one of these children. I'm sure there was a post on the blue, but I can't seem to find it.
posted by X-00 at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2005


Agnetha Fältskog was born in 1950, X-00. If memory serves me correct, Dubya Dubya Too was over in 1945, so unless her mom kept a DNA sample from a forlorn SS man somewhere in the ol' icebox, your rumor doesn't swim.

Plus she's Swedish, so RTFA.

jennyb, thank you. Baby Blarog, do some research, chrissakes. I'm not ohian.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:39 PM on March 20, 2005


clavdivs : I was an art major and so the class I took on the Holocaust was from an Art History standpoint, so while learning the history - propaganda! It's not as if I claimed to know everything about the Holocaust, I just said that I've read a lot about Hitler. So no, this is not taught in all "basic" (the class I took was a seniors-only intensive course. Nothing "basic" about it.) Holocaust courses.

It seems to me that your callout has no basis. Perhaps you just enjoy that superior feeling that comes with poking holes in other people's nerdery.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:47 PM on March 20, 2005


grapefruitmoon,
I'm interested to know what kind of art you studied. From a photographic standpoint the collections are endless and take a brave stomach. Did you also come upon old propaganda posters that often carried their own tune? I have a small but horrible collection of these from my grandfather learned to ride in the youth training camps (he was Italian not German), where he was given them? There are tons of them, so often displayed aside communist work.

Now, I know where to get rid of them although I think I rather burn them.
posted by Viomeda at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2005


Why does everybody keep calling me baby blarog? *cries*
Not Ohian, eh? Well, we'll wait for the test results on that one.

Admittedly, I'm being a bit dense, but what exactly does the presence of these dog tags in Russia imply?

metafilter: Poking holes in other people's nerdery.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2005


Another Nazi experiment called Dora might interest many, if you have the stomach for it.
As many as 20,000 slave laborers died working on the project and the SS guy heading it?
Well, like many prominent Nazi SS, Werner Von Braun ended up working for the US government.
It is important to not forget the strong Nazi sympathies, if not for the Third Reich then the ideology, prevalent in the US among many influential people even after the war.
Fascism has always been closer than we're comfortable admitting.
posted by nofundy at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2005


Viomedia : We covered just about everything we could in a semester - my research project was on Nazi Racial Propaganda and the targeting of the Jewish Body (really really nerdy stuff), others focused on artists of the time - George Grosz was talked about extensively as was... I have completely blanked on her name, but she was young and started in theatre and did a book of watercolor paintings that was amazing.

We also viewed several films, including Smoke and Fog (if I'm wrong on the title of this, someone feel free to correct me, I'm bad with names as you can see) which was a collection of Nazi footage from the camps used to document their "progress." It was the most emotionally harrowing thing I have ever seen in my life. Mind you, I have a very strong stomach and could handle the still photography very well, but the images being caught on film was just too much. Especially as they were shown without any mercy to the viewer. It very much makes a difference who is holding the camera and the Allied "oh look at this, it's so awful!" footage is much easier to take than the German "We will destroy everything!" films. Leni Riefenstahl died the week after we viewed Triumph of the Will, we talked about her work quite a bit and the ethics of "Can you call this a good film even though it was made for the Nazis? Can you call Riefenstahl's other work good art even though she worked for Hitler?" etc.

Also covered, memorials and their architecutral in/significance, what makes a good memorial, theorytheorytheory, etc. Contemporary art that looks back on the Holocaust as a reference point - there's a guy in Berlin who did projections in old Jewish parts of the city that are still largely ruins of images from before/during the war right onto the buildings. They're amazing. Again, I can't remember his name.

In short : we covered a lot of stuff that I remember quite well only I don't know who did any of it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2005


This is all interesting, important. Your theories though, did it ever come up during the memorial and architecture period that there has been a large Jewish movement to destroy and eliminate all the leftovers. I will try to find my link but I'm fairly sure a large segment of the Jewish population don't want to be reminded of anything. I think the monuments serve as chilling reminders but...
posted by Viomeda at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2005


This is close enough, concerning memory.
posted by Viomeda at 4:58 PM on March 20, 2005


Viomedia : Oh yes, we talked about whether or not building memorials was a good idea at all and the pros and cons, groups for and against it, unti we were blue in the face.

That was, to me, by far the most boring period of the class. It's quite memorable for having reading that put me to sleep.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:06 PM on March 20, 2005


I'm sure quite boring and I don't think anything will result from it.
posted by Viomeda at 5:11 PM on March 20, 2005


Anyway, all I'm saying is that while eugenics may not be underway exactly, this kind of deliberate selection of genetic material is. That said, that's what sexual selection is all about...

The sperm bank angle is an interesting one - I knew that PhD's and top athletes got more money for it, but it'd simply never crossed my mind that this could be interpreted as eugenics.

That said, I don't think a little genetic engineering/eugenics in the benign sense would really hurt us all that much. It's the old cliche - now that civilization has effectively removed most forms of natural selections, and those with less education (although there is obviously no 1:1 correlation with intelligence) breed significantly more often . . . it would seem like we have a genetic crisis on our hands.

If we've artificially removed natural selection, perhaps the best course would be to artificially reimpose it?
posted by Ryvar at 6:21 PM on March 20, 2005


Poor kids.
posted by schroedinger at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2005


If memory serves correctly Agnetha Fältskog from Abba was one of these children.

Agnetha Fältskog was born in 1950 ... Plus she's Swedish ...

> Anni-Frid-Synni "Frida" Lyngstad (born November 15, 1945) is best known as one of the four singers in the pop group ABBA. Anni-Frid was born illegitimately in Ballangen, near Narvik, Norway as a result of a liaison between Synni - her mother - and a married German sergeant, Alfred Haase, during the German military occupation.... At the end of WWII Anni-Frid, her mother and grandmother fled to Sweden for fear of reprisals from the Norwegian population - whose socialist government put many German-fathered children into mental institutions, or sent them overseas.

Only SS were allowed to "enter" this program, not German solders I.E wermacht but i could be wrong.

There is a problem with terminology. As I posted on my blog, there was a formal Lebensborn program, which was run by the SS under strict racial guidelines, and was initially limited to the children of German soldiers (perhaps SS only, but I haven't verified that); later the program expanded to kidnappings of suitably Aryan (by appearance) children in occupied lands such as Poland.

Although the "master race"/übermensch bit is bandied about, the probable intent was more along the lines of "Germanification", i.e. creating a more German-like native population in occupied lands, particularly the Slavic east, whose racial makeup was classified by the degree to which Germanification was believed possible (the alternative was considered slavery, or extermination).

Secondarily, the term Lebensborn is also applied, especially in Norway, to any child born to Norwegian mothers and fathered by a German; these children suffered grave discrimination. Norway's "Lebensborn" children have been organizing themselves and holding conferences and reunions since the late 90s, which has popularized the less-stringent use of the term.
posted by dhartung at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2005


At the risk of seeming inflammatory, I see parallels between these and our modern sperm banks.

The sperm bank angle is an interesting one - I knew that PhD's and top athletes got more money for it, but it'd simply never crossed my mind that this could be interpreted as eugenics.

The Better Baby Business was one in a fascinating series in Slate chronicling the most notorious of the "genius" sperm banks, which had undeniable pretensions to what is broadly called eugenics (when it's voluntary, it isn't that much worse than trading up by marrying someone more attractive, smarter, or more successful than yourself); this is called "positive eugenics", while "negative eugenics" involves sterilization. Nazi Germany practiced one of the broadest sterilization programs in modern times, but forced sterilization of the mentally retarded and racially unacceptable was done in many US states as well as places like Australia. WWII effectively discredited both forms of eugenics forever in the eyes of many.
posted by dhartung at 7:00 PM on March 20, 2005


I sure love the Sütterlin style of writing, even if I can barely read it...
posted by Slothrup at 7:04 PM on March 20, 2005


So where was I wrong?

I just love how Google has spawned an entire worldwide permanent fact-finding jury to pass judgement on what anyone says.

I wouldn't be surprised if the almighty Congress installed Google bots at everyone's desks to "facilitate" dialogue, complete with an extra seat for donkeys to refute your arguments.

Humbly, I beg for a return to the non-educated lifestyle.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:34 PM on March 20, 2005


Torey Hayden published a novel inspired by this in 1984 (long out of print). In her acknowledgements, she credits the relevant section (I don't remember the specific one; my copy is packed away at the moment) of the transcript of the Nuremberg trials, but I've never been able to find it in book form or online.
posted by brujita at 10:55 PM on March 20, 2005


I, too, saw the History Channel segment on this. It was rather horrifying. I also remember, was it the same segment?, something talking about the treatment of German women by Russians when Germany began to fall to the Soviets. The Russians were more than a little bit pissed off at the Germans, and Russian soldiers were not only allowed, but encouraged, to rape German women.

I remember a picture of a German woman walking down a road, alone and beaten, looking incredibly broken. It was damn sad. It is truly hard to fathom the hell the WWII unleashed.
posted by teece at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2005


We must protect our precious bodily fluids
posted by ori at 1:04 AM on March 21, 2005


jsavimbi -- X-00 is right, though the member of Abba in question is in fact Anni-Frid Lyngstad. She was born in 1945 in Norway, and is (according to the Norwegian sense of the word) a lebensborn child because she was the result of an affair between her Norwegian mother and a German officer. The stigma attached to lebensborn babies (and their mothers) forced Anni-Frid's mother to take her to Sweden at a young age. However, Anni-Frid recently met her father after tracking him down in Germany. As I remember it, he didn't know he had a daughter. It's also worth noting, a propos the distinction between German and Norwegian uses of the word, that soldiers in Norway were actively encouraged to impregnate Norwegian women (who were considered suitably Aryan), and so the phenomenon can be considered part of a deliberate plan.

(For years, lebensborn children -- who unwittingly symbolised the German occupation -- were more or less incarcerated in quasi-orphanages, where they were neglected and abused. Many lebensborn now campaign for restitution from the state)
posted by melmoth at 2:03 AM on March 21, 2005


I neither know nor care about Anni-Frid's parents, and given the context, it's disgusting to do so. Yeah, your parents are your DESTINY! TAINTED!

Feh.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:35 AM on March 21, 2005


X-00 said, and I quote:

"If memory serves correctly Agnetha Fältskog from Abba was one of these children. I'm sure there was a post on the blue, but I can't seem to find it."

Can someone please point out the part where there's a reference to Anni-Frid Lyngstad?

There isn't one, correct? Thank you.

There's a big difference there, people. One, Agnetha, was the hot blonde chick, and the other, Anni-Frid, was the so-so faux redhead with the weight fluctuation problems, somewhat a la Muriel/Mariel. Granted, one was banging Bjorn, and the other Benny, so both had really bad taste in men. But that's an aside.
posted by jsavimbi at 5:19 AM on March 21, 2005


The Russians were more than a little bit pissed off at the Germans, and Russian soldiers were not only allowed, but encouraged, to rape German women.

IIRC (I read a very indepth article on the subject years ago) the figure was estimated at something like 4.4 million German women.
posted by Ryvar at 9:45 AM on March 21, 2005


It seems to me that your callout has no basis. Perhaps you just enjoy that superior feeling that comes with poking holes in other people's nerdery

hardly, at least not here anymore. This is a question of me guessing what you have learned or read from these "Hitler books"
If they are Art concentrated, perhaps you never studied the Lebensborn program and its poster campaign and the mothers cross program. But if you read, say Toland, to name one author on Hitler, you may have simply forgotten the lebensborn program, at any rate, it warrants a question, I.E. what have you learned as opposed to simply what you have read.

I recall Boormans wife encouraging him to impregnate as many woman as he could. Now thats crazy and it is an example of the moral breakdown of society. (IMO)
so, do not deflect a question next time with a bit of moral outrage, besides if i wanted to use both barrels i would have said:
"your an art history major whom has studied the holocaust (at the senior level) and you have not seen anything relating to the mothers cross program, I mean golly, it is in the Eugenics section of holocaust curriculum"
posted by clavdivs at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2005


clavdivs : I'd like to see your credentials on this. What makes you the expert on what is and is not taught in every Holocaust class?

You're an art history major* who has studied the Holocaust...

Yes, I saw references to the Mother Cross program and plenty of stuff on eugenics, however, the specific program of Germans advocating for the impregnation of Nordic mothers (Norwegians in this case) was news to me.

I think you should expect a tiny bit of "moral outrage" when you needlessly call someone out on something that they have admitted to being invested in. There was no need to call me out for not having heard of this before. What does it matter to you?

* No. I was an art major. I took art history courses as part of this.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2005


jsavimbi: My correction was aimed at X-00. Yes, google is indeed a click away, which is why people posting things like "Wasn't Chyna Phillips the fat one?" should be discouraged. At least on the MetaFilter of old, it was. Posting a partial correction as you did is tolerable, but it was still possible for you to find and supply the correct information, especially since you demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of ABBA, for whatever pride that's worth. As it is, one off-the-cuff reply spawned half-a-dozen posts about the misinformation. melmoth posted without, apparently, reading the entire thread, because that repeated much of what I said.

grapefruitmoon: Don't argue with clavdivs. You'll lose. He's quite right that this is not an obscure program, though I think it's been much more discussed in recent years than I can recall before. I know this, and I'm by no means a "Holocaust nerd". So, you learned something today.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on March 22, 2005


dhartung - I've argued with clavdivs. I'll say this though - we both learned each other a thing or three.

grapefruitmoon - clavdivs reads an awful lot. That's all. I've learned to pay attention. But, it's also good to leaven this sort of thing with bad Terry Schiavio jokes. Life's a brief fling with absurdity.
posted by troutfishing at 9:59 PM on March 23, 2005


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