The Third Reich’s Terrifying Master Race Program You’ve Never Heard Of
The horrors of the Nazi regime are well known. Millions were slaughtered in the Holocaust and tens of millions died in the war but some Nazi programs were so secretive that we are still trying to put the pieces together. Hitler’s obsession with racial purity and Aryan superiority led to the creation of a horrifying master race program. Families were torn apart, histories were erased from existence and children were turned into medical experiments all for the sake of the Third Reich. Read on to discover the monstrous reality of the master race project your history teacher didn’t tell you about.
Post-World War I Mayhem
The aftermath of World War I set the stage for extremism in pre-World War II Germany with financial plight and Germany’s humiliation at the treaty of Versailles. In their search for a scapegoat, Germans turned to a dark obsession with race and genetics, fueled by Adolf Hitler’s new political party that would eventually become the Third Reich.
The Third Reich’s “final solution” to eradicate unwanted and “inferior” populations is well known but another sinister plot was also implemented during this time. It was a plot to bolster the Aryan race; to savagely “Germanize” a population with pure genetics by any means possible.
World War I left the male population of Germany decimated. The war was one of the most deadly conflicts in human history, leaving over 18 million dead. With the German male population devastated after the war, fewer and fewer women were able to marry.
The population in Germany quickly declined. Abortion rates soared due to the chronic lack of men to marry and the social stigma that came along with being an unwed mother. Abortions reportedly rose to around 800,000 a year during the inter-war period. The new ruling National Socialist Party, however, would move to stop this at any cost.
The same leaders whose minds helped formulate a plan to slaughter six million Jews began working on a master program to create a genetically superior race of Aryans for the good of the Third Reich.
Their mission was to halt abortions, cultivate a population boom of “pure blooded Aryans” and rid the Reich of all persons deemed inferior. The Nazi Aryan race program would end up haunting families for decades to come. Some children are still searching for their lost families.
The Nazi party adopted an ideology of Aryanism, claiming that the Aryan race was the master race. The Aryan race was considered to be predominant among Germans and northern Europeans, especially Nordic peoples. The ideal Aryan had blond hair and blue eyes.
In April 1933 a law was passed requiring all government employees and officials of Nazi Germany to carry a document certifying they were members of the Aryan race. The document could be obtained by presenting seven birth or baptism certificates or through genealogy tables. The Aryan certificate was also a primary requirement for becoming a Reich citizen.
Racial propaganda was a crucial instrument in obtaining and maintaining power for Hitler’s Nazi party. Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and presented the ideas of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, the idea of territorial domination known as Lebensraum, and racial purity.
After Adolf Hitler rose to power he began to implement his nefarious plans to create a racially-pure Germany by radically increasing the birth rate of the Aryan “pure bloods.” The policy would come to be called Lebensborn.
Lebensborn, or “Fount of Life,” became official policy on December 12, 1935. The policy provided welfare to unwed mothers, encouraged anonymous births by unmarried “racially valuable” women with SS officers and mediated adoption of such racially pure children to acceptable Nazi families.
Abortion became illegal in Germany and unwed mothers in the Lebensborn program would be moved to a different city, sometimes to one of the Nazi-occupied countries, to give birth and avoid the social stigma of giving birth out of wedlock. The policy, however, was not just a welfare program…
Under the Nazi Lebensborn policy, the government began kidnapping children across Europe that they deemed “Aryan-looking” and transferred them back to Germany to undergo Germanization. The children were then classified into three groups: desired, acceptable and undesired.
It is estimated that around 400,000 children were abducted throughout Europe under the Lebensborn policy. All documentation of the children’s details and number of children taken were destroyed prior to the war’s end, making later attempts to reunite families nearly-impossible.
The children were torn away from their families and placed on trains headed back to Germany. The journey for some children would be their last. They were placed on cargo trains or cattle wagons with no food, water or protection from the elements for many days.
During the summer months, children would die from suffocation. During the winter months, children would freeze to death. A witness later described the scene: “I saw children being taken from their mothers, some were even torn from the breast. It was a terrible sight: the agony of the mothers and fathers, the beating by the Germans, and the crying of the children.”
A large percentage of the kidnappings occurred during the expulsion of Poles as part of the Lebensraum policy. Tens of thousands of Polish children were taken from their parents while Poles were being expelled from the country. Around 200,000 Polish children alone were deported to Germany before the war’s end according to Polish estimates.
Polish railway workers, desperate to assist the innocent children, risked their lives in many instances to free the children or provide them with warm clothes. At times the Nazi guards could be bribed with gold or jewelry to allow supplies to be given to the children, or even free them. In Bydgoszcz and Gdynia, Polish children could be purchased for 40 Reichsmarks, or the equivalent of almost $200 today.
Once the children reached Germany, they would be sent to temporary camps called Kindererziehungslager. These camps would determine the fate of the kidnapped children. They would be subjected to a detailed battery of racial examinations to determine their “racial value.”
Next, children would be placed among one of 11 different racial types and assessed based on 62 points of body proportions and features, including eye color, hair color, and the shape of their skull. The racial exams would determine the children’s futures.
The children who were lucky enough to be blessed with Aryan features would be sent to either Lebensborn homes or “special homes.” Worthy children aged two to six would be sent to these homes to be observed for a period of time.
During this time they were given new German names and birth certificates in an attempt to erase their past and be assessed as to whether they were capable of passing as true Germans. As long as they were not disqualified, the children were sent for adoption by German families and deemed “Children of German descent” or “German orphans.” Disqualified children became test subjects for Nazi experimentation.
Older children, aged six to 12, were sent to special homes for Germanization. They were told that their parents were dead and their traditional names were changed to German ones. They were forced to learn German and were severely beaten when they spoke Polish or any language other than German.
Some of the children incapable of learning German were sent to youth camps. Those who were deemed passable were set up for adoption. Some of the kidnapped children lived their entire lives believing that they were German, never knowing their real families or heritage.
Children who were deemed racially unfit by the dehumanizing Nazi racial tests were either sent to concentration camps and killed or forced to become medical test subjects. The children at the experimentation centers aged from eight months to 18 years. The gruesome unethical experiments are considered examples of medical torture.
The experiments resulted in death, trauma, disfiguration or permanent disability. Most of the children did not survive the experiments. Documents show that at a special camp in Lublin, 235 children, all between 10 to 14-years-old, were given lethal shots of the barbiturate Luminal. Of them, 221 died.
The Nazis justified kidnapping Polish children due to the belief that the Poles had deliberately Polonized ethnically German children. Children were kidnapped all over Nazi-occupied Europe, especially northern European countries. Then the stolen children would be given new identities, documentation, and taught German and Nazi ideology.
The regime attempted to destroy all traces of the children’s previous lives and families. For many of the children, their parents would be slaughtered in Nazi concentration camps. Sadly, they were the lucky children compared to their racially unworthy counterparts who were either killed or horrifically experimented on before being killed.
Documentation found after the end of the war showed that around 200-300 children from the Zamość area of Poland were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. Each child, one by one, was given a lethal injection of phenol. Like a factory of death and destruction, the Nazi regime was horrifically efficient at killing people they found racially inferior.
On person described these death factories: “As a rule, not even a moan would be heard. And they did not wait until the doomed person really died. During his agony, he was taken from both sides under the armpits and thrown into a pile of corpses in another room… And the next victim took his place on the stool.”
With the so-called inferior races being slaughtered, the Germans attempted to fill the void in their own declining population by promoting higher birth rates. The Lebensborn maternity homes quickly turned into Nazi racially-motivated breeding homes. The majority of women at the facilities were unwed mothers, many giving birth secretly.
The women accepted to the maternity homes had to first be screened for racial purity and be classified as “racially valuable” to the Nazi regime. Such facilities, or field offices, were located in Germany, Austria, Poland, Norway, Denmark, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
The Nazi ideology claimed to adhere to a scientific hierarchy of the human race, of which the “Aryan Race” was superior to all. According to the Nazi ideology, German and Nordic people of Sweden and Norway were the purest stock of Aryans. The ideal features included blond hair, blue eyes, and a slim build that was also strong and tough.
Western Europeans were considered secondary to the Germans and the Chinese and Japanese were declared honorary Aryans for political reasons, allowing them to live and conduct business within the Nazi Germany without difficulty.
As outlined in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Jews, Roma, ethnic Poles, Serbs and other Slavic peoples were considered subhuman. The definition of Aryan in Nazi Germany was defined as someone who was “tribally” related to German blood.
Subhumans, or Untermensch, were stripped of all rights and deemed fit only for enslavement or extermination. School children throughout the Third Reich were taught to understand the differences between the noble Aryan race and the subhumans. Children were also taught how to spot the physical differences between the groups based on racial stereotypes.
Recruitment of women for the Lebensborn program was done through the League of German Girls, the girl’s version of the Hitler Youth program. Leaders of the German Girls would recruit potential female breeding partners for SS officers.
The SS nurseries were created to provide support and comfort to the expecting mothers while they created a racially pure “super-race.” Most of the facilities were furnished by the looted homes of Jews who had been sent to Nazi death camps. Some Jewish nursing homes were even repurposed for the Lebensborn facilities.
Norway, according to the Nazis, was the best location for the Lebensborn program due to their superior Aryan blood. Around 10,000 to 12,000 children were born to Norwegian mothers, fathered by German SS officers or soldiers. The biological fathers were documented for only around 4,000 children.
Once the children were born, they were sent back to Germany. In many cases the mothers were not informed that their children would be taken out of the country without their consent. There were around nine breeding houses in Norway. The Norwegian government in exile issued ominous warnings to the women from London. One broadcast stated: “We have previously issued a warning and we repeat it here of the price these women will pay for the rest of their lives: they will be held in contempt by all Norwegians for their lack of restraint.”
The Lebensborn homes served as permanent welfare homes for eligible women throughout the war. As the facilities were in essence welfare houses, the women lived there for free, were paid child support on behalf of the father, and other expenses were also covered, such as medical bills, dental treatment, and transportation.
As the war rolled on, the economy took a hard hit and the majority of the Nazi-held areas fell into disarray. While the local populations lived in starving conditions, the women in the Nazi-funded Lebensborn facilities lived a life of luxury compared to their fellow countrymen.
The local population in Norway did not think highly of the women who volunteered for the Nazi Lebensborn program. They were called names such as tyskertøser, meaning “whores of the Germans.” Norwegians referred to the children as “Nazi-spawn” or “Kraut-kids,” all derogatory terms that would follow them for the rest of their lives. Society deemed these women as Nazi collaborators.
Under Nazi occupation, they were protected, but society wouldn’t be so quick to forget once the war ended. During the Nazi occupation of Norway, nearly all Jews were either deported to death camps or fled to neighboring Sweden or beyond.
After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the Rhineland was divided and occupied by international peacekeeping forces. One section of the Rhineland was occupied by African troops serving with the French colonial army. This led to intermarriages between German women and African soldiers, with others having children out of wedlock.
Around 400 children of mixed German-African parents were arrested by Nazi forces and subsequently sterilized in order to protect the pure Aryan race from their “tainted blood.”
Following the capture of Berlin and the suicide of Adolf Hitler on May 8, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered, ending the war in Europe. All records of the kidnapped children were destroyed during the Nazi retreat in the final stages of the war.
To this day, it is still not known exactly how many children were taken. When it was possible, children were returned back to their families in their home countries. Poland claims that less than 15% of the children taken were returned.
After the war, the leaders of the Lebensborn organization were put on trial for kidnapping. However, they were acquitted. The trial’s verdict read as follows: “The prosecution has failed to prove with the requisite certainty the participation of Lebensborn, and the defendants connected therewith in the kidnapping program conducted by the Nazis.”
It continued: “While the evidence has disclosed that thousands upon thousands of children were unquestionably kidnapped by other agencies or organizations and brought into Germany, … only a small percentage of the total number ever found their way into Lebensborn. … Only in isolated instances did Lebensborn take children who had a living parent. The majority of those children in any way connected with Lebensborn were orphans of ethnic Germans.”
After the war, the press began reporting of the unusually good weight of the mothers and children at the welfare homes. While the local populations were starving and fighting to survive, the were practically living in luxury.
The public backlash against the women who participated in the program was fierce. The women were publicly ostracized, beaten in the streets, had their hair cut off and some were forced out of the community altogether.
Directly after the war, there were many misconceptions about the Lebensborn program, mainly due to poor journalism and mass confusion. Many internationally believed that the women were held captive against their will and forcibly impregnated with Nazi babies.
Later investigation showed that the women volunteered for the program and were able to leave at any time. Upon the discovery of what had truly transpired, the women were shamed mercilessly. Most of them had their children taken away from them, never to be seen again.
The Lebensborn mothers and their children became outcasts from society, hated and despised. In Norway 14,000 women were arrested for collaborating with the Nazi occupiers. Five thousand of them were arrested without any judiciary process and placed into forced labor camps for a year and a half.
The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported claims by the Lebensborn orphans in Bergen that they were forced to parade through the streets of the city so that the local population could whip them and spit at them.
The thousands of unwanted half-German babies in Norway were scorned not only by society but also by the Norwegian government. The children were confiscated from the mothers who had been arrested and sent elsewhere. Sweden took a few hundred of the babies and arranged for them to be adopted.
Their pasts, however, were once again erased from history. The adoptive Swedish families had no idea their babies were once part of Hitler’s Aryan race program. Others that remained in Norway were sent to state-funded mental institutions and made to feel ashamed of their very existence.
In 1945 the Norwegian ministry of social affairs released a statement regarding the Lebensborn children that stated: “To believe these children will become decent citizens is to believe rats in the cellar will become house pets.”
That same year, the head of Norway’s largest mental hospital made an equally cruel remark. He stated that the women who had sexual relations with German soldiers were “mental defectives” and subsequently he concluded that at least 80% of their offspring must be “retarded.”
A group of Lebensborn children who grew up in Norway locked away in state institutions later attempted to sue the Norwegian government for neglect. Only sparse settlements and meager financial compensation were offered to the victims. However, in 1999, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik made a public apology to the Lebensborn children for the state’s mistreatment of them.
Post-war, many Norwegians feared that the children who were conceived for Hitler’s Aryan master race were too heavily brainwashed to ever truly fit into society. They feared the German genes and that they would create a hostile fifth column in Norway.
The Most Famous Baby
Perhaps the most famous of the Lebensborn babies is Frida Lyngstad, one of the lead singers of the popular Swedish band ABBA. Her father, a Nazi sergeant named Alfred Haase, seduced Frida’s mother, Norwegian Synni Lyngstad, with a sack of potatoes. Food was a scarcity in wartime Norway and the gift was immense.
Haase was sent back to Germany and Synni was left pregnant and ostracized from her community. She fled to neighboring Sweden to raise her daughter but died of kidney failure when she was only 21-years-old. Frida was brought up by her grandmother.
Frida had been told for her entire life that her father had died after his ship sunk but she learned in 1977, at the height of her ABBA career, that her father was still alive. The two arranged a meeting but the reconciliation was short lived.
“It would have been different if I’d been a child. But it’s difficult to get a father when you’re 32 years old. I can’t really connect to him and love him the way I would have if he’d been around when I grew up,” Frida stated after the meeting.
Decades later researchers are still trying to uncover the full truth behind the Lebensborn program and speak to the women involved in it. The women, however, are generally less than willing to offer any insight. They build a wall of lies and then someone comes along and threatens to tear it down. It’s almost life-threatening to them. That’s why they don’t talk,” said Gisela Heidenreich, who wrote a book about her own search for the truth.
Many women swore the SS oath and the Nazi motto of “My honor is loyalty'” still seems to play a role in their lives. Although the women are now elderly and years past their SS days, they’d still rather take the truth to their graves.
The children born into Hitler’s horrific master race program are slowly dying out but the stigma and hatred of their birth have followed them for their entire lives. “We will never be rid of the stigma, not until we are dead and buried,” one of the Lebensborn children stated in an interview.
Another man recalled his cruel childhood. He said that at some point after the war, men in his small Norwegian village chased him down and carved a swastika into his forehead with a rusted nail. “I don’t want to be buried in a grave,” he said. “I want my ashes to be scattered to the winds – at least then I won’t be picked on anymore.”
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