Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Victims of World War II, these are the children born of Hitler's dream of breeding a master race by pairing German soldiers with north European women deemed to meet the blond, fair-skinned Aryan ideal. Their parentage condemned many of them to the margins of society. It denied them an education or cost them their marriages. Only now, as the 60th anniversary of the war's end approaches, is the government offering them compensation.
"I was a German baby. Worse than an insect," Frebel recalls. "They threw stones at us." During the five-year occupation, tens of thousands of children across Europe were born of relationships between German soldiers and local women. But in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, there was a more sinister side to the liaisons. It was called Lebensborn, which means fountain of life.
The program had been set up by German SS chief Heinrich Himmler in 1935 to propagate Aryan children. After the Nazis overran Germany's neighbor states in 1940, German occupation soldiers were encouraged to find suitable local mates. Once pregnant, the women could turn to one of 10 homes, which would eventually register 8,000 Lebensborn children. The first opened in March 1941.
A Lebensborn home was not a breeding facility, as some people have believed, "but more as a care facility," said Stein Larsen of the War and Children research project in the western Norway city of Bergen. Outside Germany, Norway was the jewel of the Lebensborn program, and the postwar hatred of its children was the greatest.
Innocent children of Hitler's racial master plan still haunt Norway 60 years after war's end
There were whispers of "German Baby," and even before starting school, he learned who his father was. Years later he tracked him down in Germany, but "he wanted nothing to do with me." He found refuge in the wilderness, and occasional companionship with the Sami, the indigenous reindeer herders of the Arctic. They had something in common: The Sami, like the war babies, were shunned by mainstream society.
The Sami "did not care that we were war babies," said Frebel. "But sometimes they got a hard time about it from the so-called 'proper Norwegians'." "My aunt said to me a week ago, 'I won't give you a share of my inheritance because your father was German.' I said, 'It was not my choice. I had no say in who my parents were."'