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Born in a Lebensborn home

At the end of April 2013, Detleff Nordt reported on his search for his own identity before 23 students from the Wilhelm Filchner School, Wolfhagen. Nordt was born on 30 March, 1944, in the Lebensborn home “Pommern” in Bad Polzin. His mother had never talked about his father and the Nazi times. Historian Dr. Georg Lilienthal and high-school teacher Marcus von der Straten participated in the question and answer session that followed the lecture by the contemporary witness.

For over 60 years Nordt did not know who his father was. "The paternal roots were missing," he told the young people. Whenever he asked his mother about his father, she said he was killed in the war. Nordt explained this was not unusual, since at least five other children in his class heard the same story. But he was not satisfied. A program on television about the ‘Lebensborn’ gave him the impetus for his ten-year long search. "When I watched that program, I had a gut feeling that this could have happened to me.”

Since Nordt had little information, the search for his father was difficult. On his birth certificate, only his mother’s name was entered. As his birthplace, the Bad Polzin home for mothers was stated. He had repeatedly asked for the name of his father, but his mother kept silence. "That was the worst thing. Over all the years, she just did not say anything." Nordt learned that he was born in a Lebensborn home from a copy of the ward’s records. "Under the name of my mother, there was an ‘L’ and a number. The ‘L’ stood for 'Lebensborn' and the number referred to me. In this strange way, I found out that I am a ‘Lebensborn’ child."

Once more, he tried to talk to his mother about the first years of his life and his birthplace. "But she only said that things went very well there. We had everything we needed at the time." His stepfather, with whom he never had a warm relationship, commented on his questioning by saying, "You would have become a good SS man.” Nordt did not understand at the time shy he said this.

From his grandmother, Nordt received a passport photograph with a man in a Navy uniform. “‘February 1943, German shipyard Hamburg, your Herbert’ stood on the back of the small picture," said the 68-year-old. "I finally learned the name of my father." With the new information, he turned to the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt/for the notification of next-of-kin of members of the former German Wehrmacht) in Berlin. From there he got the information that his father was employed by the Navy and after the war became a teacher in the North German town Rostock. "I was so relieved when I heard that he was not in the SS," remarked Nordt.

He went through all the names in the phone book of Rostock. "I thought it could be one of the entries." He waited for a Sunday, when his wife and two children would be out of the house. "I had to make this phone call alone," remarked Nordt. "With my heart pounding, I dialed the number." On the phone he learned from his half-brother that his father had died. "We met and talked all day and almost all night." His visit to Rostock and the search for his identity was completed at his father's grave. "You see father, now I have found you," he whispered.

The fact that strangers helped him and that his own mother kept silent, burdened him all these years. "I would like to have met my father. My life would have been different then," Nordt described his feelings. "However, I am at peace. There was always someone who helped me a bit, and shared my fate. But I'm branded, because I grew up in a web of lies."

In answer to the student’s question, "Why remained this mother silent?” the historian Lilienthal tried to explain to the young people what the situation was like for women at that time. To say that a man was killed in the war was easy, because no one expected anything else, and no one asked more questions. The mothers avoided the detailed questions that were asked by their children, and invented even more excuses. "The web of lies grew and grew, and the women could not escape these."

The background for the lecture at the Wolfhagen school was the meeting of the Associations of "Lebensspuren e.V.”. The Association represents the interests of the children who were born in the former homes of the "Lebensborn" in the years 1936-1945, or who were kidnapped in the occupied countries and were housed in these homes. This year's annual meeting of members was held at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. Nordt has been a member since the association’s establishment in the year 2005. "’Lebensspuren’ has helped me emotionally. Here everyone is looking for their mothers, their fathers, and their identity."