„Every child should grow up in security.“
The annual meeting of the members of the association “Lebensspuren” (traces of life) has taken place this time at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. The association represents the interests of children who were born or raised in homes of the "Lebensborn” (spring of life). Lectures as well as a search in the ITS database were on the agenda. Besides, contemporary witnesses visited two schools in the region. „The ‘Lebensborn’ clearly reveals the two faces of National Socialism between care and extermination“, expressed Dr Susanne Urban, head of the research and education department, at the opening of the meeting.
The SS association had the aim to increase the birth rate of "Aryan" children. In the course of the Second World War the "Lebensborn" also took over the care of illegitimate children from German members of the occupying forces. Besides, the Germans kidnapped children from occupied territories who fulfilled the racist ideal of the NS ideology and took them to "Lebensborn" homes. „I can still remember the injections and the beating if one of the children wept in the bed from fear“, reported Barbara Pacorkiewicz who was abducted as a child from her grandmother in Poland and taken to Germany.
The kidnapped children were robbed of their true identity. They received German names and a wrong birth certificate. Many of them still look in vain for their own roots. „I would give everything to stand once at my mother’s grave“, said Volker Heinecke who was abducted as a two-year-old from the Crimea, passed through several “Lebensborn” homes, and was finally adopted by a family from Hamburg.
The children who turned out not to be "able of Germanization" were murdered or transferred to do forced labour. After 1945, the Allied forces tried to reunite the kidnapped children with members of their family. Hence, a large part of the few remaining documents of the “Lebensborn” association came to the ITS, altogether 529 files. Most of the original documents had been destroyed by the association shortly before the Allied forces approached.
Almost no other subject brings the biographies of victims and perpetrators so closely together. The German children of the "Lebensborn" were usually the illegitimate offspring of a German woman with a member of the SS or a high-ranking Wehrmacht officer, and in Scandinavia of a Norwegian woman and a German member of the occupying forces. Until today, many of the children still do not know the name of their father. And those who know it, must cope with the fact that their father was involved in Nazi crimes.
The children of the "Lebensborn" were meant to form the élite of the future „Aryan master race“ and were raised according to the coldblooded scales of the NS ideology. „I want a violent, masterful, fearless, cruel youth … They must withstand pain. There must be nothing weak or tender about them“, that is the way Hitler saw the youth of the planned „Greater German Reich“. However, the heartless education at the "Lebensborn" homes led rather too emotionally disturbed, anxious or even autistic children.
In particular the kidnapped children still suffer in their old days from the social dislocation and lack of parental love. „Till this day I am afraid in a cellar“, acknowleged Heinecke. „If we talked in our mother tongue, we were locked up immediately. The nurses had thrown peas on the ground so that we grazed our knees.“ The pupils from the Christian Rauch school in Arolsen and the Wilhelm Filchner school in Wolfhagen who studied the “Lebensborn” in preparation of talking to contemporary witnesses have seen this undesirable trend in the NS education: „Every child should be allowed to grow up in comfort, security and freedom“, they wrote down their thoughts on a poster that was presented during the “Lebensspuren” meeting.
The association “Lebenspuren” supports the “Lebensborn” children in their search for their own roots and in their extremely difficult struggle to come to terms with the past caught between the identification of victims and perpetrators. During the annual meetings of the association new publications, research results and own biographies are discussed regularly. „It is about passing on the knowledge, but also about reconciliation“, observed the mayor of Arolsen, Jurgen van der Horst.