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Squashing the Rumours Surrounding Lebensborn

There are many rumours and myths circulating about the SS-founded association “Lebensborn”, says the Canadian historian Annette Timm. She now wants to squelch these legends with her new book. Timm came to Bad Arolsen in mid-July for a week of research into the extensive collection of Lebensborn documents archived at the International Tracing Service (ITS).

“Because the organisation was supposed to be kept as secret as possible, it gave rise to wild speculations right from the time it was founded,” says Timm. Yet the story behind the Lebensborn association is not as clear as it seems. “It’s more complex and involves many more aspects which have been left in the dark up until now. In North America, Lebensborn was regarded as a taboo for quite a long time, but things have now changed.” The objective of the association was to raise the birth rate of "Aryan" children, also of illegitimate children. At the time, blond, blue-eyed children who fit Nazi ideologists’ racist ideal were abducted in German-occupied territories. At least 23 Lebensborn homes were established in Germany and the occupied territories.

Timm, a professor of German history at the University of Calgary, wants to do more than just describe the events during the reign of the Nazi regime:  she intends to visit the locations of former Lebensborn homes and interview residents about any observations they might have made back then. With eyewitnesses and other people that were involved, she wants to focus on discussing what they experienced after the end of the war—the humiliation they felt and how they concealed their own background. “I do not yet know if my interviews will be successful or not,” says Timm. “Many people might not want to be reminded of this dark past, but I will by all means attempt to conduct the interviews.”

The Canadian historian already visited ITS last autumn to gain a detailed overview of the inventory available in Bad Arolsen. Now she has begun with the real substance of her research. “For me, researching at ITS is a dream. The Lebensborn documents are comprehensive, and they’re well organised,” she says. “I just tend to read too much, get hung up on individual documents, which is why I don’t manage to get through all the files I actually wanted to review.”  In such, she is likely to return once again to Bad Arolsen next year. But for the time being, Timm is on her way to the National Archive for two weeks.