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Born at Lebensborn Home “Pommern”

Brigitte Kolberg was born at Lebensborn home “Pommern” in Bad Polzin. She did not learn her father’s name until she had turned sixteen. “I have constantly been searching for my roots and seeking to obtain information on the ‘Lebensborn e.V.’ ever since”, says the 71-year-old. In mid-November she paid a four-day visit to the International Tracing Service (ITS) looking into records on the homes in Bad Polzin and Szczecin (Stettin).

“I used to ask and ask and ask where my father was“, recalls Brigitte. “But my mother kept silencing me. It was a taboo for her.” Only after her mother had died Brigitte discovers in the latter’s estate her own birth certificate and correspondence her mother had with the ‘Lebensborn e.V.’. She also finds pieces of evidence on her father’s initial denial of paternity and on his paying alimony for her “thanks to” intervention by the ‘Lebensborn e.V.’. “Finally, my father’s name was revealed to me: Franz Heidemann.” Brigitte’s wish to come to know him became so overwhelming that it urged her to stand in front of his door in Luneburg a few days later. “There was so much family resemblance between my father and me that he recognized me at once.”

Brigitte blames her own likeness to her father for the poor relationship between her and her mother. “The very day my mother felt sure about being pregnant, she had to see the newspaper notice announcing my father’s engagement with another woman. That must have come as a shock for her”, Brigitte empathizes with her. “My parents had been friends for years and known one another by jointly working for the German army. Maybe my mother had hoped for more than friendship.”

As single living Elfriede was a member of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei / National Socialist German Workers’ Party), she found refuge with the ‘Lebensborn e.V.’ – an association run, sponsored and controlled by the SS in the Nazi era. The association’s raison d’être was to increase the birth rate of “Aryan” children and to prevent out-of-wedlock children from being aborted. Once the green light for a woman’s committal had been given, she was allowed to spend her pregnancy term in a home of the ‘Lebensborn e.V.’ and prolong her stay up to some weeks after the child birth. “I was born in Bad Polzin in December 1939,” reports Brigitte. “In mid 1940 my mother took me to the so-called “Kriegsmütterheim” (home for women who became mothers during wartime) in Szczecin where I was taken care of during the day. That allowed her to start working for the German army again.”

Brigitte came across the subject of ‘Lebensborn e.V.’ for the first time during her internship at the children’s hospital and maternity home in Steinhöring not knowing that this hospital had been the very first Lebensborn home. The sculpture titled “Mother and Child” on the garden lawn bore a sort of art evidence of the home’s past. From this time onward, her interest was kindled. “As I was bare of family bonds after the death of my mother, my grandparents and my father, I had to find other means of finding out details on my childhood.” Her investigations were discontinued time and again over the years, but whenever documentaries were broadcast on TV or books brought out on the subject, she renewed her efforts giving a fresh impetus to her search.

Brigitte’s longstanding investigations are her means, her method to understand what had happened at the time. The records the ITS keeps on the various homes help her ‘feel’ and grasp the atmosphere prevailing in the homes. “I want to know the background, plunge into the situation of people living at the time and comprehend why so many women came to be followers of this ideology.” Her dealing with the subject for so long has permitted her to come to know other Lebensborn children. “Keeping in touch with each other and exchanging experience is important“, stresses she. “And, of course, enlightening the young generation.”