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Early Infant Care in the Third Reich

For eight days Katharina Rowold has examined files from the "Lebensborn e.V." in the archive of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. The historian from London Metropolitan University is working on a book on "Early Infant Care in Nazi Germany". "I could find many relevant sources in the archive", said Rowold.

The scholar is particularly interested in documents on the care and rearing of "Lebensborn children". The SS organisation "Lebensborn e.V." had as its aim to raise the birth rate of "Aryan" babies. "In the archive, I am looking for information on how healthy and ill babies and children were looked after in the homes and what happened to those children whose lives were 'not worth living' according to the Nazis", explained Rowold.

The "Lebenborn e.V." is only part of her wide-ranging research. At the Federal Archives and in several archives of the German federal states, Rowold  is exploring other sources, to address questions such as: What measures were taken to lower the mortality rate of "Aryan" infants? Which infant care guidelines were promoted? How did the Nazis approach the "training" of babies and young children? How did these ideas and theories inform the infant care practices of mothers of different backgrounds?

While Jewish children, children born to forced labourers and disabled children were murdered, the Nazis offered a wide range of support and training to mothers of "Aryan" and "hereditarily valuable" babies. A lot of the work of the "Nationalsozialistische Volkwohlfahrt (NSV)" (National Socialist People’s Welfare Organisation) was dedicated to child and youth work. "Its agency, the 'Mother and Child Relief Agency' focused specifically on pregnant 'Aryan' women and their offspring", explained the researcher. "In the Third Reich, there existed mother schools to shape women’s approaches to baby care and child rearing."