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Exhibition about “Lebensborn”

Today the International Tracing Service (ITS) of Bad Arolsen opened the exhibition “The Lebensborn association”, which will run until the 2nd of July 2010. Consisting of 13 information panels, the exhibition was put together by the regional youth organisation Kreisjugendring Ebersberg and portrays the racist goals of the Lebensborn association backed by the SS. The objective was to increase the birth rate of “Aryan” children. “At the same time, other mothers and kids - the handicapped, Jews, Sinti and Roma - were singled out as ‘unworthy of life’ and murdered in masses,” says ITS historian Dr Susanne Urban. “If nothing else, it was this gruesome contrast that led us to present this exhibition.”

Countless myths and legends surround the Lebensborn association, from exclusive SS brothels to human breeding. The exhibition does away with these myths, objectively relays the story behind the association, takes a closer look at the mothers and children, and presents the plans the SS had made for the post-war era. At first the association’s aim was to promote an abundance of children among SS members and to reduce the number of abortions by offering anonymous childbirth options and child adoption services. “What made Lebensborn so different from the social services of the Weimar Republic were its racist selection criteria,” explains Urban.

Over the course of the Second World War, Lebensborn also assumed responsibility for the care of the illegitimate children of German Wehrmacht soldiers in the occupied territories. Blonde, blue-eyed children who conformed with the racist ideal of NS ideologies were also abducted. Their identity disguised, they were accommodated at children’s homes in the German “Reich” and put up for adoption after their “Germanisation”. Up to 1944, the SS built a total of 20 children’s homes in Germany and the occupied territories. Around 8,000 children were born in the German homes.

ITS has a better part of the association’s original documents at its disposal, including the charter signed by Heinrich Himmler, statistics and correspondence involving individual homes, food and board, medical care and the “Germanisation” of children in occupied territories. In addition, the fates of many abducted children from the occupied territories are documented in the files of the Child Tracing Branch. After the war, the Allies had made intensive efforts to give victims back their real identity, often without any success.

The presentation of Lebensborn’s activities was conceived by the Kreisjugendring Ebersberg as a travelling exhibition and was unveiled for the first time in May 2009 at the Betreuungszentrum Steinhörig support centre, the very premises on which the Nazis had built the first Lebensborn home back in 1936. A brochure accompanying the exhibition is available for purchase and contains all of the texts shown on the information panels, as well as two supplementary personal reports. The exhibition will run at the International Tracing Service until 2 July 2010 and is open Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm and Fridays from 9 am to 1 pm.