On the 12th December 1935, the Lebensborn registered association was established in Nazi Germany by the SS. Literally translated as “Fount of Life”, Lebensborn was created in an attempt to increase the birth rate of “Aryan” children, and after the start of the Second World War was expanded to include other countries under Nazi occupation.
Nazi ideology was centred on belief in the racial superiority of an Aryan master race. Social policy was consequently built around the biological improvement of the German population, through a eugenics programme that promoted the breeding of so-called racially superior individuals and the forced sterilisation or murder of those chillingly identified as “life unworthy of life”.
Designed to harness apparent racial purity, Lebensborn oversaw the birth of children conceived between Aryan women and members of the SS, often as a result of extramarital relationships. It also selected “racially worthy” orphans for adoption by the families of SS members. As the war progressed, SS troops under command of Himmler – who also oversaw Lebensborn – kidnapped desirable children from occupied countries and moved them to Germany where they underwent an aggressive process of Germanisation and re-education.
Historians estimate that around 8,000 children were born under the programme in Germany, with a further 12,000 in other countries – the majority in Norway. However, the number of foreign children who were kidnapped and Germanised is unknown due to destruction of the relevant files.
Lebensborn children and their mothers were often ostracised and mistreated by their communities after the war. In Norway, many so-called “war children” consequently moved to Sweden, the most famous of whom is ABBA-member Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
On the 10th November 1969, the American children’s television show Sesame Street was broadcast for the first time. Created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, the show has become a part of early-years culture with its combination of education, human characters, and Muppets created by Jim Henson’s production company.
Sesame Street was first conceived in 1966 with the idea of providing low-income, inner-city children with an educational foundation ready for when they began formal schooling. However, the creators wanted it to appeal all young children and worked closely with educational psychologists and other experts for a number of years in order to devise a format that would educate and entertain. Extensive use of research was made to shape and direct the episodes, resulting in what became known as the “CTW (or Children’s Television Workshop model)” of planning, production, and evaluation.
The producers’ decision to cast a majority of black actors fitted with the original intention of appealing to underprivileged urban children in America. However, this decision met some opposition when the show was made available for broadcast in different states. In Mississippi, for example, a state commission was pressured to reverse its decision not to broadcast the show after it was leaked that they felt “Mississippi was not yet ready” for a racially mixed cast.
Despite such controversies, Sesame Street was met with almost universal acclaim. It has now been broadcast for more than 45 years in over 120 different countries, and has won over 150 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards, making it the most awarded children’s show on television.
On the 12th June 1942, Anne Frank received a diary as a thirteenth birthday present from her father. Barely three weeks later, Anne and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her diary, which chronicled her experiences over the next two years, was published posthumously after the war under the title The Diary of a Young Girl and became one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated books.
The Frank family originated in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved away after the Nazi party won local elections in 1933. Anne’s father, Otto, was a businessman who chose to move the family to Amsterdam after receiving an offer to start a company there. However, when the German army invaded the Netherlands in 1940 the family found themselves trapped in a country subjected to anti-Semitic laws.
When, in July 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot was ordered by the Nazi authorities to go to a labour camp, their father instead arranged for the family to go into hiding in a so-called ‘Secret Annexe’ above his office building. It was here that Anne wrote her diary, which she addressed as Kitty. Over three volumes she recorded the relationships between the Frank family, the Van Pels family, and her father’s friend Fritz Pfeffer with whom they shared their confined hiding place.
An anonymous tip-off led to the discovery and arrest of the eight inhabitants on the 4th August 1944. They were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp a month later. Anne died of typhus in early 1945 after being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.
On the 8th June 1972 one of the most iconic photographs of the Vietnam War was taken of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, a nine-year-old girl from the South Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. In the photograph, she is shown running away from a napalm attack, having stripped off her clothes after being severely burned.
The photograph, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, was taken by Nick Ut, a Vietnamese photographer for the Associated Press. He was one of number of press photographers who were with the group of fleeing civilians after the village had been bombed South Vietnamese planes. He took Kim Phúc and other injured children to a hospital in Saigon before delivering the film to be developed, and maintained contact with her throughout her recovery despite being told that her burns were so severe she was unlikely to survive.
The photograph was initially rejected by Associated Press due to the full-frontal nudity. However, the image was deemed to capture such a powerful news story that these concerns were put aside. When the picture appeared on the front page of the New York Times four days later, it had such a dramatic impact that President Nixon discussed with his chief of staff whether the shot had been ‘fixed’.
Kim Phúc stayed in hospital for 14-months, and underwent 17 surgical procedures and skin transplants before she was able to return home. However she did survive and – having sought political asylum in Canada during an aircraft refuelling stop on her honeymoon – she now lives in Ontario.
On the 1st May 1952, Mr Potato Head first went on sale. The idea for making a “funny face man” using a vegetable and plastic body parts was first proposed by George Lerner from Brooklyn in the 1940s. In 1951 he successfully sold the idea to a breakfast cereal manufacturer who planned to include the accessories in their cereal packets, but when the Hassenfeld brothers – the founders of Hasbro – met with Lerner later that year they agreed to buy the concept back off the cereal company and to produce and market Mr Potato Head as a toy.
The day before Mr Potato Head was released, he featured in the first ever television advert for a child’s toy that was aimed directly at children. This revolutionary marketing worked, and led to over a million Mr Potato Head kits being sold in the first year alone.
Unlike the modern Mr Potato Head, the original released in 1952 only included plastic body parts and accessories. Customers were expected to supply their own potato for the body itself, something that led some members of the public to criticize the toy for encouraging food waste in the aftermath of wartime rationing. However, twelve years passed before a plastic potato body was included with Mr Potato Head – and all because of government safety regulations. The plastic parts needed to become less sharp, meaning that a real potato was also too difficult to puncture. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that Mr Potato Head took on the shape we now recognise.