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.