For a time, Lebensborn was in the service of National Socialism, founded with the purpose of controlling the birth of children with the appropriate “Aryan” gene. To the Nazi, Norway represented a real El Dorado in terms of genetic material, which lead to the implementation of the largest project in this country, in which mothers who were contributing to the purity of the breed were supported. The number of births had risen up to 12.ooo.
In September 1944, the Monterosa ship almost got hit by a bomb on the route between Norway and Germany. The 700 women and their children who were on board woke up because of the noise of the explosion, creating panic. They rushed through the corridors in darkness and chaos. The ships alarm and the passengers’ cries met in a terrible rush of sounds. The crew managed to calm things down after a few hours. The ship was not actually hit and the journey continued without any further drama.
Almost all the women and children on board were brought from Norway. And now they were heading to a foreign country since the occupation authorities decided they must be regarded as Germans. They were sent to Germany with the same ship that transported the last Norwegian Jews to the certain death that awaited them in Poland. Poland was also under German occupation.A Lebensborn birth house. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
The whole story began four years earlier, when the first reports about the “Germans girls” reached the German authorities. These were women who have found love among soldiers stationed in Norway, and many of these affairs, as expected, culminated with pregnancies.
The Nazis were delighted. They were talking about Norwegian women of the purest Nordic blood, who voluntarily maintained intimate relations with German soldiers, also unaltered from a racially point of view. The result was obviously something that Germany needed: an Aryan continuity in a society degenerated by “bad blood” and “inferior human typologies”.Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
On May 17th 1940, Germans already had a meeting where they discussed about Norway’s potential. One of the participants, Leonardo Conti, was the health minister of the Third Reich, responsible for the “vigor” of the German people. The other one was Max Sollman – the leader of an organization which spreads its tentacles in the occupied countries, Lebensborn.
The Lebensborn structure was created in 1935 to provide support to the young and pregnant but unmarried women. In fact it was a project about racial purification in Germany. The organization was under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler, and the purpose was to promote population growth among residents which were considered racially pure. It didn’t matter if the women were married or not, the only important thing was that the infants received the appropriate genes. In these cases, abortion had to be prevented, and since 1943 these interventions were very risky and could bring the death penalty.Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
At that time Germany was losing its Aryan Blood, given the large number of soldiers killed on the front, a number that grew steadily. Those who had lost their children in the war were encouraged to adopt Nordic children. From April 1940, the Germans considered that it was time to extend the Lebensborn project in Norway, where there were well-built and lovely people. The German soldiers were encouraged to have children with Norwegian women. They were even receiving permissions to meet them, and knowing their menstrual cycle increased the chances of fertilization.
The first case happened in July 1940. A young Norwegian woman got pregnant after intercourse with a German soldier. But the military Department from which he was part of had no idea what to do. However, in March 1941, one of the SS leaders arrived in Oslo, Sturmbanns’ battalion leader, Wilhelm Tietgen, to build the first Lebensborn institution type outside of Germany. In the next four years, they established in Norway several centers of this type, more than in any other occupied country. These children of war received more attention outside of Germany.Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
The hostels for the Norwegian mothers were built in a blink of an eye, under the supervision of Himmler himself. Doctors and nurses were sent north, completing the number of those already existing in Norway. Twelve institutions were built, most of them in the south, and several hundred women were about to be hospitalized there. In these places they lived isolated from the society that condemned them, behind thick walls, for more than a year. The number of pregnant women increased in the fall of 1940 and spring of 1941 and continued to grow in the spring of 1942, reaching at the end of the next year up to 2.514 entries in the centers. Towards the end of the war, the SS controlled more than 7.600 mothers and children. Children were also born after the war, reaching the number of 12.000 souls.
Many of the young women had no possibility to raise their children. Some of them were banished from their homes because they fraternized with the enemy. Several hundred children were given up for adoption and at least 250 ended up in Germany.
Image Courtesy of commons
Only those considered healthy in terms of genes were sent south. “Second Grade” children were sent to be adopted in Norway, and those born by women with Lappish traits were rejected. Even in the almost Nordic regions, like Trondheim, there were children with German fathers that didn’t receive too much consideration, on the contrary, the Lebensborn center considered them not to be valuable. The Lappish element, characteristic to the Norwegian population from the north, contributed to the devaluation of the children who were not qualified to contribute to the purification of the German Aryan race. To ensure these qualities, Norwegian women had to meet the racial requirements.
The methods used in this process were established by the eugenicist Hans Günther, who built his pseudo-theory on the racial research of a French theorist, Arthur Gobineau. Women in the project had to match certain images and stereotypes. It was necessary, for example, for them to be tall, to have a high forehead and an elongated face, prominent cheeks, a small nose, light-colored hair, bright eyes and white skin. The possibility of having cases of hereditary diseases in the family would exclude them from the program.Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
From the first moment, the occupation authorities were expecting amorous ties between German soldiers and Norwegian women and their later pregnancies. They experienced this phenomenon in other occupied countries. Because thousands of troops stationed in Norway, many of them living alone, contact between the military and the civilian population was easy. Many Norwegians even befriended German soldiers and they didn’t perceive them as representatives of the oppressing forces. Between 30.000 and 40.000 local women were involved in amorous relationships with the enemy during the war. Many of these relationships did not end up with a pregnancy; however, society condemned even this gesture. In May 1945 the fury was unleashed. Many girls have been caught and imprisoned, others were shaved by violent Norwegians.
The occupation authorities have decided to send the mothers and their children in Germany, not for the mothers sake, but because it was a safer place for these children. In the fall of 1944, Monterosa was ready to leave. Women on board were either married or had children with German soldiers. Both cases were regarded as German citizens and they were told that they had to leave Norway. However, the order caused a state of shock.Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Only five days after the notification about the trip, they received the news that they immediately had to leave aboard the Monterosa. Most of these women will, eventually, return home on the backdrop of a war-torn Europe. But in that place, fate will not be too friendly with the German children.