the service of National Socialism was also the organization called Lebensborn, founded in order to ensure the birth of children with appropriate ‘Aryan’ genes. For the Nazis, Norway was a real El Dorado in terms of genetic material, which led to the implementation of the largest project to support mothers who contribute to the purity of the race in this country. The number of births rose to 12,000.
The Aryan Genes
In September 1944, the ship Monterosa was almost hit by a bomb on the route between Norway and Germany. The 700 women and their children on board woke up to the explosion and panic ensued. They stormed the corridors in total darkness and chaos. The alarm on the ship and the shouts of the passengers met in a terrible roar of sounds. The crew managed to calm things down only after a few hours. The ship was not hit, and the voyage continued without further ado.
Almost all the women and children were brought from Norway. They were moving to a foreign country because the occupation authorities had decided that they should be seen as German citizens. They were sent to Germany by the same ship that had transported the last Norwegian Jews to the certain death that awaited them in Poland, which was still under occupation.
The German Army at work
The whole story had begun four years earlier when the first reports of “German girls” reached the German authorities. These were young women who found boyfriends among soldiers stationed in Norway, and many of the love affairs, as expected, culminated in pregnancies.
The Nazis were delighted. These were pure-bred Norwegian women who voluntarily had intimate relations with German soldiers, who were also racially unaltered. The result was obviously something Germany needed: an Aryan continuity in a society that had degenerated because of ‘bad blood’ and ‘inferior human typologies’.
On May 17, 1940, a meeting had already taken place in Munich to discuss Norwegian potential. One of the participants, Leonardo Conti, was Minister of Health in the Third Reich, responsible for the ‘vigor’ of the German people. The other was Max Sollmann — the leader of an organization that had spread its tentacles in all the occupied countries.
The Lebensborn structure was set up in 1935 to provide support to pregnant but unmarried women. In fact, it was a project of racial purification of Germany. The organization was subordinated to Heinrich Himmler, and the goal was to promote population growth among purebred residents. It didn’t matter if the women were married or not, it was important for the babies to have the right genes. Abortion in such cases had to be prevented, and since 1943 the respective interventions were very risky and could lead to the death penalty.
Loss of Aryan Blood
At that time, Germany was losing its Aryan blood, given the large number of soldiers who had fallen on the front, a number that was constantly increasing. Those who had lost their children in the war were encouraged to adopt high-quality Nordic children. From April 1940, the Germans found it normal to extend the Lebensborn project to Norway, where there were well-made and charming people. German soldiers were encouraged to have children with Norwegian women, they were even allowed to meet them, and knowing their menstrual cycle maximized their chances of fertilization.
The first such case took place in July 1940. A young Norwegian woman had become pregnant with a German soldier and the military department she belonged to did not know very well what to do. In March 1941, however, one of the leaders of the SS arrived in Oslo, namely the leader of the Sturmbann battalion, Wilhelm Tietgen, to lay the foundations of the first Lebensborn institution outside Germany. Over the next four years, more centers have been set up in Norway than in any other occupied country. The children of the war received more attention only in Germany.
Supporting the Norwegian population
Homes for Norwegian mothers were built under the close supervision of Himmler himself. Doctors and nurses were sent to the north, completing the number in Norway. The number of institutions had reached 12, most in the south and several hundred women were to be interned there. In such locations, they lived in isolation from the society that condemned them, behind thick walls, often for more than a year.
The number of women who became pregnant with German soldiers increased significantly in the autumn of 1940 and the spring of 1941, and continued to increase from the spring of 1942, reaching 2,514 registrations in the centers by the end of the following year. Towards the end of the war, the SS had control over more than 7,600 mothers, and infants were born even after the war, totaling about 12,000 souls.
Many of the young women had no choice but to support their children. Some of them were expelled from home because they fraternized with the enemy, but the others did not escape condemnation from society. Several hundred children were given up for adoption and at least 250 arrived in Germany.
Only those considered genetically healthy were sent south. ‘Second-quality’ children were adopted in Norway, and those born to Lappish mothers were rejected. Even not far to the north, in Trondheim, there were children with German fathers who still did not enjoy much consideration, on the contrary, they were not very valuable, as specified in a letter from the center of Lebensborn here.
The Lappish element characteristic of the northern Norwegian population contributed to the devaluation of children who did not have the necessary qualities to be able to contribute to the purification of the German Aryan race. To ensure these qualities, Norwegian women had to meet racial requirements.
The methods used for this purpose had been developed by the German eugenicist Hans Günther, who had based his pseudo-theory on the racial research of the French theorist Arthur Gobineau. The women in the program had to fit into images and stereotypes. For example, they needed to be tall, with a high forehead and an elongated face, prominent cheeks, a small nose, light hair, bright eyes, or white skin. They should not have cases of hereditary diseases in the family.
From the outset, the occupation authorities expected possible love affairs between German soldiers and young Norwegians and the resulting tasks. They had also experienced the phenomenon in other occupied countries. Because thousands of soldiers were stationed in Norway, many of whom lived alone, contact between the military and civilian populations was fairly easy. Many Norwegians also befriended German soldiers, whom they did not always perceive as representatives of the oppressive forces.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 locals became involved in relations with enemies during the war. Many of the relationships did not involve a task, however, the company condemned the gesture as much. In May 1945, anger erupted. Many girls were caught and imprisoned, others were beheaded by violent Norwegians.
The occupation authorities decided to send mothers and children to Germany, not for the sake of saving women, but so that the babies could grow up there. In the fall of 1944 Monterosa was ready to leave. The women on board were either married or had children with German soldiers. Both categories had been regarded as German citizens for some time and were told they were leaving Norway. But the order caused a shock.
Only 5 days after being notified of the trip, they received the news that they had to leave Monterosa immediately. Most Norwegians would eventually return home against the backdrop of a war-torn Europe. But their fate would not be too friendly with the children of the Germans. Only after 40 years did they begin to be taken out of the cone of forgetfulness and shame…