Children of the hated: The “Lebensborn” programme of racial breeding

Lebensborn children in 1939 (© Timeline)

When Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Norway in 1940, it expanded a system of selective breeding to its Nordic captives. “Lebensborn”, as it was called, was a project designed to encourage unions between German soldiers and Norwegian women for the purpose of procreating offspring, possessing what they believed was racially-superior, pure Aryan blood. The mothers and their children were offered state-supported child care and housing.

It is believed that between 10,000 and 20,000 children were born of these unions. At the end of the war, the women were usually stigmatised and ostracised and committed arbitrarily to mental institutions. Lebensborn child Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a lead singer of ABBA, ended up emigrating to Sweden with her mother.

Only recently, in October of 2018, the Norwegian government officially apologised for the treatment of the Lebensborn mothers and their children. Dheera Sujan speaks with some of the them.

Producer: Dheera Sujan

Broadcast: April 10, 2005