Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and defeated the Polish Army in a few weeks, introducing the world to Blitzkrieg warfare. They divided Poland woth the Soviet Union which after tghe German success invaded from the east. The SS conducted kidnappings take children children who matched NAZIs racial criteria by force. The occupation of Poland was one of the most brutal in European history. Occupation aithorities, especially the SS, were under no legal or moral constraints as regards their conduct and the execultion of occupation policies. Poles had no recourse. The NAZI set out to eliminate the Polish intelgencia and reduce the rest of the country to a vast population of slave labor. It is estimated that a quarter of the populatopn of Poland perished during the occupation. Thousands of Polish children were transferred to special Lebensborn centers in order to be "Germanized". Most sources estimate over 0.2 million Polish children were kidnapped. They were subjected to a "arische" racial classification using the Arier tables. The most important criterion was the distance between forehead and back of the head. The result determined the child's fate. Himler reasoned that the education process would be relatively easy because the German ideals "would reverberate in the sprit of the children who resemble is racially". With the younger children, the education process was relatively easy. They were sent to Lebensborn homes. The SS nurses there reportedly persuade the children that their parents had abandoned them. The children 6-12 years of age were sent to boarding schools. The older children were more of a problem. The older children who rejected the NAZI education program were often beaten. These children were not returned home. When it was determined that they would not accept Germinization, they were usually transferred to concentration camps. Other children who upon closer examination were not sufficently Aryan were also sent to concentration camps. The children that proved more receptive were adopted by SS and other German families. The non-SS familes were often not aware of where the children had come from and the circustances under which they had been obtained. As with the German Lebensborn children, the SS normally falsified the child's birth and other documents.
Germany invaded Poland in September 1, 1939. The Luftwaffe and the Weremacht led by Panzer forces crossed the frontier launching World War II. Britain and France on September 3 honored their obligations to Poland and decalred war on Germany. Neither offered any real assistance to the Polish Army which was desestated by the onslaught. After the German success, the Soviet Union on September 17 under terms of a secret agreement with
Germany, invaded from the east, sealing Polans's fate. Warsaw surrendered on September 27.
By October 6 Poland had ceased to exist. Blitzkrieg warfare had been introduced to a horrified world. The Germans and Soviets divided Poland, but the Soviet zone later quickly fell into German hands when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The occupation of Poland was one of the most brutal in European history. Occupation aithorities, especially the SS, were under no legal or moral constraints as regards their conduct and the execultion of occupation policies. Poles had no recourse. The NAZI set out to eliminate the Polish intelgencia and reduce the rest of the country to a vast population of slave labor to feed German industry. The NAZIs immediately set about exterminating the intelegencia (professors, lawyers, scientists, and other educated groups). Government officials and political leaders were also arrested and sent to concentration camps. All educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) except a few technical schools were closed. Cultural or political activities were prohibited under sentence of death. Radio sets were confiscated and replaced with a network of loudspeakers to make public announcements. Many Polish books werebanned. Art museums were looted. Repressive measure against the Jews began immediately leading to the eventual murder of over 3 million. During the winter of 1939, the entire Polish population of hundreds of villages in western Poland were deported or exterminated. Their property was seized without any compensation to provide for German "colonists". It is estimated that a 20-25 percent of the Polish population perished during the occupation, only a relatively small number were killed in the actual fighting. Overall historians believe that over 6 million Poles died during World WarII, imcluding 2 million children. Parts of Poland were annexed to the Reich. The remainder of the country was Generalgouvernement (General Government) under Reichsrechtsführer Hans Frank. Occupation policies and conditions in the two zones varied greatly, in part because of differences between the NAZI officials in charge. It should also be noted that the Soviets until June 1941 were also engaged in similar genocidal policies and deportions exceeded 1 million Poles, most of whom perished.
Lebensborn homes: Children aged 2-6 years were sent to Lebensborn homes in Germany. There were no Lebensborn homes in Poland. The SS did try to establish one, but met objections from Reichsgesundheitsführers Dr. Conti (the German Health Minister). The homes responsibility was to find families to adopt the children. Priority was given to SS families. The children that scored highest on "arische" examinations went to the SS families.
Boarding schols: Children aged 6-12 years of age were sent to state boarding schools in Germany.
The process described above is more orderly than actually took place. The children caught up in the Eindeutschung process were hardly all orphans. Many thousand children were stolen or kidnapped from their parents. THere were SS actions conducted specificall for this purpose and a variety of approches were used. In the Warthegau children were selected at school assessmblies or from school play grounds. In the Government General and later Soviet areas there were children taken from vilage squares and other roundups. Here theselections were very basic visual ones, mostly looking for blond children with blue eyes. Those selected were sent to homes set up to process th e children like the Brockau home. In the process of kidnapping such large numbers of children, careful examination of the children was not possible. Once in NAZI hands, however, the children could be more carefully screened. Fair complections were easy to spot and thus many such children were seized in Poland without further examination at the time. Not all of these children did well on the more involved "arische" examinations. The result, however, determined the child's fate. The children with highest classifications were adopted by SS families. Those with the lowest classifications were tranderred to labor camps.
Hitler had wanted to invade and "colonize" the Soviet Union as a primary war goal. The Nonagression Pact of 1939 had been a maariage of convenience. His stunning victories in the West now made a Soviet invasion feasible--even though the British stubornly refused to capitlate. Hitler lunched Operation Barbarosa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, and rapidly overran the easten areas of Poland that the Soviets had occupied (June 1941). Within only a few weeks, the Wehrmacht had overrun all of Poland and crossed the former Soviet border. This brought the rest of the Polish nation under NAZI control. The Red Army suffered enormous losses in the first months of Barbrosa. German losses were relatively light until Soviet resistance began to stiffened (October 1941). The decission of the Japnese to strike south at the British and Americans, rather than north at Sovit Siberia allowed the Soviets to bring crack Siberians reserves west to defend Miscow and launch a winter offensive (December 1941). The result were massive German lossess--the major reverse of the War in which very substantial casulties were experience by the Wehrmacht. The losses must have affected the motivation of Himmler and other top NAZIs to reclaim as much Aryan blood as possible in the occupied Eastern territories. The impact of this fell especially on Poland and children of Aryan appearance were a specil target. [Padfield, p. 365.]
The Eindeutschung program began immediatly after the NAZI seizure of Poland (Septmber-October 1940). The initial efforts were not well organized and coordinated. he SS Office for the Reichkommisaar for the Consolidation of German Nationhood (RKF) issued a directive to all Higher SS and police commanders (HSSPFs), Himmler's regional commander, describing the correct procedures associated with the Eindeutschung progrm. Copies were also sent to other agencies involved with the program: Interior Ministry, Education Ministry, Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (Race and Settkement Office--RuSHA), Reichs-Sicherheitshauptamt (Rich Security Ofice--RSHA), and Lebensborn offices. The directive was headed, "Eindeutschung of children of Polish families and from former Polish orphanages". Although the directive specifically dealt with Poland, the procedures detailed were to be adopted in all the occupied Eastern territories. [Padfield, p. 365.]
Although disorganized at first, the NAZI Eindeutschung process was gradually refined as the program was carried out in Poland. The NAZIs had several years to assess and seizes thousands of polish children. The duration and extent of control of Soviets areas was more limitd.
The Youth Office of the Warthegau was ordered to register all of the children in orphanages or being cared for by foster parents. A Gau was an administrative unit of NAZI Germany. The Warthegau was the area ofoccupied Poland annexed by the Reich.
Local RuSHA officials conducted preliminary racial assessments of the children. Local health officials were to assess them medically. The children that were assessed suitable were then sent to the Gau children's home at Brockau for a 6-week assessment. Further racial assessments were made. I'm not sure precisely which assessments were made by the RuSHA and which were made at Brockau. The children were subjected to a "arische" racial classification using the Arier tables. The most important criterion was the distance between forehead and back of the head. Here even a blond child might score poorly. There were other assessments. There were measurements of the skull, limbs and bodies. Girls had measurements taken of their pelvis. Boys had measurements taken of their penis. Based on these assessments the children were classified as "valuable", "acceptable", or "not desired" for Eindeutschung. [Henry and Hillel, pp. 153 ff.]
Frau Professor Dr. Hildegard Hetzer at the home assessed the children psycologically. The director of the home assessed their character. The final selection for Eindeutschung based on these assessments was made by the Gau Reichsstatthalter. The childrn were told that their parents were dead. They were also told false stories designed to make the children reject them. They were given German names and made to speak German. [Padfield, pp. 365-366.]
The processing of the children selected for Eindeutschung varied, depending on their age. The authorities were instructed to avoid using the term "Eindeutschung-capable Polish child" in public least the children be stigmatized. They were described to adoptive parents as "German orphanns from the reconquered east." [Padfield, p. 365.]
Many of the Lebensborn children seized by the NAZIs in Poland did not pass SS racial screening. We believe that some of the rjectees can be seen here (figure 1). These children were not returned to their parents. Himmler was concerned that Polish children with Aryan traits might when they grew up strengthen the Polish resistance to German rule, The children were interned in labor camps. Here most died of malnutritioin, disease, and lack of medical care.
The NAZI racial policies in Poland were in fact much more direct than the slow process of establishing Lenensborn homes. The SS decided to pursue a program of "Eindeutschung" Germanisation of Aryan children in occupied countries. Poland was the country most affected for several reasons. In was the country the Germans invaded in 1939 starting World War II and thus they had several years of occuption to pursue the program. There were also large numbers of fair complectioned children in Poland, precisely the children Himmler wanted. In addition, because of the draconian occupation policies there were large numbers of orphans and displaced children. The NAZIs thus launched a massive Eindeutschung of "suitable" Polish children. I am not sure precisely how the NAZIs seized the children and how organized the process was. Given the numbers of children involved, however, there surely must have been a carefully organized effort by the SS. Many of the children were taken from orphanages. Given the German occupation policies large numbers of parents were actually killed or died as a result of the dreadful conditions. This meant that were large numbers of orphaned children for the NAZIs to select from. Other children were taken from parents involved in the Resistance. I'm not sure to what extent children were seized off the street or from their homes. There were also apparently actual kipnapings and selection of children from families as well as whole villiages being deported to make way for German collonists. Some children were apparently seized with the help of town local authority. One source reports, "They kidnapped blond, naive children simply away from the road or removal them to parents, under false promises." [R. Abe, "Lebensborn e.V." Shoa.de website, retrieved May 3, 2002] There are reports of parents and siblings of kidnapped children were occasionally murdered or sent to concentration camps. Thousands of Polish children were transferred to special Lebensborn centers in order to be "Germanized". Most sources estimate over 0.2 million Polish children were kidnapped.
The children at these centers were forced to reject and forget their birth parents. They were given a new German name and had to speak only German or be punished. Himler reasoned that the education process would be relatively easy because the German ideals "would reverberate in the sprit of the children who resemble is racially". With the younger children, the education process was relatively easy. They were sent to Lebensborn homes. The SS nurses there reportedly persuade the children that their parents had abandoned them. The children 6-12 years of age were sent to boarding schools. The older children were more of a problem. The older children who rejected the NAZI education program were often beaten. These children were not returned home. When it was determined that they would not accept Germinization, they were usually transferred to concentration camps. Other children who upon closer examination were not sufficently Aryan were also sent to concentration camps.
The younger children were offered for adoption through Lebensborn homes. The children that scored highest on the racial examinations were made available to SS families. The SS fathers were for the most part of the childrn's origins. How many of these details were shared with the life probably varied. The non-SS familes were often not aware of where the children had come from and the circustances under which they had been obtained. As with the German Lebensborn children, the SS normally falsified the child's birth and other documents. There appeared to have been no shortage of adoptive parents. [Henry and Hillel, pp. 152.] This may have reflected the desire of many Germans to both ssist in the War effort and to help children who they believed had lost their parents. The fact that the children has Aryan racial characteristics must have been another factor.
A HBC reader writes, "I am trying to find a place that my late father-in-law was sent by the NAZIs. He was from Eastern Poland. I believed he might have been one of the fair complexioned Polish children kidnapped by the NAZIs after they occupied Eastern Poland in 1941. I am not sure precise when he was kidnapped. He was born about 1926 or a little latter and would have been about 11-13 when the NAZIs and Soviets invaded Poland in 1939. He said that they first were sent to a Chataue Sallas and then moved around Germany and France. He said they were in with a lot of Jewish shildren, perhaps he meant after they were liberated in 1944 or perhaps he dod not "pass" the NAZI racial tests. Perhaps it was some kind of rural labor camp. I am not sure if the spelling of Chatue Sallas is correct. It may have been a Lebensborn facility." We would be interested if any HBC readers have heaed of this camp.
Abe, R. "Lebensborn e.V." Shoa.de website, (retrieved May 3, 2002).
Albrecht, Jörg. "Rohstoff für Übermenschen", Artikel in Zeit-Punkte 3/2001 zum Thema Biomedizin, S. 16-18.
Bleuel, H. P. Das saubere Reich. Theorie und Praxis des sittlichen Lebens im Dritten Reich, Bern u.a. 1972, S. 192.
Clay, Catrine and Michael Leapman. "Herrenmenschen", Das Lebensborn-Experiment der Nazis, Heyne-TB (1997, vergriffen).
Henry, Clarissa and Marc Hillel. Lebensborn: Children of the SS (Hutchinson: London, 1976).
Hillel, Marc and Clarissa Henry. "Of Pure Blood" (1976).
Lilienthal, Georg. "Der Lebensborn e. V.", Fischer Verlag (1993, vergriffen).
Padfield, Peter. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (Henry Holt: New York, 1991), 656p.
Schmitz-Köster, Dorothee. "Deutsche Mutter bist du bereit", Alltag im Lebensborn, Aufbau-Verlag (1997, vergriffen).
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