There were three main groups of children that went through the Lebensborn system during its existence.
1. German Children:
During Lebensborn’s existence between 6,000 and 7,000 children were born in the Lebensborn homes to “Aryan” German women. Also, many “Aryan” children were taken from orphanages all over Germany and Austria and put into the homes to be indoctrinated with Nazi ideals and then placed in suitable foster homes.
2. Kidnapped Children:
This sinister and often unknown component of the Lebensborn program involved the capturing of suitably “Aryan” children from their families in occupied countries and turning them over to the SS. Between 1939 and 1945 approximately 200,000 children were kidnapped from their families in Poland, 50,000 from Ukraine and also about 50,000 from the Baltic region. Even children in regions like France and Norway were not safe from the SS. These children were taken to centers in Germany where they were forced to denounce their parents and to accept Nazi ideals, in essence they were Germanized. Of the children who did not pass the Nazi’s criteria of racial purity, many were sent to concentration camps to die. After the war only a very small percentage of the kidnapped children were returned to their families. Only 30,000 to 40,000 Polish children were returned.
3. Norway(and other occupied countries):
Between 1943 and 1945 thousands of children were born of Norwegian mothers and German fathers.
As stated in the previous pages the Lebensborn Homes were relatively comfortable places to be, for acceptable “Aryans”, but as also previously stated, regardless of the creature comforts of the clinics there was a sinister side. After children were born or brought into the Lebensborn program they had to undergo extensive racial selection processes or “Auslese”. The children were classified with a 4 level standard. The number 1st class children were meant to live with high-class SS families. The 1 and 2 level children qualified as receivers of economic and social support. The “lesser value” children were dismissed from Lebensborn and sent to orphanages and to the NSV (National Sozialistiche Volkswohlfahrt). Some of the children who were mentally disabled or had severe hereditary diseases became victims of the Nazi’s euthanasia program.
Even the “acceptable” children suffered. Many had severe developmental deficiencies from lack of social contact. Lebensborn children tell stories of being frightened in the night and crying for hours, no matter how long they cried no one would come to comfort them.