The children from Himmler’s SS maternity hospital

Today, the former Lebensborn home in Pernitz, Lower Austria, is a “lost place” that YouTubers love. Picturesque decay, graffiti, old documents, smashed windows (also see in the video) – entering is actually strictly forbidden. Originally a lung clinic run by two Jewish doctors from the beginning of the 20th century, in which Franz Kafka was treated, among others, the National Socialists “Aryanized” the house after the “Anschluss”.

Photo series with 7 pictures

As early as 1935, Himmler had founded the SS club in Lebensborn. In an interview with ORF.at, Barbara Stelzl-Marx, Lukas Schretter and Sabine Nachbaur describe the central question of the research project, which was carried out by the Boltzmann Institute for Research on the Consequences of War in cooperation with the University of Graz. For Reichsfuhrer SS Himmler, the Lebensborn association was a special concern, they emphasize. According to the association’s statutes, it was important to promote the “good German blood”. Single women who were considered “Aryan” should be discouraged from having an abortion so that the “good” genetic material is not wasted.

Himmler’s attention to detail

These women were allowed to give birth anonymously and were also supported around the birth. In addition, families of members of the SS and the German police could use the maternity clinics, where they should be cared for as well as possible. The time after the birth was not only used for follow-up care, but also for the ideological consolidation of the mothers in the sense of the NS ideology.

However, the increase in the number of “Aryan” children did not come close to the extent Himmler had hoped for. His basic assumptions were unrealistic, the figures regarding abortions unsustainable. Lebensborn was a symbolic-ideological project in which the “German mother” was to serve as the “vessel of the nobility of the future”, as the statutes said. Himmler was interested in every detail right up to the end – for example the question of whether potatoes should be boiled in the home with or without their skins, or how often women breastfeed each day. Everyday life was dominated by National Socialist racial policy.

Picturedesk.com/Mark Eder

View of the dilapidated indoor pool of the former Lebensborn home in the Vienna Woods

1,200 “Lebensborn children” in the Vienna Woods

The Wienerwald home was one of the largest in the Third Reich. Around 1,200 children were born there by 1945. 30 of them followed a call from the Boltzmann Institute and agreed to talks. A comprehensive analysis of their statements has not yet been carried out, but the researchers say that one can already see that there are very different ways of dealing with the birthplace of Lebensborn-Heim.

Lebensborn home in the Wienerwald, after 1941

Collection of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on the Consequences of War

In 1938, the Wienerwald sanatorium was rebuilt according to the guidelines of the Reich architecture and then served the Lebensborn home as a maternity clinic

This oscillates between repression, confrontation and relativization. For some people it has little meaning and is no more than an insignificant note on the birth certificate. For others it is a life theme because it manifests the confrontation with the parents’ Nazi history. Among these is the architect and urban planner Steiner.

event notice

“Das Lebensborn-Heim Wienerwald”: panel discussion with contemporary witnesses; Moderator: Barbara Stelzl-Marx; Tuesday, September 20, at 6 p.m. in the House of History in St. Pölten. We ask that you register at [email protected] or call 0316-3808272.

“My Sturmbannfuhrer”

In conversation, Steiner calls his “producer” “my Sturmbannfuhrer”. The illegal Nazi and later SS man was absent as a father, but omnipresent as a figure with a questionable Nazi past. More and more pieces of the puzzle about his birth and his father’s career surfaced in the course of Steiner’s childhood and youth. All his life he searched for answers. Perhaps, he hopes, he will learn something new from the Boltzmann Institute’s project.

In his job, he dealt intensively with the Viennese urban planning of the National Socialists. Among other things, he was largely responsible for a corresponding exhibition at the Architekturzentrum Wien. And he also tried to “make things up” in other ways, for example by getting involved with the Ute Bock club and the VinziRast.

The gravity of the silence

Steiner hardly heard a word from either his mother or his father. Many former “Lebensborn children” had a similar experience. The silence sometimes weighs heavily.

Heim Wienerwald, Easter 1944

Helga S., Vienna

At least 1,200 children were born in the Lebensborn home in the Vienna Woods

The research team at the Boltzmann Institute reports, for example, on an 80-year-old who is still trying to find out something about his father’s Nazi past. And some descendants and relatives of the “Lebensborn children” would have reported. The need to come to terms with the past is therefore great. Under no circumstances do those affected and their descendants want to “finally let the past rest”.

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