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Brochure for the Lebensborn Program

Lebensborn
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Nazi racial ideology asserted that a large and "racially pure" German population was necessary for Nazi Germany to conquer and colonize much of Central and Eastern Europe. Created by the SS in late 1935 to counter Germany’s declining birthrate, the Lebensborn program began as a campaign to encourage “racially valuable” Germans to have more children. Lebensborn initially focused on giving financial aid to SS men with large families and providing pregnant "Aryan” women with medical care in comfortable maternity houses. During World War II, the program also became involved in the kidnapping of thousands of foreign children for adoption into German families.1 

The featured promotional brochure was published to encourage future mothers to join the Lebensborn program. Containing several photographs of the maternity centers, this pamphlet informed potential candidates of the rules and admissions requirements for the program. Lebensborn focused on recruiting unwed women expecting babies fathered by SS men or others deemed “biologically valuable,” and copies of this brochure were likely passed discreetly to single pregnant women by their doctors or nurses.

By offering single mothers secluded accommodations for the time of pregnancy and labor, these maternity centers were designed to protect women from social judgments and prevent them from seeking illegal abortions.2 However, women willing to join the program had to meet certain terms to prove their “Aryan” ancestry and good hereditary health. Those accepted into the program received the benefits of medical supervision, legal support, and job placement after labor. In the case of single women, the Lebensborn central office determined whether to release children into their mother’s custody or place them with an adoptive family.  

Between 1936 and 1945, approximately 7,000 children were born in the Lebensborn maternity houses. Although roughly 60 percent of them were born to unmarried parents, having children outside of marriage was controversial in German society. By encouraging unwed but "racially worthy" mothers to have children, Lebensborn challenged traditional ideas about family.3 Elsewhere in its propaganda, however, the Nazi regime promoted early marriage as a way to have many children while reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Although these approaches seem very different, they both contributed to the goal of creating a large and healthy “Aryan” nation.

Lebensborn means "Fount of Life," and the program was designed to be the wellspring of future generations of “racially valuable” Germans. For more on the Lebensborn program in Experiencing History, see the Request to Replace Nurse Anna Hölzer.

In 1933, German law prohibited abortion for "Aryan" women. Meanwhile, the Nazi regime pursued a policy of sterilization for "non-Aryan" and "hereditarily ill" Germans. On abortion, see Gisela Bock, "Racism and Sexism in Nazi Germany: Motherhood. Compulsory Sterilization, and the State," in When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany, eds. Renate Bridenthal, Atina Grossman, and Marion Kaplan (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984), 276–279.  

Amy Carney, Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), 64–65. For more information about Lebensborn, see chapter "Establishing SS Families," especially pages 62–74.

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Lebensborn

Every mother of good blood shall be holy to us 

Heinrich Himmler

 

Tasks and Aims of Lebensborn

 

CONTENTS

                                                                                     Page

Who will be accepted?                                                         9

Where are the Lebensborn homes?                                     11

When should the expectant mother apply?                          13

What clothing etc. must she take with her to the home?       13

Must clothes etc. for the newborn be taken along?               13

May children be brought along to the home?                        15

What is the cost of the stay in the home?                            15

Transfer of maternity benefits                                             15

Portion of costs for which the child’s father is responsible      17

How long can the stay in the home be extended?                 17

 

The Processing of the Application for Admission to the Home

With whom must all correspondence be conducted?              19

CM Questionnaire (child’s mother)                                       19

CF Questionnaire (child’s father)                                         21

Proof of Aryan descent                                                       21

Proof of good health and genetic health                               23

The affidavit                                                                      23

The marriage license                                                          25

What becomes of the children of single mothers?                  27

Keeping the child                                                               27

Foster home                                                                      29

Adoption                                                                           29

What protection does a single mother-to-be have?                31

Legal protection of single mothers                                       33

Job placement                                                                   33

Medical supervision                                                            33

 

In 1935, the Reichsführer-SS founded

Lebensborn e.V.

The task of this charitable association is to place expectant mothers of good blood under the protection of the Reichsführer-SS.

Lebensborn differs from all the other institutions of the National Socialist state that undertake similar tasks on a nationwide basis; its work involves the application of the strict genetic selection principle of the Schutzstaffel [SS].

To carry out its task, Lebensborn has created maternity homes in every part of Greater Germany whose facilities suit the needs of our times.

Who will be accepted?

The Lebensborn homes have been created for the wives of members of the SS and the German Police as well as, in general, married mothers on their own and unwed mothers who need special protection.

The prerequisite for admission to the home is proof of good health, genetic health, and Aryan descent up to and including the grandparents. This proof must be furnished by the father and mother of the child-to-be.

The Lebensborn homes are maternity homes; they are not suited for convalescent care. Requests for the granting of a convalescent stay will be passed on by Lebensborn to other competent authorities.

HOCHLAND home

Where are the Lebensborn homes?

Mothers-to-be can be admitted to the following homes:

FREILAND home

HARZ home

HOCHLAND home

KURMARK home

OSTMARK [Austria] home

POMMERN [Pomerania] home

TAUNUS home

The names of the homes generally denote their geographical location.

The exact address of the homes will be provided if the application for admission is likely to be approved. To avoid delays, the application for admission to a home must be addressed to the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn e.V., Munich 2, 3–7 Herzog-Max-Strasse.

Any applications for admission that are sent to the homes will be forwarded to the Reich Central Office for processing.

POMMERN home

When should the expectant mother apply?

The mother-to-be should, if at all possible, apply during the first months of her pregnancy for admission to a Lebensborn home, so that protection and care can begin at an early stage.

What clothing etc. must she take with her to the home?

Detailed instructions regarding the personal items advisable for the expectant mother to bring along to the home will be sent to her in good time by the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn.

Must clothes etc. for the newborn be taken along?

During the newborn’s stay there, every Lebensborn home makes the complete layette available at no cost.

If the mother takes the baby with her when she is released, she will need clothes for the infant and accessories for the trip home.

Exact instructions concerning the layette, where required, will be given to the expectant mother in good time by the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn. 

OSTMARK home

May children be brought along to the home?

Because the Lebensborn homes are heavily utilized, it is not possible to bring children along to the home.

If these children cannot be accommodated in the homes of relatives or friends, the relevant office of the NSV [National Socialist People’s Welfare] “Mother and Child” aid organization should be requested to arrange for accommodation. Upon request, Lebensborn will gladly contact and work together with the NSV.

What is the cost of the stay in the home?

Transfer of maternity benefits

If the mother-to-be has health insurance, she must make her contribution to the costs incurred by her stay in the home, by assigning to Lebensborn all the maternity benefits paid by her health plan. If the plan offers a nursing mothers’ bonus, the health insurance provider pays it directly to the mother.

To prevent the expectant mother from losing her claim to the maternity benefits offered by her health plan, she must, within 21 days of leaving her place of employment, apply to her health insurance provider for optional continued insurance at the previous level of contribution. Then, all the mother-to-be needs to do is state to Lebensborn that she agrees to transfer the health-plan benefits; everything else will be arranged by Lebensborn.

KURMARK home

If a mother receives health-plan maternity benefits in excess of the costs incurred at the home, Lebensborn will refund the excess amount.

If the expectant mother does not have health insurance, Lebensborn will make a special arrangement with her.

Portion of costs for which the child’s father is responsible

The father of a natural (illegitimate) child is required by law to pay, within reason, the costs incurred for an unwed expectant mother as the result of the birth of a child. Lebensborn sets the amounts to be paid by the child’s father in accordance with his economic circumstances.

It is therefore necessary for the child’s father to fill out the questionnaire accurately, set forth his economic circumstances in greater detail, and enclose pay slips or pay statements as proof of his income. It is also advisable to submit a list of the monthly expenses to be paid out of his net wage.

The economic situation of the child’s parents has no bearing on the decision regarding admission to a Lebensborn home.

How long can the stay in the home be extended?

If special circumstances are present, expectant mothers who are on their own can be admitted at a relatively early stage. The termination date of the stay in the home is decided by the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn, taking into consideration the suggestions of the home’s physician and the given circumstances.

FRIESLAND home

The Processing of the Application for Admission to the Home

With whom must all correspondence be conducted?

All correspondence must be conducted with the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn, Munich 2, 3–7 Herzog-Max-Strasse. The Lebensborn homes, as a matter of principle, do not engage in any correspondence with expectant mothers.

CM Questionnaire [Child’s Mother]

Once the application for admission to a Lebensborn home has been received by the Reich Central Office, two questionnaires are mailed out to the mother-to-be that very day, if at all possible.

The CM questionnaire must be filled out by the expectant mother herself, on her own behalf, with the greatest care and promptly returned to the Reich Central Office, so that the processing is not delayed.

Meticulous answering of all the questions is important, because time-consuming queries should be avoided, and because imprecisely answered questions can bring about misunderstandings that lead, in some circumstances, to rejection of the application for admission.

Particular attention is also to be given to the questions about the health-insurance situation of the expectant mother. With regard to photographs (which are required for completion of the application), the most appropriate ones are so-called amateur photos taken recently, if they represent the mother (if possible, the father too) of the expected baby in a realistic way.

HOCHLAND home

The photos of both parents must be submitted in duplicate.

CF Questionnaire [Child’s Father] 

The CF questionnaire must be filled out with the same care by the father of the expected child. If the mother-to-be is no longer in contact with the child’s father, or if she does not wish to reestablish contact with him, she should fill out the CF questionnaire herself, to the best of her ability.

In this case, all negotiations with the father of the expected child will be conducted directly by Lebensborn.

Proof of Aryan descent

Lebensborn makes available to both parents an ancestral chart going back to the grandparents. All entries in this ancestral chart must be documented by the corresponding birth and marriage certificates or by a certified Ahnenpass. 

All the documentation submitted will be returned immediately after verification.

If it is not possible, for special reasons, to mail in the documents for proof of Aryan descent, they can, as an exception, be submitted at a later time if examination of the other records leaves no room to doubt the impeccably Aryan origin of both parents.

POMMERN home 

Proof of good health and genetic health

Proof is furnished by means of a medical examination of both parents. For this purpose, Lebensborn sends out a questionnaire in a sealed envelope, which is to be turned over, unopened, to the examining physician. The physician will send it back to the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn.

The examination can be performed by any physician licensed in Germany. The costs of the examination are borne by the parents of the child. In cases of proven economic need, Lebensborn will defray the costs.

The affidavit

Lebensborn assumes guardianship (before the birth, trusteeship) of the natural (illegitimate) children born in its homes.

The mother-to-be must be able to declare under oath that, during the legal period of possible conception in her case, she had intercourse only with the man whom she is naming as the father of the baby she expects. Without this declaration, no expectant mother can be admitted to a Lebensborn home.

The printed form for making the affidavit will be made available to the expectant mother by the Reich Central Office. At the same time, she will be told the dates of the legal period of possible conception (the time intervening between the 302nd day and the 181st day before the birth).

The affidavit is one of the most important [continued on next page]

HOCHLAND home

elements for the negotiations of Lebensborn with the father of the child.

It is self-evident that the mother of the child must make the affidavit statement with the greatest care imaginable.

The marriage license

If the child’s parents have a marriage license from the Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS in Berlin, they generally do not need to furnish separate proof of good health, genetic health, and Aryan descent; in this case, it is sufficient to submit a certified copy of the marriage license. If special circumstances make it impossible for the child’s parents to have a certified copy of the marriage license made, the original also can be mailed in to Lebensborn. This document will be returned to the senders without delay, by registered mail.

If the child’s parents have not yet received the marriage license but have already submitted all the required documentation to the Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS, Lebensborn must be informed of the number of the certificate of insurance or the family group number under which the request for permission to marry is being reviewed at the SS Race and Settlement Main Office. In this case too, the child’s parents do not need to furnish proof of good health, genetic health, and Aryan descent again. But if more than six months have passed since permission to marry was granted,

OSTMARK home

fresh proof of good health is required. Because Lebensborn requires, for proof of good health, genetic health, and Aryan descent, very specific information that is generally not requested, the evidence of this type that often had been furnished previously to other offices cannot be used as a basis for the decision on admission to a home.

What becomes of the children of single mothers?

Keeping the child

Every single mother can take her child home once she is released from the maternity home, if she herself is able to give the child proper care and education, or if the child is in good hands with her family members or relatives. Permission to take the child with her must be obtained in good time from the Reich Central Office of Lebensborn.

If the child remains in the maternity home after the mother is released, a monthly fee of 45 Reichmarks is charged for his care from the 1st through the 6th month of his stay. If, for special reasons and with special permission, the child must stay in the home for more than six months, the monthly costs (from the beginning of the 7th month) amount to 60 Reichsmarks.

Maintenance payments (child support payments) will be counted toward the costs incurred for the child’s stay in the maternity home.

HOCHLAND home

Foster care

If the mother, when the child is released from the maternity home, is not yet able to take her child home with her or to house it with family members or relatives, Lebensborn, with her agreement, will arrange for a carefully selected foster home. By placement of the child in foster care, the rights of the mother to her child are not restricted.

The costs incurred by the foster home are calculated in the same way as those for the child’s stay in the maternity home.

Growing up in the family circle is of fundamental importance for the full development of the child’s abilities and aptitudes. Even the most diligent, loving care in an institution can never substitute for the value of an upbringing within the family.

Adoption

If it presumably will never be possible for the mother to take the child into her home and care for it herself, and if she is willing to sacrifice for her child by giving him, through adoption, a good upbringing in a family, Lebensborn can arrange for an adoption, if adoption proves advisable for the child.

The Reichsführer-SS reserves the right in each individual case to grant permission for the adoption placement suggested by Lebensborn.

Each mother thus has, if applicable, the guarantee that her child will have the best adoptive parents imaginable.

OSTMARK home

What protection does a single mother-to-be have?

To protect the single expectant mother of good blood from the still-present danger of ostracism, Lebensborn has been equipped with special facilities that guarantee the concealment of the pregnancy and birth under certain conditions. The father of the child also can be completely included in the secrecy arrangements with respect to the outside world, if he carries out his obvious duties.

Every home has its own registration office.

Exact instructions for filing the notice of departure for the police will be issued separately, on a case-by-case basis. 

Every home has its own civil registry office.

As a result of Lebensborn’s special facilities (registration and civil registry offices), all the requisite record-keeping can be handled within the Lebensborn sphere.

Health insurance. 

The offices of the health insurance plans, in principle, have the duty of strict official discretion. If health plan benefits are utilized, there is normally no danger that secrecy will be violated.

OSTMARK home

Legal protection of single mothers

Lebensborn assumes trusteeship of the expected child and, after the birth, guardianship.

At the same time, Lebensborn takes responsibility for the legal protection of all interests of the mother and her child with respect to the father, at no cost to her.

Lebensborn’s Legal Department will provide every mother and mother-to-be, at no cost, with all legal information that falls into Lebensborn’s area of work.

Job placement

Upon request, Lebensborn will place every mother who has given birth in a Lebensborn home in a new job in keeping with her knowledge and abilities, wherever possible.

Medical supervision

All Lebensborn homes are under the direction of physicians. Every home has nationally certified nurses in sufficient numbers.

Even if operative deliveries are performed in the operating theaters, which have modern equipment, the Lebensborn homes do not convey the impression of being hospitals or maternity hospitals. They are, in every way, true homes with a family atmosphere, in which the mothers-to-be bring their children into the world in a completely peaceful setting with a sense of emotional security.

HOCHLAND home

Words to take to heart!

The expectant mother who wants to enter a Lebensborn home needs to know that a home community awaits her. Community in the National Socialist sense, however, means comradeship involving direct personal participation. 

In addition, the expectant mother needs to know that a Lebensborn home is not a sanatorium.

To improve her physical and mental well-being, every mother has to take part in easy household chores, as the physician in charge deems necessary.

The mother is expected to perform the little duties assigned to her with a cheerful, conscientious attitude. It is imperative to comply with the house rules issued for the Lebensborn homes by the Reichsführer-SS. Mothers-to-be who think they cannot fit into the comradely spirit of the home because they prefer a period of idleness to light activity activity will be disappointed in the Lebensborn homes. 

Lebensborn children

"All our struggle, the death of the two million in the world war, the political fight of the last 15 years, the build-up of our Wehrmacht for the protection of our borders, would be in vain and pointless if the victory of the German spirit is not followed by the victory of the child."

H. Himmler

Printing:

Franz Schmidt, Munich 25

Photographs:

Friedrich Franz Bauer, Berlin,

Hans Reglaff, Berlin,

Photo-Hahn, Bad Polzin

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Source Number 2008.56.1
Date Created
Unknown
Author / Creator
Lebensborn
Publisher
Franz Smid
Language(s)
German
Location
Munich, Germany
Document Type Pamphlet
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