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Request to Replace Nurse Anna Hölzer

This report describes allegations against a German nurse, accusing her of malpractice while performing her duties in a German maternity home.
International Tracing Service Archive

In December 1935, the SS created a maternity program called Lebensborn, or "Fount of Life." Designed to help boost Germany’s dwindling birth rate, the program recruited pregnant young "Aryan" women to give birth to "racially valuable" children in comfortable maternity houses run by the SS.1 The Lebensborn program claimed to offer the best possible modern medical care in "a completely peaceful setting with a sense of emotional security."2

The Lebensborn program supposedly observed the very highest standards of care, but authorities received many complaints about the staff of these facilities.3 For example, the featured report urges the immediate replacement of Anna Hölzer, the head nurse of the Hohehorst Lebensborn home outside of Bremen.

The 44-year-old nurse had been recommended for the position because she was politically reliable and ideologically "perfect."4 Hölzer belonged to the Nationalsozialistische Schwesternschaft, or National Socialist Nurses' Federation. This nurses' association was designed to spread Nazi ideology while gradually replacing Catholic and Protestant nursing orders as the primary community health providers in Germany. Known as the "Brown Sisters" for their zealous commitment to the Nazi Party, members swore personal oaths of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

As this report demonstrates, Hölzer failed to observe basic hygienic practices as head nurse at Hohehorst. In the few months she was there, several mothers became ill with fever and one woman died from a blood infection. She also reportedly gossiped about the children’s parentage, indulged in favoritism, and embezzled many items. Learning of the charges against her, Hölzer accused the home's staff and the mothers staying there of secretly plotting against her. When stolen goods were found in her luggage, however, she admitted to the crime.5

Although Hölzer's political reliability helped advance her career within the SS-controlled Lebensborn homes, her unprofessional behavior and unsafe medical practices led to her dismissal.6 SS leader Heinrich Himmler oversaw many aspects of the Lebensborn program, and he personally ordered that Hölzer should be reported and replaced. Himmler specified that those who had vouched for Hölzer must be warned "that they should be more careful if they choose to stand up for someone in the future."

When Allied forces approached the Bremen region in spring 1945, the head nurse of Hohehorst was Else Schwartzmann.7 She refused to help the SS evacuate the home and flee with the children to Denmark. Because of her intervention, the staff and children remained safely at the home until the end of the war. Following the collapse of Nazi Germany, the large country mansion that had housed the Hohehorst Lebensborn home became an auxiliary hospital operated by the German Red Cross

The Lebensborn program specifically recruited single mothers and provided discreet places where they could give birth away from judgmental eyes. The children born into the Lebensborn homes were under the care of the SS, who determined whether they would stay with their biological mothers or be placed elsewhere. During World War II, the Lebensborn program developed into a system that included kidnapping "racially valuable" foreign children to be raised as Germans. See the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia for more on the SS and Lebensborn policy.

For an example, see this Brochure for the Lebensborn Program in the Family Life During the Holocaust collection. For more on Lebensborn, see Patricia Heberer, Children during the Holocaust (Lanham: Altamira Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011), 202–9

The complaints lodged against Lebensborn staff ranged widely, from unsanitary personal habits and untidy appearances to a lack of familiarity with modern postnatal care and judgmental attitudes toward single mothers. Extensive documentation on the Lebensborn program can be accessed in the digital archives of the International Tracing Service at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC (Request to Replace Lebensborn Nurse Anna Hölzer, 4.1.0/82455686-7/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives).

Her recommendation letter from the SS states: "Weltanschaulich ist sie einwandfrei," or "Ideologically she is perfect."

Hölzer had stolen a long list of items from the Hohehorst home, including but not limited to: candles; envelopes; soap; tiles; a sleeping bag; a thermos; fabric; sheets; smocks; aprons; scarves; swimming caps; nightgowns; dresses; skirts; pants; cardigans; blouses; bras; stockings; socks; shoes; boots; children’s clothes; and several animal figurines produced by Allach Porcelain Manufacturing, a business owned by the SS that began using forced labor from Dachau in 1940 in order to produce its collectibles. 

The relationships between Nazism and medical science were complex. The Nazis opposed quack medicine even as they embraced unscientific racial theories and encouraged human experimentation and other crimes. Although Nazi authorities allowed and even encouraged substandard medical treatment for those people outside of their imagined Volksgemeinschaft (German racial community), they feared that the poor medical practices of nurses like Hölzer posed a danger to the health of "Aryan" mothers and children. For more on the complex relationships between Nazism, medical science, and public health, see Robert N. Proctor, The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

Schwartzmann had been working at a Lebensborn home in Norway so that her family and friends in Germany would not realize that the single nurse was pregnant. Returning to Germany, she pretended her son, Werner, was another Lebensborn child in the care of the SS until after the war. Dozens of the children at Hohehorst in the final days of the war had been kidnapped from Norway by Nazi forces to be adopted and raised as Germans in the Third Reich. Because of this, Allied occupation authorities initially doubted that baby Werner was actually Schwartzmann's child. In July, 1945, 30 kidnapped children living at Hohehorst were flown home to Norway.

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November 4, 1939
NSDAP Reichsleitung
Main Office for National Welfare
Dept. of the National Socialist Nurses' Federation
Attention: Superior General B ö t t c h e r

B e r l i n W. 62
110 Kurfürstenstr.

Dr. E./[initials illegible]
Re.: Replacement of Senior Nurse Anna Hölzer.
Reference: Telephone conversation on November 3, 1939, with Nurse Melanie.
Enclosures: ---

With reference to my telephone conversation yesterday with Senior Nurse Melanie concerning the replacement of Senior Nurse Anna Hölzer, I venture to request that the replacement be brought about by November 15, 1939, if at all possible, and specifically for the following reasons:

1.) She gave detailed information about the personal circumstances of a mother, particularly the child's father, to Mrs. Linhardt of the German Women's Welfare Organization on the occasion of her visit to the Hohehorst Home, although she [Hölzer] knew that the case in question was to be kept strictly private.

By so doing, Nurse Anna proved once again that she is absolutely unsuited for Lebensborn e.V.

2.) On October 27 and 28, 1939, Mrs. Grete gave birth to her fourth child. The midwife oversaw the delivery, while the senior nurse [Anna Hölzer] took charge of the after-birth phase. During the development of the placenta, the amniotic membranes tore, and for this reason Nurse Anna inserted her bare hand into the vagina to grasp the remnants of the membranes. She did not wash her hands in advance, nor did she put on a rubber glove or use an instrument, although very shortly before, when a mammary gland abscess was being opened,



she had provided assistance.

The present midwife, Mrs. Kurz, submitted this report in the office here and is prepared to swear to the truth of her statements at any time.

3.) The midwife listed 7 cases in which fever recently appeared postpartum.

The senior nurse did not relieve the midwife of her postpartum-care duties, although, as a professional, she must have known that a midwife who takes care of women with fever is not permitted to keep participating in the delivery process.

The midwife traces these feverish conditions back to this fact, and also to the inadequate sterilization of the rubber gloves etc.

Because a woman died of postpartum sepsis in the Hohehorst Home two months ago, I can no longer take responsibility for these conditions.

Professionally as well, Nurse Anna Hölzer appears to lack the skills as a midwife that she is required to have in an institution. 

I therefore request expedited replacement.


Heil Hitler!

The Managing Chairman of Lebensborn e.V.



[initial] Oberführer


Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
International Tracing Service Archive
Accession Number Request to Replace Lebensborn Nurse Anna Hölzer, 4.1.0/82455686-7/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives
Date Created
November 4, 1939
Bremen, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Letter
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