Between 1935 and 1945, there were born some 10,000 children in Germany and an estimated 9,000 in Norway as part of a Nazi genetic engineering plan to build up an Aryan ‘master-race’ or super-breed of humanity. This scheme was known as the Lebensborn or ‘Fountain of Life’ program. Special clinics were set up where SS men1 were encouraged to mate with blue-eyed, blonde Nordic girls who had no Jewish ancestry, in order to produce ‘racially pure’ German offspring. The resultant babies were then brought up in the foster care of dedicated Nazi couples or reared in special orphanages.
There were at least ten Lebensborn homes in Germany,2and nine in Nazi-occupied Norway, where the unmarried pregnant women could give birth in secret away from their homes.3 The babies were christened in a ritual in which an SS dagger was held over them as the mother swore allegiance to Nazi ideology.4 If any of the children born into the program were disabled, they were killed or sent to concentration camps.5
Social Darwinism in action
This was social Darwinism or eugenics in action. Eugenics is the application of Darwinian evolution to produce better offspring by improving the birthrate of the ‘fit’ and reducing the birthrate of the ‘less fit’.6 The Lebensborn homes took care of the former, hurrying natural selection along; the concentration camps dealt with the latter,7 exterminating up to 11 million ‘useless eaters’, as authenticated and documented at the Nuremberg Trials.
The Germany of Hitler’s day was steeped in this social Darwinism. This was principally because:
- Darwin’s Origin of Species had been translated into German in 1860,8 followed by his Descent of Man in 1875 (which showed that Darwin was himself a social Darwinist!). And their logical sequel, articles on eugenics, by Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, had been translated into German by the early 1900s.
- Ernst Haeckel (Prof. of Zoology at Jena University in Germany from 1865 to 1909) had become ‘Darwin’s chief European apostle proclaiming the Gospel of evolution with evangelistic fervor, not only to the university intelligentsia but to the common man by popular books and to the working classes by lectures in rented halls.’9
- The German nation had been subjected for many years to the ‘God-is-dead’ atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Nietzsche believed that (his version of) evolution would eventually produce the Übermensch, ‘a superman whose distance from the ordinary man is greater than the distance between man and ape’.10 Then a ‘super-race’ of such beings would impose its will on the weak and the worthless….
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