During the Nazi era, the Lebensbornheim on the edge of the Vienna Forest was a birthplace for “genetically valuable” women. A project by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on the Consequences of War (BIK) is now working on the history of the house. On Tuesday (September 20), four former “Lebensborn children” will speak for the first time in a panel discussion in the House of History in the Museum of Lower Austria about the meaning that the house “Wienerwald” has for them.
From October 1938 until the end of the war in 1945, at least 1,188 children were born in the “Wienerwald” maternity home in Feichtenbach/Pernitz. This was the result of research by the research team led by Barbara Stelzl-Marx from the BIK in Graz. The association “Lebensborn” was behind the home. It was founded in 1935 by “Reichsfuhrer SS”, Heinrich Himmler, to promote the birth of “racially” valuable children. The association maintained a total of 24 houses in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, France and Norway, in which only women who fulfilled the “racial” ideas of the SS were allowed to give birth, like Stelzl-Marx in the APA- interview explained. .
While this part of the story is known, the living conditions of the women and the fates of the children born there have not been researched in detail. The BIK project team dedicated itself to this goal, funded by the Jubilee Fund of the Austrian National Bank, the State of Lower Austria and the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria. On the one hand, archival documents, such as files of the children born in the house, were analyzed. On the other hand, the team conducted personal interviews with contemporary witnesses who were related to the house, but also with the Lebensborn children themselves, in which they talked about the effects being born in the “Wienerwald” house had on their families and had on themselves.
diversity of resumes
“We are still at the beginning of the evaluation,” says Lukas Schretter, the project coordinator. But the wide variety in dealing with family history is already clear. Stelzl-Marx adds: “Some people didn’t really deal with it in their biographies, for others it became a central theme in their lives. Partly it was a family secret, partly it was dealt with openly.”
The difference in the biographies is also reflected in the Lebensborn children, who between the ages of 77 and 84 took part in the panel discussion, which in collaboration with the House of History in the Museum of Lower Austria and the Institute for History at the University of Graz. Karin Termes started dealing with Lebensborn and the search for her biological parents as a teenager, the architect Klaus Steiner also deals professionally with Nazi history, according to Stelzl-Marx. Valentin Erben describes the circumstances of his birth as a “bullet in his biography”, Helga S. was born as an illegitimate child in the house and spent the first two years of her life there. On Tuesday, there will also be a private event for Lebensborn children for the first time where they can get to know each other and exchange ideas. At 18:00 Schretter will give a presentation and the discussion will be moderated by Sabine Nachbaur, who is also involved in the project.
In an interview, Nachbaur described the living situation of the women who came to the home: about half of them were married, often to SS men or German police officers. Unmarried women would have mostly chosen the Lebensborn home because there they would have had the opportunity to give birth anonymously and to raise their children in the house without being noticed. However, according to Stelzl-Marx, it was not “hermetically sealed”. People from the area would have worked there, the mothers would have gone to the post office.
Parallel to the births, individual children who did not conform to the ideas of the NS would also become victims of the NS “infant deaths”. According to Nachbaur, they were transferred to the “Am Spiegelgrund” Nazi institution in Vienna and killed there. According to Stelzl-Marx, four people responsible for the “Lebensborn” association were charged at the Nuremberg trials, but were later acquitted because they could credibly demonstrate that it was a humanitarian institution. The historian vehemently contradicts this: “Lebensborn was an instrument of Nazi racial policy.”(apa)