Lebensborn in Austria: Call for Testimonies

The Nazi racial policy was not limited to the killing of "unworthy" life, but also included the promotion of "racially pure" offspring. A central role in this was played by the SS-initiated association Lebensborn, founded in 1935 by Heinrich Himmler.

Anonymous births

The goal of Lebensborn was an increase of the birth rate of “Aryan” children through special maternity hospitals. Within those hospitals, unmarried women were allowed to give birth anonymously. In addition, adoptions, preferably to members of the SS, were also administered in Lebensborn maternity hospitals. This measure was designed to keep women from terminating the pregnancies – illegitimate children were considered a dishonour.

Lebensborn maintained nine maternity hospitals on the territory of present-day Germany between 1936 and 1945 and a further fifteen in Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Norway. Today it is estimated that thousands of children were born in Lebensborn maternity hospitals. In addition, from 1943 onwards the Lebensborn was involved in the "Germanization" of hundreds of children, especially from occupied Poland.

Heinz Hübner was born in 1939 in the Lebensborn Wienerwald maternity hospital. His mother was 16 years old when she became pregnant. The parents married few weeks after the birth of the child. Photo credit: Heinz Hübner, Vienna.

Maternity hospital "Wienerwald"

The history of the largest Lebensborn maternity hospital – "Heim Wienerwald" near Vienna – is almost unexplored. A new project supported by the Anniversary Fund of the Austrian National Bank and the Province of Lower Austria researches the history of this Lebensborn maternity hospital on the basis of sources that have so far received little attention.

The project is led by Barbara Stelzl-Marx, who heads the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Research on Consequences of War (BIK) in Austria and is Director of Research in the CHIBOW network.

Lukas Schretter, who wrote his dissertation within the CHIBOW network on children of British soldiers and Austrian women after World War II, researches on the history of the "Wienerwald" maternity hospital and coordinates the project.

Call for Testimonials

In order to answer the many questions surrounding the Wienerwald maternity hospital, the research team not only wants to examine historical documents, but is also searching for contemporary witnesses. Contact: +43 316 380 82 72, or lukas.schretter@bik.ac.at.

For more information see: www.bik.ac.at

After the end of the World War II, the former Lebensborn maternity hospital was used as a children’s recreation home. It was later purchased by the Federation of Trade Unions and afterwards turned into a hotel. Since the early 2000s, the building has been sitting empty and continues to deteriorate. Today it is barricaded and cannot be entered. Photo credit: BIK.

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CHIBOW has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 642571

The University of Birmingham is the coordinating body of the Children

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