Lebensborn e.V. (literally: “Fount of Life”) was an SS-initiated, state-supported, registered association in Nazi Germany with the goal of raising the birth rate of “Aryan” children via extramarital relations of persons classified as “racially pure and healthy” based on Nazi racial hygiene and health ideology. Lebensborn encouraged anonymous births by unmarried women, and mediated adoption of these children by likewise “racially pure and healthy” parents, particularly SS members and their families.
Initially set up in Germany in 1935, Lebensborn expanded into several occupied European countries with Germanic populations during the Second World War. It included the selection of “racially worthy” orphans for adoption and care for children born from Aryan women who had been in relationships with SS members. It originally excluded children born from unions between common soldiers and foreign women, because there was no proof of racial purity on both sides.
At the Nuremberg Trials, no evidence was found of direct involvement by the Lebensborn organization in the kidnapping of Polish children. However, Heinrich Himmler directed a programme with other segments of the Nazi bureaucracy, whereby thousands of Polish children were kidnapped and subjected to ‘Germanisation’. Germanisation involved a period at one of the ‘re-education camps’, followed by being fostered out to German families.