The Lebensborn (Fount of Life Society) was founded in December 1935 by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Many people think Himmler got the idea for this experiment in "accelerated evolution" from his short-lived career as a chicken farmer in the early 1920s. But, in actuality, Himmler was a member of an occult group called the Artamen, which drew its inspiration from both esoteric and "racial hygiene" sources. In the Nineteenth Century, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote a novel called Vril, or The Coming Race, which talked about humanity taking charge of its own evolution and developing "the new race." Elena Petrovna von Hahn Blavatsky, better known as Madame Blavatsky, elaborated on the idea in her two-volume book, The Secret Doctrine. The purpose of the society was to care particularly for unmarried mothers of good blood made pregnant by SS or police officers and men and to allow them to have their children in private. These were then placed with SS families who wanted to adopt a child, or efforts were made to induce the father to shoulder his responsibilities and marry the girl. In 1938, Himmler took personal control of the Lebensborn and placed Dr. Max Sollmann in charge. Himmler introduced the principle of racial selection and special marriage laws which would ensure the systematic coupling of people of "high value." Stories spread that Lebensborn maternity homes were little more than stud farms where young girls selected for their perfect Nordic traits could procreate with SS officers for the Reich, or, as the word went, 'to present the Führer with a child' which were better cared for than in maternity homes for married mothers, reflecting Himmler's obsession with creating a race of "supermen" by means of breeding.
At first the Lebensborn was under the Rasse-und- Siedlungshauptamt (Race and Settlement Main Office), Sippenamt (Family and Clan Office) division. The first home was opened at Steinhöring, not far from Munich, in 1936.
Himmler's notorious procreation order of 28 October 1939 to the entire SS that "it will be the sublime task of German women and girls of good blood acting not frivolously but from a profound moral seriousness to become mothers to children of soldiers setting off to battle" and his demand that war heroes should be allowed a second marriage expressed the same preoccupation.
The organization grew by leaps and bounds all through World War II. By the time Allied troops entered Germany in force in March 1945, the Lebensborn had 450,000 children in its custody. As the Reich faced defeat, Himmler ordered Dr. Sollmann to destroy all Lebensborn records and scatter the "pureblood Aryan" children --"seedlings for the new race" -- throughout Europe.
A front page story in the January 21, 2000 edition of the Los Angeles Times contained the following headline "Breeding to Further the Reich: In Himmler's Lebensborn project, 11,000 children were born to women who mated with elite SS officers". Lest the headline leave any room for misinterpretation, the article goes on to detail the diabolical program, in which "women who had the 'desirable' physical qualities of blond hair and blue eyes were urged to have sexual relations with tall, fit officers of Adolf Hitler's elite SS troops to produce a master race for the Führer." Until recently, the evidence of such practice had been carefully buried, both by the Nazi regime of the time and by the Communist state which followed. By the early 1990's, however, the ugly truth finally surfaced, and this past November saw Germany's consolidated Federal Archive make all of Lebensborn's surviving records available to the confused thousands conceived through the program. Tragically, the stench which surrounds such reproductive manipulation hangs heavy in the air of our own backyard where we seem to be no less committed to wiping out the less desirable by propagating the birth of the more desirable. Evolving bio-technology may make the procedure less problematic from a mechanical standpoint, but the ethical concerns remain. If it was racism and genocide motivating the practice in Nazi Germany, can the motivation behind the same practice today be any less heinous?
Carol Williams, who authored the Times article, rightly decries Lebensborn as being the conception of "racist madmen". There was no mention, however, of the men who drive virtually the same practice today. In Nazi Germany, "SS officers mated with women deemed to have the right physical and moral characteristics" (never mind what their participation said of these morals). In 21st century America, we are no longer concerned with anything so archaic as morality, but we are increasingly concerned with how people look. As such, this past November will not only be remembered for disclosing the truth of Lebensborn, but also for being the launch date of the Ron's Angels website. The brain child of fashion photographer and soft-core-porn videographer Ron Harris, RonsAngels.com bills itself as "the only web site that provides the unique opportunity to bid on eggs from beautiful, healthy and intelligent women." (minimum bid: $15,000). Harris asserts online that "this is the first society to truly recognize how important beautiful genes are to our evolution." While Harris obviously has a poor sense of history, since Hitler too used evolution as eugenic endorsement, Harris' insights are sadly consistent with modern America. He notes that we "are only interested in looking at beautiful people. From the network anchors, to supermodels that appear in most advertisements, our society is obsessed with youth and beauty." Racism, perhaps, is being replaced by face-ism, and suddenly it becomes possible to imagine a culture where discrimination and mistreatment hinge not on being unwhite, but on being unbeautiful. If beauty really is to drive human evolution, then what are the implications for those who can't measure up? Anyone with a hint of intellectual honesty realizes that evolution is not merely satisfied with stimulating the survival of the most fit, it also demands elimination of the least fit.
Tragically, Harris, for all his philosophical commercialism, is not alone in his thinking. As the November 7 issue of Time magazine suggests, "the idea of choosing an egg donor based on physical characteristics is hardly new . Several egg businesses already let clients select donors by race, weight, height, eye color or hair color, not to mention such preferences as 'fine boned' and 'tanning ability'" . Even Harris' profiteering is not unique since "virtually all egg donors are in fact sellers, at a typical rate of between $3,000 and $5,000 per ovum". And the worst could be yet to come as men like Harris try to coax families into "increase[ing] the chance of reproducing beautiful children, so as to "give them an advantage in society". Such vain enticement may seem harmless enough, but what is the message we are sending? Even if today's reproductive manipulation is driven by greed rather than outright racial hatred, what happens when our basic value as human beings becomes dependent upon how we look and what we can do rather than upon the essence of who we are?
The completion of the human genome project, which could be finished by as early as the end of the year, will only add fire to this ethical crisis. Once each of the more than 3 billion DNA base pairs which make up the human blueprint are mapped and identified, it will be possible to determine with a fairly high degree of accuracy what kind of person a particular child will become, starting from the earliest stages of embryonic development. Suddenly, parents will not have to rely on anything so chancy as purchasing the eggs of beautiful, intelligent women since genetic profiles will offer amazing insight into who this child likely will be. If the baby isn't going to have the right eye or hair color, the right height or muscle mass, the right intelligence or creativity, that child can be aborted and the process begun again. Lest you think I make this up, an April 1998 issue of Life magazine sites a study in which 3/4 of parents polled would abort their child if a genetic profile could indicate so much as a 50% predisposition towards obesity. Obesity!!! The more serious "problems", like Downes syndrome or Spina Bifada, already meet with withering pressure to abort, and minority babies in this country are aborted at a rate which nearly triples that of white babies. Abortion and eugenics already go hand in hand and the future looks even more bleak.
Scientists predict that it will only be a matter of time before more and more genetic "defects" can be repaired in the womb (physicians at Vanderbilt recently made headlines for their successful surgery on a 21 week Spina Bifada fetus). It won't be long, then, until desirable traits like strength and intelligence can be artificially augmented and enhanced in utero. At some future point, Dr. Lee Silver predicts, in his text Remaking Eden, this type of genetic engineering will yield a society in which, "genetically enhanced people and natural humans will become so different that they will develop into two separate species, with no ability to even crossbreed, and as much attraction for each other as we would have for a chimpanzee". The implications of such a reality are staggering and somewhere along the line we must answer the foundational questions concerning the essence of human life. Even if one maintains that the fetus is not human, which is intellectual suicide, what kind of message are we sending when we propose to destroy "potential" life in the womb for exhibiting a propensity towards the same characteristics which exists en masse outside the womb? How should overweight people outside the womb react when society starts executing those in the womb who might become overweight once out of the womb? That cannot be a comfortable prospect. How long before the characteristics for which we kill before birth are the characteristics for which we kill after birth?
Beyond the mere genetics of Lebensborn, the damage done to the notion of family is staggering and this too is mirrored today in America. Children conceived through Lebensborn were given over to the SS which then took charge of both their education and adoption. Many of the children from the failed project ended up being raised by their single mothers, their dads nowhere in sight. Fathers were thought to be thoroughly unnecessary except for the biology which mandated their involvement. They were sperm donors long before the practice became fashionable.
While America continues to denigrate the role of the father and the role of family (eg. Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village to raise a Child, the future looks far worse. Perhaps, the cover of the January 17 issue of Rolling Stone can offer some insight. Billed as "the making of a New American family", the cover depicts Melissa Etheridge, her Lesbian lover, her two young children fathered artificially by 58 year-old grandfather and fellow rock star David Crosby (also pictured), and Crosby's current wife with whom he has a four year-old son. How's that for dysfunctional? A January 10, USA Today article makes it quite clear that Etheridge has no qualms about removing the father from her children's equation, and Crosby naively suggests that since Melissa and her partner are "good people" ("they're funny"), they might show "a lot of straight families" that this "is not something strange". Such claims only build upon the fallacy that fathers are unnecessary except for their genetic stock (and science will soon make even that much contribution a thing of the past).
We may look back in horror at the details of Lebensborn, but the far reaching implications of our own handiwork may be far more devastating than Himmler's. Lebensborn was operative for a "mere" ten years, and the influence continues to wreak havoc in the thousands of the lives which it affected. Tales of mothers living in guilt and of offspring living in "confusion and emotional torment" are all too common. Many of the now grown children "feel ashamed to carry this racist stain". What will the future emotional and psychological condition be of our children, both for those bred to be perfect and for those who are cast-off for their failure to be perfect?
The Lebensborn (Fount of Life Society) was founded in December 1935 by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Many people think Himmler got the idea for this experiment in "accelerated evolution" from his short-lived career as a chicken farmer in the early 1920s. But, in actuality, Himmler was a member of an occult group called the Artamen, which drew its inspiration from both esoteric and "racial hygiene" sources.
In the Nineteenth Century, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote a novel called Vril, or The Coming Race, which talked about humanity taking charge of its own evolution and developing "the new race." Elena Petrovna von Hahn Blavatsky, better known as Madame Blavatsky, elaborated on the idea in her two-volume book, The Secret Doctrine.
The purpose of the society was to care particularly for unmarried mothers of good blood made pregnant by SS or police officers and men and to allow them to have their children in private. These were then placed with SS families who wanted to adopt a child, or efforts were made to induce the father to shoulder his responsibilities and marry the girl.
In 1938, Himmler took personal control of the Lebensborn and placed Dr. Max Sollmann in charge. Himmler introduced the principle of racial selection and special marriage laws which would ensure the systematic coupling of people of "high value." Stories spread that Lebensborn maternity homes were little more than stud farms where young girls selected for their perfect Nordic traits could procreate with SS officers for the Reich, or, as the word went, 'to present the Führer with a child' which were better cared for than in maternity homes for married mothers, reflecting Himmler's obsession with creating a race of "supermen" by means of breeding.
Lebensborn and the climate surrounding it have been described as a time in which "it was unwise to ask too many questions", and a place where "answers couldn't always be trusted." Many Americans will find it equally difficult to swim up the ideological stream today, especially in the realm of bio-ethics. How quickly we are labeled as self-righteous, puritanical, bigoted, backwards or (gasp) intolerant. Of course, if the men and women of Nazi Germany had been a little more questioning and a little less tolerant, perhaps this gravest of historical stains could have been averted. As Edmund Burke notes, "evil triumphs when good men do nothing". Home Page
How apropos a warning this is for our own time where so many of our scientific "breakthroughs" have come on the back of ethical compromise.
Fetal tissue harvesting, stem cell research, and the proposed cloning of living organ banks are but a few of the issues which lurk menacingly on the horizon. While bio-technology holds great potential, it also houses a massive threat. Time will tell weather America will continue to be a refuge for all people, or if we will sit idly by as the likes of Mr. Harris harmlessly pursue a climate in which all parents must give their children the gift of "beauty, intelligence, [and] social skills," to ensure their future "happiness and success".
Wouldn't Adolf be proud?
"The comparative histories of the eugenical sterilization campaigns in the United States and Nazi Germany reveal important similarities of motivation, intent and strategy,'' a Yale study's authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a journal published by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.
Despite modern assumptions that American interest in eugenics waned during the 1920s, while its Nazi counterpart carried out 360,000 to 375,000 sterilizations during the 1930s and grew to encompass so-called ``mercy'' killings; . researchers said sterilization laws had authorized the neutering of more than 40,000 people classed as insane or ``feebleminded'' in 30 states by 1944. Another 22,000 underwent sterilization from the mid-1940s to 1963, despite weakening public support and revelations of Nazi atrocities, according to the study, funded by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Merck Co. Foundation.
The U.S. practice ended in the 1960s after being overwhelmed by court challenges and the civil rights movement.
German and American eugenics advocates both believed science could solve social problems, tended to measure the worth of the individual in economic terms and felt mental illness a threat to society grave enough to warrant compulsive sterilization.