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Two weeks after the start of the Second World War, Himmler issued a secret order to the SS, telling them to fulfil their ‘sacred duty to the Reich’ – they were to father its next generation. It was an order for SS officers to have sex with women left at home while their husbands were away fighting.
The Lebensborn homes were under the direct control of the SS. Babies born within them were taken into the SS ‘brotherhood’ in a bizarre Nazi baptism ritual complete with swastikas, a bust of Hitler and SS daggers.
To strengthen this next generation of the master race, Himmler also ordered the kidnapping of up to half a million Aryan-looking babies and children from countries that the Nazis overran. Children were examined by SS doctors to assess their racial ‘value’: those who passed the tests were snatched from their families and sent to Lebensborn.
All trace of their original identities was destroyed and they were brought up as Germans. Children who resisted this ‘Germanisation’ were enslaved in forced labour camps. But children born in Lebensborn with mental handicaps suffered an even worse fate – they were sent to a secret unit to be killed.
With unprecedented access to newly released Nazi files and illustrated with extraordinary photographs from the period, this film follows three Lebensborn children as they piece together their remarkable and harrowing stories.