Thursday, 12 August 2010

Master Race: the Lebensborn experiment in Nazi Germany - Catrine Clay and Michael Leapman

Master Race: the Lebensborn experiment in Nazi Germany
-Catrine Clay and Michael Leapman

Every so often, I browse a section of the library shelves where I would normally never be seen, unless I was doing research for a library user or another. This sometimes leads to be discovering a hidden book that actually interests me, although this is pretty rare. Master Race: the Lebensborn experiment in Nazi Germany was in a curious section of the library, which may explain why I never saw it before; personally, I would have classed it under WW2 with the holocaust and the other Nazi war crimes.

Speaking of which, there are times when it just hits you…just how evil the Nazis actually were. One of the reasons why holocaust-deniers are occasionally successful is that the sheer scale of the crime – six million Jews – is beyond easy comprehension. Himmler’s experiments in expanding the Aryan population of the world have the same cold dispassionate attempt to improve the race, heedless of how many ordinary humans are trampled underfoot. In strong terms, the book talks about how German women were effectively used as breeding cows for the SS; sometimes, perhaps even to the point of being introduced to SS men and invited to have their children. German social mores, mainly Catholic, were trampled on by the SS, leaving a trail of shattered lives and abandoned children behind when the war came to an end.

That wasn’t the worst of it. Himmler’s obsessive quest for Aryan blood led to the kidnapping of children from Poland and Norway, maybe even other countries, and fostering them with the right kind of parents, i.e. ideological nazis. Many of the parents knew nothing about their true origin, leading to heartbreaking scenes after the war, when some of the children were tracked down by their natural parents from Poland. Other children, the illegitimate children of German soldiers in occupied countries, were treated like dirt by their companions; one wonders how many of the isolated terrorists during that period can be traced to such treatment.

There were even stranger details. Himmler looked for a homosexual gene, believing that one had to exist; he might not have regarded homosexuals as inherently evil, but he certainly regarded them as a waste of breeding stock. The SS worked hard to turn itself into a semi-mystical organisation, with it’s own ceremonies and rituals; it is tempting to wonder if Himmler saw it as a substitute for a faith that had rejected him. Those who didn’t match up to the Nazi expectations of racial purity (something that, ironically, included most of the Nazi leaders) were sterilised, or worse.

It does make you wonder, however; what sort of long-term effect would this have had on a German Victory timeline? It is possible to speculate that Germany would have indeed undergone a population explosion, although it is also possible that expanding the breeding program could have led to widespread resistance. Certainly, there were some dissenters recorded, both among the mothers and the doctors who were charged with taking care of them. Would Himmler have literally have tried to impose the SS breeding standards on everyone? Would it have become illegal for non-approved children to be born? Every so often, one is reminded just how lucky the world has been…

Well-written, pulls no punches…four out of five.

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