Mon, May 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Nazi documents reveal `Germanized' children

AP , POZNAN, POLAND

On a sunny April morning in 1944, six-year-old Alodia Witaszek was combed and scrubbed, sitting in the children's home that had primed her for membership in Hitler's master race.

Over the past year she had been snatched from her family, gone hungry in a concentration camp and been beaten for speaking her native Polish. Now she had a German name, "Alice Wittke," and a new "German" mother.

Guten tag, Mutti! she called in flawless German to the young woman approaching her -- Good morning, Mommy.

Only years later would she discover the full truth: that she was among some 250 children seized from their families as part of a Nazi attempt to improve the Aryan gene pool in pursuit of a mad dream of racial purity.

Her adoptive mother, Luise Dahl, would later say she too had no idea. In a letter written after World War II she said that she knew nothing about snatching children for racial purposes; all she had wanted was to adopt a war orphan. An illness had left her barren, and her husband, a German army officer, was stationed hundreds of kilometers away, in Paris. She was desperately lonely.

More than 60 years later, the story emerges in part from a rare collection of documents held by the International Tracing Service, or ITS, a unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in the small German resort town of Bad Arolsen.

In files are orders from Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler's SS chief, to find children with eindeutschungsfaehigskeit -- the potential to be Germanized. Other documents tell part of the children's stories. One of those children was Alodia Witaszek, aka Alice Wittke.

Dahl had written to more than a dozen orphanages listed in the phone book before a response came asking for personal data about herself and her husband, Wilhelm -- health, income, relationship to the Nazi party.

The letter came from an association in Munich with an innocuous-sounding name, Lebensborn, roughly meaning Fountain of Life. But this was no ordinary adoption agency.

Founded by Himmler in 1938, it started out running birthing homes where racially acceptable, mostly unwed mothers could bear their children for adoption by Nazi families. An estimated 20,000 were born in German Lebensborn homes.

After World War II broke out, Lebensborn took on an even more sinister role -- it became an adoption agency for hundreds of "racially desirable" toddlers and young children seized from their families in Poland and other occupied territories and forcibly Germanized.

Another Himmler command, written two years later to SS leaders in the Warthegau region of occupied Poland, decrees: "All Polish orphans need to be checked for their potential for Germanization."

With their neatly bobbed blonde hair and wide blue eyes, Alodia and her sister, Daria, qualified.

"They told me that I have nice features -- like German features," Alodia Witaszek recalls today, at 69, sitting in her living room in the Polish city of Poznan, where she was born.

"I was a `gift for the Fuehrer' -- that's what they called us," she said.

This story has been viewed 5691 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top