It was 71 years ago, on April 30, 1945, that Hitler reportedly committed suicide in his bunker and on May 23, 1945, that one of his equally infamous henchmen, Heinrich Himmler presumably followed suit while in British custody. History has borne witness to the heinous crimes of Hitler and Himmler in the name of Aryan eugenics through the Nuremberg trials, but the focus of these crimes has been on the incarceration and extermination of Jews and other “undesirables” who elicited the furor of the Führer. Much lesser known is the Nazi purification program involving a set of eugenically cherry-picked children groomed in a network of maternity and children homes known as Lebensborn (which literally means fount or source of life), and the impact this had on these individuals.
Lebensborn has flown under the radar because its surviving proponents under Himmler were apparently exonerated during the Nurmberg trials as running a children’s welfare society, rather than conspiring in a massive program to breed and kidnap children into a master race. Himmler, who majored in agronomy in college, is reported to have been an unsuccessful chicken farmer choosing instead to channel his inner chicken-sh*t into human experimentation and exploitation with Lebensborn as a centerpiece of his legacy.
Tim Tate is a British author and investigative filmmaker who has made a documentary about Lebensborn, and most recently collaborated on a book with one of Lebensborn’s survivors – Ingrid Von Oelhafen, who was extracted from her Yugoslavian roots and her birth identity as Erika Matko.
The woman born as Erika Matko was sent to Germany, and placed into Lebensborn where she was ultimately claimed as a foster child by the Von Oelhafen family. In her stead, the Nazis substituted another child to assume the identify of Erika Matko in Yugoslavia – a real life doppelgänger to take the place of the sanctioned kidnapping of the child also known as Erika Matko. The story of Ingrid-Erika’s secret life is summarized in her poignant interview on radio_gorgeous, and told in gripping detail in her newly released book co-authored with Tim Tate. Its concluding chapter begins at follows:
“What is identity? How is it formed? And does identity shape the person – or is it the other way around?”