|Produced by:||Canadian History Television||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||50 mins|
|More Info:||London Times article on Norway's Compensation Lawsuits||Category:||History and Remebrance|
As a part of Hitler’s plan for a superior race, 10,000 babies were born to blonde-haired, blue-eyed Norwegian mothers and German fathers. Cover Up: Norway’s Nazi Secret reveals what happened to these children of the eugenics movement after the war, exposing an egregious story of abuse and the Norwegian government’s attempts to cover up the truth.
“We were just young, stupid, and in love,” a Norwegian woman who had a love affair with an S.S. soldier explains. “We didn’t think about a pure race… To be honest it was that we thought they were really handsome in their uniforms. That’s the main reason we went out with them.”
Cover Up tells a story of injustice found in a country that has a reputation for promoting human rights — and is home to the Nobel Peace Prize. After the war was over and Nazi occupation had ended, the naive young women who had involved themselves with Nazi soldiers were tortured by their Norwegian countrymen, while their innocent children faced an even more unjust fate. Sharing the history of the eugenics movement and candid testimony from the women and children involved, the documentary reveals why the Norwegian government now faces lawsuits over human rights violations.
During the war, Nazi soldiers were forbidden to fraternize with the locals of German-occupied nations. Norway was the only exception. There, soldiers were encouraged to father as many children as possible with the Norwegian women, of “Aryan” birth, who were considered genetically ideal—even married men were encouraged to sow their seed as a service to their nation.
Put in charge of the eugenics project, S.S. leader Heinrich Himmler organized maternity homes called Lebensborn, meaning ‘fountain of life’ in German. There, women received financial assistance and top medical care during their pregnancies, in the expectation that they would birth children that fit the Nazi criteria for genetic superiority: narrow faces, long heads, soft, fair hair, pink-white skin, well-defined chins, and blue or gray eyes. These women were considered in service of the German State and as such were given its protection.
But once the war ended, peace-time tragedy followed these women and their young children. The women were stigmatized as German whores, publicly tortured by their neighbors and, in many cases, raped, while the government did little or nothing to stop it.
Their children, who to Norway became an irritating reminder of Nazi occupation, met an even worse fate. They were so reviled by the state that the government, believing that the children’s German blood would make them fascists by nature, tried to send them all away to Germany. When that failed, many of the children were falsely labeled mentally ill and thrown into insane asylums.
Now middle-aged adults, these victims of the state still grapple with the pain they endured in their youth. The Lebensborn children are faced with a stigma that they will never escape, and they suffer from lasting psychological damage because of it. “ I don’t want to be buried in a grave,” one man confides, “I want my ashes to be scattered to the wind.” Because that way, without a gravestone to expose his name, he won’t have to worry about being picked on anymore. His very birth has been grounds for ridicule that has plagued him his entire life.
The most famous Lebensborn child is pop sensation Frida Lyngstad of the Swedish rock band ABBA. Cover Up includes interviews with ABBA’s biographers, who tell the story of Lyngstad’s taboo birth that haunted her throughout her life and which was revealed to the world at the height of her popularity. Although she grew up in Sweden like the rest of her band, Lyngstad was one of the many children born to a Norwegian mother and S.S. solider during the war, and her biographer speculates that through her music she was searching for a sense of fulfillment she never had during her painful childhood.
One would think that after the Holocaust people would have been driven towards kindness, but this documentary tells the story of a nation’s gross lack of compassion. The Norwegians who ostracized these naive women and their innocent children adapted prejudices and practiced cruelty that echoed the inhumanity of the Nazis, and the government’s attempts to wipe out these stigmatized children reeks of the very eugenics movement from which the situation arose.
Decades later, with millions of dollars in lawsuits pending, the whole story is a huge embarrassment for Norway. One of the Lebensborn children puts it aptly: “And to think that Norway is supposed to be such a perfect country,” he says, recognizing that no nation is infallible and that we must all guard against prejudice and injustice, even where it’s least expected.