A Nazi document from the German city of Wurzburg referred to this process: “Polish woman NN (no name), born on … is expecting a baby (… month of pregnancy), whose father is Pole NN…. The mother’s request for an abortion was rejected, since there is a likelihood of racially good offspring. The NSV is kindly asked to take charge of the baby following its birth.”
It is estimated that Lebensborn homes took care of over 90,000 children of whom the majority were “racially valuable” and had been born to foreign workers in Germany.
Operation for the Revindication of Children
Malgorzata Twardecki was one of the lucky parents. She was reunited with her stolen child —albeit 10 years after he was taken. Many Polish parents never saw their children again.
After the war, the Polish government created the Operation for the Revindication of Children headed by Dr. Roman Hrabar. Its mission was to reunite stolen children with their rightful parents, a formidable task. Researchers had to first determine what the children’s names had been changed to and then where they were living in the West. Once found, many German parents refused to believe that their “children” were Polish and refused to give them up to the authorities. The task was made doubly hard when children did not speak Polish anymore and had no memory of their original life or family.
Lastly, the Polish Mission could expect little help from British and American authorities to send children behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. By the end of 1950, the Polish government had only been able to repatriate 3,404 children back to Poland. It is estimated that only 40,000, or 20 percent, of the estimated 200,000 children who were stolen from Poland by the Nazis were ever reunited with their families. Thousands of others and their descendants still live in Germany today unaware of their true identity and heritage.
As Dr. Hrabar wrote, Adolf Hitler’s theft of Polish children is one of the “blackest page[s] in the annals of humanity.”
Brent Douglas Dyck is a Canadian historian and teacher. His articles have appeared in the British journal, The Historian.
Originally Published in 2018.