What happened to the children bred for the hitler regime?

As a child in 1942, Hermann Lüdeking was abducted from Nazi-occupied Poland, robbed of his identity and forcibly Germanized. He grew up in Lemgo, never knowing anything about his true roots.

“I still suffer from not knowing who my parents are,” said Hermann Lüdeking, now a retired engineer from Bad Dürrheim in the Black Forest.

Although thousands of victims may have similar stories, few have the courage to talk about it the way Lüdeking has. In his lawsuit, he applied for “a one-time grant of state aid” for the kidnapping. But he said money is not the main issue. Instead, it's about “Germany recognizing us as victims.”

Lüdeking said he was bitterly disappointed at the beginning of July when the Cologne administrative court's decision was finally handed down.

“In a few years, there won't be any of us left, so the problem will solve itself. Is that what Germany wants?” he asked.

What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?

As the abducted children age, some find Germany could be waiting out the issue of compensation

Court: A considerable injustice

According to the court, the plaintiff was gravely wronged by his forced “Germanization.” However, no compensation has been paid so far to “stolen children,” the court explained, adding that it could not expand the class of victims who receive federal compensation.

Germany pays compensation to victims of unjust Nazi actions as defined by the General War Consequences Law. It calls for payments to be made to people “who were targeted by the Nazi regime because of social or personal attitudes or special personal characteristics such as intellectual disabilities.” According to the court, however, Lüdeking does not fall into this category.

Abducted children are not 'inferior'

At the hearing, the Cologne judges attempted to explain to the plaintiff which categories of people could be compensated under the guidelines.

One example was homosexuals, regarded by the Nazis as “inferior human material” and persecuted for “their characteristics.

” According to Nazi ideology, however, Lüdeking was not considered “inferior,” but quite “high quality” as the kidnapped children were those Nazis believed would strengthen the “Aryan race.”

  • Read more: Polish children abducted during World War II still seeking truth
  • Nazi racial ideology
  • Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler declared in 1938, “I really do have the intention to gather Germanic blood from the whole world, to rob it, to steal it wherever I can.”
  • In central and eastern European countries occupied by the Nazis, children were snatched from their parents or taken from orphanages and brought to the German Reich.

What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?

Many cases similar to Lüdeking's have been documented and victims have so far also been denied compensaion

They were then “Germanized” using brutal methods, in homes belonging to the SS association “Lebensborn,” or “Fount of Life,” a Nazi organization for raising the birth rate of “Aryan” children.

The Lebensborn program also forged names and presented the abducted children as “children from the east.

” In this way, it concealed the truth from the German families who took care of the abducted children and allowed the adults to believe they were raising children of ethnic Germans in the occupied territories.

Read more: Himmler's children

Victims not recognized

Lüdeking said it found it “absurd and disgraceful” that victims are not being compensated now because the Nazis regarded them “of high quality.” Although he is disappointed with the Cologne court's reasoning, it came as no great surprise to him.

For years he has been involved with the Stolen Children – Forgotten Victims association, which has already received numerous negative responses from authorities. The group was founded by Christoph Schwarz, teacher and hobby historian from Freiburg.

What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?

Some children were abducted while others were born into the Nazi Lebensborn program

“A great injustice has happened to these children,” Schwarz said. “They were robbed of their childhood and remain the last group of Nazi victims without recognition and compensation.”

In 2013, for example, the federal finance ministry wrote of the Lebensborn children: “Over the course of the war, fate affected a large number of families and served the war strategy. The primary goal was not to destroy the victims or rob them of their freedom, but to put them to use to benefit [National Socialist] ideals. This makes it a general consequence of war.”

  1. The Petitions Committee of the Bundestag has also refused to seek a political solution.
  2. The struggle continues
  3. “The fact that the victims now, decades later, are once again confronted with a dismissive position on the part of the authorities is a humiliation and a renewed trauma for them,” Schwarz said.
  4. He and Lüdeking said they intend to appeal the decision of the Cologne Administrative Court.

“It can't be that we just sink into oblivion and are not recognized as victims by Germany,” Lüdeking said. “I won't give up.”

  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    The Nazi regime opened the first concentration camp in Dauchau, not far from Munich. Just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler came to power it was used by the paramilitary SS “Schutzstaffel” to imprison, torture and kill political opponents to the regime. Dachau also served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi camps that followed.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    The villa on Berlin's Wannsee lake was pivotal in planning the Holocaust. Fifteen members of the Nazi government and the SS Schutzstaffel met here on January 20, 1942 to plan what became known as the “Final Solution,” the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory. In 1992, the villa where the Wannsee Conference was held was turned into a memorial and museum.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony was initially established as a prisoner of war camp before becoming a concentration camp. Prisoners too sick to work were brought here from other concentration camps, so many also died of disease. One of the 50,000 killed here was Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    Buchenwald near the Thuringian town of Weimar was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany. From 1937 to April 1945, the National Socialists deported about 270,000 people from all over Europe here and murdered 64,000 of them.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    Nuremberg hosted the biggest Nazi party propaganda rallies from 1933 until the start of the Second World War. The annual Nazi party congress as well as rallies with as many as 200,000 participants took place on the 11-km² (4.25 square miles) area. Today, the unfinished Congress Hall building serves as a documentation center and a museum.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    The Bendlerblock building in Berlin was the headquarters of a military resistance group. On July 20, 1944, a group of Wehrmacht officers around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg carried out an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler that failed. The leaders of the conspiracy were summarily shot the same night in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, which is today the German Resistance Memorial Center.
  • What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?
    From 1941 people with physical and mental disabilities were killed at a psychiatric hospital in Hadamar in Hesse. Declared “undesirables” by the Nazis, some 15,000 people were murdered here by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide or by being injected with lethal drug overdoses. Across Germany some 70,000 were killed as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. Today Hadamar is a memorial to those victims.
  • Located next to the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was inaugurated sixty years after the end of World War II on May 10, 2005, and opened to the public two days later. Architect Peter Eisenman created a field with 2,711 concrete slabs. An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.
  • Not too far from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, another concrete memorial honors the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The four-meter high monument, which has a window showing alternately a film of two men or two women kissing, was inaugurated in Berlin's Tiergarten on May 27, 2008.

Children during the Holocaust

Children were especially vulnerable in the era of the Holocaust.

The Nazis advocated killing children of “unwanted” or “dangerous” groups either as part of the “racial struggle” or as a measure of preventative security. The Germans and their collaborators killed children for these ideological reasons and in retaliation for real or alleged partisan attacks.

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Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed about 1.

5 million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, 5,000–7,000 German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, as well as many Polish children and children residing in the German-occupied Soviet Union. Jewish and non-Jewish adolescents (13–18 years old) had a greater chance of survival, as they could be used for forced labor.

The fates of Jewish and non-Jewish children can be categorized in the following ways:

  • children killed when they arrived in killing centers
  • children killed immediately after birth or in institutions
  • children born in ghettos and camps who survived because prisoners hid them
  • children, usually over age 12, who were used as forced laborers and as subjects of medical experiments
  • children killed during reprisal operations or so-called anti-partisan operations.

In the Ghettos

What Happened to the Children Bred for the Hitler Regime?

In ghetto settings, Jewish children died from starvation, disease, and a lack of adequate clothing and shelter. The German authorities were indifferent to the high death rates. They considered most of the younger ghetto children to be unproductive and hence “useless eaters.” Because children were generally too young to be used for forced labor, German authorities often selected them, the elderly, ill, and disabled, for the first deportations to killing centers, or as the first victims led to mass graves to be shot.

These trucks bode no good, I mean especially for the little girl. —Brigitte Friedmann Altman

Auschwitz: Women used different survival and sabotage strategies than men at Nazi death camp

Nearly all the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, were murdered – either sent to the gas chambers or worked to death. Life expectancy in many of these camps was between six weeks and three months.

Over a million of the Auschwitz dead were Jews, and scholars have concluded that more than half of them were women.

While male and female slave laborers in Auschwitz faced the same ultimate fate, my research on gender and the Holocaust finds that some of their behaviors and responses to captivity differed.

Methods of sabotage

Gender has been long overlooked in Holocaust research. Writing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, early scholars such as Joan Ringelheim and Sybil Milton had to fight for their legitimacy in a field that insisted that separating stories of Jewish men and women under the Nazi regime was a blow to their joint fate or to Jewish solidarity.

Today, however, the topic is being explored in depth, allowing us to better understand not only how Jews died during the Holocaust, but also how they lived.

Of 1.3 million men and women sent to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, 1.1 million died. API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

During the late 1980s, I conducted a study of Jewish men and women who had been part of Auschwitz’s “Canada Commando,” the forced labor detail responsible for sorting through the possessions inmates had brought with them to the camp and preparing those items for reshipment back to Germany for civilian use.

Since the barracks were the only place in the camp where one could find almost unlimited food and clothing, this forced labor troop was named after Canada – a country seen as a symbol of wealth.

Examining the behavior of the men and women of the Canada Commando, I noted an interesting difference. Among the items of clothing sorted there were fur coats. While both male and female prisoners in the Canada Commando tried to sabotage this work, acts punishable by death, their methods differed.

Male prisoners would usually rip the lining and seams of the coat to shreds, keeping only the outer shell intact. At first use, the coat would come apart, leaving the German who wore it coatless in the winter.

The few surviving women in the commando whom I interviewed did not use this tactic. Rather, they told me, they decided together to insert handwritten notes into the coat’s pockets that read something along the lines of: “German women, know that you are wearing a coat that belonged to a woman who has been gassed to death in Auschwitz.”

The women, in other words, chose psychological sabotage. The men, physical.

Coping with hunger

One of the most central experiences of all camp prisoners during the Holocaust was hunger. While both men and women suffered from hunger during incarceration, male and female prisoners used disparate coping methods.

The former Auschwitz Nazi extermination camp, in occupied Poland, now a public museum. Peter Toth/Pixabay, CC BY-SA

While men would regale each other with tales of the fantastic meals they would enjoy once liberated, women would often discuss how they had cooked the various dishes they loved before the war, from baking fluffy cakes to preparing traditional Jewish blintzes. Cara de Silva’s 1996 book, “In Memory’s Kitchen,” movingly documents how this phenomenon played out among women prisoners in the Terezin camp.

  • The differences between men’s and women’s coping methods may have derived from the gendered behavior in their lives before the war, in which men ate and women cooked – at least in the middle and lower classes.
  • In the case of women, this may also have been a female socialization process meant to solve two dilemmas simultaneously: the psychological need to engage – at least verbally – with food, and the educational need to prepare the young girls in the camp for culinary and household tasks after the war.
  • Under normal circumstances, mothers would have taught their daughters by example – not story.

Motherhood under Nazi rule

Various historical studies make mention of motherly sacrifices during the Holocaust, such as women who chose to accompany their children to death so that they would not be alone during their last moments on Earth.

Jewish women and children, some wearing the yellow Star of David patch on their chests, undergoing ‘selections’ at Auschwitz circa 1943. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some mothers, however, acted otherwise, as documented by the Polish non-Jewish Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz Borowsky in his book “This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen.”

During the “selections” at Auschwitz – when prisoners were sent either to live or die – prisoners arriving were usually divided by sex, with the elderly, mothers and small children being separated from men and older boys. The mothers with small children, along with the elderly, were automatically sent to death.

Borowsky writes about a number of young mothers who hid from their children during the selection, in an attempt to buy themselves a few additional days or possible hours of life.

If a German soldier found a small child alone at a “selection,” Borowsky writes, he would take the child up and down the rows of prisoners while screaming, “This is how a mother abandons her child?” until he tracked down the hapless woman and condemned them both to the gas chambers.

At first, the female Auschwitz survivors I’ve interviewed said they’d never heard of any such thing. Eventually, however, after I returned to the question several times via different topics, a few women admitted to hearing that a handful mothers who arrived in Auschwitz with small children did indeed try to hide to save their own lives.

Historians are not judges. I do not mention the actions made in mortal fear to condemn these women but rather to contribute, 75 years later, to our understanding of Jewish life and death under Nazi terror. Doing requires relinquishing preconceived notions about both men and women, mapping out a broader canvas of the grim reality at Auschwitz.

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]

Breeding the New German "Race"

In 1925, Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “Everything we admire on this earth today—science and art, technology and inventions—is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps one race [the “Aryans”]. On them depends the existence of this whole culture.

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If they perish, the beauty of this earth will sink into the grave with them.” From the start, the Nazis were determined to ensure the strength and purity of the “Aryan” race.

They believed, according to historian Richard Evans, that “the strong and the racially pure had to be encouraged to have more children, the weak and the racially impure had to be neutralized by one means or another.”1

One way the Nazis encouraged “strong and pure” Aryans to have more children was through the “marriage loan” program. Beginning in June 1933, the government made interest-free loans of up to 1,000 marks available to young couples who intended to get married, provided that they met certain criteria.

One criterion was that both the man and woman could prove their “Aryan” heritage. Another criterion was that the bride had to have been employed for six months in the two years preceding the marriage, and she had to promise to leave her job and stay home until the loan was paid off.

This requirement was intended to encourage working women to leave the job market and make more jobs available to men. Finally, for each child born to the couple, a quarter of the loan amount was forgiven. Therefore, if the couple had four children, they would not have to repay any of the original loan amount.

In this way, the program encouraged healthy “Aryan” couples to have more children and reinforced what the Nazis believed was the proper role of women in society.2

The Nazis regarded the breeding of a superior race, encouraged by policies such as the marriage loan program, as “positive eugenics” (see reading, Breeding Society’s “Fittest” in Chapter 2). They also practiced “negative eugenics” by preventing people they considered genetically inferior from reproducing.

A new law announced in July 1933 was the first step in that process.

It permitted the government to sterilize anyone who suffered from so-called “hereditary” illnesses such as “feeble-mindedness,” schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness, genetic epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, genetic blindness, deafness, and some forms of alcoholism.

The idea was not a new one. Sterilization laws existed in several other countries at the time, including the United States. Between 1907 and 1930, 29 US states passed compulsory sterilization laws, and about 11,000 women were sterilized.

Many states also had laws that banned marriages between white people and people of color—including African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. Both sets of laws were prompted by a desire to eliminate “strains that are a burden to the nation or to themselves, and to raise the standard of humanity by the suppression of the progeny of the defective classes.

”3 (see reading, Attitudes Toward Life and Death in Chapter 4). The Nazis took that goal much further than Americans ever did.

Gregor Ziemer, an American educator, observed the results of the law when he toured a German hospital where sterilizations took place. A guide informed him that the patients were “the mentally sick, women with low resistance, women who had proven through other births that their offspring were not strong.

They were women suffering from defects . . . some were sterilized because they were political enemies of the State.” He was told, “We are even eradicating color-blindness in the Third Reich. . . .” When Ziemer asked who made the decisions, the guide boasted, “We have courts. It is all done very legally, rest assured.

We have law and order.”4

To enforce the law, the Nazis created health office departments for “gene and race care” and set up “genetic health courts.” There, doctors and lawyers worked together to decide who would be sterilized.

The individual had no say in the decision. In the first four years after the law was passed, the Germans sterilized over 50,000 people. By the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, they had sterilized nearly 360,000.


  1. After studying government-sanctioned violence, sociologist Irving Horowitz concludes, “The precondition for mass extermination was engineered dehumanization: the conversion of citizens into aliens.”6 What is dehumanization? What evidence of the intentional process of dehumanization can you find in this reading?
  2. How do you think old prejudices about the disabled and “less worthy races” affected the way people responded to the new sterilization law? How do you think the fact that the law was the work of doctors and professors affected the way people responded to it? How might the language used to describe such laws have influenced the way people responded to them?
  3. What was the purpose of the sterilization law? What is the danger in giving the government the power to control who can have children?

The Woman Who Gave Birth For Hitler

It is estimated that some 20,000 such babies were bred during the 12 years of the Third Reich (1933–45), principally in Germany and Norway. Here, Giles Milton explores Hildegard Trutz’s experience and reveals why the young German woman was so eager to give birth for Hitler…

Hildegard Trutz had been a loyal supporter of the Nazis ever since Hitler came to power. She had joined the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth) in 1933 and loved attending its weekly meetings. ‘I was mad about Adolf Hitler and our new better Germany,’ she later admitted. ‘I learned how tremendously valuable we young people were to Germany.’

Trutz quickly became a figurehead of her local organization, in part because of her Germanic blonde hair and blue eyes. ‘I was pointed out as the perfect example of the Nordic woman,’ she said, ‘for besides my long legs and my long trunk, I had the broad hips and pelvis built for child-bearing.’

In 1936, when she was eighteen, Trutz finished her schooling and was at a loss as to what to do next. She chatted with a BDM leader who made a suggestion that was to change Trutz’s life for ever. ‘If you don’t know what to do,’ said the leader, ‘why not give the Führer a child? What Germany needs more than anything is racially valuable stock.’

Trutz was unaware of the state-sponsored programme known as Lebensborn. Its aim was to raise the birth rate of blond-haired, blue-eyed ‘Aryan’ children through interbreeding. Racially ‘pure’ women were chosen to sleep with SS officers in the hope that they would fall pregnant.

The BDM leader explained to her exactly how Lebensborn worked. She would be given a series of medical tests, along with a thorough investigation of her background. It was essential that she had no Jewish blood. Once given the all-clear, she would be able to select a breeding partner from a group of SS officers.

Trutz listened with growing enthusiasm. ‘It sounded wonderful,’ she later admitted, and she signed up immediately. Aware that her parents would disapprove, she told them she was undertaking a residential course in National Socialism.

She was escorted to an old castle in Bavaria, near the Tegernsee. There were forty other girls in residence and all were living under assumed names. ‘All you needed to be accepted there was a certificate of Aryan ancestry as far back at least as your great-grandparents.’

The castle itself was the height of luxury. There were common rooms for sports and games, a library, music room and even a cinema. According to Trutz: ‘The food was the best I have ever tasted; we didn’t have to work and there were masses of servants.’ She was by her own admission self-indulgent and lazy and she quickly learned to enjoy life in the castle.

‘The whole place was in the charge of a professor, a high-up SS doctor, who examined each of us very thoroughly as soon as we arrived,’ Trutz said. ‘We had to make a statutory declaration that there had never been any cases of hereditary diseases, dipsomania or imbecility in our family.’

The professor also warned the girls that they would have to sign a document renouncing all claims to any children they produced, as they were to be the property of the state. They would be brought up in special institutions that would instil an absolute loyalty to the Nazi ideal.

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Dublin woman found she was bred by Nazis for ‘master’ race

Imagine you just appeared, as if from nowhere – a three-year-old orphan with no parents, no history, no idea of your nationality. Now imagine you had to live with that mystery for your whole life – not knowing where you came from or who you really were. This is what happened to Kari Rosvall.

She calls the first three years of her life the dark years, and that’s what they were until something happened recently in her home in south Co Dublin that changed everything – a clue from the past, about where she came from, a reality she could never have imagined possible.

A letter arrived at her house. Inside was a photograph of Kari as a baby, the first photograph she had ever seen of herself as an infant. At the time, she was 64 years old. The photograph was taken by the Nazis.

Kari discovered that she was born as part of a Nazi breeding programme during the second World War.

Lebensborn, “the spring of life” programme, was a secret SS project designed to create a so-called Aryan race of blond-haired, blue-eyed children who would be the future leaders of the Third Reich.

Kari Rosvall was one of those Lebensborn children. This is the secret that had been kept from her, for her entire life.

The Lebensborn programme was the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was obsessed with eugenics and the idea of a master race. He once said, “Should we succeed in establishing this Nordic race, and from this seedbed produce a race of 200 million, then the world will belong to us”.

Harsh Nazi Parenting Guidelines May Still Affect German Children of Today

Renate Flens, a German woman in her 60s who suffers from depression, tells her psychotherapist that she wants to love her children but just can’t. She and the therapist soon realize that both Flens’s problems may be rooted in her frustration at being unable to allow others to get close to her.

After lengthy conversations, they realize something else: a contributing factor may well be the child-rearing teachings of Johanna Haarer, a physician whose books were written during the Nazi era and aimed at raising children to serve the Führer.

Flens (a pseudonym) was born after World War II, but Haarer’s books were still popular during her postwar childhood, where many households had a copy of The German Mother and Her First Child—a book that continued to be published for decades (ultimately cleansed of the most objectionable Nazi language).

When asked, Flens recalled seeing one of Haarer’s books on her parents’ bookshelf.

Flens’s story, told to me by her therapist, illustrates an issue troubling a number of mental health experts in Germany: Haarer’s ideas may still be harming the emotional health of its citizens. One aspect was particularly pernicious: she urged mothers to ignore their babies’ emotional needs. Infants are hardwired to build an attachment with a primary care giver.

The Nazis wanted children who were tough, unemotional and unempathetic and who had weak attachments to others, and they understood that withholding affection would support that goal.

If an entire generation is brought up to avoid creating bonds with others, the experts ask, how can members of that generation avoid replicating that tendency in their own children and grandchildren?

“This has long been a question among analysts and attachment researchers but ignored by the general public,” says Klaus Grossmann, a leading researcher in mother-child attachment, now retired from the University of Regensburg.

The evidence that Haarer’s teachings are still affecting people today is not definitive.

Nevertheless, it is supported by studies of mother-child interactions in Germany, by other research into attachment and by therapists’ anecdotal reports.

Haarer’s Teachings

Haarer was a pulmonologist, who, despite having no pediatric training, was touted as a child-rearing expert by the Nazis (the National Socialists).

The recommendations from her book, originally published in 1934, were incorporated into a Reich mothers training program designed to inculcate in all German women the proper rules of infant care.

As of April 1943, at least three million German women had gone through this program. In addition, the book was accorded nearly biblical status in nursery schools and child-care centers.

Although children need sensitive physical and emotional contact to build attachments and thrive, Haarer recommended that such care be kept to a minimum, even when carrying a child. This stance is clearly illustrated in the pictures in her books: mothers hold their children so as to have as little contact as possible.

Haarer viewed children, especially babies, as nuisances whose wills needed to be broken. “The child is to be fed, bathed, and dried off; apart from that left completely alone,” she counseled.

She recommended that children be isolated for 24 hours after the birth; instead of using “insipid-distorted ‘children’s language,’” the mother should speak to her child only in “sensible German”; and if the child cries, let him cry.

Sleep time was no exception. In The German Mother and Her First Child, Haarer wrote, “It is best if the child is in his own room, where he can be left alone.

” If the child starts to cry, it is best to ignore him: “Whatever you do, do not pick the child up from his bed, carry him around, cradle him, stroke him, hold him on your lap, or even nurse him.” Otherwise, “the child will quickly understand that all he needs to do is cry in order to attract a sympathetic soul and become the object of caring.

Within a short time, he will demand this service as a right, leave you no peace until he is carried again, cradled, or stroked—and with that a tiny but implacable house tyrant is formed!”

Before publishing The German Mother and Her First Child, which ended up selling 1.2 million copies, Haarer had written articles about infant care.

Later titles included Mother, Tell Me about Adolf Hitler!, a fairy-tale-style book that propagated anti-Semitism and anti-Communism in language a child could understand, and another child-rearing manual, Our Little Children.

Haarer was imprisoned for a time after Germany’s defeat in 1945 and lost her license to practice medicine. According to two of her daughters, she nonetheless remained an enthusiastic Nazi. She died in 1988.

Modern Consequences

There are many reasons to think that Haarer’s influence persisted long after the war and continues to affect the emotional health of Germans today even though parents no longer rely on her books.

Researchers, physicians and psychologists speculate that attachment and emotional deficits may contribute to an array of phenomena of modern life, including the low birth rate, the many people who live alone or are separated, and the widespread phenomena of burnout, depression and emotional illnesses in general.

Of course, the causes of these personal and societal issues are many and varied. But the stories of people such as Renate Flens lend credence to the idea that Haarer’s lessons could play a role.

As Flens’s therapist notes, after a time patients may disclose their disgust at their own body and admit to following strict eating rules or to being unable to enter into close relationships—which are all consistent with the outcome of Haarer’s child-rearing regimen.

Psychotherapist Hartmut Radebold, formerly of the University of Kassel, tells of a patient who came to him with serious relational and identity problems.

One day this man found a thick book at home in which his mother had noted all kinds of information about his first year of life: weight, height, frequency of bowel movements—but not a single word about feelings.

In the laboratory, Grossman, who retired in 2003, continually observed scenes such as this: A baby cries. The mother rushes over toward him but stops in her tracks before reaching him.

Although she is only a few feet from her child, she makes no effort to pick him up or console him.

“When we asked the mothers why they did this, they invariably stated that they didn’t want to spoil their babies.”

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