How the Evil Began, and How It Spread

The Lebensborn program wasn't a sudden decision by Hitler and his cronies. It was part of a much larger Nazi policy on racial purity that evolved over many years.

Newsweek International, March 20, 2000
By Joshua Hammer

January 1933: Adolf Hitler takes power in Germany, promising to bolster the German race and purge it of "unworthy" elements.

May 1933: Nazis make it illegal for Aryan women to have abortions. Women are removed from the work force and encouraged to have children, whether they are married or not. Nazis further promote Aryan births through marriage loans, child subsidies and official decorations for "hero mothers" of four children or more. Childless couples are vilified.

January 1934: Nazis begin sterilizing more than 400,000 people, including psychiatric patients, prostitutes, criminals, some poor people and black Germans.

September 1935: Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor makes it illegal for non-Jewish Germans to have relationships with Jews.

August 1936: Himmler inaugurates first Lebensborn home at Steinhoering, near Munich.

July 1938: New Marriage Law lowers marriage age for Aryan mothers to 16 and allows easy divorce from infertile partners.

October 1939: Euthanasia program launched, killing more than 100,000 handicapped and mentally ill children and adults. Church protests stop the program a year later.

April 1940: Nazis invade Norway. Lebensborn homes set up there, as well as in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

January 1942: Wannsee Conference formalizes the mass, organized murder of 6 million Jews. The Nazi killing machine also targets Slavs, Gypsies, gays and other "undesirables."

March 1943: To fight a plummeting birthrate, Nazis introduce the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions on Aryan mothers.

May 1945: Third Reich surrenders. Lebensborn homes are disbanded by the Allies.

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