Children of Shame – Norway’s Dark Secret | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 02.12.2001
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Culture

Children of Shame – Norway’s Dark Secret

Ostracized and mistreated- a marred childhood

But the fate of the children resulting from the special breeding program was at times cruel. Their mothers could not stand the shame of having been engaged to German soldiers. A Norwegian commission after the war decided that the children should remain in Norway.

By now the children were looked upon as outcasts. They were put in orphanages, some of them were send to lunatic asylums. There, the children were mistreated and abused. Some of the former "Lebensborn" children say, they were tied to their beds for hours.

Breaking silence and baring secrets

Most of the "Lebensborn" children are today in their 50s or 60s and are slowly coming out with their stories of mistreatment and abuse.

One of them was Paul Hansen, now 58 . Today he’s a broken man. "I was transferred from the Lebensborn home Goodhaab into an asylum, together with some others. We were locked up together with mentally ill people. And we had to eat and to go to the toilet in the same room", he says with bitterness.

Paul Hansen broke his silence and changed his anonymous Lebensborn identity. Many of the Lebensborn children still feel ashamed to talk about their abuse and mistreatment. A register number is all that remains of their Lebensborn childhood.

Tor Brandacher of the Norwegian war children Association brought together about 170 "Lebensborn" children four years ago and is determined that they are compensated by the Norwegian government.

The son of a Norwegian mother and an Austrian ranger was lucky, Brandacher says he had a normal relationship to his family, but says that hundreds of others like him did not. Many have reported raping and mistreatment in the institutions, like Paul Hansen.

"These children were looked upon as rubbish in Norwegian post-war society. It is the biggest shame for Norway", he says.

Brandacher and others now demand financial and ethical compensation from the Norwegian state.

Justice at last?

October 29, 2001 was a date most of the Lebensborn children might never forget. It was the first day of a trial in which the Lebensborn children are suing the Norwegian government. The verdict: A violation against human rights. The case attracted much attention by the media, a signal for Tor Brandacher and his companions. He hoped that the court trial would reveal the dark history of Norwegian state ruling. The prosecutors demanded up to two million Kronen (253.000 Euro) for each case – the prize for a lost childhood.

But after the case was rejected in November on grounds of invalidity, The former Lebensborn children will put forth their case to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strassbourg.

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  • Date 02.12.2001
  • Author Petra Tabeling
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  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/1Pe8
  • Date 02.12.2001
  • Author Petra Tabeling
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/1Pe8