By Mark McConville
MEET one of Hitler’s forgotten children who was kidnapped from her parents by the Nazis to be brought up as an ‘Aryan’.
Ingrid von Oelhafen was snatched as a baby from Sauerbrunn in Yugoslavia in 1942 and taken for a ‘medical’ examination by the Nazi occupiers.
She was held in a children’s home as part of the Lebensborn scheme, her identity erased and adopted by German Aryan parents.
Family and archive pictures paint the picture of one of the Nazi’s cruellest and most obscene experiments while Ingrid tells her powerful story in a heart wrenching video.
Lebensborn was an SS-initiated, state-supported association in Nazi Germany with the goal of raising the birth rate of Aryan children via extramarital relations of people the Nazis deemed racially pure and healthy. It then expanded into several occupied European countries during the Second World War.
Ingrid’s remarkable story is told in a new book, Hitler’s Forgotten Children, co-written with Tim Tate and published by Elliott and Thompson.
“At the age of nine months Ingrid von Oelhafen was kidnapped by the SS into Lebensborn program,” said Mr Tate.
“For most of her adult life she knew almost nothing about it – or where she had come from.
“Only at the age of 58 was she able to begin investigating her origins: her remarkable detective quest would lead her to discover the truth about Lebensborn, and how she came to be a part of it.
“Ingrid’s investigation helped uncover the truth about the Nazis’ kidnapping of up to half a million babies and young children from Eastern European countries occupied by Hitler’s troops.”
Ingrid’s investigation led her to the Matko family in what is now Slovenia. A DNA test confirmed the relation but she was in for one final surprise.
“Lebensborn handed Ingrid over to the care of suitably-Aryan foster-parents,” explained Mr Tate.
“They never told her where she had come from and took the secret of her real identity to the grave.
“Then, when she finally tracked down the remnants of her birth family, she discovered that the Nazis had given her parents a substitute baby and that this child had grown up under Ingrid’s real name (Erika Matko), essentially living her life.”
Lebensborn is one of the lasting legacies of the Nazi regime and with up to half a million people now coming to terms with the fact they were part of the Nazi’s program to create a new ‘Master Race’ of ‘pure’ Aryan children who would grow up to be the aristocracy of Hitler’s planned ‘Thousand Year Reich’.
Despite its widespread nature there is very little public awareness or understanding of Lebensborn. This something Mr Tate hopes the book and Ingrid’s lifelong journey can change.
“This is partly because the organisation itself destroyed most of its records just before the end of the war,” he said.
“But it is also because German governments have been reluctant to help the survivors of the experiment, often obstructing their attempts to discover where they came from.
“Because of the reluctance within Germany to acknowledge or help the survivors of experiment, Lebensborn remains an unresolved legacy of the Nazi era.
“Throughout her investigation, Ingrid met many other Lebensborn children (as did I when researching my film and this book): most describe experiencing lifelong feelings of shame and rejection.
“Now, perhaps more than at any time since World War Two, national identity, race and creed have become major issues throughout Europe and beyond. Ingrid’s story is, in the end, a plea to reject this narrow and dangerous nationalism.”
Hitler’s Forgotten Children, by Ingrid von Oelhafen and Tim Tate is published by Elliott and Thompson. It is priced at £14.99 RRP.