|Sexual Innuendo, Rumour and the SS Lebensborn Homes During the Third Reich|
|On September 21, 1944, the now-famous German-Jewish diarist Viktor Klemperer noted this commentary from his local newspaper, the Dresdner Zeitung: “The enemy’s imagination has expressed itself with typical Jewish cynicism on the subject of the ‘Lebensborn’ homes. The nasty rumours about fathering occurring by choice, by force, or serially, characterizes their author only too clearly.” The journalist was referring to SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s network of maternity homes. It seems that even during the Third Reich, these homes for unwed mothers and SS wives were viewed with suspicion as dens of sexual vice and violence, and it was assumed that doctors and racial hygiene specialists were arranging actual sexual liaisons. My paper will explore what kind of rumours were circulating about the Lebensborn homes in the German public sphere during the World War II. The paper is part of a larger research project and will synthesize findings from oral interviews (with individuals who lived near several of the Lebensborn homes), a survey of contemporary newspaper accounts, and federal and municipal archival evidence. I will also incorporate findings from an investigation of the files of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (housed at the National Archives in Washington D.C.) to determine whether Allied intelligence was indeed involved in spreading propaganda about the Lebensborn program.
I will demonstrate that the pervasive myths about SS "breeding farms" arose during the war and were nourished by both Allied and German perceptions of the SS as an organization willing to overstep previously sacrosanct sexual mores. Rather than simply misperception or propaganda, however, the presence of these rumours demonstrates that a key goal of Himmler's racial program -- the restructuring of sexual values -- was registering with the German public. The larger question to be addressed is whether the reaction was (as Himmler feared and the Allies hoped) still conditioned by bourgeois prudishness or whether the rumours had a seductive effect. I will seek an answer to this question through research to be conducted this summer. At the very least, this paper will argue that oral history and the investigation of rumour and innuendo can bring us closer to an understanding of how sex coloured the German public's perception of Nazi social policy.|