Hitler's stolen children: Woman snatched as a baby by the SS and experimented on by Nazis in bid to create an Aryan race reveals her lifelong search to find her true identity
Ingrid von Oelhafen was taken from Sauerbrunn, Yugoslavia, in 1942 by Nazis
She was part of the Lebensborn scheme and was adopted by German parents
Lebensborn's goal was to create a new 'Master Race' of Aryan children
As many as half a million children were kidnapped by the SS for the scheme
By FIONN HARGREAVES FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 09:30 BST, 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:12 BST, 28 April 2017
A woman has revealed how she was kidnapped from her Eastern European parents by the Nazis to be brought up as 'Aryan'.
Ingrid von Oelhafen was taken as a baby from Sauerbrunn, Yugoslavia, in 1942 as part of the controversial Lebensborn scheme.
She was given a new name and was adopted by German parents in a bid to increase the Aryan population.
Ingrid van Oelhafen was kidnapped from Sauerbrunn, Yugoslavia, in 1942 and was adopted by German parents as part of the Lebensborn scheme. She was renamed and only discovered her true identity aged 58. She is pictured holding a vaccination certificate issued by Lebensborn
The Lebensborn scheme aimed to increase the Aryan population for Hitler's Reich by rehoming children with German parents. Pictured left, aged eleven at Bad Salzuflen. Pictured right, Ingrid with her foster mother's son Huberus
One of Hitler's forgotten children on her quest to find her identity
Lebensborn, which translates as the 'fountain of life', was a state-sponsored scheme which aimed to raise a 'Master Race' of Aryan children to populate Hitler's 'Thousand Year Reich'.
While Lebensborn was founded as a way for single mothers to give birth anonymously, the SS started to kidnap Eastern European children they deemed to be racially pure.
Pictured, Ingrid with foster parents Hermann and Gisela von Oelhafen. Ingrid found out her birth parents had been given a substitute baby who grew up under her real name, Erika Matko
When the children were taken away from their families, they were classified and adopted into a suitable household.
The first children's home was set up in Munich, Bavaria, in 1935 and soon expanded into several European countries during the Second World War.
Ingrid has now written a book about her experiences as a Lebensborn child.
Co-author Tim Tate said: 'At the age of nine months Ingrid von Oelhafen was kidnapped by the SS into Lebensborn program.'
'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 found out her birth name was Erika Matko and her biological family now live in Slovenia.
Pictured Ingrid, aged nearly three, (left) with her adoptive brother Dietmar. Up to half a million Eastern European children were taken by the Nazis under Lebensborn. The scheme was initially set up to tackle the abortion rate and help single mothers give birth anonymously
Mr Tate said: 'Lebensborn handed Ingrid over to the care of suitably-Aryan foster-parents.'
'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.
'This child had grown up under Ingrid's real name, essentially living her life.'
Up to half a million children were kidnapped by the SS under the Lebensborn programme.
Under the Lebensborn programme, children from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Norway were taken from their families. If they were deemed racially 'desirable', they would be given a German name and adopted
Children were snatched from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Norway.
In 1947, the leaders of the Lebensborn organisation were tried in Nuremberg.
The four leaders were found not guilty and were not responsible for the kidnapping of the children.
Despite its widespread nature there is very little public awareness or understanding of Lebensborn.
Mr Tate said: 'This is partly because the organisation itself destroyed most of its records just before the end of the war.'
'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.
The children taken from Eastern Europe by the SS usually matched the Aryan ideal and had blonde hair and blue eyes. When they were taken to the children's home they had to undergo 'Germanisation' and were forced to forget their birth families
Ingrid's parents never told her she was adopted or that she was from the Lebensborn scheme. Lebensborn children were classified and those who were racially pure were adopted. Those who were deemed 'unwanted' were sent to concentration camps to work or be killed
At the end of the war, the organisation destroyed most of its records. Pictured, three of the most senior Lebensborn officials before their trial in Nuremberg in 1947. The four leaders were found not guilty and were not deemed responsible for the kidnapping of the children
Lebensborn was the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, who encouraged his officers to have children with other Aryan women. It wasn't until 1939 that the SS started kidnapping Eastern European children
At the children's home, they were categorised into 11 groups and their physical appearances were scrutinised to make sure they were racially pure. They were then categorised into three groups; 'desireable', 'acceptable' and 'undesireable'
'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 ?8.99 RRP
The Nazi experiments to create Aryan children
Pictured a Lebensborn home in Sonnenwiese in 1942. The scheme was founded in 1935 to help reduce abortions in Germany. But four years later, the SS started kidnapping children from Eastern Europe
Lebensborn was founded in 1935 to help reduce abortions in Germany.
Single mothers were encouraged to come to the maternity homes to give birth anonymously.
Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, encouraged his officers to have children with other Aryan women in order to create the 'Master Race'.
He was convinced the breeding of chickens could be applied to humans and was obsessed with developing a pure Aryan race.
But in 1939, the SS started taking children from their parents in Eastern Europe as part of the programme.
They picked children with classic Aryan blonde hair and blue eyes.
The children were taken from their families to Lebensborn homes, where they were to be classified and 'Germanised'.
Nurses at the children's homes put the children through stringent medical tests to evaluate the child's racial type.
They were categorised into 11 groups and their physical appearances were scrutinised to make sure they were pure.
Pictured, a racial identification chart from 1935, showing the differences between Germans, 'crossbreeds' and Jews. According to the chart, those considered 'German' had to have four German grandparents
In the programme it was believed some nurses exposed children to UV light in a bid to make their hair fairer and more 'Aryan'.
Children who resisted the nurses attempts to make them forget their families were often beaten.
The children were split into three categories; 'desired', 'acceptable' or 'undesireable'.
Those who were deemed racially pure were given German names and adopted by an Aryan family.
But those who were 'unwanted' were sent to a concentration camp to work or be killed.
An estimated 10,000 Polish children were kidnapped by the SS under the Lebensborn programme.
Only 25,000 Lebensborn children were reunited with their families after the Second World War.
After the war, the children associated with the programme were ostracised and many turned to drink and drugs.
The Norwegian government tried to send 8,000 Lebensborn children to Australia in a bid to get rid of them.